The bet was ambitious, even daring. An original series in English, produced and shot in Montreal, with international aims. Quebecers behind Transplant thought big. After 4 seasons and 165 countries conquered, we can say the operation was a success.
In Canada, the medical drama concluded on January 19 on CTV. In Quebec, its last 13 episodes will land in French (Transplanted) on March 26 on Crave. Reached by telephone, Laurence Leboeuf, who plays Doctor Magalie Mags Leblanc, speaks of a “big piece” to let go.
“I shot my last scenes at the beginning of November,” says the actress. It was more emotional than we thought. Everyone was on edge. We have worked together since 2019, almost eight months a year. It was a very beautiful ending, with testimonies, tears…”
The adventure Transplant began in 2017 when Canadian author Joseph Kay was inspired by a magazine article to create a series centered around a Syrian refugee, immigrant to Canada, who manages to resume his career in medicine in the emergency department of a hospital in Toronto.
For Sphere Media, the Quebec production company behind the offering, it was an opportunity to shift into fifth gear. A few years earlier, in 2012, the company had started producing in English, but always adapting its originally French-speaking series, such as 19-2 And New address (This Life).
We wanted to produce original creations with not only the potential for distribution in Canada, but also the potential for exploitation abroad.
Bruno Dubé, president of Sphere Media
After finding a broadcaster (CTV, owned by Bell Media), the production house convinced an international distributor, the giant NBCUniversal, to actively participate in financing the project. Result: its budget doubled, and suddenly, exporting became possible. “Great production value can not only attract Canadian audiences, but it can also attract international audiences,” summarizes Bruno Dubé.
In total, the series benefited from a budget of around $130 million for 4 seasons of 13 episodes each, specifies Sphere Media.
An export success
The breakthrough of Transplant on the world stage is undeniable. Its hunting list includes countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil and, of course, the United States. Since 2020, the series has aired in prime time on NBC. Its third season is currently presented on Friday evenings. Its fourth will be offered later in 2024, confirms Josée Vallée, executive vice-president, fiction and feature films, French-speaking market, at Sphère Média.
“This is why we must continue to invest,” emphasizes Bruno Dubé. High-quality content reaches its audience and travels. The proof is Transplant. »
Transplant achieved instant success in Canada, becoming the number one Canadian drama series, as well as entering the top 20 of the most watched series in the country, all categories combined. A performance that is a feat, given the enormous American competition in fiction, through Netflix, Prime Video, ABC, CBS and company.
Its first three seasons won 15 trophies at the Canadian Screen Awards, including best drama series, best direction, best writing, best actor (Hamza Haq), best actress (Laurence Leboeuf) and best supporting actress (Ayisha Issa).
“Seeing how much the show spoke to people is really flattering,” says Laurence Leboeuf. We put our heart into it. »
More than 3000 people worked on Transplant every year. Among them, there are many Quebecers, including the entire technical team, since the series was filmed at Cinépool studios in Montreal, in the LaSalle borough.
There were representatives from here in each department. As for the directors, we note Chloé Robichaud, Caroline Labrèche, Jeanne Leblanc, Alain DesRochers, Éric Tessier and Érik Canuel. As for the actors, in addition to Laurence Leboeuf and Ayisha Issa, we mention Marianne Farley, Mylène Mackay, Macha Grenon and Patrick Labbé.
“For us, it is a source of pride to have brought Quebec talent to Transplant, indicates Josée Vallée. It was also Bell Media’s desire to hire them, to raise awareness. »
“We didn’t just serve as a foil because it was cheaper to film in Montreal,” adds the producer.
A turning point
For Sphere Media, which will mark its 40e birthday in 2024, Transplant marked a turning point. The company continues to produce French-language shows, such as Cerebrum, The little tannants, A zoo like no other And One way ticketbut it now has an office in Toronto and produces English-language fiction such as The Porter (in French, The wearer) And Sort of (Somehow).
“Since 2018, for our income outside Quebec, we have gone from zero to almost two-thirds,” reveals Bruno Dubé.
Is the company working on creating another large-scale series like Transplant ? The information is top secret. But since the association with Bell Media went well, we can bet that an announcement will come soon.
“It allows us to dream and have great ambitions for the future,” notes Bruno Dubé. It gave us confidence. It allowed us to meet important people. It’s a beautiful dream come true. »
The after-Transplant by Laurence Leboeuf
After taking a two-month break, Laurence Leboeuf began, last Sunday, her first post-Transplant : the resumption of Two women in gold. Directed by Chloé Robichaud (Happy Days) and written by Catherine Léger (Baby sitter), this contemporary adaptation of the cult feature film by filmmaker Claude Fournier from 1970 based on his play of the same title will be released in theaters in 2025. Laurence Leboeuf and Karine Gonthier-Hyndman will play two suburban women who decide to free themselves by celebrating feminine desire.
“I had already heard about the film, but I didn’t know to what extent it was going to create reactions,” said the actress in an interview. I wasn’t aware of the impact. I discovered him during the last year, knowing that I was going to make the film. »
As for Transplant, a series for which she had agreed to sign an exclusive contract for a period of four years, Laurence Leboeuf is proud of the journey of Mags, her character.
“She has evolved a lot. When the series began, she was a top of the class who wanted to do everything, to know everything, who couldn’t find a balance between her personal life and the hospital, who was really immersed in her work as if it were was her boyfriend (lover). Over the years, with the meeting of Bash and the friendships she has formed with June (Ayisha Issa) and Theo (Jim Watson), we see that she has learned to know herself better and better center herself. »