For SkyMed creator Julie Puckrin, the idea for the big, ambitious new medical drama came from a very real and personal place. The reason she knew that following the lives and adventures of these young nurses and pilots who fly air ambulances in northern Manitoba was a ripe field for interesting stories is because she had firsthand knowledge from close family members. Puckrin recently shared with The TV Junkies how her sister went to Thompson, Manitoba as a young nurse and fell in love with her brother-in-law, a pilot who was flying air ambulances at the time. Puckrin heard stories about how all these nurses and pilots were living together, working together, partying together, and falling in love with each other that she knew would make for a really great TV series.
After partnering with Piazza Entertainment and producer Vanessa Piazza, Puckrin brought the new series to CBC in Canada and Paramount+ in the U.S and immediately got to work creating stories for the large ensemble cast by making things a family affair. “Both my sister and brother-in-law were involved with the show as consultants,” she explained. Also, “a bunch of people that they flew with were kind enough to give us some of their stories and life experiences as well. It started as what I thought would be a great TV show and ended up being a real family project,” she said.
However, Puckrin’s sister isn’t the only family member that could be mined for stories. “My dad is a doctor and my mom is a nurse so I come from a medical family. When my dad graduated med school he moved to Wawa, a small town in Northern Ontario, and had a similar experience being fresh out of med school and thrown into the deep end way over his head.” In listening to her sister and dad’s stories, Puckrin soon realized that “there was a lot of overlap, so it was a show that really allowed everyone a chance to contribute something.”
The chance for her family to be involved in her television writing career was a bit of vindication for Puckrin, who made the choice to not follow her family into the medical field. Working on SkyMed with them allowed her family “a front-row seat to things and it was great. It helped me appreciate what they do and helped them appreciate what I do. It was a nice experience.”
Outside of consulting with family on their experiences, Puckrin knew that once the show was greenlit that she had to start assembling her writers’ room. Having previously worked on shows such as Killjoys and X Company, Puckrin thought about the advice she had gained from the showrunners of those series: Michelle Lovretta, Mark Ellis, and Stephanie Morgenstern. “There are the lessons you think you’re learning from them as you’re working with them and watching them,” said Puckrin, “and then, you get into the job yourself and suddenly realize and understand all the other things you learned from them.” That’s where the importance of a good writing room came into play. Puckrin said that first and foremost, her showrunner mentors taught her to “make sure you hire a really good room and fill it with great, lovely, supportive people who are going to be excited to tell the stories you want to tell, that are going to support each other and have a really collaborative environment.”
As Puckrin began looking for writers to create that supportive, collaborative environment, she thought about the diverse characters that would make up its world on screen. SkyMed was created as “a show that reflects how diverse we as a country are. In the North, they are also doing a lot of work with Indigenous communities so it was important to me to have strong Indigenous characters as well,” said Puckrin. So when it came to staffing her room, her top priority was “making sure that for every character you saw on screen, there was someone in the writing room that could speak to that lived experience and knew what that was like. They could speak to what it feels like to be a young Black woman starting out an ambitious career or what it feels like to live in a Northern community. For any of those experiences, I wanted to make sure there was someone that could bring their perspective to that story because I wanted to tell the stories in the most respectful and authentic ways that we could.”
SkyMed’s Season 1 writing team includes Puckrin, Nikolijne Troubetzkoy, Roxann Whitebean, Jennica Harper, Amber-Sekowan Daniels, Vivian Lin, JP Larocque, Meegwun Fairbrother, and Jessica Meya. Puckrin knew Troubetzkoy and Lin from their days writing together on Killjoys and Harper, who also serves as the JANN showrunner, actually taught Puckrin early in her screenwriting days. The SkyMed room truly was “a nice mix of people I knew really well and people I was getting to know,” explained Puckrin. She said she “felt very lucky and grateful to have such a great group of people.”
Having a group of writers that “were all such amazing, wonderful, fun people,” was also important because SkyMed is “a really big, crazy, ambitious show.” Given all the challenges and enormity of the show at times, Puckrin’s writing team “had so much fun together as a group,” and she says that “they were all just lovely, wonderful humans and very talented people. It was a lot of fun to work with all of them.”
The SkyMed team’s story continues this week with “Line Indoc,” written by Puckrin and directed by Steve Adelson. In it, a guilt-ridden Lexi (Mercedes Morris) finally goes flight line, and she locks horns with training captain Bodie (Aason Nadjiwan). Meanwhile, Crystal (Morgan Holmstrom) tries to get to the bottom of what Jeremy’s (Braeden Clarke) been smuggling – and how it’s connected to Wheezer’s (Aaron Ashmore) crash.
SkyMed airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem in Canada and is available for streaming on Paramount+ in the U.S.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.