Little Dog: Patricia Isaac discusses Dr. Vaani’s “sweet and honest” relationship with Tommy

With four rounds, er, episodes of Little Dog in the can, we’ve learned a lot about Tommy and his family. Tommy (Joel Thomas Hynes) is tenacious and slowly gaining his mojo back. Lowly (Stephen Oates) is loyal if not a little slow. Sylvia (Ger Ryan) is a force to be reckoned with.

As for Dr. Vaani Abdeen, played by Patricia Isaac? Well, the good doctor has certainly revealed a lot in the last two episodes. Turns out she’s not only a brilliant doctor but a kleptomaniac with a secret. That came to light in Ginny’s (Katherine Isabelle) anger class when Vaani revealed she was verbally abused by her husband. We spoke to Isaac about her character, Vaani’s relationship with Tommy and her circuitous route to acting.

Give me the Coles Notes version of how you got into the industry. Your bio says you were the youngest account executive for a major IT corporation. When did you decide acting was what you wanted to do?
Patricia Isaac: I was in Alberta, where I’m from, and it wasn’t so much as a decision as something I couldn’t not do. I’d been performing, singing and writing since I was a little kid and it’s not something that’s necessarily culturally encouraged. Math, science and business is just what we do. It feels safe. All of a sudden I had this grownup’s job and I said to myself, ‘Is this it?’ I just had to give acting a shot. I made a friend in the industry, we hit it off and I was encouraged to take the leap and head to Vancouver to check it out. I ended up going on my first audition, booked it and took it as a sign. I lived out of my suitcase for a few months and never went back.

How did your family feel about that?
My family is very supportive of taking a risk and seeing that it all works out. If you don’t spend decades going at it aimlessly then you’re all good! My family does have a lot of art in its background too, so there is that.

How did you land the role of Vaani? Did you audition or did some folks have you in mind because you’d been on Republic of Doyle?
It was both, actually. I did know Joel from before when I was on Doyle. But I auditioned. I taped here in Los Angeles and did the callback with [showrunner Sherry White]. What made it so great was the fact that we did have that history.

St. John’s is such a fantastic city to work in and you got to do it twice. You must have been pinching yourself.
It is a dream. It’s such a special place. I spent some time by myself on Signal Hill and there was nobody else there. I watched the sun rise at Cape Spear … there is something so sacred about both of those experiences.

Let’s get into these characters. Vaani and Tommy have a history and there seems to be a bit of an attraction there. Can you comment on that?
[Laughs.] They are kind of a safe place for each other. She doesn’t want anything from him and he’s kind of the one person in his world who doesn’t. That allows her to be the straight-shooter that she is. Also, they can be vulnerable around each other. There is something really sweet about it and honest about it. The fact that they did know each other in high school even though he didn’t recognize her. I definitely related to her. It took me awhile to look like a girl, so I can appreciate Dr. Vaani. He was one of the few people who was kind to her in high school. Even though they seem to be from different sides of the tracks there is also an outsider quality for both of them that connects them. It’s a really sweet relationship. Where it goes … we don’t know. But it feels like an opportunity to go anywhere.

You see all of these other relationships on the show and here is this girl who was married and comes back to town after it exploded and now finds herself working with her dad in this old neighbourhood where people remember her the way they remembered her in Episode 1. She’s kind of having to rebuild herself.

It’s good these two have a safe place to go because Sylvia is on them all the time.
[Laughs.] It’s so funny because Ger and I in real life love spending time together. She is just a wonderful human being, so it made it that much more enjoyable to play these characters. I think the situation with Sylvia is very common in real life. We make assumptions about being judged or project that onto the other person. I feel like her character does that. She is going to judge me before I can judge her. We’ll definitely see more of that. There is that commonality between Tommy and Vaani and I am almost protective of him and he is that way as well.

Tommy comes across as such a tough guy because of the way he looks and dresses and carries himself. But once you start to chip away at that, he’s a sensitive guy.
Yes, and Vaani is like that too. I know a lot of girls that have done this and I have too; you find the thing that you can hide behind for protection. Vaani hides behind a lab coat in some ways and is doing her best to keep up appearances.

Little Dog airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Featured image courtesy of James Branaman.

 

 

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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