CBC Sudbury's former office transformed into a police station for TV mini-series

Shortly after CBC Sudbury moved out of its building on Mackenzie Street, the space was rented to a production company to shoot the television mini-series "Cardinal." What was once an office space for journalists was transformed into the set of a police station for the television show.

Former CBC radio station in Sudbury used in the filming of CTV mini-series "Cardinal."

I sat in the same desk at CBC Sudbury for almost 20 years. So it was strange to walk into the office and see the space transformed into a police station.

When CBC moved out of its digs on Mackenzie Street at the end of 2015 to a new facility a few blocks away, the former radio station building was rented out to a production company to film several episodes of a television show called Cardinal which airs this month on CTV.

It's a dramatic crime series based on the novel Forty Words of Sorrow by Canadian author Giles Blunt, who grew up in North Bay, Ont.

The story is about a detective and his rookie partner who are on the hunt for a killer in northern Ontario.

The police station scenes were shot in the same place where CBC journalists once held their story meetings, made their calls and recorded interviews on their desktop computers.

It was a gold mine- Rob Gray

"It was a gold mine," said production designer Rob Gray, who gave me a tour of the transformed office during a break in filming in April 2016.

The tour was provided on the condition that CBC wouldn't share the story until the TV series was cut and ready for broadcast.

Seeing the promo ads on television, I contacted the publicist to get permission to share this story, and was given the shocking news that Gray died of cancer just this past December at the age of 54.
CBC Sudbury host Markus Schwabe interviews production designer Rob Gray in the former CBC office, which was transformed to look like a police station for the television mini-series 'Cardinal.' (Sue Baldaro)

I remember his delight in having found our old broadcast centre as a place to create a police station. 
"As soon as I saw pictures of this place I said, 'this is perfect'", Gray told me, adding that by using the CBC offices, the production company saved thousands of dollars.

The place received a fresh coat of paint, and a few walls were added to create an "incident room" for the detectives to work cases. That's where my desk used to be.

I easily recognized the old mail slots and rearranged desks and chairs of my CBC colleagues.

Frankly, I would have preferred working with the office configuration Gray created for the show.

"It's a little bit more roomy," he said.  "You guys were stuffed in like little sardines in here."
Canadian actor Billy Campbell plays the role of detective John Cardinal in the TV mini-series 'Cardinal.' (CNW Group/CTV)

During my tour, the star of the series, Billy Campbell, walked by and I asked him about working in this space.

"I love it," he said. "It's infused with that CBC aura."

That may be ironic considering the series is airing on CTV, but it's nice to see the public broadcaster contributing to the arts in this way.

I'll definitely watch the series and try to spot the old binders on our former desks, and the transmitter maps on the walls. 

"We used everything in here," said Gray. "Sometimes you just get lucky, and I was lucky the CBC gave us gifts."