SkyMed Showrunner Julie Puckrin Talks Building the World of Season 1

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

SkyMed, the new CBC/CBC Gem/Paramount+ series, drops this Sunday, and in the next part of my conversation with showrunner Julie Puckrin, we chat about reuniting some of the Killjoys crew, building her writing room, and capturing authentic stories that are representative of the character journeys.

The series itself was seeded in the experiences of Puckrin’s sister and brother-in-law. “They went up there. They were both in their early twenties. And my sister was working as a flight nurse. My brother-in-law was working as a pilot,” she explains.

Julie Puckrin SkyMed

“Hearing everything that they were doing on a daily basis and seeing their pictures, it always felt to me like something that should be a television show, because there are these incredibly high built-in stakes. It’s literally just you in the back of a plane with a patient and you have to keep them alive.”

“And then there’s this really exciting part of Northern Canada that we don’t get to see a lot that is a frontier in itself.”

“Then on top of that, there’s the fact that the people doing these super high responsibility jobs [are] pilots who are building their hours before they can apply to the major airlines. And it’s often nurses who are right out of nursing school, who are there to make some money and have an adventure. They’re people in their early twenties doing this very, very intense job. And then when they have their downtime, they’re living together and partying and hooking up. My sister and brother-in-law are not the only couple that came out of that experience.”

“There were two themes that really emerged for me when we got into writing the show. And the first was this idea that in the North, you grow up and life is different. It’s harder. You have to make do with what you have. There’s not the support. You are really on your own without supervision in a different way. And that forces people to grow up.”

“And then the other theme that really emerged and it was actually really lovely because it was a theme that really resonated with the cast, who were also young people away from home, living together, working together, was this idea of we take care of our own. And so for me, all of that really felt like it was something that was just ripe to be a television show.”

Puckrin took great care in assembling the team would tell those stories, onscreen and off. “The writers room was a really great mix of people. My number one priority in creating the writing room was to make sure that every character that was onscreen had someone in the writing room that could speak to that lived experience.”

“It was very important to me to have Indigenous writers in the room, to have Black voices in the room, to have Asian voices, South Asian voices, Queer voices.”

“It was a combination of people that I had worked with before, like Vivian [Lin] and Niko [Troubetzkoy], that we had a great shorthand from something like Killjoys, and also Jennica Harper who I have worked with on lots of things before. And then people  it was my first time working with in a writing room like JP Larocque and Jessica Meya and Meegwun Fairbrother. It just was a really fantastic group of people. And everybody was really excited to tell these stories and explore these characters and have fun.”


“We always knew as we were making the show that it was going to give us an opportunity to tell us some important stories, but that first and foremost, we were there to create an exciting, entertaining adventure that was going to make people feel like they wanted to jump in a plane too, and go out on one of these medical missions.”

“It’s such an amazing cast. I feel so lucky they were all so talented and on top of that, they were all so lovely. They’re really, really great people. They all got along really well together and they were totally game for anything we threw at them. Their very first day when they came to Winnipeg, we threw the pilots into a real plane and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to teach you how to act like a pilot.'”

“And we threw the nurses into real training with a paramedic consultant. And we were teaching them how to drive ATVs and snowmobiles and do all this crazy stuff. And they were just totally into it and totally excited.”

The Killjoys family have continued to gravitate toward each other, and for SkyMed, Puckrin tapped not just the writers room, but also one of its cast, and says the experience on Killjoys was unique. “It was definitely an era. I feel like it was an incubator for a bunch of people. And it’s interesting because the writers in that room really became like a family,” she shares.

“So many of us have gone on to work together on each other’s projects. And the actors are obviously super incredible. It was a period in time that we all formed those really great relationships.”

Puckrin turned to Aaron Ashmore for a pivotal role as the character who’s a bit of a den father for the younger characters. “I’ve always loved Aaron. It’s a dream to write for Aaron because anything you give him, he’s going to elevate and make it so wonderful. And when we were creating the character of Weezer, he needed to be someone that audiences could immediately connect with emotionally and recognize and have enough feeling for, to be really invested in him and to understand why all of our main characters would be so invested in him,” she explains.

“And Aaron was just such an obvious choice for that kind of a role. I was really thrilled that he was willing to come to Winnipeg and let us [put] him in a plane.”

The first season runs eight episodes, and Puckrin said she mapped the season for both the episode and the character count. “With any season, I like to start by talking about, ‘Who are these characters and what journey are we taking them on this season?’ And I like to talk about is where they’re ending the season and [then determine how] to get them there in a really satisfying way over these episodes,” she says. “The show should feel fast and breathless and exciting and then take pauses when there’s really emotional stuff to dig into.”


“We had eight main characters and what was kind of amazing about it is there were times when some of them really come to the front and we’re really spending time with their stories and other people are starting to the back and then everybody moves forward or falls back at different times. There’s always something big and interesting happening in somebody’s story to be following at any time. And what was so great about having all of those characters is that there was always time to have one of those emotional feelings with someone.”

“They’re all different and they’re all fun to write for. And I wanted them all to be three-dimensional people. Even if they sometimes do things that you don’t want them to do or that you don’t like, I always wanted us to understand why they were doing those things. Why [they were] on that journey or what [they were] struggling with.”

“It was a real journey [offscreen, too], but it was a lot of fun and I’m very proud of the writing team and the cast and the crew and everybody that was involved.”

SkyMed premieres July 10th at 9 pm on CBC TV and CBC Gem, with the full season available for CBC Gem Premium subscribers. All of Season 1 will be available the same day in the US on Paramount+.

Photos Courtesy of CBC.

2 thoughts on “SkyMed Showrunner Julie Puckrin Talks Building the World of Season 1

  1. The show is great, but Puckrin needs to understand how CB radios work. They are not (as depicted) a small untethered electronic box you walk around with. The ones shown need to be connected to 12 volt supply either by cigarette lighter plug or hard wired, or with a desktop AC to DC power supply. In addition, it needs an external antenna. For the distances depicted, it would be an antenna between 9 to 18 foot tall mounted to a building or a 3 foot whip antenna with magnetic base stuck on a car roof.

    1. Thanks for checking out the show! They did have technical experts on hand throughout production, so my guess is that might have been a case of dramatic license for the storytelling but I do not know that for sure.

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