Making A Change In The Canadian TV Landscape: A Few Minutes with Ryan Robbins star of ‘Pure’

Posted in Interviews, TV by - January 09, 2017
Making A Change In The Canadian TV Landscape: A Few Minutes with Ryan Robbins star of ‘Pure’

Much like you intrepid readers here at In The Seats, on those occasions when we have heard about ‘Canadian TV’ and new shows coming to the air, we have cringed right along with you.  However I am here to tell you that the tide is officially starting to turn.

Pure kicks off tonight on the CBC and it gives us the story of Noah (Ryan Robbins), a newly-elected Mennonite pastor forced to work for a cocaine-smuggling ring operating within his closed community.  It’s a gritty, well made affair that is at least the equivilant of some of the crime procedurals coming out of the UK and it is a hell of a watch that was 100% produced right here in Canada.

I got the unique pleasure to sit down with star Ryan Robbins about his involvement in the show and this very obvious shift from the CBC to make something a little more gritty with a wide appeal and how important it should be for all Canadian storytellers going forward.

Dave Voigt: Walk me through how you initially got involved with the show because it really is something a little different and a little more edgy then Canadian TV has typically done in the past.

Ryan Robbins: I think the first thing was “Is this really an actual thing” meaning the Mennonite Mob and it is based in reality then after that it really was all about the writing as the characters drew me in immediately.  It was just so well crafted and it was an opportunity to play a role that was just so uniquely different from anything that I had ever tried before.  This guy is just so stoic, still and calm and it was so interesting because one of my favorite parts of the job is getting to do research and I learned so much about these people.  It really has been an amazing journey.

DV: What did you find out?  Because much like you I was pretty amazed that this was a real thing and I think that it is one of the draws of the show.

RR: The first thing really is distinguishing between the Mennonite’s and the Amish since most people don’t distinguish between the two which are really different then just how these drugs get infiltrated into these communities.  Now obviously we aren’t talking about all of these communities, and it is all fictional but we do try to base it reality with these people and the great faith who aren’t really a prideful people and we tried to take care and acknowledge how overwhelming this would be if this happened in a community where they didn’t have the assets or the resources to deal with it all.  We stay true to that and I think the way that the characters were written and the performances were crafted that we achieved that.

DV: And it is a Canadian production but it is also very much an international show with that kind of feel because in the past when fans would look and see that something on TV was ‘Canadian’ it might get dismissed.  How important do you feel it is for us as a nation to tell stories that are less geographically branded in who we are as a people and play on a much more universal level?

RR: Oh I think it’s very important for us to stay true to ourselves as Canadians but it was also a really bold move on the part of the CBC to take us on because it really isn’t your standard CBC fare as it were, which I think is a wonderful and positive thing.  Points to the CRTC as well because it does mark a little bit of a change, we are all cast Canadian with the exception of Rosie Perez who is playing an American.  I’m proud of that, I really think that the story speaks for itself and that the characters are compelling enough and I mean even coming out of Hollywood we are seeing that people are becoming more and more confident that the story can sell the product just as well as any A-List star and that really is the way it should be.  I think the tide is turning, and I think that people will feel like that they have discovered some amazing talent while watching this show.

DV: That almost goes back to what you mentioned about research earlier because with this show and especially with your character and the hard underpinnings that are there in this man who is essentially a spiritual leader are fascinating to watch.  How much character building did you have to do, before you even got on set to be able to effectively portray that?

RR: I am a husband and a father, so I had that to ground myself in and to just be still and internalize everything was just a wonderful challenge as an actor because quite frankly it’s just not something that we normally do!  Normally we are extroverted characters with real outward behavioural motions but this was a great exercise in trusting that it was coming across for an audience as we really were doing very little.  I really learned a lot about myself as well in the process because sometimes you take on a character and you just think it will be fun because really he’s nothing like how I am but the further you get into the work the reality is that you find similarities to your own life that you wouldn’t have necessarily expected.

DV: Obviously like you said, Pure is a little out of the box when it comes to Canadian television.  At the end of the day what is your hope for the show and for people who may be on the fence about coming to it.

RR: I really think that a great example is what the BBC has done with some of their shows, especially something like Luther for example.  Where it’s an international hit, a great well written show with a fantastic ensemble cast that people just gravitated towards.  AMC is another one that just took a chance on something like The Walking Dead that no one wanted to put out and now people are excited about anything that they air, HBO does it all the time.  We are learning from all these cable networks and the CBC is a wonderful place to work and they are incredibly support of our show and our journey and what we are trying to accomplish.  They have been so supportive and we are incredibly excited for people to see the show.

DV: I agree with you because the model of how TV is produced and is made is changing.  It’s nice to see the CBC so supportive because this is a show that I feel will have some international appeal and play across boundaries as well, thanks to platforms like Netflix and others…

RR: And obviously that’s the hope as well, because I am exceptionally proud of this show, it is one the best working experiences I have ever had with one of the best ensembles that I have ever worked with.  I am beyond stoked to be able to promote this show and I want it to be able to be seen in as many markets as humanly possible.  I want this to be a huge hit because everyone involved just deserves it because the quality of it all is just so high and I hope I get to be involved with it all for years to come.

Pure kicks off tonight on the CBC at 9PM in all time zones set your PVR’s accordingly because this one is worth it.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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