TORONTO — Production gets underway next month on a new season of canine-cop TV series "Hudson & Rex," and while numerous COVID-19 precautions will be in place, the producers are making a few exceptions for their celebrity pooch and his human co-star.
Lead actor John Reardon, who plays detective Charlie Hudson, and his German shepherd partner Diesel vom Burgimwald, will still linger in close quarters, confirmed Shaftesbury chief executive Christina Jennings.
"The dog can kiss; the dog can get up close and cuddle with Charlie — that's not a problem," she said with a laugh in a recent interview.
The pair are the heart and soul of the Newfoundland-shot crime-drama, and it's their on-screen chemistry that keeps its endearing premise afloat. But for everyone else on the set, Jennings said two metres of distance will be strictly enforced when Season 3 ramps up.
"Hudson & Rex" marks one of the first Canadian narrative TV series to resume production in the midst of the pandemic.
While producers are still waiting for the East Coast province to lift travel restrictions, they anticipate the cameras will start rolling in early July on a 16-episode order. Filming is expected to stretch into January.
That raises several important questions, including what happens if a second wave of the virus shuts down production later this year. "Hudson & Rex" is among a select number of homegrown shows with pre-COVID insurance to covers these risks, but a certain degree of uncertainty still lingers as producers plan ahead.
For now, Jennings says they're focused on keeping the shoots very simple and safe.
Shaftesbury hired an on-set doctor to train and consult with everyone working on "Hudson & Rex," emphasize hand washing and distancing measures. The company plans to do the same for "Murdoch Mysteries" and its other series that film in Ontario.
Each day of production will begin with temperature checks, and Jennings said it'll happen again before everyone leaves the set at night.
The first four episodes of "Hudson & Rex" are slated to film largely in outdoor spaces, or at the show's St. John's studio, where it's easier to keep the cast and crew isolated in small groups.
Transportation to the sets will be more restrictive while catering is also changing to introduce more safety practices.
Crowd scenes, which have punctuated some of the show's past murder mysteries and action sequences, aren't in the early scripts either.
"You probably won't see a big wedding scene," Jennings says.
"Last year, we had a big concert scene, and came back to St John's and there were hundreds of people. That's not going to happen."
Having fewer paid extras on the shoots will mean cost savings, which is crucial to managing the finances of "Hudson & Rex" in the short term.
Jennings estimates that under COVID-19, the cost of the show has jumped by "several hundreds of thousands of dollars" as they pay for precautionary measures, such as personal protective equipment.
Some of those expenses may be covered by tax credits, she said, while fewer shoots around the city will also reduce costs.
"You're not moving (location) trucks and the minute you lose trucks that's money," she says.
"I think that, by virtue of being a little more simplified at times, there'll be some savings that we can apply."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2020.
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David Friend, The Canadian Press