Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Ellen Byron's "Cajun Kiss of Death"

Ellen Byron is the Agatha Award-winning author of the Cajun Country Mysteries. The USA Today bestselling series has also won multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty awards from the Left Coast Crime conference. She also writes The Catering Hall Mysteries (under the pen name Maria DiRico), and will launch the Vintage Cookbook Mysteries (as Ellen) in June 2022.

Byron’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. She also worked as a cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing.

A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Byron lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and rescue chi mix, Pogo. She still misses her hometown - and still drives like a New York cabbie.

Here Byron dreamcasts an adaptation of her new Cajun Country Mystery, Cajun Kiss of Death:
It’s so much fun to cast a movie in your mind! Here are my choices for five characters from Cajun Kiss of Death.

Maggie Crozat – I’ve always seen Anne Hathaway in the role of Maggie. She has this wonderful way of combining moxie with a hint of insecurity, plus she knows how to play comedy. Not every actress can. In the 1990s, casting calls often went out for “pretty funny.” This was a call for male and female performers who were hot but also funny. It sounds incredibly sexist these days, doesn’t it? But finding this combination wasn’t easy. I’ll leave it to readers to analyze why.

Detective Bo Durand – I struggled with dream casting Bo for a long time. Someone once suggested Josh Harnett, and he was a possibility. Then my husband and I began watching Schitt’s Creek – we were early fans – and an actor popped into my personal zeitgeist as the perfect casting. His name is Tim Rozon. He played Alexis’s boyfriend Mutt during the show’s first seasons, and he’s got the perfect look and demeanor for Bo. And here’s another advantage to Mr. Rozon. You know all those Hallmark mystery movies? A lot of them are shot in Canada using the country’s tax credits. But to take advantage of the credits, you need to follow “Can Con” – Canadian Content – rules, meaning a large percentage of cast and crew must be Canadian. So, if my dream movie version of Cajun Kiss of Death was shot in Canada, Mr. Rozon would be a boon from both an artistic and business perspective.

Grand-mere, Maggie’s grandmother – This is the one casting choice that’s been a no-brainer since I wrote the series: Blythe Danner. In her youth, Ms. Danner starred in several Tennessee Williams plays, so she’s got the Southern thing down. Plus, not only does she exude an elegance and grace that’s perfect for Gran, there’s a twinkle in her eye and a talent for comedy. I absolutely envision her when I write this character. And you know what? That daughter of hers – What’s her name? Gwyneth something? – would also make a great Maggie!

Police chief Rufus Durand – Sam Rockwell is one of the most versatile actors working today. There’s nothing he can’t do and be charming while doing it, even if playing a villain. He’s got a bit of the imp to him, which would work for Ru, who goes from being an enemy to frenemy through the course of the Cajun Country Mystery series. Ru is unapologetic about his sometimes-sketchy choices, so you need an actor who’s innately likeable to play him. When it comes to casting Rufus Durand, Sam’s the man.

Vanessa Fleer-MacIlhoney – this casting choice might blow you away, but you know who would be great in this role? Stormy Daniels. Yup, you read that right. Stormy’s got Vanessa’s look down, plus the woman has a great sense of humor. And she’s one smart cookie, which Vanessa is as well. Some actresses might lean toward playing Vanessa as a bimbo. She’s not. She’s self-involved and clueless a lot of the time, but often offers a surprisingly canny take on a situation. You want to cast a performer who can hit all those notes, and I think Ms. Daniels can.

As to a director, no one specific comes to mind. All I know is I want her to be a woman!
Visit Ellen Byron's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Byron & Wiley and Pogo.

Q&A with Ellen Byron.

Writers Read: Ellen Byron.

--Marshal Zeringue