Michael Shanks’ character on Saving Hope, Dr. Charlie Harris, has always been the focus of the show. Not only was he one half of the its central love story, but he was also the one character that gave the show its supernatural edge. It was an edge that made Saving Hope unlik any other medical drama on TV. Sure, it had the cool medical cases and the good looking doctors messing around in the call rooms, but it was the only show out there that had one of those doctors talking to ghosts.
With all that being said, we here at The TV Junkies were a little surprised by how the writers decided to bring Saving Hope to an end. We definitely expected that happily ever after Charlie and Alex (Erica Durance) were always heading towards, but were pleasantly surprised by what we ended up seeing in this week’s series finale. Not only did they finally fully embrace the supernatural aspect of the show, but they wrapped up Charlie and Alex’s love story in one of the most meaningful ways possible.
We had the opportunity to chat with Shanks about working on Saving Hope over the past five seasons, embracing the ghost aspect of the show and fighting for what he felt was the right ending for the show.
The TV Junkies: Congratulations on five great seasons of Saving Hope. It really has been a great run.
Michael Shanks: Yeah, it is actually great for a Canadian show. We never expected it to go this long so we’re pretty proud. It’s been a lot of fun.
TTVJ: I have to say that this season, especially the last half, has been by far the best episodes that the show has ever put out. You guys have really gone out with a bang.
MS: Yeah, we tried some things in the second half that we were kind of forbidden from doing early on in the show, and I think it demonstrates that we probably would have had more gas in the tank if we had been allowed to explore it a little more deeply. But we at least got the opportunity to do what we did.
TTVJ: They really pushed Charlie this season and we really saw him struggle with what he’s been going through. Did you find these last few episodes more challenging to film?
MS: I think the one where he kind of loses his crap was obviously the most challenging, but also because I was directing the darn thing as well. I’ve said in the past that I don’t mind acting and directing at the same time, but what I found this time because the stuff was a lot more emotional, it was a little more difficult to flip the hat. I felt like as a director I dropped the ball a couple times because I was too much in my character’s head. It just seemed to be a little more challenging this time. It was a big script and it had a lot of storylines in it, so that was probably the most challenging.
TTVJ: What were some of your favorite things about filming Saving Hope? What are you going to remember most from this experience?
MS: Oh, there’s so many of them. We really did have a great cast and crew. And they always say that Ilana Frank that runs the show on Saving Hope put together a great group of people where her main motto was to make sure that everyone was having fun. And as much as some of the subject matter prevented us from having fun, the crew certainly embraced that aspect and it rubbed off on us. The cast, when you have someone like Erica, who is so humble and ego-less, and sets such a great working example in terms of working hard and being prepared in terms of all the things that actors should do but don’t always do. So those aspects of just the professionalism and fun of it all is what I’ll miss most. But we had a lot of yucks, some of which I could talk about and some that I definitely couldn’t. But every day I miss that group of people since we’ve been done.
TTVJ: I have to say when I booked this interview I was definitely not expecting that ending. Not in any way whatsoever. When you first started this show did you have any idea that that was how it would all end?
MS: Absolutely, and I’ll tell you why. The ending was actually up in the air and it was a debate. The network wanted us to have the more happy ending. They wanted it to end where they all lived happily ever after and walked off in to the sunset. But, oddly enough, it was Erica and myself and [executive producer, showrunner] Adam Pettle that pushed against that. Because I think that, to a large degree, the network never fully embraced the ghost aspect of the show in the way that we did.
They kind of wanted it to end in a happily ever after romance story. But we were all like, ‘but what about the ghosts, dammit.’ How can you just end that without explaining it or doing the twists like we have every year? It would have felt very un-Saving Hope-like if we had just ended it, with no other explanation. So Erica, Adam and myself were almost campaigning for something different and that became the consensus, especially with Erica pregnant, that that was the way to go.
And that was the most poignant and effective way of wrapping things up with a happy ending, but not in the way that everyone thought. We always intended to seemingly end every season with what was supposed to be a happy ending, but the rug gets pulled out. We actually wanted to end it sad, but then happy again. We didn’t want to deny the audience a chance for some sort of closure or some sort of happily-ever-after, but we wanted to have a purpose to it.
When we started the show we didn’t know where it was going and it was only this year when we knew we had to wrap it up that this debate started and I really think it was the right choice. I know that the audience is probably not going to agree because to have it end in some sort of tragedy is a tough get but that’s not the point. That end scene, which I was hoping would be a little more epic so I’m not entirely satisfied with it, but I think that it proved its point. If Saving Hope meant anything over the years it was about the possibility of the after and we wanted to extend that hope to our main characters. So basically if anyone wants to blame anyone for that ending blame me.
TTVJ: Alex and Charlie’s relationship has always been the main focus on Saving Hope, even when they weren’t together. Do you think that this storyline gave them justice in the end?
MS: I definitely think so. The thing that made the show what it was was the romance story from the very beginning and the audience never really knowing where that was going to land. I think that the ending makes that even more epic and more eternal. We wanted to make it that their love was actually stronger than just a wedding, that it was more eternal and that is why that point is made in the end. I think if they had just gotten them married and had them get in the limo and drive away the audience would have been like ‘oh no, not again.’ So I think it was more poignant to have it end with this version of heaven that we talk about so frequently. And it also concludes what all that big stuff was going through the series. It tied it all together.
TTVJ: I agree, I think it did go over well. I suspect there will be some questionable reactions from the audience, but overall I think it will go over well.
MS: The thing about it is that it’s well done, and that was my main concern. And Adam wrote a wonderful script in a short amount of time that sort of tied all those things together. It needed to be done well and I think that it was. It’s a beautiful story and a wonderful last episode that is on par with our best. It’s very heartbreaking, for obvious reasons, but there’s also some wonderful elements of satisfaction and, forgive me for using the word, but hope. And I think that seeing the future of the children and the future of the family will satisfy the audience as well.
TTVJ: Are you working on anything else right now or have any future projects that you can discuss?
MS: I took some time to get my heart back into things but I am just starting a movie next week, a Christmas movie for the Hallmark Channel.
How did you feel about the series finale of Saving Hope? Were you satisfied with that ending? Did you think that it gave Alex and Charlie’s relationship justice? Do you think that it gave an acceptable conclusion to the ghost story? Were you excited to see Sydney back on Saving Hope? Do you think that Maggie and Sydney should be together?