SPOILERS AHEAD. ONLY PROCEED ONCE YOU’VE SEEN EPISODE 7.
Slasher has become a spring favorite around here, and Friday night, the eight-episode first season wraps up for U.S. audiences on Chiller. We haven’t been able to screen the episode ahead of time, so I have no spoilers, but I do have a treat. I jumped on the phone with series creator Aaron Martin, who wrote all eight episodes, to talk about turning to horror after a relatively family friendlier early career, crafting a serial killer drama, and what’s next.
As he told Melissa last fall, the idea for the series came out one of his scripts for Saving Hope. Before that, he’d done stints writing and showrunning Degrassi: The Next Generation, Being Erica, and The Best Years. Martin came up under the mentorship of Degrassi creator Linda Schulyer and said her dedication to shaping the next generation of TV writers and showrunners paid off.
“I have a degree in theater and then went to The Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. When I was graduating, Degrassi was looking for new writers to develop the new version of the show. They hired me out of the Film Centre, and the showrunner left within a couple of months of the show being picked up, and I was left running the story department,” he recalls. “It was a good first gig. I did the first four years, and by the fourth year, I was the showrunner, and the show had become an international success. So that was good for me in terms of my career and it showed that I wanted to be a showrunner.”
“Linda…who is a former teacher, is very much about helping people move up in their career. Right from the get-go, she let me do more stuff than somebody who had no experience in TV should have been doing — looking at cuts, casting — all the things that you eventually do as a showrunner. She really helps people move their way up [and has] launched quite a few careers in Canada.”
With Slasher, Martin wrote the script on spec and shopped it around, where it landed at Super Channel, and then Chiller came on board. Shooting the series over two months as a super-sized film took the edge off eliminating cast members because they could die one day and then come back the next to shoot an earlier scene. “The really interesting thing, and I’m giving a lot of credit to our director, Craig David Wallace, [is that] we shot all eight at the same time. We shot it like a huge movie, and everybody knew when they were going to die,” he says. “Some people would be killed and then come back. Mark Ghainmé‘s first day on set was him lying in his casket.”
He says the cast were all complete pros about shooting their murders, especially Mary Walsh, who played Verna McBride. “It was like 100 degrees when we shot that scene in the bedroom all night and she was such a trouper,” he says. “When we shot [Alison’s death] in the large smokestack, that was incredible to shoot in.”
And they were usually battling the sun. “There were so many long nights,” he laughs. “We were like vampires, fighting [sunrise].”
Martin also told the killer (who he teased may or may not be Steve Byers‘ Cam; don’t rush to judgment just yet) who he/she was before the scripts went out to the rest of cast on the first day of production. “The question is, ‘is it Cam?’ The one thing I always knew was who the killer was,” he says. “I’ve always known.”
Martin had worked with most of the cast previously, but only had a few of them in mind as he was drafting the characters. “[For] Dylan, I definitely was thinking of Brandon [Jay McLaren] when I was writing it because I just love him. Wendy Crewson for sure. I was thinking of her for Brenda even though she was probably too young for Sarah’s grandmother,” he says. “I don’t think I started out thinking of Heather as Erin [Karpluk] but then as I was writing it I thought it could be really interesting for Erin because she’s never done anything like this.”
If they come back for another season (fingers crossed), it would be a different tale, but Martin hopes to take a page from Ryan Murphy’s reboot-but-don’t-recast policy. “I’d love to bring as many of the cast as I can back. I was really lucky I got to work with actors I’d worked with before, and a bunch I hadn’t worked with before,” he shares. “All these actors I’d admired and never got to work with. We were so lucky and spoiled to get this cast we got.”
As for the plot, Martin says he was most rattled by Ariel’s arc, and less so by the gore. “I think when a show is called Slasher, you sort of have to go all the way,” he points out. “I find the blood and gore funny because it’s so ridiculous. The stuff I found most disturbing was the Ariel stuff because it’s close to something that has happened many times.”
Moving easily between drama and horror, Martin says he’s not beholden to one genre more than another. “I like doing anything that’s a mix of character and some kind of higher concept. I’m happy to do anything that involves that,” he explains. “I’m interested in cool characters and interesting concepts.” That said, it’s no surprise that before Slasher went into production, he worked on the first season of Killjoys as a producer and writer.
While he waits for word about whether Slasher might get to go again, he’s busy developing other projects, including Essex County, which explores multiple generations in a small town, for CBC in Canada.
With Slasher concluding Friday after the presumed reveal of the Executioner, Martin says we’re getting a big finale. “The stuff you’ll see in episode eight is really intense and horrible and [was] really fun to shoot. Expect Katie McGrath to do incredibly good acting. She knocks it out of the park,” he promises. “[There will be] a lot of blood. A lot of knives. It’s also three months later, so it’s Halloween [and the anniversary of the murders and Sarah’s birthday].”
We can also expect a DVD release, but it’s unclear yet whether it will have the shorter U.S. episodes or the longer versions. “Super Channel’s cut are roughly 6-10 minutes longer. It’s mostly within scenes, when we did the cutdowns,” he says. “There are some episodes that have more scenes, like the pilot episode has a really hot sex scene between Sarah and Dylan [that] had to be cut for time.”
Martin will be live Tweeting the U.S. finale, to a point. “We have to be mindful of the Canadian schedule,” he says. “I’m going to Tweet stuff but I’m going to code it.”
Slasher marathons its first season beginning at 6 am/5c Friday morning and concludes Friday night at 9 pm/8c on Chiller in the U.S.. It continues at the same time (a few weeks behind) in Canada on Super Channel. Here’s a sneak peek of “Soon Your Own Eyes Will See.”
Photos Courtesy of Stephen Scott and Shaftesbury; Video Courtesy of Chiller