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Winnipeg actor stars as doctor who becomes ghostly shadow of himself

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/6/2012 (1823 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Like many TV actors, Kristopher Turner has felt the undeniable force of Hollywood's talent-grabbing magnetic attraction. These days, however, he's finding it pretty easy to resist.

The Winnipeg-born performer says he's spent a handful of springtimes in Los Angeles, alongside scores of other Canadian actors competing for jobs in U.S. network shows during the annual casting-frenzy rite known as pilot season.

Kristopher Turner stars in Saving Hope.

Kristopher Turner stars in Saving Hope.

Shawn Roberts, Kristen Hager, Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, left to right, are pictured in a scene from the movie A Little Bit Zombie. Toronto-based director Casey Walker set up his own website to generate financing for his $2-million horror-comedy, "A Little Bit Zombie," and says he collected $120,000 from roughly 800 donors around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO

THE CANADIAN PRESS / HANDOUT

Shawn Roberts, Kristen Hager, Kristopher Turner, Crystal Lowe, left to right, are pictured in a scene from the movie A Little Bit Zombie. Toronto-based director Casey Walker set up his own website to generate financing for his $2-million horror-comedy, "A Little Bit Zombie," and says he collected $120,000 from roughly 800 donors around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO

But not this year.

It's funny, sometimes, how things work out.

"The hilarious thing is that I've spent five pilot seasons down there, and I've come very close but haven't landed anything huge in the TV world," Turner said in a recent telephone interview from Toronto. "And then this year, right here in my own backyard, I landed two TV shows that are on American networks."

Turner, 31, is part of the cast of the new CTV medical drama Saving Hope, which premières Thursday at 8 p.m. and will also be carried by NBC. He's also part of the recent CTV/MuchMusic production The L.A. Complex, which is currently airing in the U.S. on the CW network.

"I certainly feel like the ground is shifting," Turner said in reference to the number of Canadian-made shows (Flashpoint, Rookie Blue, Combat Hospital, Saving Hope and others) that have been picked up by U.S. networks in recent years. "Audiences are enjoying our shows, and the more eyeballs we get, the more brave we can be and the more experienced we become at creating great shows.

"We're not any less talented than people in the States; we're still finding our feet and finding our voice, and the more we do it, the better it's going to get... On a show like Saving Hope, with the budgets that we have and the writers and actors that we have, there are no excuses any more. If this show doesn't do well, it's our own fault."

Saving Hope, which was shot in Toronto, is an ensemble drama that revolves around two surgeons whose relationship takes a life-altering sudden twist. On the eve of their wedding, head surgeon Charlie Harris (Michael Shanks) and colleague/fiancée Alex Reid (Erica Durance) are involved in a traffic accident that leaves him in a coma and her at a loss to figure out how to carry on if he doesn't pull through.

As Alex seeks comfort and guidance from her hospital co-workers, comatose Charlie begins an extended version of one of those out-of-body/near-death experiences that allows him to wander the halls in some kind of "spirit" form.

He isn't sure if he's a ghost, a caught-in-limbo consciousness, or a figment of his own comatose imagination; what he soon discovers, however, is that he can't influence what's going on around him and he's not the only ethereal being trapped in whatever this in between place happens to be.

"What intrigues me about it is the fact it's a way for the audience to see the hospital through the eyes of a doctor who has never been on the patients' side of things," Turner said. "We usually see doctors who know the (medical) world and who've trained their whole lives to do this, but don't know what it's like to be on the other side, to be a patient.

"This is a chance for a doctor to see how a hospital works from the patient's perspective... and for another (doctor) to be in the position of a family member who's concerned. Part of surviving being a doctor is the ability to disassociate yourself when things get too personal. For Erica's character, it's suddenly much more difficult to separate from other patients and their families because she's in the same position."

Turner plays the hospital's on-call psychiatrist, Dr. Gavin Murphy, whose focus is very different from that of the ER physicians dealing with life-or-death, blood-and-guts issues.

"I very much feel like I'm in the playground by myself," he explained. "For my character -- and from speaking with a lot of psych residents in Toronto, as well -- there is definitely that vibe where we're kind of the kids who nobody else talks to unless they have to. We're seen as the less-prestigious arm of medicine, and yet these are probably the most self-aware people in the hospital.

"From an acting perspective, it's a lot of fun for me, because I'm dealing with the human aspect of things, and my job is not to disassociate, but to observe and be able to connect on a human level."

It's the notion of connection that has driven Turner since his earliest inclinations to become an actor. The St. Vital product (a graduate of Glenlawn Collegiate and the University of Winnipeg) credits his grandmother, Mavis Turner, for introducing him to the world of theatre.

"She's 91 years old now, and she's been going to theatre in Winnipeg since, well, I don't know when," he said. "She took me to MTYP, Shakespeare in the Ruins, all sorts of theatre around Winnipeg. Because of her, I grew up watching all of that, and I wanted to be part of it ever since I was a little kid."

After studying theatre at U of W, Turner began his TV-acting career a decade ago in the locally shot series 2030 CE and later appeared in such Canadian series as renegadepress.com, Murdoch Mysteries and Instant Star.

In addition to the two TV-series projects currently on the air, Turner also appeared recently in the indie horror comedy A Little Bit Zombie, and made a stop in his hometown last month with director Casey Walker to promote a screening of the film at the Globe Theatre.

"It isn't quite the same as working in Winnipeg, but it's nice to be able to bring some work that I've done back to Winnipeg to let people come out and see it," he said.

Turner isn't the only member of the Saving Hope cast with Winnipeg roots. Co-star Daniel Gillies (The Vampire Diaries) was born here but -- like another well-known actor, Anna Paquin -- left at a very young age and was raised in New Zealand, and recent cast addition Wendy Crewson, who was born in Hamilton but discovered acting while attending high school (Westwood Collegiate) in Winnipeg.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Brad Oswald.

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