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Birds Hill Park doubles as Siberia for NBC show
Victoria Hill’s mushroom trip wasn’t the first Birds Hill Park has seen, but it’s arguably the most memorable.
The 22-year-old University of Winnipeg theatre student, who lives downtown near the school, saw her character’s participation in the NBC pseudo-reality show Siberia come to an end in the second episode after her character ingested uncooked poisonous mushrooms given to her by another character.
"I remember when we were preparing for it, the director (Matthew Arnold) told me ‘This is a huge scene, Victoria. Every actor dreams for a scene like this. It could launch your career into stardom,’" she recalled. "I felt bad for the people who had to carry me, because I was kicking and I was screaming. Good times on Siberia!"
Siberia airs 9 p.m. Monday nights. The show, which is presented as a Russian-set reality show gone wrong, was primarily filmed in Birds Hill Park over a total of 10 weeks in September 2012 and April 2013.
Hill, who was on set for two weeks, said it wasn’t too hard to get into the character.
"They based our characters somewhat off of ourselves. My character is named Victoria. My character is from Winnipeg," Hill said. "She’s a little bit of a weirdo, she’s really shy, an awkward turtle. There’s a little bit of that in myself, too."
Hill, who was born in Calgary and grew up on a farm near Portage la Prairie, was one of two locals on the show. Former Maples Collegiate and Winnipeg Rifles all-star running back
Harpreet Turka, who also ran for the Progressive Conservatives in Wolseley in the 2011 provincial election, appeared in the show’s pilot. Turka’s character didn’t make it to the camp and was eliminated. The bulk of the other actors on the show are American.
District park supervisor Bruce Mineault said he and his staff worked closely with the production to ensure things went smoothly on the filming end and for the park.
"There’s a lot of supervision that goes along with it. We’ll have to approve the stuff that we do, where they’re going to be located, just logistics to make sure there’s going to be no conflict with other users in the park," said Mineault, a Charleswood resident. "There’s always miscellaneous stuff we’ll do to help them, to set up a scene."
He said if a rock needs to be moved or snow needs to be shovelled, his staff is on it.
Mineault, who watched the first two episodes, said the style of show made it fun for him to be able to help out.
"Everything else that comes is a typical, scripted production," he said. "This one had more mystery to it."
He noted production may return to the park this September — the shacks seen in the show are still standing near the park office — should the network decide to order a second season.
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