Canadian figure skaters behind the scenes of Netflix drama set to compete at nationals

There’s a scene in the new Netflix soapy figure skating series Spinning Out in which the main characters Kat and Justin execute a lasso lift.

The physically-demanding element has the male skater hoist his partner over his head while travelling across the ice. She’s in the splits position.

“They wanted all these different angles,” said Evelyn Walsh, who with partner Trennt Michaud, were the main skating doubles for Spinning Out characters Kat and Justin. “I had GoPro on my head.”

“I had one on my back,” Michaud said.

“I think we counted that we did 21 of the same lift repeatedly,” Walsh said with a laugh. “It turned out so cool though, so we understood why we were doing so many. But still, I don’t remember the last time we did that many lassos in a row.”

Created by Samantha Stratton, Spinning Out follows Kat (played by Kaya Scodelario) and her new talented bad-boy pairs partner Justin (Evan Roderick).

But behind the scenes is a rich cast of Canadian figure skating doubles, including Walsh and Michaud, and Michelle Long, who are all competing at the Canadian championships this week in Mississauga, Ont.

Sarah Kawahara, a retired Canadian skater-turned-choreographer who worked on I, Tonya and Blades of Glory did the choreography for Spinning Out.

Distinctly Canadian

Even the backdrop is distinctly Canadian. The fictional Pinecrest Winter Resort is actually the Blue Mountain Resort near Collingwood, Ont. The skaters’ home rink, with its gorgeous wood beams, is actually the Teen Ranch in Caledon, just northwest of Toronto.

Long was Kat’s double for the singles skating scenes. The 27-year-old was competing at the national championships last winter in Saint John, N.B., when she received a text about Spinning Out on the day of her short program.

“It said ‘Hey, they’re filming a Netflix series, and I know they’re still looking for a skating double, you would be a perfect match. So please contact Sarah and see if you can set something up,”‘ said Long, who went on to finish sixth in Saint John.

“I said, ‘I really appreciate that but I have to get through nationals first, can you give me 24 hours just to at least get me through to the long program?’ So I passed along my contact information, and then literally as soon as I finished my long program Sarah had texted asking me if I would come in and audition. I did that literally three days after we got back from Saint John. Yeah, it was a quick turnaround.”

Michelle Long, of Newmarket, Ont., started filming for the Netflix drama following last year’s nationals. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press )

Walsh and Michaud, silver medallists at last year’s national championships, couldn’t start filming until after their world championships debut last March, where they finished 12th. Production days ranged anywhere from three hours to 14.

Retired pairs skater Dylan Moscovitch had both a small speaking part as the coach of the character Jenn — played by Toronto actress and former figure skater Amanda Zhou — and as a skating double for Justin.

“My first day of shooting, I had to play Justin’s skating double and Jenn’s coach in the same scene,” said Moscovitch, who was fifth at the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Kirsten Moore-Towers. “Jenn is up in the fitness/dance room stretching, looking through the glass watching Justin and his partner work on triple toes.

“So I had to do the scene with Jenn, and then run downstairs, tie my skates on and warm up a triple toe and do a triple toe within five minutes. We got one take because the ice time ended, and that was it. It was a circus. It was really cool though.”

Skating scenes ring true

Countless sports shows treat the actual sports shots as obvious afterthoughts. In the Netflix series Atypical the character Casey is supposed to be a track star yet the running scenes are cringe-worthy. She’s a 100-metre sprinter yet trains like a distance runner. She runs the 100 in slow motion. Her form is terrible. She races in running shoes. The placement of the starting line is way off.

But with its talent and choreography, the skating scenes in Spinning Out ring true.

Moscovitch helped coach the cast, including Kaitlyn Leeb, a former Canadian skater who plays Leah. Her partner Gabriel is played by U.S. Olympian Johnny Weir.

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While Roderick could skate — he played hockey growing up — Scodelario had barely been on ice.

“I ended up helping a little bit organizing choreography too in terms of some of the dance lifts and pairs stuff that Evan and Kaya could learn off the ice for a couple of the scenes, and even some of the pair holds they could do on the ice, even just with her basic ability to skate,” Moscovitch said.

He was about to board a flight to South Korea when the series was released on Jan. 1. He quickly downloaded it to his iPad, then watched half of the 10 episodes on the flight.

Michaud, who watched the Netflix series like most people do, binge-watching from his couch, said it was easy to pick out which skater what doing what scene.

“Without even seeing the faces I knew who every skater was. Maybe that’s because I’m a skating nerd,” said Michaud, a 23-year-old from Belleville, Ont.

All four skaters were pleased with the finished product, and loved the experience.

“Every person took an interest in our career and our competitions and what we’re working towards, even like Kat and Justin the main two characters,” said Wash, an 18-year-old from Seaforth, Ont.

Michaud’s only beef was a brief shot of his computer-altered face.

“My nose looks funny,” he laughed. “There’s a part when they’re doing the short [program] at the end, it gets fully on us, and with the makeup and everything they didn’t change our face too much, but they tried to change my nose, and my nose looks really weird.”

Senior events at the Canadian championships are Friday and Saturday at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.

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