Previewing Moonshine with Sheri Elwood

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

This week, CBC kicks off its fall programming, and Tuesday night, we get the premiere of a brand-new hour-long dramedy, Moonshine. Created by Sheri Elwood (Lucifer, Whiskey Cavalier), the series follows the dysfunctional Finley-Cullens clan of adult half-siblings angling to drive the future of their family business, The Moonshine, an old-school summer resort on the South Shore of Nova Scotia.


The eight-episode first season (with a second season already in production) stars Jennifer Finnigan (Salvation), Anastasia Phillips (Reign/Killjoys), Emma Hunter (Mr. D), Tom Stevens (The 100), Alexander Nunez (Avocado Toast), Corrine Koslo (Anne with an E), Peter MacNeill (Good Witch), Erin Darke (Good Girls Revolt, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Calem MacDonald (The Umbrella Academy), newcomer Celia Owen, Farid Yazdani (Suits), Allegra Fulton (The Shape of Water), and Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s).

Finnigan plays Lidia, an architect and the eldest sibling, who returns home with her husband and teenage daughter and son for a family funeral just as her big city life starts to implode. Her arrival for the first time in over a decade upsets the delicate balance of power that younger sister, Rhian (Phillips) has maintained, assuming day-to-day management of The Moonshine while her parents, Bea and Ken, played by Koslo and MacNeill, run the more esoteric details.

The large extended family also includes Lidia’s sister, Nora (Hunter), a local DJ who’s the de facto wild child prone to upsetting the balance before Lidia even arrives; Sammy (Nunez), Lidia’s musically gifted adopted brother; and man-child Ryan (Stevens), Rhian’s twin and polar opposite, whose aspirations lean more toward the illegal. Silverman (Finnigan’s real-life husband) plays Lidia’s husband, Daniel, a star architect whose misbehavior knocks Lidia off her axis.

Moonshine creator Sheri Elwood

I spoke with Elwood and the cast over Zoom about the show, and first up, Elwood talks about tapping her own family tree and personal history to bring the Finley-Cullens to life. “I come from a family of adult half-siblings. And I’ve got two old hippies for parents who run a campground and resort on the central coast. So it’s semi auto-biographical and loosely based on my family,” she explains.

“It’s such a unique part of the world. I’ve always wanted to tell this story. When I was asked to come home and do a show, this was my go-to. I’ve always wanted to do this one.”

The series has a very out-of-time feel, and if the Internet were never mentioned and you never saw a cell phone, you could easily think the show was revisiting the 70s or 80s. Elwood says they were trying to capture a very specific vibe.

“From the perspective of the writing team, we were really trying to recreate that feeling of nostalgia that you have when you go on summer vacations with your family, or you’ve gone to summer camp, or you’ve carved your initials in the bunk, or snuck out after your parents have gone to sleep, even though they can hear you because there’s no ceilings in any of these places,” she says.


“When we wrote our season one pitch document that we presented to the network, we used our own writings and our own childhood pictures to decorate the cover of it because we were all camp counselors or had gone on dorky family vacations. And we had the Volkswagens and the camper vans. And that’s what we were trying to create. Just a sense of watching the show.”

The musical mix is also integral to the storytelling, and Elwood was intentional about her music selections. “My family is really a musical family. I was the kid with the data, the reel-to-reel and a thousand pieces of vinyl and the shag rug. It was just always really important,” she shares.

“I chose the music almost before I wrote the pilot script.”

“This place is just imbued with classic rock. You turn on any radio station in Nova Scotia, and it’s the same 30 songs. That sounds like a bad thing, but for me, it’s not. It’s so in my DNA. I’ve been on beaches in Ibiza and traveling through mountains in Switzerland and you turn on the radio…it’s a universal soundtrack of classic rock.”

“So I knew it was really important for this show to give it that time and place, but also that sort of connectivity to a spirit of happier, freer times. And we were lucky. I think our soundtrack is pretty rad. That’s usually the first thing to go to take a hit, so I made sure that was put into the budget. That was that was the hill that I was prepared to die on.”

Moonshine premieres Tuesday, September 14 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. Here’s a sneak peek.

[Update 7/4/23 — Moonshine Season 1 will begin airing in the US at 9 p.m./8c Fridays on The CW starting July 7th.]


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