Saturday, October 8, 2016

Entertainment: Riedinger back with The Romeo Section

Riedinger back with The Romeo Section
Thursday, Sep 29, 2016 
  • Juan Riedinger
    Juan Riedinger
    Jeff Weddell photo

After pulling off one of the biggest drug heists the Lower Mainland has seen in 2015, walking a tightrope between Chinese triads, informants and bike gangs while maintaining a chameleon-like undercover story should be a piece of cake for Banff’s Juan Riedinger.
With CBC’s edgy The Romeo Section set to resume for its second season on Wednesday (Oct. 5), Riedinger has spent his summer engrossed in reprising his role as Rufus while filming the 10-episode drama series set in Vancouver.
In the inaugural season, Rufus worked his way into the Vancouver drug scene by working undercover for handler and intelligence operative Wolfgang (Andrew Airlie, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fantastic Four and others). Through the season, Rufus moved from his role as a mechanic/undercover operative, while sleeping with his boss’s crazy girlfriend, to putting his own crew together and stealing the drug shipment from a Chinese triad at a Vancouver port facility.
The Romeo Section intelligence/spy thriller was created and written by Chris Haddock (DaVinci’s Inquest, Intelligence, Boardwalk Empire). The series stars Riedinger and Airlie, head of the Romeo Section, as well veteran Canadian actors like Ian Tracey (DaVinci’s Inquest, Intelligence, Prozac Nation, etc.) and Eugene Lipinski (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Sophie’s Choice, DaVinci’s Inquest, etc.) and newcomers like Stephanie Bennett, Manny Jacinto and Mathias Retamal.
“Ratings are a factor in the show getting picked up again,” said Riedinger, who lived in Banff through his high school years before heading to Calgary to attend the U of C. “Ratings are a factor, but I think it’s also because CBC is trying to create prestige material and is creating cool projects.
“I think another factor is the Liberal government. They seem much more open to helping CBC than before. I think there’s a good chance that if the Harper government was elected, we wouldn’t be back.”
Riedinger originally attended the U of C to study biology and English. In his third year, though, he took an acting class as an elective.
“I’d never taken a class, but I fell in love with it,” he said. “I had a really engaging teacher and I ended up with degrees in biology and English, with a minor in drama.
“It (acting) wasn’t something that seemed like a career path, but I decided to take the plunge after finishing my education at UBC (University of British Columbia).”
For season two (the last episode films Oct. 7), Rufus and Wolfgang have a falling out, but, as with season one, even the cast doesn’t know how the season will pan out as scripts are written during the season’s shooting.
“They keep you in suspense,” said Riedinger, “but that makes it more interesting for the actors as you anticipate the scripts. And I mentioned to Chris (Haddock) that I’ve never had a character I felt more connected to. With Rufus, I feel really feel like I’m living in the world Chris has created.
“I love Rufus and I love playing him. At the end of the first season, I watched the series, almost as an audience member, every episode, every scene, and I feel more like Rufus now.”
Along with exercising his acting instincts, Riedinger, as now seems to be the situation for him, also expanded his general knowledge. In last year’s The Romeo Section, he worked as a mechanic and found himself operating cutting torches and a cutoff saw to hack through a sea container for the drug heist scenes.
“I like to dive right into a part,” he said, “and they have all the training and resources needed. The good thing about this job is you get to experience things you wouldn’t normally dream of doing.
“One time, at three or four a.m. in Burrard Inlet, they pointed me to a boat and said, ‘here you go, drive this boat over there at top speed.’
“But, after they had me flying a plane in Narcos, I feel like I can do anything.”
In Netflix’s Narcos, Riedinger had a recurring role as Colombian heavy Carlos Lehder, an insider with the infamous Pablo Escobar and his wide-ranging drug trade.
With Narcos, based on the true story of Escobar’s life, Riedinger spent a couple of months on the ground shooting in Colombia as he played kingpin Lehder and had to embrace the Spanish he learned from his mom, who is Peruvian, under the tutelage of voice coaches. The 10 episodes, he said, were very different in that the show drew on actors from around the world, including Spain, Mexico and Cuba, to portray Colombians.
Riedinger appeared in four of the 10 Narcos episodes, some of which were shot in Miami as a drug trade location.
Season two of Romeo Section, said Riedinger, will feature some new faces, such as Brian Markinson (DaVinci’s, Arctic Air, Charlie Wilson’s War, Continuum, etc.), who has a substantial role.
“The first season was kind of a slow burn to introduce everybody,” said Riedinger. “I feel this season is going to be more exciting and there will be more exciting elements.
“Rufus is never fully happy unless he’s doing his own work and I think in season two he becomes a more active participant in the world he’s infiltrating.”
For season two, Rufus and Wolfgang have a falling out, resulting in Rufus working more closely with undercover man Fergie (Ian Tracey). “So our paths have switched a bit.”
In season two, Rufus also walks a fine line as he tries to sell the heroin stolen in season one and gets involved in drug distribution in Vancouver, co-mingling with triads and bikers.
Season two continues using an old Canada Post building in downtown Vancouver as a recurring set and much of the show is filmed at locations all over the Lower Mainland.
“And the show embraces the fact it’s Vancouver. It’s not shot to look like somewhere else and I like that.”
While Riedinger is wrapping up season two of Romeo, he’s certainly not resting on his laurels. Along with his acting, he and his wife Agam Darshi had twin boys three months ago. So these days, Forest Amar and Taj Mateo are taking up a lot of his time.
Darshi (You, Me, Her, Played, Sanctuary), took some time off to have the babies, but is now working on a one-woman show.
As well, Riedinger has been nominated for a Leo Award for his Romeo Section work. “That’s a big honour, as it’s voted on by peers. It’s a big deal and it’s cool, because it’s for the role of Rufus.”
He’s worked on Motive for CTV and Zoo on CBS, and stepped into the fascination for zombies in working on the feature film It Stains the Sands Red – an arthouse zombie movie set in Vegas.
He’ll also appear in Once There Was A Winter, a psychological thriller set in an old cabin in the woods, filmed near Prince George, B.C.
“Ever since Narcos, I feel things have been going well and I’m hoping for more seasons. I think we have a good chance of getting picked up for more.
“There are guns, car chases, drug distribution, bikers and triads – along with three or four storylines that parallel each other.
“And this year we’re going to do something different, which is to shoot a movie within the TV show. One of the characters plays a Chinese actress and she’s going to be in a movie, in the show, about the opium trade in an ancient Chinese empire.
“So Rufus also gets involved in the movie world when he sees the money that can be made. It’s really cool, really exciting to see that stuff. You get really wrapped up in watching it all.
“Narcos opened a lot of doors for me, but I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m trying to take things in stride and appreciate everything as I go along.”
For the trailer for The Romeo Section, season two, visit

Chris Haddock goes down the rabbit hole in The Romeo Section

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  • Chris Haddock has made a career of putting Vancouver’s seedier side in front of a national audience—and he’s continuing in that tradition with The Romeo Section.
CBC’s new season of The Romeo Section starts with a fishy terrorist attack in Vancouver, an even fishier official inquiry, and the reactivation of a disreputable spook who catches the whiff of government mind control. If series creator Chris Haddock isn’t careful, people are going to start using the C word. Conspiracy, that is. Or conspiracy theory, to be more precise, as defined and weaponized by an establishment that would prefer to discredit inquiry into the less savoury aspects of government and law-enforcement work.
“My feelings exactly,” says Haddock, in a call to the Straight. “I’ve had this discussion with people on set, and I’m saying that my mission is to recognize that conspiracy is not a bad word. It’s what we do. Monkey 1 is going to conspire with Monkey 2 to steal the food from Monkey 3. That’s a conspiracy. This is in our very nature.”
Monkey 4, presumably, tries to figure out the plot. And thus Andrew Airlie is back in the rumpled tan suit as Haddock’s weary intelligence man, Wolfgang McGee. This time, he’s joined by a louche former agent called Norman (Brian Markinson), whose taste for pills and rough trade is matched by his nose for a cover-up. It sets up a perfect dialectic for at least one of Haddock’s concerns, which he traces back to a conversation with a journalist who interviewed Sirhan Sirhan, and who walked away convinced that Robert Kennedy’s accused assassin was a hypno-programmed patsy.
“The belief for 50 percent of the audience is probably ‘Okay, this is far-fetched,’” says the writer, who started to really raise the bar for Canadian television with Da Vinci’s Inquest in ’98. “The other side of the audience is X-Files–ready and they’re prepared to believe anything. I’m trying to play both sides. Norman fully embraces these theories because he’s seen over time what was once wild speculation actually turned out to be true. And on the other hand you have this professor who’s supposed to have a little bit of a social scientist in him, he’s fact-based, and he carries the side of doubt. I love working in that ambiguous territory.”
Manchurian candidates aside, The Romeo Section is still unambiguously flavoured by its Vancouver location. In the season opener alone, Haddock’s multilayered plotting takes in the heroin trade and the seamier end of the film industry, not to mention some fine angles on the Waldorf Hotel. Meanwhile, McGee’s old handler, Al (Eugene Lipinski), is plotting to ensnare a political rival in a honey trap using Asian asset Lily Song (Leeah Wong).
It’s conceivable that Haddock is channelling some deep political realities in Vancouver that would be a tad, say, indecorous to raise outside of a dramatic venue.
“I’m lying in the weeds and occasionally popping up to score a point, I hope,” he says with a chuckle, adding: “I’ve felt the sting of censorship in Canada. When they want to put you off air when you’ve got a good show going, they can do it, and they will.
“But,” Haddock continues, “I just really enjoy having something that’s a little bit difficult to tackle and that I’m not quite sure starting out how it is that I’m gonna bring it all home. It’s not [CTV series] Flashpoint, where they created this fiction that Toronto has a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year SWAT squad because it’s necessary. That kind of fiction I roil at. That’s not harmless. That tells everybody that doesn’t live in Toronto that Toronto is this dangerous city full of suicide bombers and all this other idiocy. We’re not that. So I was trying to create something that feels not out of scale with the Canadian reality.”
Season 2 of The Romeo Section premieres on CBC Television on Wednesday (October 5).
Image result for The Romeo Section
The Romeo Section
Canadian television series
The Romeo Section is a Canadian spy thriller television series created and written by Chris Haddock which debuted on October 14, 2015, on CBC Television. Wikipedia
First episode dateOctober 14, 2015