The Romeo Section’s Chris Haddock Talks Craft and Culture

Last week, Chris Haddock returned to Canadian TV with the premiere of his new drama series, The Romeo Section. The second episode airs tonight at 9 e/p on the CBC. In part one of our interview, we chatted with Haddock about putting the show together. In part two, we discuss the craft of writing, and how his series addresses a common current theme in a society, but in a different way.

In part one, we talked about the timeless aspect of The Romeo Section as it shies away from an overuse of 21st century gadgetry and digital helpers. Haddock says that is something evidenced by the way Wolfgang runs his team, too. “Wolfgang believes in human data. One good asset trumps mega data. I think he truly believes it,” Haddock explains. “We’re being persuaded that all good intelligence comes from analysis and data mining. That sounds like a corporate sales job from the private enterprise. If it’s privatized, there’s a corporate agenda in there that makes me nervous.”

“I was trying to present a bunch of different points of view. Each character has that, so that we feel like this is an ongoing conversation between different types of people, as real life is. By having these ongoing conversations and points of view, you start to get a better weave of how the world works and how it adjusts and accommodates and overreacts and panics. We’re in an anxious world that is being hyped up by the people selling it and selling the cure for it.”

When we see Wolfgang’s office, it’s a refuge amidst the din of the world, and that was intentional. “There’s solace in banging on a typewriter or writing something longhand or being somewhere quiet,” he says. “People who have come into Wolfgang’s office set say they want his office.”

Haddock adds that just as he’s withholding on the technology aspect, he’s also keeping back some of the details in his plot to allow viewers to distill what they’re seeing. “If you watch stuff I’ve done before, I love ambiguity and I love leaving room in something for the audience to fill in the blanks, because that’s when it becomes engagement and that’s when you truly engage people,” he says. “You don’t tell them where everybody was or where they [just came from]. I love leaving the little blanks in there for people to figure it out and have their own interpretation of events.”

“It’s like reading a book: If a passage says a car pulled up to the corner and a woman steps out, everybody in their imagination sees a different corner, different type of weather, a different color of car, a different looking woman. It’s all good. It triggers all the things that go off in your imagination by suggestion and that’s much more active and goes all the way back to your life experiences. There’s so much information on the screen these days, it’s almost too much information.”

While Haddock does sometimes work on a computer now, he prefers longhand. “Early on, it was all longhand. I think when you write on a computer, you pick the beach clean from the top of the document every time. [When I write longhand, it’s helpful when] I’m looking for the original inspiration of the scene at the top of the draft,” he shares. “When I can go back to my early musings on paper, I can even tell by the energy in my handwriting what I was thinking of [for] the scene. I feel the whole kinesthetic aspect of the scene back again. You lose all that on a computer. You’re looking at something that can be erased and disappear forever if you’re not careful.”

“There’s memory in the muscle. That’s all part of the show. I’m trying to get my characters to feel organic in a landscape. It’s a noir show because it’s about anxiety. Because we are an anxious society. And a lot of it is manufactured. There are a lot of things I want to discuss without making it obvious. You decide what the themes are. Sanctuary is one. There is an obvious sanctuary theme, but there’s also the sanctuary of the mind and the university itself as a place of thought.”

Haddock says the adult nature of the show, which pulls no punches in language and sexuality, was something he asked for at the outset of development. “When I went in to talk to the CBC, I said I want to make this like a cable show. As long as you won’t censor me so my show looks unreal, and all those kinds of things,” he recalls. “If you’re genuinely looking for that kind of show, and encouraging dramas up here to go that way, you can’t bleep language or tell me I can’t show nudity or all these things that make shows real for people. I hope we can proceed like that. I want this to be a place where people are attracted to it because I’m trying to be a show about real people dealing with very, very anxious times.”

If the series goes for multiple seasons (here’s hoping!), Haddock plans for multiple concurrent threads of story. “There will be short lines and medium long and long lines. One of the things I know from doing shows and mounting shows previously is that the show begins to tell you what it is and where its strongpoints are and what it isn’t,” he says. “The first season you have to let that happen. You can’t be over controlling. You’re lucky if you come out of the box and the tone is perfect and you know exactly where you are going. I try to get as prepared as I possibly can and start addressing themes that I know are universal and eternal and start digging down into character and seeing how these character [fit].”

“Before I start a show, I [look at whether I’d still want to be doing it five years down the line]. I could do this for a long time. I know there’s depth to it. I’ve got to take an open approach and see what it’s telling me. It’s happening, and it’s good.”

The Romeo Section airs at 9 e/p Wednesday nights on the CBC. In tonight’s episode, Wolfgang does a little personal and professional recruiting, Wing Lei meets the Vancouver team, and Rufus has some job angst and gets a different, frightening picture of the ball of crazy that Dee might really be. Click through to CBC above for three sneak peeks from “Repel Monkey.”

Photo courtesy of the CBC

One thought on “The Romeo Section’s Chris Haddock Talks Craft and Culture

  1. Chris Haddock is a great Canadian artist. His work has such depth. Please, let this man work and let us see his work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *