One thing was made abundantly clear at the Canadian Screen Awards, Canada is dominating TV shows and streaming series, with stars like Maitreyi Ramakrishnan on Netflix's Never Have I Ever, famed CTV/NBC show Transplant, CBC/HBO Max hit Sort Of, and the fan-favourite show that led us to Marvel star Simu Liu, CBC’s Kim’s Convenience.
Our Canadian Netflix icon Maitreyi Ramakrishnan was received the Radius Award, presented by MADE | NOUS, on Sunday, which honours Canadians “making waves globally.”
“I do want to talk about how amazingly proud I am to be Canadian and have this award that recognizes the impact that Canadians can make on the entire world, like, it is awesome. I am so privileged and blessed to have the platform that I do to make this change, to speak to audiences of all different ages and ethnicities around the world.”Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, star of Never Have I Ever
“Hopefully I'll continue to make you guys proud.”
Legacy of ‘Kim’s Convenience’
When Kim’s Convenience came to an end, unexpected for many, there was significant criticism around the circumstances under which the show concluded. While Kim’s Convenience stars recognized that not everything was perfect, actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who played Appa, and Jean Yoon, who played Umma, (who both won awards for their respective roles), stressed their experience on the show was life changing.
“The sky's the limit because of Kim's Convenience and I cannot say with enough love and respect and gratitude how much I owe Kim's Convenience, and I will always have the best of memories from that experience,” Lee told reporters. “It didn't end the way we wanted it to end but you know, what really does, and what I choose to reflect on is all the positive things, all the blessings that not only me but everybody involved with the show has gotten.”
“It started off as a fringe show that nobody wanted to buy, that went on to be a sensation on main stages and across Canada touring on theatrical stages, and then became a critical television series that was celebrated not only in Canada, but around the world.”
Lee added that this role as Appa was a “love letter” to his dad, his community and the people that “traditionally had no voices.”
“Narratives were forced upon them by others and sort of made to be on the outside, to be the butt of the jokes,” he said. “To be able to have the agency to take this character and to really drive these scenes, and really find that voice, was a no brainer.”
“I think that's why a lot of people sort of connected with it because it wasn't an overly idealized version of what the prototypical Korean immigrant male was… He wasn't the butt of the joke because he sounded funny or his accent. It was none of that. This was the portrayal of an authentically…written, heartfelt character, who had his flaws, who had his ambitions, who just was trying to do his best.”
For Yoon, she stressed that it feels “gratifying” to win this Canadian Screen Award.
“When I started out things were really rough for actors of colour, really, really bad,” Yoon said. “I think what our show did is, we really managed to open the doors to Asian family dynamics.”
“There was this feeling in the industry that Asian people aren't funny and that's gone now.”
Yoon recalled the amazing fan responses she had to the show, including fan art, and even U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, who wrote the actor the night before former president Donald Trump’s impeachment, saying that she had been binging Kim’s Convenience.
“This champion for democracy is binging our show to soothe herself, that made me proud,” Yoon said. “It’s humbling how profound the response is sometimes.”
How 'Transplant' cuts through the medical drama formula
Another TV show that quickly rose to fame, among the ranks of medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor is Transplant, winning best drama series at the Canadian Screen Awards.
Now the most watched Canadian drama series, Transplant is largely focused around Dr. Bashir Hamed (Hamza Haq), a Syrian refugee who fled to Canada and has been given the opportunity to practice emergency medicine at York Memorial Hospital in Toronto.
While the well-established genre is full of competition, Transplant stars Hamza Haq and Laurence Leboeuf, who plays Dr. Magalie “Mags” Leblanc, stressed what makes this show stand out is its point of view, after winning awards for lead actor and lead actress on Sunday night.
“It's formulaic,” Haq said. “There's a medical emergency, we have to save their lives, there’s medical jargon,...but it's the human element of [Transplant] that sets it apart because this particular human element has not been showcased on network TV, at such a scale.”
“Usually it's a side character or one episode, two episodes, something, but to really build a show around the experience of a brown Muslim man who's trying to find his feet in a country, in the high stakes world of emergency medicine, it’s compelling.”
“I think the point of view of our show is really unique, following Bashir Hamed’s journey, and I think that's very different, something we haven't seen and I think that really makes it stand out,” Leboeuf added.
'It's the tone of the show that I'm really proud is coming out of Canada'
Another show recognized for its storytelling is CBC’s Sort Of, which made its way over the HBO Max in the U.S. to rave reviews, and received the award for best comedy series at the Canadian Screen Awards. It’s a truly refreshing comedy, with a mix of drama, to see come out of Canada, centred on the lead character Sabi Mehoob (Bilal Baig), a gender-fluid 25-year-old Pakistani Canadian, living in Toronto.
“It's the tone of the show that I'm really proud is coming out of Canada and that we're doing the sort of mix of comedy and drama, and that it is a bit genre busting or genre bending,” co-creator Fab Filippo said. “It's a show that does speak on an international level and I'm so happy that it's being received as well as it's being received.”
“The truth is that trans and nonbinary people exist everywhere and I think that bringing this show into the global market in that way…sends this message that we do exist everywhere, and we can exist as honestly as we do,” co-creator and star of the show, Bilal Baig, added.
“I love what it means for so many people who this show has reached, who it may have not reached if we didn't have those kinds of releases globally.”