"I don't have great career plans"
— Peter Wingfield, Anglicon 1997

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Wingfield bliss

7 January 2002 — Peter does his first nude scene in the Canadian erotic anthology series Bliss, shot last October in Montreal, Canada. But don't salivate too much just yet — there won't be any full-frontal nudity on screen. In the most recent PWFC newsletter, Peter talks about filming Bliss, including the disturbing experience of being fitted for a patch to cover his private parts!

Bliss will premiere this spring in Canada on The Movie Network and Movie Central and the Quebec cable stations Super Ecran and Series+. It will also air on Canada's Showcase TV network sometime in 2003.

From Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail (8 November 2001):

The thinking woman's porn: Some big names are making a new show that's as risqué as TV gets

By Matthew Hays

MONTREAL — Pausing momentarily in between takes, co-producers Janis Lundman and Adrienne Mitchell try to appear convincing as they discuss the setting for the inspiration for their erotic TV series Bliss. "Airports," Lundman says, "really, we'd been doing a lot of travelling."

The cold, dreary and mundane aura one usually associates with airports may not seem a likely birthplace for a brainchild as sexual as Bliss, but with some explanation, it begins to make sense.

"About three years ago, Adrienne and I had been doing a lot of travelling," Lundman says. "We wanted to find good things to read while moving around. We realized there'd been an explosion of women's literature of erotica.

"When we came home from one of our trips, we started researching and tossing ideas around. We realized there was a lot of sex on TV, but most of it was from a male perspective. Would anyone be interested in a women's erotica TV series? We came up with a bunch of different ideas over the next six months."

As it turned out, those ideas did prove highly intriguing to other producers and broadcasters. Arnie Gelbart, and his Montreal-based Galafilm (Lilies, The Hanging Garden), came on board, as did Showcase, along with Mitchell's and Lundman's production company, Back Alley. The result, Bliss, will air on the Movie Network next year, and on Showcase in 2003.

The trick was to create a diverse and realistic range of stories, while avoiding the clichés inherent in so many sexual representations on television.

"A lot of the sex I see on TV is the late-night, really hard-core porn," Lundman says. "And that really doesn't interest me. Or these titillating background scenes that aren't really developed at all.

"We wanted to come up with something that was more reality-based, and explore the characters and what happens to them as they go through this erotic moment. This is the focus of the story, the characters and how these things change them — most of the time it's glossed over."

The team behind Bliss has managed to collect an impressive array of talent, from thespians such as Adam Beach (Mystery, Alaska), Torri Higginson (The City) and Callum Keith Rennie (Last Night, Due South), Daniel Pilon (Dallas, Suspicious Minds), Jennifer Levine and Quebec pop sensation Mitsou, who will all appear in various episodes, to writers such as Sharon Riis, Carol Lazare and Laurie Finstad.

"To us, it was important to pull together as many different, varied female voices as we could," says Mitchell, who is also directing one of the show's eight 30-minute episodes. Directors also include Lynne Stopkewich (Kissed), Penelope Buitenhuis and Holly Dale.

And if the talents assembled seem varied, consider the plot lines — a spectrum of sexual scenarios that could probably only appear thanks to the proliferation of cable channels such as Showcase. It's hard to imagine one of the main networks, Canadian or American, approving this project. Tales involving gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered and threesome setups are all being shot, as well as themes of cybersex and sadomasochism. Dialogue calls for actors to utter words that are far franker and saucier than your average prime-time language.

Fans of poet, journalist and novelist Susan Musgrave will undoubtedly want to tune in for the episode she penned, in which a woman writer visits a man she's enamoured with in prison on Valentine's Day. The two end up making love clandestinely underneath a table, until they are caught in the act and punished by prison guards. After this experience, the female protagonist must decide about the future of her relationship with the prisoner.

"I think it might be based on a true story," Lundman speculates. "But I don't know."

Fittingly, the episode will be directed by Dale, who co-directed (with Janis Cole) the landmark 1981 documentary feature P4W: Prison for Women, an institutional profile of what was then Canada's only women's prison.

The creators of Bliss concede that they'd like to make it as envelope-pushing as possible, something that's not always feasible in a medium as conservative as TV is — even cable TV.

"Both Adrienne and I would like to push it a lot more," Lundman says. "But the broadcaster wants to air this in prime time. And, absolutely, we want this in prime time, so people will see it. But there are restrictions in terms of the Broadcast Act and what people feel comfortable showing.

"Also, we have wonderful actors here and I don't want to take them to places they're not comfortable. It's not about taking off your clothes and exposing your body — it's about exposing your mind and your vulnerability and your emotions."

Laura Michalchyshyn, with program development at Showcase, says there were limits, but they were reasonable and not intended to constrain creativity.

"We've had lots of dialogue about how far the directors can go," she says. "We said that they should use their judgment and think about the same integrity their film work has shown.

"We do abide by the Canadian Broadcast Act. There are certain limits we have to recognize: no bestiality, no use of minors, no penetration. We showed them the list, but it was meant as nothing more than an FYI."

Which is an indication of the fine high-wire act the women behind Bliss are walking. On the one hand, this is intended to be a no-holds-barred exploration of the erotic; on the other, it shouldn't come across as B-grade sleaze.

"This isn't just about sex," Mitchell says. "This is a series which really explores emotional and psychological journeys.

"The thing we don't want to touch are soft porn, stories that aren't about three-dimensional characters.... Contentious subject matter can be done just as long as there's insight into character and depth of story."

Excerpt from Playback Magazine (12 November 2001):

Bliss anthology wraps

Galafilm and Toronto's Back Alley Films wrapped principal photography Nov. 1 after 32 days on the highly charged erotic anthology series Bliss. An official Quebec/Ontario coproduction developed as a Showcase Original Series, Bliss explores the lives, passions and fantasies of women exclusively from a female perspective. The series preems next spring on The Movie Network and Super Ecran and on Movie Central. It will also air on Series +.

"Showcase was in at the initial stage of development. They were the first to come in and have been very involved creatively with this project," says Janis Lundman, who cocreated the show and is exec producing with partner Adrienne Mitchell (Drop the Beat, Talk 16) and Arnie Gelbart. Galafilm's Ian Whitehead is producing. Lundman says Showcase has 14 different viewer advisories to choose from, "but we haven't got to that point yet."

The opening episode, "In Praise of Drunkenness and Fornication," stars Quebec pop star and music producer Mitsou and veteran actor Daniel Pilon. Canadian actors Adam Beach and Tory Higginson (The City) are featured in subsequent episodes....

  • Galafilm Productions - One of the companies producing Bliss.
  • Playback Magazine - Scroll way down to see the Bliss mention.
  • PWFC - Order the latest thrive! newsletter (#21) where Peter talks about filming Bliss.

Strange World returns

7 January 2002 — After being cancelled by ABC after only three episodes, and after airing in several European countries, Strange World will finally be seen in its 13-episode entirety on the Sci-Fi Channel starting this February. For more on Peter's role and an episode guide to the series, see the Strange World page on this site.

Video Queen

7 January 2002 — Thanks to a deluge of requests from fans, Global TV has released all 22 Queen of Swords episodes on VHS video (North American NTSC format only) in an eight-tape set which includes some bonus video material and that ubiquitous certificate of authenticity. The episodes are available only as a full set for US $99.95 or CDN $149.00. Only a limited amount of sets have been made and it's unlikely they will be making more once the current stock has sold out, so don't wait too long to order your set.

Preaching to the converted

UPDATED 7 January 2002 — The Wingfield curse — the unfortunate situation that plagued Strange World and Cold Feet, where Peter's appearance seemed to ring a death knell for the TV series, leaving Peter's episodes unaired. That couldn't happen with a movie, could it? Especially not one by a well-known Canadian director? Alas, Peter recently told his fan club that he's screened the final cut of A Wilderness Station and so many of his scenes have been edited out that fans will be playing "Where's Waldo?" in order to spot him. Looks like it's time to start looking forward to the Wilderness Station DVD release and hope that deleted scenes will be one of the extras...

Peter showed up at Highlander DownUnder 4 on April 6-8 sporting the beginnings of a goatee for a new role in a Canadian thriller destined for the film festival circuit. In A Wilderness Station, Peter plays Scottish Presbyterian minister Reverend Walter McBain... At last! Australian fans won't be alone in hearing Peter butcher their native accent! (See The Sentinel.) Apparently, the producers want him to do a Sean Connery-like Scottish accent. Peter says he can do Scottish about as well as Christopher Lambert (i.e. not well at all). Peter also thinks the producers might want his character to have a full beard, though he said they will probably ask him to shave it off when he arrives at the studio. (That's our enigmatic Pete — says one thing, then says the opposite!)

From the press release:

Set in Manitoba in the 1850s, the film stars Caroline Dhavernas (Marilyn Bell, Tag, Ile de Sable, Out Cold) as 18-year-old Annie. We first meet Annie when she stumbles into the trading post of Fort Garry, barely alive, starved and half-mad claiming to have committed a murder. She is immediately confronted by the town’s legal authority, James Mullen, played by Paul Johannson (Berserker, John Q.) and eventually admits the murder victim was her husband Simon (Brendan Fehr, The Forsaken, Roswell).

As Mullen begins to discover Annie’s past, he learns that she blindly entered into an arranged marriage to help Simon and his brother George (Corey Sevier, Little Men, Lassie:The Series) forge a newly inherited homestead. After arriving at her new home, Annie quickly learned Simon was an angry and violent man. Her only solace was George, a kind, educated lad who abhorred the treatment Annie received from her husband.

Directed by Anne Wheeler (Better Than Chocolate, The Sleep Room), A WILDERNESS STATION is a taut period mystery, literate and character-driven. It is authentic to the rigors of the times, but is told in a contemporary, cinematic fashion.

“A WILDERNESS STATION has all the key ingredients to a great story/film,” states Producer Bill Gray, “the elegance and beauty of an Alice Munro story, the suspense of a mystery, and the engagement of a love story where young people struggle to survive each other and the ruggedness of the times.”

Also starring in the film are Currie Graham (Suddenly Susan, L.A. Doctors), Tantoo Cardinal (Smoke Signals, Dances With Wolves), Peter Wingfield (The Wedding Dress, Highlander) and Francis Damberger (Last Call, Paris Or Somewhere).

Anne Wheeler also directed the "Marilyn Larson" and "Douglas Somerset" episodes of Cold Squad (episode guide here), which makes me wonder if Peter's work in Cold Squad directly led to him being cast in A Wilderness Station! And Paul Johansson is better known around here as Nick Wolfe from Highlander: The Raven!

With a production base in Winnipeg, A Wilderness Station is currently shooting at several locations Manitoba, Canada. Two that were mentioned in articles are Minnedosa (200 km west of Winnepeg) and Lower Fort Garry, a historical site where the original settlement is preserved.

The film is based on a short story, "A Wilderness Station" by Canadian writer Alice Munro, which in part uses letters written by Robert B. Laidlaw in 1907. According to a Winnipeg Sun article:

Wilderness Station, based on a short story by Alice Munro, is about a young woman who agrees to marry a homesteader named Simon (Fehr) so she can get out of an Ontario orphanage. The bride eventually falls in love with Simon's younger brother and, after a woodcutting "accident," confesses to murdering her husband.

If A Wilderness Station follows the typical route of many Canadian indie films, it will be showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival (world famous film festival held for a couple weeks every September; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the talk of last year's festival), go into a limited release in "art-house" theaters in Canada and the US, then go to a cable network or pay TV with a possible home video release at the same time.

Magnetic North, a review of several of Alice Munro's stories, has an interesting quote that may illuminate Peter's character as well as the theme of the film:

[Alice Munro's] view of our human struggle for happiness — often a mere flight from unhappiness — partakes of the austere Presbyterianism of Ontario's Scots settlers. She quotes the preacher Thomas Boston: "The world is a wilderness, in which we may indeed get our station changed, but the move will be out of one wilderness station unto another."

  • Imaginary Evidence: The Historical Fiction of Alice Munro - Short essay that discusses how "A Wilderness Station" uses series of letters to tell its story. Has a fairly detailed rundown of the plot.
  • Reading Group Center - Info on the anthology Open Secrets, which "A Wilderness Station" is part of. If you're interested in buying it, this site has the ISBN and other info.
  • Magnetic North - Review of several of Alice Munro's stories, including "A Wilderness Station."
  • Paul Johansson Online - Official website, will continue to have info on A Wilderness Station as filming progresses.
  • Brendan Fehr - Official website, will probably have more info on A Wilderness Station as filming progresses.
  • Roswell star to land in Manitoba - Winnipeg Sun article on Brendan Fehr in Wilderness Station.
  • Wilderness filmmaker loved the late cold - Winnipeg Free Press interview with director Anne Wheeler. Looks like Brendan Fehr will also be trying to fake a Scottish accent... Oh no! Peter's got competition! Will that make Peter's accent look better — or worse?! ;-)

More Methos

UPDATED 7 January 2002 — The Methos Collectors Package announced by Peter last summer was supposed to be out in time for Christmas but delays in putting the package together means that it will come out sometime early this year instead.

Davis/Panzer (quick to make a fast buck but slow to realize the spending power of Methos fans) are going to be putting out a special Methos Collectors Package featuring a replica Methos sword, a DVD interview with Peter, an audio (not sure if it's on CD or tape) of Peter and Ocean Hellman (Alexa from "Timeless") reading excerpts from the "Postcards from Alexa" stories in the An Evening At Joe's anthology, Methos pictures and the usual "signed certificate of authenticity." (Do they actually anticipate such a booming black market in pirated Methos collectibles that they think fans won't believe they're authentic without a signed certificate?) Part of the proceeds from sales will go towards UNICEF UK's Growing Up Alone Fund, Peter and wife Carolyn's chosen charity in honor of their son Edan.

There will also be a "special" (are there ever any that are not special in marketing-speak?) collectors package of autographed Methos photographs. In real-speak, this is just a cheaper alternative for fans who can't afford the Methos Collectors Package.

And early in 2001 Highlander action figures were announced at a UK toy fair. There was supposed to be 6-inch and 12-inch versions shipping in the fall of 2001 but Davis/Panzer later announced that the action figures had been put on hold.

The Methos Chronicles Flash animated series, which Peter narrates, was recently sold to iFilm, who will be hosting the series from now on. iFilm is a website showcasing Internet films, Flash as well as traditional video (using QuickTime).

Cringe and bear it

Baby Geniuses video cover

26 July 2001 — Just last week my sister and I were talking about embarrassing things our favorite actors have done. Her favorite starred in a movie about a chimp that plays ice hockey. "Oh no," I assured her, "Peter has never done anything that cringe-worthy." Famous last words.

Peter is filming the sequel to Baby Geniuses called, imaginatively enough, Baby Genius II: Superbabies. He'll be playing spin doctor Harris Crowe (does that count as another doctor role?!), henchman to Bill Biscane (John Voigt), a baddie who, imaginatively enough, wants to take over the world. Yawn.

The IMDb describes the plot as "A super-baby with mysterious powers comes to the aid of a new set of brilliant toddlers in this high-adventure sequel to the smash-hit Baby Geniuses." (Not quite a smash-hit, Baby Geniuses total US gross was only $27 million. Then again, it was probably made for much, much less than that.)

I can understand why Peter would take this role — a crappy film is still a film, and Peter hasn't done too many of those — but what's John Voigt, respected actor and Angelina Jolie's dad, doing in this? Apparently he executive-produced the first Baby Geniuses. Frighteningly, the first Baby Geniuses starred well known (and now washed up?) celebs Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Kim Cattrall, Peter MacNicoll and Dom DeLuise. It was notable for using computer graphics to animate the babies' mouths so it looked like they were talking. It also had the dubious honor of being the worse movie of 1999, according to critic Roger Ebert.

Baby Genius II is scheduled to shoot in Vancouver, BC, from July 23 to September 10.

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