Michael Musi is the writer and creator behind the new Canadian TV show, “Something Undone”. The show, which debuted on CBC Gem on March 26, is a dark psychological thriller that touches on themes of mental health, loss, and family dynamics.
Musi is a Canadian actor and writer most famous for his role as Terence on “Kim’s Convenience.” As the son of a Greek woman and a Greek Orthodox Syrian man from Turkey, he spoke to Greek Reporter about how his personal experiences and cultural upbringing influenced his latest project.
“Something Undone” was a passion project by Musi and his writing partner, Madison Walsh.
Tell us a little bit about your Greek heritage.
I am born and raised in Montreal. My mother is Greek, from Methoni, and my father is Greek Orthodox Syrian from Turkey; so two very different backgrounds in my life.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Montreal, but the culture is…alive. It feels more like a village. I grew up in a suburb called Laval in Chomedey, which was full of Greeks. I grew up going to a Greek school. Though I used to distance myself from my Arab side and was immersed in the Greek culture, I now love both backgrounds, and am equally proud of both my cultures.
What has your path in the entertainment world been like so far?
I went to theater school in Montreal for two years before I got into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, so I moved to New York. I tried to make it work but New York is a hard city to break into, so I moved back to Canada, thinking it would be a temporary base to start building up my career.
However, I have now been in Toronto for eleven years. It was hard in the beginning, but I began slowly booking roles, and things really started to happen for me when I booked the role of Terence in “Kim’s Convenience”.
Actually, when I started it was supposed to be a one episode, one word role. Then I got changed to a series regular and now I just wrapped up five seasons on the show.
This whole time I have also been a writer, and creating my own work. I wrote my most recent project with my best friend and writing partner Madison Walsh.
Tell us about your latest writing and acting project, ‘Something Undone’.
It’s a mini-series. It’s scary, it’s suspenseful, it talks about mental health and what it’s like to lose a mother. It has a little bit of everything, and definitely delves into very dark subjects.
The reason why we initially wrote this is because the CBC put out a fund for artists to create work during a pandemic. So we knew we had to create content that we could film in a pandemic, which would be subject to tight restrictions.
So we thought, one actor, one house. But then, how are we gonna fill this world? So we played with sound – sound is a massive part of the show.
Our lead character is a Foley artist, so she does sound effects for a true crime podcast. The story itself kind of takes off when she hears a really scary sound in the house and realizes there’s a deep dark secret that hasn’t been uncovered.
Did you have any personal inspiration for the show?
We wanted to talk about experiences that were close to us and personal to us. I lost my mom when I was 24, so I know what it’s like to lose a parent and clean up your mother’s things after she dies. And then to discover things about her life you didn’t know about.
It’s the process of realizing your mom had this whole life outside of you. The horror of touching your mother’s possessions after she dies is this weird invasion of privacy, that she never intended on us doing but we had to do.
While Maddie and I don’t suffer from mental illness, we have it close to us in family and friends. So we also wanted to integrate mental health as a subject, in order to destigmatize it and present it in a grounded way. In the show, we hear her mom’s tapes and realize she has gone off a little bit, but we wanted to make sure we were honest and truthful in our approach. We talked to doctors and did our research so we made sure we were never doing something for the sake of a scare.
On top of that, the isolation we’re all feeling right now is something we easily drew on. Being in a house alone, with your own thoughts. When you sit with yourself for too long you start to discover things you didn’t know.
I think while I’m super proud that when people watch our show they won’t be thinking of COVID, it is a good metaphor for what we’re going through at the moment.
What has the conversation about mental health been coming from your background?
Coming from a pretty traditional Greek and Arab background, we didn’t talk about mental health. I can’t even fault them (my family), it just wasn’t even a thought or an option to go to therapy or something like that.
Even with my parents. My mom was born in Montreal, her parents came from Greece two years before she was born. While their household was very traditional and my mom spoke Greek, she was really modern in lots of ways.
But still, therapy was not a thing that was a possibility in our house. It was “for Canadians”; not for the Greeks or the Arabs. It wasn’t something we brought into our lives.
Do you think that mental health is being destigmatized in our Greek diaspora community?
Absolutely. And in our generation, of course. Even for me, my mom died eight years ago, and it’s only two and a half months ago that I committed to therapy. I keep saying “my parents and grandparents are so old school”, but then I’ve spent the least years thinking, “I don’t need therapy, I’m strong.” It’s this false idea that wanting to go to therapy or talk about mental issues is weak in some way.
A couple of months ago, I started experiencing so much anxiety, to the point where it was debilitating. And I realized, this is enough, I have to do something. Now, I’ve been talking to my therapist once a week and it’s changed my life. I can’t believe I waited this long.
What was the production process for “Something Undone” like?
They gave us the green light on October 21st to go into production on December 7th…and had no script. They asked if we thought we could pull this off, and of course we said yes.
So Madison and I went to a cottage for ten days in October and wrote five scripts. While also hiring directors, getting producers involved, driving around southern Ontario looking for locations. We were just living and breathing this show.
When we got into production, we got COVID tests and created a bubble for our crew and cast. It was such a blessing to be able to make art with this crew of 25 people at a time when work was sparse. For such a dark psychological thriller, it was surprisingly light behind the camera.
People were just so happy at that time to see other human beings.
Talk to us about the journey from being in front of the camera to behind the scenes.
I always considered myself a writer because straight out of acting school I wrote a play. It won this contest and I got it on stage. Then I didn’t write anything again for several years of course and focused mostly on acting.
But as an actor, you get so tired of not having control and just waiting for your agent to call. It’s such a horrible feeling when things aren’t moving. It wasn’t enough for me at some point, and that’s when I realized I have to write my own stuff. I wanted to tell stories that mean something to me.
I also realized drawing from my personal and family experiences, as well as my culture heritage to tell stories, excites me.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I’m writing a thriller feature film and a pilot that touches on a lot of my personal and family experiences. I also did two episodes of a show that I released myself called “Passed Down”. It’s a food and lifestyle show about second-generation Canadians. I did two episodes, one with an Italian friend of mine, Cristina Rosato, and my family – both sides.
Food is such an important thing to me, so I’m really excited about that and I’m going to pitch it to networks soon.
As an actor you can always watch me on Netflix on “Kim’s Convenience”, but I also just wrapped a movie based on a very successful Canadian novel called “All My Puny Sorrows”.
“Something Undone” airs on CBC Gem – the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s digital streaming service – and has already garnered incredible reviews. Check it out now!