It wasn’t just getting to watch an 11th-season Murdoch Mysteries episode being shot at Cattle Point on Friday that made Bev Anderson’s day.
The bonus was meeting Yannick Bisson, the Montreal-born actor who plays William Murdoch, the dashing detective who uses radical forensic techniques to solve crimes in turn-of-the-20th-century Toronto.
“It’s a light series that is so enjoyable to watch, with great Canadiana,” Anderson said. “And Murdoch is so good-looking.”
Anderson, 78, showed up with friend Shelly Logan, a blond, middle-aged background performer. “But they didn’t need any blonds today.”
They’re among many worldwide fans of the CBC series. With an average of 1.3 million viewers weekly, it is Canada’s most-watched Canadian scripted television series.
Scenes shot on the windswept waterfront take place in 1905, with Cattle Point posing as a Songhees village where Murdoch has his first encounter with Vancouver Island’s Indigenous people.
He meets them after travelling to Victoria with partner Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy) over Christmas to visit his half-brother Jasper Linney, an RCMP officer played by Dylan Neal.
The Oak Bay waterfront was strewn with bales of hay, and adorned with period sets including ancient huts, barrels, washboards, native paddles, canoes and a crackling campfire, its smoky scent filling the air.
Megan Follows, star in Anne of Green Gables, plays Megan Byrne, an archaeologist who enlists the Murdoch brothers’ help after discovering a corpse on a dig site.
Other guest stars in the two-hour Christmas special include Indigenous actors Wayne Baker, Trevor Carroll and Simon R. Baker, with Haida/Cree artist Kristi Lane Sinclair as consulting producer.
The Murdoch Mysteries actors arrived on Vancouver Island after attending a big sold-out fan event in Vancouver. Their three-day local shoot included filming at Gowlland Tod Park Wednesday and Thursday.
It marked the first time a Murdoch Mysteries episode has filmed on the West Coast.
Bisson said his show’s longevity and the fact that “it’s being gobbled up globally” is something that shouldn’t surprise us.
“As Canadians we have a duality,” he said. “We are very proud, sensitive people but we’re also a bit apologetic and fairly critical of ourselves and what we make. We reach for big programs easily but what a lot of people don’t know is that our culture being shown on our screens is a very fragile thing.”
Port Alberni-raised executive producer and UVic grad Peter Mitchell said the shooting location was a race between Victoria and Winnipeg.
“Since my parents live in Qualicum Beach, I opted for Victoria,” he joked, adding the location was ideal for its West Coast element.
Mitchell attributed the show’s popularity to the appeal of its cast and diversity of stories.
“From Weekend at Bernie’s satire to fairly serious social drama to fantastical Jules Verne stories, with some romance thrown in, the audience gets something a little different every week, cloaked in the mask of familiarity.”
Editor's note: Due to a technological glitch, a photo of Oak Bay Coun. Kevin Murdoch appeared with an earlier version of this story.