Toronto – Ten seasons into “Murdoch Mysteries,” star Yannick Bisson is feeling sentimental about his time with his character, a super sleuth probing crimes at the turn of 20th-century Toronto.
“It’s a huge milestone for any show anywhere, especially here in Canada,” he said ahead of last Monday’s season 10 debut on CBC TV.
“We’re really proud and it just seems to never stop being good.”
Indeed, the series is “coming off its highest-rated season yet” on CBC, according to the public broadcaster. And it has amassed fans worldwide.
Bisson first realized the show’s widespread fame while at a winery with his family in Rome.
“We came up into the dining room area and this waiter was standing in front of me and he was completely shocked and he said, ‘It is Murdoch!’” he recalled, affecting an Italian accent.
“Then there was another time I received a fan letter completely in Japanese. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s from far,’ and I had no idea that the show was airing in Japan. I also got a fan speaking to me on Twitter recently from Iran. I was really floored by that. They watch us in Iran.”
Helene Joy, who stars alongside Bisson as pathologist and psychiatrist Dr. Julia Ogden, recently encountered a particularly emotional Brazilian fan at a steampunk convention in Seattle.
“She credits Julia and myself as her inspiration for everything she’s done in her whole life,” she said.
Of course, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride with the series, which is based on Maureen Jennings’s novels.
City originally aired the historical drama but dropped it after its fifth season. CBC picked it up for its sixth season and has been airing it ever since.
Joy said during that time of upheaval, someone with the series suggested getting rid of her character, to which she said: “Oh, well I’m done then, I won’t come back at all.’”
She then signed on to another show, but when that didn’t pan out, the “Murdoch” team “sweetened the deal” for her to return, and she obliged.
“There was one year there where I almost left the show,” said Joy. “So it’s been an interesting road.”
Even more interesting, considering where Joy and Bisson were at before “Murdoch Mysteries” came into their lives.
Bisson said he felt he was at a crossroads in his career – going from project to project, reeling from an actors’ strike and considering pursuing other interests.
“And it wasn’t the first time,” said Bisson, a Montreal native whose previous credits include “Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye.”
“I’d been up against that several times. That’s the reason I’ve tried so many different things in life.”
Meanwhile, the Australian-born Joy had decided to quit acting just six months prior. But then both “Durham County” and “Murdoch Mysteries” came calling.
“For the first three years of ‘Murdoch’ I was shooting both series at once, so I finally got thrust back into work,” she said. “I tried to quit and they went, ‘Nope,’ and yanked me back.”
Now, the stars feel they and the series have hit a stride.
Bisson said writers have made sly references to current events in the new stories.
“We had a certain two brothers that were in city council, the season premiere this year had a little bit of a nod to ‘The Bachelor’ and the social nuances of that. We’ve talked about social media.”
Detective William Murdoch used to be more reserved and now “he’s loosening up one daisy petal at a time,” he added.
And Joy has been able to pitch some “cool ideas” to the writers.
“I’m like, ‘I need to ride horses, I need to shoot arrows,’ and that’s how our season finale came about last year,” she said.
“This year I was like, ‘I want to roller-skate. I’m really good at roller-skating.’ … There could be something roller-skating-related on the horizon.”
Former prime minister Stephen Harper famously appeared on “Murdoch Mysteries,” could Justin Trudeau get a cameo too?
“No comment,” said Bisson when asked. “I don’t know. I could see it working if it was written a certain way. It would all depend on the context.”
By Victoria Ahearn
The Canadian Press