[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Tuesday night, Moonshine wraps its first season with a gang’s-all-here effort to bail the Finely-Cullens out of their financial trouble–and keep (almost) everyone out of jail. Lidia’s emboldened to step up, and she does, going toe to toe with Gale (Allan Hawco, having an absolute ball), the leader of a local biker gang who’s perhaps their salvation.
Nora and Terry are back on the same page; Crystal and Ryan and Oscar/Colin and Rhian less so. And Bea and Ken get to put the squeeze on Oscar/Colin when they find out who he is, and his connection to Riann. Once Rhian’s big news is on the table, the stakes increase for the family to hang onto the Moonshine. Spoiler alert–it involves a Sound of Music singalong. Showrunner and series creator Sheri Elwood wrote and directed the episode.
I caught up with Peter MacNeill to chat about the first season of the show, and getting to play Ken as a grandfather with a twist. He’s effusive in his appreciation for Elwood, who brought him on board. “Sheri and I did another series together, a number of years ago called Call Me Fitz, and she always said she has a bucket list of things she’s wanted to get me to do. She gave me an opportunity to do other things, to play some comedy,” he says.
“[On Call Me Fitz], I played a really nasty old bugger who was born with tools missing from his toolbox to get through life. He was a chronic alcoholic and a drug taker and a pornography viewer and she took me through all kinds of things. I had so much fun doing that, that when this opportunity came up and she called me…to play a grandfatherly type again, but with an edge.”
“I’m really grateful to her for calling me back from the grandfatherly roles and sweet, kind people [with] a sweet, kind, dope-smoking grandfather.”
“It was so much fun. On Call Me Fitz, we’d go to set and start laughing in the morning when you arrived and you laugh your way through the day until you finish. And what a wonderful way to work.”
When the first season of filming on Moonshine began, COVID protocols were in full swing, and fairly new. “”Everything was so strict and you felt a bit boxed in, but thank God on Moonshine, we had a big enough family. So we could get a little bit of relief from the aloneness and the hiding out from COVID,” he shares.
MacNeill was appreciative to have the backstory for Bea and Ken be the showcase for last week’s episode. “It was such a surprise. The kids who played us young were really wonderful. It was really great to see us as youngsters going through our history right in front of us on the screen,” he explains
“It really helped me understand exactly who I was, where I came from and those days of desperation that we all lived with when we were hippy-dippy kids running around in the van with bales of marijuana in the back.”
“It was really great to have it played out for us because you could imagine it, but now Corrine [Koslo] and I could look at that together and see ourselves [and get] a lot of insight into where we came from. Playing a married couple, we could watch that and [witness] the same past rather than imagining it separately where there may be some gaps. We got to see our past together, which was great.”
MacNeill also had a standout episode in “Blueberry Season,” capped by a peyote-infused beachfront awakening accompanied by a talking Finn. He loved filming it. “We went through the whole idea of being that stoned on the beach and being alone and being able to find that headspace to be in,” he says.
“And it was Scott [Smith], who was the director, who just allowed me to go with the flow of it and take my time. He was being really, really generous. once we got into editing and put it all together, it really helped that he allowed me to just riff on it.”
The nudity in the episode was a surprise Sheri waited to share with him. “Sheri told me, ‘We have a really nice scene for you in episode six coming up,'” he recalls. “And I said, ‘Well, what’s it about?’ and she said, ‘I’m not finished yet. I’m not going to tell you yet.’ She kept me on the ropes. And then when she said, ‘You’re going to be running through the woods nude,’ I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ and she said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s been on my bucket list for awhile.'”
Going forward, MacNeill would love to have as much to play as they can give him. “Every actor on the show wants to have more of their own stories, because it’s so much fun. We’re elbowing each other out of the way, because it’s so much fun to play everything that’s written for us. I trust the writing room and I absolutely trust Sheri. I want more of everything. I just love it,” he shares.
MacNeill is also a fan favorite for Good Witch, where he played Cassie’s father-in-law George for 13 years across seven seasons of the series and multiple one-off films. In that world, he was also part of an extended found family. He shared that the fans brought him back at one point, and that he was enjoying the new direction the show was heading in before its surprise cancellation this summer.
“”It was a real family. It was so close. Everyone’s tongue was firmly in their cheek, given the nature of the show. We kept the energy up. I was actually let go in the third movie. They said they had stopped writing for that character. And I [understood] and shook it all off and started thinking, ‘What am I going to do next?’ And I got a phone call and they said they’d done an audience test and the audience wanted to see George back,” he recalls.
“When I got to come back in, I became sort of a steady regular on the show and you start to get to know the people a lot better and you start to understand what your character thinks, how he feels about any situation. So when you’re given the writing, you know what you’re going to do with it, and it really sort of rolls off your back.”
“It’s quite easy to do. It flows very smoothly, but I went from being the grandfather and became sort of a fix-it man around the house for Cassie, carrying suitcases and fixing plumbing and lighting. And no one was quite sure what to do with me until the last showrunner, Darin [Goldberg], came in.”
“He started writing for my character a little bit more. And I started becoming more involved with the witchiness and with Cassie and the new [Merriwicks] who came in and it felt great. George was getting closer and closer to the magic. And I thought, ‘Where could this end up?’ But then the whole series was cancelled.”
MacNeill also shot a role in Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming Nightmare Alley. “The actual thrill was just standing on set with Guillermo watching him work because he is a bit of a mad genius. He writes the lines in his head as you’re working and gives you a new line and says,’Say something else,'” he laughs.
“You have to be on your toes. It’s such a large scale. It’s Disney and it’s everything you would imagine, the sets are beautiful and incredible and all these big stars I was working next to and hanging out with. And I feel like a humble actor and it was a bit of magic. Working with him, nothing seems impossible.”
The Moonshine season finale airs Tuesday, November 2nd at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. The whole season will then be available on CBC Gem. If you missed them, our interviews with series creator Sheri Elwood and the cast are here. The second season has completed filming and will premiere in 2022.
[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.]
Photos and video courtesy of CBC and Crown Media.