Unspeakable's Strong Michael Shanks

Michael Shanks stars in Unspeakable. Photo by CBC, Jeff Weddell & PR Sharon Warren

Unspeakable airs it’s series finale on CBC this Wed, Feb. 27th. You can catch up on all the episodes on the CBC Gem app and online.

In the early 1980’s, AIDS emerged and quickly became an epidemic. Those responsible for public safety failed. Thousands died. A second virus, hepatitis C, infected tens of thousands more. People were kept in the dark, afraid to speak out. Ignorance, arrogance, politics and economics all lead to betrayal, to cover-up, to scandal. Unspeakable is told from the perspective of two families caught in a tragedy that gripped a nation, as well as the doctors, nurses, corporations and bureaucracy responsible. The series follows the decades long saga as people struggled to survive, change the system and battle for compensation for those who desperately needed it. 

Unspeakable is based on emotionally charged personal accounts as well as Andre Picard’s Gift of Death: Confronting Canada’s Tainted Blood Tragedy, Vic Parson’s Bad Blood: The Tragedy of the Canadian Tainted Blood Scandal, and The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Canadian Blood Tragedy, led by Justice Horace Krever. 

Ricardo Ortiz as Ryan Sanders with Michael Shanks as Will Sanders. Photos by CBC PR


Q and A by Blaine Schlechter

You star as ‘Will Sanders’ in the CBC show Unspeakable which has its first season finale on Wed. Feb 27th. For our readers. who are planning on doing some binge watching to catch up on CBC Gem…tell us a bit about the show?

The series mostly focuses on a couple of families in the 1980’s who both have children that were/are hemophiliacs who, through the Canadian tainted blood scandal, one of them contracts Hep C and the other one contracts the AIDS virus.

It’s about the fallout and the fight against the institutions that allowed it to happen. It sort of explains it to the larger population bases that really didn’t know too much about what was going on about how these families dealt with it and are still dealing with it and how lives were affected during that time frame.

Is there anything you can share about the finale or is it best to just tune in and watch it?

I think after the first seven (episodes) it’s hard, there’s so many different story lines going on. I say it’s mostly about these two families, (but) there is a large number of people that sort of get picked up along the way that all the parties are dealing with, both friends and people that are associated with the battle; nurses and lab techs and others that are part of it. It’s kind of best to tune into it, but obviously for anybody that can’t it’s best to watch it all the way through, otherwise it’s kind of hard to pick it up on the fly. There’s so many different threads that’s ongoing, and it takes place over a 25 year period, so it’s quite a complicated story that way.

You obviously have some great credits to your name, including Stargate SG-1 and Saving Hope. Is there any one particular project that you’ve done that you are extra proud or extra passionate about that you wish more people had seen or should see?

I certainly think that Unspeakable is one. It’s one of those shows that I found, given what the ratings have been for it, that unfortunately I find that it’s a lot like the scandal in the first place, that most of the people that seemingly comment on it over social media and live when it’s going on and on Facebook after, are people that were directly affected by it. Other people are not watching the show. I did another one for the CBC called the The Gordie Howe Story that I was quite passionate about that I’m not sure garnered a huge audience that I was very proud of. But this one (Unspeakable), because of its importance. I have a friend who is a blood oncologist out East who I’ve known since childhood, who’s been sending me information about it and how he’s been watching is very closely and how great it is. And so many people who were part of it or part of the blood industry and were affected by the tragedy or knew people affected by the tragedy are watching it, and the other people aren’t it seems. As new people are being exposed to it, I find it kind of ironic, because that was the problem in the first place. I was one of the people certainly who was ignorant of the story to a large degree because I wasn’t affected by it in the 80’s and this show has educated me, as well, as well as my relationship with Rob Cooper who wrote and produced it.

The nice thing with today’s technology and the CBC Gem app and online is that people can still catch up as they hear more and more about it and gain momentum that way. What’s next for you that fans can watch for?

I’m doing a couple of projects right now that are projects on Netflix; I’m not entirely sure how much I’m allowed to talk about. I’m a reoccurring (character) in these shows. One is a new series called Virgin River that will be airing on Netflix in, I think, the fall. And the second season of Altered Carbon I’m going to be appearing in, so those are my things coming up.

Unspeakable airs it’s series finale on CBC on Wed, Feb. 27th, but of course you can catch up on all the episodes on the CBC Gem app and online. Last questions that I need to ask…I understand that you were quite the hockey player growing up, so which Canadian team do you think has the best shot at winning the Stanley Cup this year?

(Laughs) Boy oh boy! Obviously I think that it’s a toss-up between Calgary, the Jets and Toronto…but I’m going to go with the Jets. I think they got a team that’s more built for the playoffs right now, so I think I’m going to go with the Jets. And it’s got nothing to do with my outright hatred of Calgary or Toronto absolutely nothing to do with it (laughs).

Unspeakable, Sanders family: Sarah Wayne Callies as Margaret Sanders, Michael Shanks as Will Sanders, Ricardo Ortiz as Ryan Sanders. Photos courtesy of CBC.

After a decade-long stint as fan favorite Dr. Daniel Jackson in the Sci-Fi Channel’s number-one hit show Stargate SG-1, Michael Shanks wasted no time testing the waters on the other side of the acting portal when the series wrapped in 2007. Since wrapping the record-breaking show, Shanks has been in high demand, starring on several hit shows, movies of the week and films. 

Shanks recurred on USA’s Burn Notice as Victor. His critically acclaimed performance in the first half of season two set the stage for more fireworks as the remaining episodes of Burn Notice began airing in early 2009. He appeared in a three-episode arc on the Emmy®-winning drama 24, and recurred on the CW hit Smallville during its 10-season run as Carter Hall, aka Hawkman. Shanks played a nasty bad guy opposite Anne Archer in the Lifetime movie Judicial Indiscretion and portrayed the hockey legend Gordie Howe in the CBC film Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story, a role which earned him a 2014 Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Television Movie, as well as a Canadian Screen Award nomination. 

In 2013, Michael earned a Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series for his work on Saving Hope, which enjoyed a 5-season run on CTV. Other television credits include guest-starring roles on CSI: Miami, Stargate: Atlantis, Mr. Young, Endgame and Supernatural, to name a few. He also co-starred in the Emmy Award®-winning William H. Macy telefilm Door to Door, the adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild: Dog of the Yukon and the Hallmark Channel Original Movie Christmas Homecoming. Unspeakable is airing on Sundance TV starting April 4th, 2019.

The CBC and SundanceTV original series, UNSPEAKABLE is created by Robert C. Cooper (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis) and stars actors Sarah Wayne Callies (Colony, The Walking Dead), Shawn Doyle (Bellevue, Big Love), Michael Shanks (Stargate SG-1, Saving Hope) and Camille Sullivan (The Disappearance, The Man in the High Castle). It is produced by Mezo Entertainment, with Cooper and Meridian Artists' Glenn Cockburn serving as executive producers. The series is a passion project for Cooper, who himself was a victim, having contracted Hepatitis C from tainted blood. The series is written by Cooper, Carl Binder, Adriana Capozzi and Lynn Coady, with Cooper and Callies both directing episodes. AMC Studios manages worldwide distribution outside of Canada. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Programming; Helen Asimakis is Senior Director, Drama, Scripted Content; and Deborah Nathan is Executive in Charge of Production.

Unspeakable airs it’s series finale on CBC on Wed, Feb. 27th. You can catch up on all the episodes on the CBC Gem app and online.

L-R, Michael Shanks & Sarah Wayne Callies. Photo by Jeff Weddell, CBC.

Michael Shanks' Q and A with Blaine S


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