Ross Khalighi (Ehren Kassam) and Gordon Cooper (Nicholas Campbell) enjoy birdwatching! Photo by Jasper Savage

Ehren Kassam rocks the role of Ross in Coroner Season 3 – Interview

If anybody watched CBC last night, then you know a new season of Coroner has just started and that means more stories about people who died, and more discoveries. It’s interesting how some shows are still producing and the industry is getting busy despite the pandemic, but that’s because there’s still hope for shows even though many have been cancelled recently. But Coroner is showing it is adjusting to the virus in more ways than one, not just shooting with the new precautions in mind, but also taking place during the virus. The third season may turn about to be the most ambitious season yet, as I have learned from Ehren Kassam as he told me lots of cool things about Coroner Season 3 and his role as Ross, who is definitely bound to become someone different as the show progresses.


HNMAG: With Coroner Season 3 taking place during COVID times do you feel the show is getting more dark and disturbing?

Ehren Kassam: I don’t know if that’s how to describe it, I think the way we reference the pandemic and the way how people dealt with the pandemic in general is subtle. The first couple of episodes, it’s definitely more present but as the timeline of the show carries on the pandemic becomes more of a memory with the show. I think that’s going to be pretty cool to go back to in a couple years and be like, “Oh $#!+, I forgot that that happened”. So it’s kind of cool there’s like this living time capsule now of the pandemic in the way that the medical team would respond to it. In terms of darkness, this show still is about death and the gloomy after effects of such. It does stay pretty dark and on point, but definitely lots of shockers this season. 


HNMAG: And how has COVID in the real world affected how production is being done?

Ehren Kassam: It’s funny, I’ve said this before. It’s crazy to me how well we adapt as people to any situation. I know that’s been said so many times now. Just the beginning of it, it felt like it would never feel good or normal again. We had to go get tested everyday, I kept forgetting to do these procedures like signing in on my phone beforehand. We would have to go before set to get our temperature taken and fill out paperwork every day. There will all these new things that were definitely dampening the mood because I would like to focus more on the thing there and I’m the social bird on set so I kind of like to float. There was definitely weirdness in the beginning, but as it went on it just became super super normal. It feels weird to go back to a time when we were touching each other, putting our hands all over the craft table and stuff. There is something CLEAN about this new world that I enjoy. It didn’t affect things on set too much. Doing rehearsals with masks on was kind of tough because you didn’t get to see your co-worker’s performance until you were shooting it. But that was pretty adaptable and easy to work with and I was just grateful that we were able to shoot. 


HNMAG: Have there been any other challenges on set besides the paperwork and testing?

Ehren Kassam: There was a couple scenes where like even the way the script was written I had to be very close to the guy I’m with in the show and we had to be making out in the script. The whole episode kind of harked on us getting shocked out of this intense moment that we’re in. We rehearsed the scene with masks on, and we were face-to-face and as we’re blocking it, the nurse who has to be on set comes up to us and says “None of that is going to be okay. You can’t do ANY of that without a mask on.” so we had to find a way to rework it, while still keeping safe and respectful. It seemed to work, I stayed healthy and in pretty close proximity. I think that there’s always challenges in this job, just playing a character that’s younger which is sort of an awkward age to go back to when you’re excited about every living thing. There’s always sort of that little moment getting back into the character and getting back into the energy and excitement. When you don’t have the fun ecstatic environment you’re used to on set, it was a bit more challenging to fall into that. But it still worked. I did ADR today and it looked fantastic. 


HNMAG: What were some of the advantages of shooting with the new conditions?

Ehren Kassam: We couldn’t go overtime, that was amazing. There was 12 hour days, occasionally for a day or two but for the most part, you couldn’t be on set longer than 12 hours which was nice. There was no extra long days. There were just other little things that I weirdly started to like. Some of the protocols just expedited the stuff I had to do. There was easy stuff like people would order the lunches for us and so it was kind of nice. You kind of got to feel a little like bourgeois. Otherwise, I can’t wait to go back to normal and see everybody’s beautiful face because there are a good handful of people that I met on here that I know I’m not going to recognize. Even though I got to know them and talk to them, I only saw as much as their eyes. Once I see them without their mask on, I’m going to be so surprised. I guess that’s if we ever go without masks again…


HNMAG: What kinds of surprises and adventures can people expect to see in this upcoming season of Coroner?

Ehren Kassam: All the usual stuff for sure, we stay on per end. I was very fortunate this year to have an opportunity to spread my wings a little bit more in a few of the episodes. My character Ross definitely goes through a few life altering moments this season. He just gets into some real-world $#!+ that just interferes with Jenny’s life. There’s a lot of there because I’ve been able to interact with that part of the cast before. Ross has always stayed relative to his grandpa and his boyfriend Mateo. But this year I got to spread out. I got to go and interact with other people on the show, and have a few more moments of acting because I normally play myself on camera. So I actually got to act. Otherwise, there are DEFINITELY some shockers. There’s some super interesting things that I think should the show continue will completely alter the way that some of the characters function and who the characters are so that’s exciting. Mainly, I think we stay on brand, we’ve created a beautiful tone that perfectly balances Jenny’s life with work. It has that bit of the procedural love that and I think it has real honest family elements that make it much more compelling and make you tune in much more.



HNMAG: So your character gets more screen time or even arcs this season?

Ehren Kassam: He does get an arc. A nice juicy one this season. From where he starts at the beginning, he’s mentally different by the end. That’s kind of exciting to watch that come to life or if I’m just more of the same. Watching ADR today, I think it really played, and I got to see some of the gruelling and heart-wrenching moments that we made this year. I’m excited for anyone to see them. We’ve had such a quick turn around, like we’ve just finished shooting and we’re already editing this week. 


HNMAG: Your character Ross gets into quite a story arc with his grandfather about birding. Have you done some birding in the past?

Ehren Kassam: Never, no. But it was funny, in the first two episodes we go birding through the woods. The A.D. messaged me and said “Hey, can you learn some bird calls?” and sent me a bunch of videos. That was a few days before the shoot and I’ve never done one. I was freaking out and I couldn’t get it and it took me DAYS. I was finally able to do a generic one. Then on the day, we didn’t use it once. I didn’t have to call the bird, don’t think they got me doing it at all. I actually am indifferent to birds as a species, I could take them or leave them. I’ve never really seen the appeal. My mom takes pictures of them, she’s a photographer. She’s always photographing them back at home, she has all different types of bird seed laid out. Every day she sends her pictures to me and I go “Yup, that’s just another bird to me, Mom…”


HNMAG: The show sounds like it’s doing pretty good so far. Is your character likely to be in more seasons in the future?

Ehren Kassam: I think so, it’s looking like it. I keep waiting for them to say “Alright, Ross. You’re going off to start your life and your characters’ gone” but that doesn’t seem like it’s happening any time soon. I mean, knock on wood, but yeah. It feels like I”m around, the cast is definitely one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with. We’re such an in-tune group who knows how to take our time with things. Every day there’s always numerous conversations about the scenes and what we’re doing to change them. I’ve never had freedom like I have on this set, freedom to voice my opinion and actually be taken seriously in this regard to the script. I’ve never been given the freedom to actually have my words be in the script, to have it changed to things that would better suit me. That was really exciting this year. Yeah, I think part of that is just myself growing confidence as this career of mine goes on. This year, I noticed that especially as I was really able to voice feedback and our show runners and writers were so eager and receptive to listen. It really made me feel like a real actor.


HNMAG: Do you feel your role is different or similar from other roles you’ve done?

Ehren Kassam: In this age-group, everything is kind of notes-to-the-same song, but not really the exact same. Being the struggling teen is sort of the trope when you are this age. I guess the only other role I could compare it to is Jonah Haak, my character for an extended period of time in Degrassi. I always just called my character the boyfriend even though he was in the show for 5 seasons. I was just like a different woman’s man for 3 different seasons. My storyline would just revolve around that but I never  really felt I had the input to say anything so I just kind of played that youngling. I think I was naive to how much extra work I should’ve put into it to make sure it was working for me instead of just like taking the lines and saying them if I didn’t feel like it. Even though Ross is younger than Jonah, I feel he’s a lot more mature but that’s probably because I was in high school when I was in Degrassi so I definitely grew as a person and that reflected. But I’ve only ever done small things here and there before this so this is sort of my first real character to dive into and do some work on. I’m so fortunate about it and I think about it every day.


HNMAG: And what’s it like playing someone younger than yourself?

Ehren Kassam: The energy and naivety is hard to find. It’s hard to not speak in my typical drone and I have a dry-wit when I talk. It’s hard to not read the lines sarcastically or try to find the humour in them that my character just wouldn’t be too privy too. He’s just a privileged rich kid and he doesn’t know much, so in the first few seasons, that would sort of be the thing. They would say “Okay, Ehren. You need to up your energy, you gotta be more young, you’re just looking too cynical.” so I would have to lose that cynicism pretty quickly. But this season I found it easier than the last two, there was difficulty at the beginning because I was fresh off COVID and COVID is still around. But once it became a general part of our lives, the relationships and friendships just flourished again and it was easy to find them. Nick Campbell who is the Grandpa always treats me like a little kid on purpose, so that’s kind of fun. I end up treating him like a senile old man but he’s nothing of the sort. Serinda is so incredibly professional on set and so hard at work that when me and her end up conversing, it almost feels like i don’t want to interrupt her work anyways so that ends up playing to our relationship to some degree.



HNMAG: Is Ross someone you feel you can relate to now or do you still have challenges with being him?

Ehren Kassam: I can relate to him a little bit more because he’s losing his privileged innocence of the world. He definitely used to see things through rose-coloured glasses, and I don’t think I’m a person who sees things that way at all. I’m pretty pessimistic at best, so I think that as time goes on for Ross, I feel he’s coming close to someone who I am but much too happy. Much too excited about the everyday. Whereas, I just like to keep it chill, I read and I write a lot of the time during the day. I don’t think Ross has ever held a pencil in his life so he’s mostly just a floating butterfly which I’m definitely not. I’m a set rock. (laughs) I think he’s maturing and that’s helping too. It was also kind of fun to play the excited youthfulness so I hope he doesn’t become too jaded or I’ll just be playing myself.


HNMAG: Do you feel the show will last pretty long?

Ehren Kassam: I don’t know, but I hope so. It could, it has that procedural element to it where it has a new story every episode but while following an overall arc. They couldn’t go on forever like a CSI type of thing, but it’s not unrealistic to want 5 or 6 seasons. They have the writing power for it, I mean Morwyn Brebner is such an amazing show runner, so fingers crossed.


HNMAG: Did you ever think the show would make it to three seasons?

Ehren Kassam: No, and not because I didn’t think it was great, but because Canadian TV is hard. It’s hard to blow up in the international level that we have. I mean, to have CW pick us up and be in Europe with Universal. When I booked it, I truly was in a destitution. I had little hope, I did a lot of auditions that hadn’t gone well. I had been working in serving for a long time and things were rough at that time in my life so this role was huge for me when it was. I still remember when I started, I was thinking “This is a perfect stepping stone.” It’s with CBC and I’ll be able to get back into the swing of it. The stone has become its own staircase that just keeps going and going because the show has got such heat to it now. Every season, I’m characteristically skeptical but it fades as I read the scripts because they’re just so good. It surprised me, it surprised my family, it surprised everybody. When you see the caliber of this show compared to things i used to be on, it’s like night and day.


Yes sir, Coroner is looking impressive, incredible, and intense. So many new things to come of it, because maybe we all need a nice mix of twists and tricks on TV that aren’t news-related. I mean, seriously. This COVID should’ve ended already, it’s making my paranoia worse. But the important thing is that Season 3 of Coroner is sure to be the best season of this show. Plus, I am sure there are to be much more episodes and seasons in the future.

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