‘Schitt’s Creek,’ ‘Anne with an E’ lead Canadian Screen Awards nominees
TORONTO — Anne with an E tied Schitt’s Creek with a leading 15 Canadian Screen Award nominations Thursday for a season that focused on inclusivity and diversity — a theme producers say they plan to continue to expand upon.
The CBC show inspired by Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel is up for trophies including best drama series and best actress for Amybeth McNulty, who stars as the plucky young Prince Edward Island heroine.
The nominations were for Season 2, which included an LGBTQ storyline and the show’s first black character, a Trinidadian sailor played by Dalmar Abuzeid, who is nominated for best guest performance.
Next season, which starts shooting March 11, will see an Indigenous storyline, executive producer Miranda de Pencier revealed Thursday in an interview.
“There’s no sense in reinventing a classic novel if you’re not going to make it relevant for today’s audience,” said de Pencier, who also directed the film The Grizzlies, which got three nominations Thursday.
“So it was really important for us to find themes that matter for Canadians.”
The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television administers the awards, which honour Canadian talent in film, television and digital media.
The other best drama series contenders are City’s Bad Blood, OMNI’s Blood and Water, CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries and History’s Vikings.
Schitt’s Creek’s nominations include best comedy and acting nods for the CBC show’s main stars, who play a riches-to-rags family — Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy.
The best comedy series category is rounded out by Crave’s Letterkenny, CBC’s Mr. D and Workin’ Moms, and OMNI’s Second Jen.
“I think it’s safe to say that Canadian comedy is really having a moment right now and our nominations reflect that,” said academy CEO Beth Janson, referring to the international acclaim raining down on many of the best-comedy nominees lately.
On the film side, the leading contenders are from Quebec: Maxime Giroux’s allegorical drama The Great Darkened Days and Daniel Roby’s disaster thriller Just a Breath Away with eight nominations apiece.
Both are competing in categories including best picture and best director.
Giroux’s film is about a draft dodger from Quebec who takes refuge in the American West.
Just a Breath Away follows a couple trying to save their daughter from a toxic gas cloud in Paris.
Also in the running for best picture are the post-apocalyptic Genesis directed by Freddie Hutton-Mills, the coming-of-age drama A Colony from Genevieve Dulude-De Celles, and Sophie Dupuis’ Montreal crime story Family First.
All of the best-picture nominees are French-language films. Nominees in that category are chosen by a jury of industry workers, the majority of whom hail from the academy’s existing membership of between 4,500 and 5000 people across the country.
The jury chooses the nominees based on artistic excellence.
“There are those who say it’s impossible to judge artistic excellence or that it’s unfair to judge artistic excellence, but we don’t put any rules on how we do that and so every once in a while you’re going to end up with a result that is unique,” said academy chair Martin Katz.
The Canadian Screen Awards, which will air from Toronto on CBC and the CBC Gem streaming service on March 31, have a total of 135 categories.
The CBC said its popular show Kim’s Convenience, which won best comedy series at last year’s awards, was not eligible to be nominated this year as its broadcast slot moved from fall to winter.
Other major nominees this year include Season 2 of CTV’s crime drama Cardinal, titled Blackfly Season, which has 14 nods including best limited series or program.
CBC News: The National has 13 nominations, while Global’s end-of-life drama Mary Kills People and CBC’s parenting comedy Workin’ Moms have nine nods each.
This year’s Canadian Screen Awards won’t have a host and will hand out special honours to stars including the Kids in the Hall comedy troupe, who will get the Academy Icon Award.
Meanwhile, comedy great Mary Walsh will receive the Earle Grey Award for her body of work and filmmaker Deepa Mehta will get the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Toronto actor Stephan James — who has skyrocketed to fame with starring roles in the Oscar-nominated film If Beale Street Could Talk and the Amazon Prime Video series Homecoming — will get the inaugural Radius Award, which goes to a Canadian making waves globally.
Overall, women received 50% of the nominations across all writing categories, and dominate nominations in film direction, feature film and web performance categories.
“I think that’s reflective of a conscious investment that a lot of our institutions and broadcasters have made, to invest more in female creators and in women behind the camera,” said Janson.
“So I’m really excited to see that showing fruit in the Canadian Screen Award nominations.”