'Deception' aims to stand out in a crowded crime-show TV landscape - InfoNews

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'Deception' aims to stand out in a crowded crime-show TV landscape

March 09, 2018 - 1:20 PM

Crime shows tend to follow a familiar pattern — a person with "special powers" but no prior police experience helps authorities catch elusive criminals.

ABC and CTV in Canada hope there is still magic in this formula with the mid-season drama "Deception."

Premiering Sunday, the series stars Jack Cutmore-Scott as a cocky Las Vegas illusionist named Cameron Black. The character's career is derailed, however, by scandal. Before you can say "abracadabra," he is paired with a take-charge FBI agent (Ilfenesh Hadera) and begins working his magic to catch the world’s most elusive criminals.

If this premise sounds familiar, there's a good reason.

On "Castle," for instance, Edmonton native Nathan Fillion played a best-selling author who helped track down bad guys by thinking like the crooks in his crime novels. Simon Baker's charming character on "The Mentalist" used his supposed psychic skills to solve crimes. On "The Listener," Craig Olejnik’s paranormal paramedic could "listen" to victims through his finely tuned telepathic powers. At first, the investigative bureaus on all these shows want nothing to do with these gimmicky civilians.

But "Deception" is different, says executive producer Chris Fedak. For one thing, it’s on a much bigger scale.

"We call it 'Magician: Impossible,'" says Fedak, who was one of the creators behind the NBC action-comedy "Chuck."

As a fan of classic TV, Fedak told reporters at a press event in Pasadena, Calif., in January that he researched shows like "Blacke’s Magic," a magician-based series starring Hal Linden in the mid-'80s, as well as a series Bill Bixby headlined in the '70s called "The Magician."

Helping Fedak make it happen is executive producer Martin Gero ("Blindspot"). Raised in Ottawa, the Ryerson University grad admits he’s a "huge fan of magic" who used to perform tricks at birthday parties. His and Fedak’s first challenge was finding an actor who could realistically perform the sleight-of-hand that's called for in the script.

London-born, Harvard-educated Cutmore-Scott wowed them at the audition.

One of the actor's best tricks, in the tradition of fellow countryman Hugh Laurie, is to make his British accent completely disappear. The card skills were a steeper challenge. The 30-year-old modestly insists he practised enough to "inhabit the skin of someone who can do these things.

"The good thing about being an actor instead of a magician is I get multiple takes," says Cutmore-Scott.

Nonsense, says Gero, who adds Cutmore-Scott is constantly practising and does a great deal of the close-up magic viewers will see on the show.

"He could turn pro if he wanted to," he says.

Helping Cutmore-Scott get to that level is David Kwong, a co-producer and consulting magician on the series. Born in Rochester, N.Y. and raised in Hamilton, Ont., Kwong was a magic consultant on the 2013 feature "Now You See Me" and also works with Gero as a secret code consultant on "Blindspot."

Back in those Hamilton days, Kwong’s father was good friends with the late Canadian illusionist Doug Henning. Both were students at Hamilton’s McMaster University.

Kwong feels Henning, a star on Broadway and television, was an inspiration to the biggest names in magic today, including David Copperfield, Lance Burton, David Blaine and Criss Angel. Two of Kwong’s other favourites, Penn & Teller, appear in the "Deception" pilot.

Kwong feels the world of magic is changing, especially in this YouTube era where secrets can be outed and deception’s not so easy.

"I think magicians today are not pretending to have superpowers anymore," he says.

Except, perhaps, on television.

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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