Meet Canada's new canine television star: Diesel vom Burgimwald.
Diesel plays police dog Rex in the light-hearted procedural drama Hudson & Rex.
The series focuses on the partnership between Charlie Hudson (actor John Reardon), detective for the St. John’s Police Department (in Newfoundland, Canada), and his furry side-kick Rex, an extraordinary former K9. Even the most puzzling case is no match for this dynamic duo – with Charlie’s deft investigative work and Rex’s keen canine senses, the crime-fighting pair is unstoppable.
Show business is in Diesel’s blood. He’s descended from the shepherd who starred in the 1990s Austrian show Kommissar Rex, which Hudson & Rex is based on.
"He’s 15 generations from the original Rex," said Diesel’s owner and trainer Sherri Davis.
All of the bloodlines come from Germany. His breeder has been breeding the same bloodlines for over 40 years.
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Diesel’s two stand-ins, Izzy and Iko, are his nephews. Iko takes on some of Diesel’s stunts and "when we need a kiss, Izzy often does it because Izzy would lick you to death if he could," Reardon said.
Diesel does 95% of the show and the doubles do the higher risk stuff such as jumps, tackles, and running," Sherri explains. They also have a double for all the goofy stuff! He's the one they bring in for all the sweet, silly affectionate scenes and Sherri says they call him 'the Kisser'.
Davis, who has been in the entertainment business for more than 25 years, had just adopted Diesel when producing company Shaftesbury came to Ancaster where she trains, boards, grooms and provides refuge for dogs, looking for an animal to cast as Rex.
"Adam Haight from Shaftesbury was out at my house and he was looking at one of my other dogs and it was like, 'What about that one?' " recalled Davis.
"I was like, 'Oh lord, he doesn’t know anything. He’s never been in film … We got a lot of work ahead of us, buddy.' "
In fact, Diesel, a former Canadian Kennel Club grand champion, was earmarked to become a mobility dog when fate came calling.
"The cards just fell into place and he has taken to the work. He’s fabulous," Davis said.
The proof is onscreen where Rex is fully integrated into the series, accompanying Hudson just about everywhere and interacting with multiple cast members.
"It’s really quite amazing," said Reardon. "We really don’t want to shoot a show where it’s just, you get one frame of the dog off in the corner … He’s with us; you see him coming with us following commands and that has been a real priority in the shooting."
Some of Diesel’s skills, like picking up items or closing doors, are things he already learned in his mobility training, but he also had to learn how to do whatever is required by the scripts with just hand signals and body language since Davis can’t talk over dialogue or give him treats in the middle of scenes.
"It’s really neat because not only does he have to take all the cues from me, he’s also got to look as if he belongs to Johnny Reardon, who is Charlie," Davis said.
"He’s got to look like he’s a police dog. He’s got to take eye lines to everybody and, meanwhile, I’m in the background pointing who to look at or what to do … It takes a lot of concentration from a dog and special dogs to do it."
Reardon does have one ace up his sleeve or, rather, in his pocket.
"I usually have a big bag of roast beef in my pocket so he’s particularly interested in me,” Reardon said.
"He’s like, 'I know where the meat is so I’m gonna stick close to that guy.' "
Shooting takes place five days a week and the other two, Davis continues Diesel’s training. But don’t worry: Diesel takes lots of naps, often conking out in the middle of a busy studio full of people when he’s not needed on set.
He has his own trailer, his own chef, his own chauffeur. Davis says, "He’s got a better life than I do. He gets a paw-dicure and a spa treatment every week so he consistently looks the same. So, yeah, he gets treated just like one of the stars."
"He gets this little strut when he goes to the studio and on location, and he goes and says hi to all the cast and all the crew, which by the way are absolutely phenomenal … He gets his morning bum rubs and his scratches so he looks forward to going to work. The tail’s wagging and he gets out (of the car), like, 'Aha, I’m here!' "
"Diesel trains everyday," she said.
"Even when he’s not working on set, on our Saturdays and Sundays, he’s in prep. We’re constantly training him to do new things to keep up with the scripts."
Diesel with his trainer Sherri Davis
"He’s pretty brilliant," agrees vom Burgimwald’s trainer Sherri Davis, who’s been in the business for 25 years. "He knew absolutely nothing coming into Hudson & Rex. He’d never worked in film, seen cameras, lights — nothing. He has picked it up remarkably quickly."
John Reardon and Diesel on set
"Diesel is a pro. He hits his mark better than I do," says John Reardon, who plays vom Burgimwald’s onscreen partner, Hudson.
Reardon was nervous about meeting his co-star. The two came together just a few days before filming and the pressure to create chemistry weighed heavily. Luckily they bonded over steaks.
"I think everyone breathed a sigh of relief," says Reardon. "We may not have been Ross and Rachel, but maybe Starsky and Hutch."
The two also went for a car ride to cement the relationship.
"It was like the first time you hang out with a friend that you normally only see with other friends but then you plan to do something, just the two of you, and hope that it won’t be awkward. But it worked out — we’re both strong, silent types," Reardon says.
Now, vom Burgimwald happily greets Reardon every morning and gets protective of his co-star when he thinks he’s in danger on the set. "He’s got my back," Reardon says.
He even forgives vom Burgimwald for that time he licked him in the mouth without warning during a scene, and it made the final cut. But, says Davis, you can’t blame an actor for trying to improvise.
"Diesel’s a very serious dog, yet has these quirky puppy moments," she says. "In season 2, he does some amazing things like scent work, tackles and takedowns. He’s really improved with his behaviour, showing compassion and the sensitive side of Rex, as well as the working side."
Vom Burgimwald does get help on the set from his two look-alike nephews — think of it less as nepotism and more a function of practicality. Class clown Izzy is his photo double, and rough-and-tumble Iko does stunts. The three let loose together with weekly spa treatments.
In his downtime — which is rare since he’s on the set five days a week — vom Burgimwald likes his creature comforts. He sits on a king-sized bed, bundled up with his blankets, stuffed animals, tennis balls and other assorted toys. He also makes time for romance. In fact, he’s a bit of a playboy.
"He has a couple of girlfriends," says Davis. "In Toronto he has a lady dog named Smudge, whom he hangs with all the time. In Newfoundland he has a little lady companion named Mary."
Diesel rehearsing on set
Episodes of Hudson & Rex
German sales and production outfit Beta Film has sold Hudson & Rex to a slew of territories across Europe.
UKTV has picked up the show for the U.K. and Ireland, where it will air on the Alibi channel later this year. In addition, Beta has sold to Sweden’s TV4, Denmark’s TV2 and Spain’s Forta.
The series has already been sold to more than a 100 territories, including Italy (RAI), Germany (TNT Serie), France (Mediawan/France Televisions), the Netherlands (CLT UFA), Eastern Europe and Africa (NBC Universal), as well as Latin America (Telemundo, Belleville Group, Channel 12).
A U.S. deal is in final negotiations.
In Canada, episodes of Hudson & Rex are available on Citytv.com
Outside of Canada, episodes of Hudson & Rex are available on Betafilm.com
See Diesel's custom trailer
The re-fitted 2010 Keystone Montana Mountaineer 345DBQ belongs to animal trainer Sherri Davis and serves as a relaxing getaway for Diesel and his 2 stunt dogs (and real-life nephews) Izzy and Iko.
The idea to fit to spec a trailer came to Davis while she and the crew were on a location visit at a local trailer park. While the series does have standing sets and green rooms in studio in St. John’s (where Davis and the dogs can relax) in order to feature so many of the beautiful locations, the show also goes on the road.
The trailer serves as a cozy place for the canines to lay their heads and it’s allowed Davis to have a safe place in which to work and unwind while filming the series in these days of social distancing. At 38 ft it has ample space inside; Davis can review scripts with her team plus she’s able to conduct virtual meetings from the comfort of her office on wheels.
It boasts two entrances (a front one for Diesel and a back one for Izzy and Iko where the rear-window once was), non-skid floors, two bathrooms (one with a roomy shower where the dogs get bathed and blow-dried) and two bedrooms; Diesel has his own – with a king-sized bed and favourite Teddy Bear no less – and Izzy and Iko have a separate kennel and bunk area. Both bedrooms have TVs and sound systems for the dogs to chill out in after long days on the set. In between the bedrooms is where Davis has her office area, complete with reclining chairs.
Read more https://rvlifemag.com/meet-team-rex/
Diesel made an appearance at the 2019 Monte-Carlo Television Festival
Diesel is a father
Diesel became a first time father on Father's Day 2020. He has six female pups.
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