Yannick Bisson and I sit down for an interview at Barberian’s Steak House in Toronto – a venue he and his wife like to frequent. I feel like I’m travelling back in time and immediately think about Bisson’s Murdoch Mysteries. After all, the venue is home to artifacts and antiques that range from one of the original clocks made in Canada to pre-Confederation money, as well as an extensive collection of firearms from the Riel rebellion and War of 1812.
The conversation unfolds quite quickly and, as we wrap it up, the tables are turned and Bisson starts to interview me. We laugh and head to the wine cellar for a photoshoot. It feels like an adventure, as we go down the staircase and end up in a massive room with thousands of bottles everywhere.
Featured on the cover of FAJO this month, Bisson tells us about the dedication to his latest role as Detective Murdoch, his love for his family and his obsession with V-neck shirts.
HANNAH YAKOBI: So how is Murdoch Mysteries treating you?
YANNICK BISSON: We wrapped up the filming of Season 6 and it premiered this week. I always ask my management to give me a little bit of a break afterwards, so they are busy working away to find out what I’m going to be working on next, but I literally don’t want to know for a little bit! I want to be able to get myself well physically – five months doing Murdoch is tough on the body. I’m just taking care of me right now.
I did a great retreat last year – juice fasting, yoga, some meditation, just to sort of get some balance back. It was something to try and I’ve never done that before, but I will say this – it’s helped a lot in a short period of time, more so than the other things I’ve tried. My wife and I were there for three days, but prior to that I had to do some preparation, cut out a lot of things from my diet and drink a lot of water and teas. We had a great time, out in the country north of Port Hope.
Now that the sixth season of Murdoch is here, how has your character grown over this time?
We’ve lost the girl in Season 4, and had Murdoch go through a pretty dark period, but an ongoing theme with him was to constantly observe what he believes to be true, and whether or not it holds up. We’ve managed to maintain that thread, which has been nice.
When you are on set, do you ever feel like you are time traveling?
In a way, my job is fairly easy – I step into these great clothes and walk onto these sets, and I literally step back in time. And that collaborative effort helps to foster a great environment. That being said, I do have to change my shoes a lot (laughs). I wear sneakers just to be comfortable – you know, 12 to 14-hour days, with hard-soled shoes, that’s kind of tough.
Do you play any role in selecting costumes for your character?
In the beginning, I did. I had a lot to do with how every one of Murdoch’s suits was designed. I asked Antonio Valente, who built my suits, to put a network of tiny little pockets all over the place – so you will often see Murdoch pull small things out of his suit. I wanted to do that because one of the things that Detective Murdoch has to do is employ other techniques to get forensic evidence. I knew this would facilitate it.
You meet different characters on set, including the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle. How does that feel?
It’s super great! It’s a big joke, if you really think about it hard. But how fun would it be to step back in time and meet some of the incredible people who have shaped our world? People who really helped the industrial revolution, helped to invent things that we take so much for granted.
Did you ever have a favourite outfit on set?
My favourite one was a wool suit that I was wearing during a stunt, while I was supposed to have these explosives around me in season five. It was a grey suit with a blue shadow pinstripe. Sadly, the explosives landed on my lapel and actually burnt it and ruined that jacket. They’ve since had it remade but it still doesn’t fit quite exactly the same! So it was a bit of the disappointment. But I have another one with an orange shadow stripe that I like almost as much.
Do you ever keep any of the outfits?
Well, the show hasn’t ended yet, so I don’t know! My shoes for some reason keep holding up year after year. The same shoes I started with on the very first day of filming – I get them back with the brand new sole and heel on them, every year. And I guess as long as they can hold up, I suppose I can too (laughs).
We have talked a bit about your character, Detective Murdoch, but what does Yannick Bisson like to wear?
My wife will tell you that I have my ‘uniform’, I wear cargo shorts and a V-neck – almost all the time. And in winter, it’s jeans and a V-neck and a T-shirt – all the time.
I guess growing up, and spending a part of my life in Florida and Texas, I got used to not having sleeves. Whereas one of my daughters, if she doesn’t have sleeves on, she doesn’t feel right. I guess it depends on the individual. I love wearing logo T-shirts, even though my wife hates them. Mostly mountain-biking T-shirts with funny mountain biking slogans.
Speaking of shopping, where do you tend to go?
Well, Antonio has made some suits for me over the years. He builds suits for a lot of actors and wardrobe departments. He’s dressed the likes of Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford.
I’ll pop into Holt Renfrew sometimes. I have a few Prada suits that I really like and some Prada shoes that seem to be my favourite lately. I’m starting to be well-invested in that company! (laughs)
And you are in a household with four women – how does that affect the way you dress?
Oh man, I’ll tell you – they are hard on me! I’d be pretty casual most of the time, but my daughters would say something like: ‘Dad, you can’t go out of the house with your sneakers on, people recognize you now.’ So I have to sort of think about my outfits a little bit, which doesn’t come easily to me. It comes so easy to some people, while I get to sit there for half an hour, staring at my closet, trying to think what the hell am I going to do.
So what are you going to wear today?
I’m going to get creative and pull out a Prada suit jacket! (laughs)
Murdoch Mysteries airs on Mondays, at 9 p.m., on CBC.