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Yannick Bisson says 200th episode of ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ ‘snuck up on all of us’

Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (Christine Horne) with Alexander Graham Bell (John Tench) and William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) at the James Pendrick Symposium.
Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (Christine Horne) with Alexander Graham Bell (John Tench) and William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) at the James Pendrick Symposium. Courtesy of CBC

Murdoch Mysteries is approaching the 200th episode of the series, which is set in Toronto in the late 1890s and early 1900s during the age of invention.

The one-hour Canadian drama stars the methodical Det. William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his impassioned wife Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), who enlist radical forensic techniques like fingerprinting and ultraviolet light to solve a range of gruesome murders.

Murdoch’s associates include his boss, Insp. Thomas Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), constables George Crabtree (Jonny Harris) and Henry Higgins (Lachlan Murdoch) and eccentric Det. Llewellyn Watts (Daniel Maslany). All of his associates are valuable allies, helping Murdoch solve cases across the many strata and evolving manners of Victorian society.

Murdoch Mysteries will be celebrating its 200th episode on Jan. 13, and Global News spoke to Bisson about his experience playing Murdoch so far, reaching the milestone episode and much more.

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Global News: How does it feel to reach the 200th episode of Murdoch Mysteries?
Yannick Bisson: To be able to say that there are 200 episodes of Murdoch Mysteries is groundbreaking, and it really has snuck up on all of us. When we reached 100 episodes, we had a huge celebration, and the crowds, our fans, really turned out to celebrate the show with us. The loyal fan base is the reason the show is as popular as it is, and this passion for the show, the stories, the characters is what helps drive all us to ensure that it is the best that it can be and continue to improve as the series goes on. I feel that part of the success of the show is the fact that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There are lighter, more playful and humorous moments paired with more meaty situations that all fans can appreciate.

When you began shooting the show, did you ever think that it would make it to the 200th episode and beyond?
I have a tough time wrapping my head around the milestone. I never would have expected that a period piece like this would have caught on the way that it has. You do not enter into the entertainment business thinking you’ll have this type of success or this type of impact. We are really seeing how we are reaching into people’s lives at home and engaging them as a family through this cultural experience that is the Murdoch Mysteries.

How would you describe your character in your own words?
The show is really the birthplace of crime scene investigation, which has come from the mind of William Murdoch. In part, the Murdoch Mysteries is guided by Murdoch, through his vision and determination to solve crimes as he employs scientific techniques to catch the bad guys. Innately, Murdoch is a good person, looking to do good things for other people. Most importantly, in the beginning, Murdoch was restricted in various aspects of himself, however, as time goes on and Murdoch works more with his team, he begins to gain empathy, a different perspective on solving crimes and the restrictive layers continue to peel off, like those of an onion.

Murdoch Mysteries is a show that proudly showcases Canadian history, and I think it will be popular forever in Canadian pop culture. What does that mean to you?
There is such an interesting dynamic when it comes to Canadian shows. Murdoch Mysteries is in good company with a few other Canadian shows that have experienced huge international popularity. The show, in my opinion, is unapologetically Canadian, and the format is transferable across borders, languages and cultures and is currently available around the world. The show is expanding into Mexico on Jan. 20, and they are going to be just starting their journey for Murdoch Mysteries with seasons 1 and 2. This will be an interesting evolution to follow as different countries and fans will be on their own journey through the series. I mean, in Mexico, they better start watching because they have 13 seasons ahead of them!

How were you able to enter your character’s head in the beginning and make Det. William Murdoch your own?
Over time, the character has evolved as part of the show, but it has also been a process where I have grown with him. He’s who I imagine my best self to be…intelligent, calm, objective and fair…traits that, if I’m honest, I struggle to maintain.

Have you encountered any challenges while playing this character?
There have definitely been challenges, but the complex character of Det. William Murdoch makes my job that much more exciting. There are facets to him that we are still unveiling. As I mentioned previously, I grow alongside the evolution of Murdoch in the role and in other parts of my professional career. It has been an incredible journey.

What are you most excited for viewers to see in the new episodes?
So much. The writers, producers and cast of the show have an amazing ability to make the show universal in its appeal, and that will continue through the 13th season. Elements that have been popular in the past such as unique guest star appearances, twists to the plot and, most importantly, the perfect mix of the different themes, from romance to intrigue to historical figures and science, allow the show to be relatable, unpredictable and take audiences on the journey along with the characters.

George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), Albert Einstein (Eric Charters) Ernest Rutherford (Andrew Hodwitz), Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy) Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), Marie Curie (Eva Placzynska) and Nikola Tesla (Dmitry Chepovetsky) being held in the bunker laboratory. Courtesy of CBC.
George Crabtree (Jonny Harris), Albert Einstein (Eric Charters) Ernest Rutherford (Andrew Hodwitz), Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy) Brackenreid (Thomas Craig), Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), Marie Curie (Eva Placzynska) and Nikola Tesla (Dmitry Chepovetsky) being held in the bunker laboratory. Courtesy of CBC. Courtesy of CBC.

How did you feel when the show was renewed?
Grateful. As a young actor, you dream of having a run on a series for a couple of years, four years max, but to be here now in the 13th season, celebrating 200 episodes, the only word that really describes the feeling is grateful.

What’s next for you in 2020?
I am so fortunate to not only have Murdoch Mysteries, but I am also working on a few other projects. Murdoch Mysteries has provided me with an opportunity to expand my craft and have learned so much about myself, about directing, acting and contributing the entertainment industry in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined before. I have the desire to further explore directing and production. It would be great to produce some of my own work.

I have written a few things, and one of them is actually being turned into a film and is being filmed later this year. In my future, I see myself testing the waters of sci-fi, thrillers, to direct more small things or big things. One of the most important lessons I have learned along the way is the fact that no one is going to hand me a basket full of opportunities, I need to make them. To commit, sacrifice and challenge myself in order to achieve the level of success that I have always wanted, and I have always operated with that framework.

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(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

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