All posts by A.R. Wilson

A.R. Wilson has been interviewing actors, writers and musicians for over 20 years. In addition to TV-Eh, her work has appeared in Curve, ROCKRGRL, Sound On Sight and Digital Journal. A native of Detroit, she grew up watching Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant on CBC, which led to a lifelong love of Canadian television. Her perpetual New Year's resolution is to become fluent in French.

X Company 310: Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern on “Remembrance”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen X Company Episode 310, “Remembrance.”

In X Company Episode 307, “The Hunt,” Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht) and Aurora Luft (Évelyne Brochu) shared an anguished kiss in a scene the writers’ room referred to as The Monster Mirror, because Aurora—horrified and guilt-ridden over killing a Jewish servant—came face to face with Faber and saw her own sins reflected back at her.  In last night’s series intense and moving finale, “Remembrance,” Faber and Aurora once again stared each other down, but this time Aurora, now full of conviction and clarity, reflected Faber’s own words back at him and showed him who he really was—or who he still had time to become.

Stunned by his confrontation with Aurora, Faber chose to sacrifice himself to kill Voigt (Kevin Griffiths) and end Operation Marigold, and in that moment, he finally stood up to the system that pushed him to kill countless innocents, including his own son. It was the ending that series creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, who wrote the final episode, felt made the most sense for their conflicted antagonist.

“It felt like [Faber] had to make a sacrifice,” says Ellis. “He’s always been about self-preservation. He’s always been about protecting his wife and himself above all else. We’ve seen him commit unspeakable acts in the name of self-preservation, and we wanted to see him finally put himself on the line, to truly cross over to the side of good.”

While Faber’s end was tragic, the finale allowed the remaining X Company characters satisfying, hopeful conclusions, with Aurora continuing to work as a spy, Neil (Warren Brown) reunited with his niece, Alfred (Jack Laskey) and Krystina (Lara Jean Chorostecki) training agents at Camp X and—in a wonderful surprise—Sabine (Livia Matthes) joining the Polish Resistance.

In our last X Company postmortem interview, Ellis and Morgenstern join us to discuss Faber and Aurora’s stunning showdown and break down the rest of the emotional series finale.

I think the finale is about as close to perfect as you could get it. Is it everything you hoped it would be?
Stephanie Morgenstern: I think it was. There aren’t any moments where I think, ‘Ah, if we could have just gone back and adjusted that or fixed that or written that differently.’ I don’t think I’d be brazen enough to say it’s a piece of artistic perfection, but I would say I can’t think of what I would change if we had the chance or more time. I’m happy with it.

Mark Ellis: I’m missing the faces that were so familiar along the way. Like I would have loved to see Tom or Harry or Sinclair go on. I would have loved to have been able to construct what the future was for them in that final montage in the same way that we did for the other characters. But you can’t have your cake and eat it. I feel really proud of it. I felt like this was a really great collaboration on all levels, from the creation and the writing of it with our writing team through to our crew, who really poured their souls into it, not only in making these two episodes but also in supporting Stephanie, who directed it, and through to post production.

Was Faber’s death always planned, or did that conclusion develop slowly over time?
ME: I don’t think we knew it in the first season, but I think we definitely knew it going into the last season. We were at a crossroads, and you can sort of resolve his storyline and have one of the ultimate Gestapo Nazis converted to the side of humanity and morality and to the Allied cause, or you can continue to play him as a nemesis. And we were more interested in what it would take to turn someone in his position. It felt like he had to make a sacrifice. He’s always been about self-preservation. He’s always been about protecting his wife and himself above all else. We’ve seen him commit unspeakable acts in the name of self-preservation, and we wanted to see him finally put himself on the line, to truly cross over to the side of good.

I think if the series had continued after that character’s resolution, we would have had to really reinvent the wheel in some way. Maybe we would have had to fast forward in the war and have troops on the ground already. We would have had to invent a new adversary, and it somehow felt a little dishonest to do that. Most people who went through the war have a story, you know? ‘Here’s my war story.’ And these characters have already gone through so many stories in these three seasons that to continue to lump and add them on felt a little too ‘TV,’ and I felt it didn’t do service to what some of those spies actually did go through.

SM: Yes, I think it would have been difficult to surpass the sense of everything coming to a head, the showdown between Aurora and Faber. It would have been hard to sort of top that, considering that he’s been on a collision course with them and with the team for a long time and constantly negotiating his position within his home and between them and between him and Sinclair. To have continued the story beyond that act of sacrifice, it just wouldn’t have made much sense.

ME: I felt like this season was very satisfying for us to write, and it was all constructed on character and what’s going to happen to these people. And I think that if we went for another season, then we would have had to construct based on plot. I don’t think it would have been as good.

Tell me about writing the showdown between Faber and Aurora. It was so powerful. 
ME: It’s interesting because Stephanie and I both wrote that scene. We both took different passes at it, and Stephanie felt that it was very important for Aurora to evoke Faber’s speech that he gives at the celebration in Episode 302 of this season.

SM: ‘I know now what my true duty is, and it’s to do the right thing no matter what the cost because of those we have lost that are looking down upon us now.’ And he’s thinking of Ulli, of course.

ME: And then my contribution to it was that I wanted her to recall his words at the end of Season 2, where he talks about the agony of knowing his son can feel only one thing at a time. So she invokes both of those moments from Faber’s backstory very masterfully and skillfully and in a way that I think truly reflects the journey she’s gone through herself.

SM: It’s interesting because they complement each other in many ways, and what we did not want to do was to have Aurora come up with an impassioned patriotic and humanitarian speech entirely of her own, like getting the last word in. In a way, the strongest thing she could have done would have been to hold a mirror up to him and say, ‘These are your words. Do you stand by these words you have spoken? In the name of everyone who has died to bring us where we are right now, can you do something that makes us proud?’

I thought that Évelyne Brochu and Torben Liebrecht knocked it out of the park. 
ME: These two actors have continually transcended what we write on the page, and they continually surprise me. I wasn’t in Budapest when Steph shot that scene, so the first time that I watched it was when it was a little bit patched together. The moment that [Aurora] puts the gun to her chest was a moment that we really thought about a lot while writing it, and even though it’s Évelyne Brochu, I didn’t think she could bring that level of intensity and truth that just knocks your socks off. I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is a woman ready to die.’ I truly believed her. It was extraordinary.

The explosion sequence—with Aurora in a yellow dress as the bomb blows out an upstairs window—was reminiscent of the explosion in the series pilot. Please tell me that was on purpose!
SM: Exactly! Well, [Andrea Flesch] had the perfect golden yellow dress. That was partly chance, but she knew that yellow was Aurora’s special colour. But, yes, that scene was deliberately engineered to echo the first explosion that she dealt with in the field and to kind of bring back the sense of how far the team has come since then, how much has been learned and how much has been lost.

ME: We also tried to echo the scene with Tom and Neil in the pilot episode, when Tom is sweating over having to strangle a Nazi, and we wanted to echo that with Alfred and Neil and show how far Alfred has come and how seamless that task is for him now.

I thought the interrogation scenes with Neil and Edsel were fascinating. What were your goals when writing that interaction? 
SM: It is, in a way, the culmination of Neil’s journey. He entered the series as a warrior, as a man of action, a man of rage, motivated by the darkest impulses against the enemy. As he has navigated through the seasons, he has discovered that the world is a lot more complex than that, and he’s been sometimes confused, sometimes lost, sometimes haunted, and by the end, when he is face to face with the enemy, his strongest weapon, as it turns out, is his mind and his persuasiveness and his ability to look into the eyes of a person and guess exactly what they need to hear in order to get what he needs from them. The most impressive fight that he waged was one without a weapon in his hand and his hands still in chains. He actually talked the enemy into letting him go free, and he made it persuasive at every stage of that by playing every card that he had.

And Warren Brown is such a brilliant actor, and so is Basil Eidenbenz, and it was great to see the two of them. I was a little worried at first. These are very long and very verbal scenes, and there’s not a whole lot for the camera to do and not a whole lot to distract with. It is really just about these two men and their words, and they carried it off so beautifully.

ME: One of my favourite lines in that scene is when Neil says to Edsel, ‘I mistook you for a spy, not a soldier,’ and I think that, in a way, Neil began the series mistaking himself for a soldier and not a spy.

Sabine joining the Polish Resistance really surprised me. What made you decide that was right for her?
SM: I think it grew on us slowly, the idea that this woman who is at first a pampered and sheltered creature who hasn’t really taken the trouble to learn the truth about what’s going on around her, to take her journey to its full opposite, which is a slow awakening and a slow coming of age, being able to fight back and take her own destiny in her own hands, being able to rebel against her father and rebel against her husband even. And she has come to a point of complete ethical clarity by the time she’s holding little Ania on her lap and she turns and looks at her husband and says, ‘Maybe you’re just thinking too small.’

In a way, she has the luxury of being a new convert to the cause, and you see everything very clearly and you know what you have to do and you know that you can’t behave because behaving perpetuates the evil. She hasn’t had to fight the way Faber has had, and he’s also become torn between different ethical forces more than she ever has, but she is still at that point of complete, lucid, pure certainty about ethics. And rather than disappear, she wanted to bring Ania back to the people that she belonged with and bring herself to the cause as well. And the writers’ room has always wanted to see her let her hair down . . . And I think the scene between Sabine and Aurora brings a really nice closure to the story of their friendship.

Stephanie, what was it like to direct the finale and guide these characters that you and Mark created so long ago on their final mission?
SM: It was like a pendulum between being petrified and being so happy and feeling like what I’ve been learning since I started wanting to be part of the film and television writing world was all coming to fruition at the same time. I felt ready. I felt it makes sense that I would be the one to escort this story to its close because I knew it more intimately than any guest director might have, no matter how experienced they might have been on other shows. This was ours, and these are characters that have been in our souls for about 15 years. So it was thrilling, but I do have to admit it was terrifying because the stakes were very, very high to not want to drop the ball and let anyone down who trusted me. It felt like everyone converged and gave me the gift of their faith, and it worked out. I’m very proud of it.

I felt a very special bond with the actors, partly because it was ending and we were all kind of saying goodbye to something that’s been so close to us for so long, but I feel like they really threw themselves in with complete trust and abandon and complete love. I felt that in every scene, so I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that it felt like the years of working increasingly closely with them were paying off in what we were able to offer each other in the last two episodes.

Do you have any ideas about what becomes of Aurora, Alfred and Neil after the war?
ME: I always picture Alfred as an older man, and I see him as the antithesis of those brave soldiers who are reluctant to talk about what they’ve seen. I think that the reason that Alfred chooses to go and train rather than continue in the field is because he feels he might burst. The way he recalls memory is so much more profound and sharper and deep than anyone else’s, and I don’t think there’s much more that he could bear. But I think that withdrawing from it, he also carries a responsibility to retell those stories in as vivid detail as his memory describes to him in his own brain.

SM: I think that we felt that both Alfred and Aurora would end up in the place where they are most needed, and where Alfred is most needed is where his particular strength and his condition can be made most useful, which is in telling stories and witnessing what he has seen and sharing it with this small group of people, these training agents, who he is actually free to speak honestly to. Because once the war is over and they’re out as civilians, they’re not supposed to speak about that anymore. His function is as a vessel and a storyteller, and that’s where he serves it best. And Aurora, we had trouble imagining her retiring before the job was done. Before the confetti falls in the streets and people can embrace each other and greet a new time of peace, she would just keep on fighting.

ME: I always feel very torn about what Neil’s story is after he drops out of the plane, and his drop out of the airplane is very poetic, it’s non-specific. It sort of violates the timeline and geography in a way. So he may go on to train others, or he may spend his weeks with Mags and remembering why he’s fighting the war and then going back into the field. We purposely left it vague. But I think the far future for him sees him surviving the war and sees him fulfilling his promise to take care of his last remaining relatives.

And do Alfred and Aurora see each other again after that final jump from the plane?
ME: I think they see each other again.

SM: I think so, too. I think after the war, they run towards each other in slow motion, and they start their life. It would be hard to ever develop a romance or a lifelong partnership with someone you’re going to grow old with if they don’t know any of what you’ve been through, and they have so much that they don’t even have to talk about because they were there together.

What’s next for you now that X Company is over?
ME: We’re regathering ourselves and our ideas and taking our time with the next project.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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X Company 310: The end is nigh in “Remembrance”

After 27 episodes, CBC’s Second World War spy drama X Company comes to a powerful and moving conclusion tonight, as Aurora (Évelyne Brochu), Neil (Warren Brown) and Alfred (Jack Laskey) must turn to Faber (Torben Liebrecht) to take out Voigt (Kevin Griffiths).

Here is our preview of “Remembrance,” written by Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern, and directed by Morgenstern.

Full circle 
The finale brings the show’s concept full circle for series creators Ellis and Morgenstern. In 2001, the duo wrote and starred in a short film called Remembrance, about a man with synesthesia who is recruited into Canadian spy school Camp X by a beautiful woman. Like the film, tonight’s episode is called “Remembrance,” and also like the film, Morgenstern directs, having the opportunity to guide the characters she and Ellis created over 16 years ago on their final mission.

Morgenstern says she’s pleased with the way it all turned out—in her typically modest way.

“There aren’t any moments where I think, ‘Ah, if we could have just gone back and adjusted that or fixed that or written that differently,'” she explains. “I don’t think I’d be brazen enough to say it’s a piece of artistic perfection, but I would say I can’t think of what I would change if we had the chance or more time. I’m happy with it.”

My how they’ve grown
In a treat for long-time fans, there are several satisfying nods to Season 1 that show just how much Aurora, Neil and Alfred have grown since they first left Camp X.

Stunning work by the X Company cast
Morgenstern, a former actress, gets the most out of her cast as Évelyne Brochu, Warren Brown, Jack Laskey and Torben Liebrecht all give series-best performances. There is a scene between Brochu and Liebrecht that tops all their previous scenes combined, something I didn’t think was possible.

You will be satisfied (and teary-eyed)
After three seasons, X Company ends on a pitch-perfect note. “Remembrance” is a beautifully written, gorgeously lensed episode that was clearly made with love by all involved. A remarkable achievement.

X Company airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of CBC.

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X Company 309: Writer Daniel Godwin breaks down “Friendly Fire”

Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen X Company Episode 309, “Friendly Fire.”

In X Company‘s penultimate episode, “Friendly Fire,” Duncan Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) bet on Franz Faber’s (Torben Liebrecht) word and lost. Desperate to rescue his POW son, the team leader agreed to turn over the blackmail tape he was holding over Faber’s head. However, during the exchange, Faber had Sinclair and Neil (Warren Brown) arrested to prove his triple-agent status to his incredulous superiors.

“The big question—and we’re starting to answer it in these last two episodes—has been, ‘Can we trust Franz Faber?’ And that answer is really starting to become clear. He’s somebody who wriggles out of those tight spots,” says episode writer Daniel Godwin.

In a fruitless attempt to help Neil escape, Sinclair chose to take his own life, giving himself up to the greater mission, and, as Godwin explains, paying for his mistakes.

“He’s definitely feeling a lot of guilt over becoming emotionally compromised by the involvement of his son, and I think he’s maybe starting to realize he was wrong about trusting Faber, and that’s what came crashing down on him,” he says.

To get us ready for next week’s series finale, Godwin joins us to break down Sinclair’s sacrifice, Faber’s double-cross and all the other plot points of the action-packed episode, including Alfred and Aurora’s long-awaited romantic interlude.

Stephanie Morgenstern directed this episode. Did that add any excitement to the assignment?
Daniel Godwin: For me, it was very cool, because it was Stephanie’s first hour of television that she’s directed, and it was a big honour. Because the first hour of television that I got to write was actually thanks to Stephanie, because she’s the creator also of Flashpoint, which was my first writing credit. So for that to come full circle and have my script be the first thing she directs for TV, how cool is that?

And her attention to detail is so impeccable, and then, of course, her experience coming from the acting and writing worlds combined with her knowledge of the show, I think it really shines through in this episode and you’ll see in the final episode even moreso. I can’t think of a more fitting director to wrap up the series, really.

I was so sad that Sinclair died, but his sacrifice made sense to the story. Why was the decision made to kill him?
That’s a good question. We talked a lot about this in the writers’ room. In fact, we talked through just about every version of these last two episodes, in terms of who would survive and the outcome of that. Going into the final season, Mark and Stephanie had a pretty clear picture of where they wanted things to end for each of our spies. And this season, we were fortunate to have such a talented writers’ room. I think we were all interested in chasing down a conclusion for Sinclair that felt the most emotionally satisfying, and so when we looked at him, Sinclair’s a guy who believes in protecting this bigger picture and this great mission. He’s definitely feeling a lot of guilt over becoming emotionally compromised by the involvement of his son, and I think he’s maybe starting to realize he was wrong about trusting Faber, and that’s what came crashing down on him.

And, you know, with his son, he’s someone who’s given so much to this war, and it felt like a fitting sacrifice for him in the end for Neil just to have a chance of escaping. And it kind of sets the stakes of where these guys are at and the reality of that, and that’s why it was just such a tragic conclusion when Neil was recaptured at the end there.

For me, actually writing that final Sinclair scene was really tough. I’ve known Hugh since back on Flashpoint and killing a main character like that, unfortunately—or fortunately—I’ve never had the pleasure of doing before. So getting to write that was such a privilege. And if anyone is a fan of Flashpoint, for me, I wanted to play with that final scene a bit. I wrote it as sort of an anti-Flashpoint moment. Normally, at that point, Hugh would be the one trying to talk down the guy with the gun, so it was a lot of fun getting to reverse those roles and take him to that really dark place.

And what about William? I’d hate to think both of Sinclair’s sons died.
Well, you may want to tune in next week!

Faber faced a nightmare version of This Is Your Life, when his superiors laid out all his inconsistent actions since Season 1. It was fascinating to see him get out of it, but he turned on Sinclair to do it.
Faber is one of my favourite characters to write for. Torben, in particular, does such a great job at bringing him to life, too. The big question—and we’re starting to answer it in these last two episodes—has been, ‘Can we trust Franz Faber?’ And that answer is really starting to become clear. He’s somebody who wriggles out of those tight spots, and that’s where we like seeing that character when his back is against the wall. And, you know, at the end of 308 when he revealed he’s a triple agent, it’s all starting to catch up to him. And, for me, I loved just kind of pinning him with all those questions, especially this being the penultimate episode, seeing him sit down and have to answer about all these lies and all these things that he’s stacked up over the last three seasons and just picking at those scars and those scabs, and I think truth is really catching up to him. And for the first time, I think we’re starting to see Faber for maybe who he truly is, and he’s starting to realize it, that he’s a pawn in this much larger game.

I can’t decide if I think Faber should die for his sins or be forced to live with his actions.
That’s what we talked about in circles for days and days and days. Which is a sign, I think, that you’re on to something good, when you can inspire those conversations and those thoughts.

It was so much fun to see Krystina out in the field. She was so in charge with Manfred, and it was wonderful to see her alongside the rest of the team.
Well, Lara Jean is such a great actress, and think we were all dying to see her in the field properly and have Sinclair make good on his promises of getting in the field. I really liked how we revealed that, too, without making a huge deal about it. We just pick her up, and she’s in Berlin, helping to set up a mission just like any other team member. And like you said, watching her in action with the team, alongside them, like I would watch an entire Krystina spin-off series.

Now that Sabine knows the truth about her father’s beliefs, she seems ready to fully embrace her autonomy and start standing on her own. What can we expect from her in the finale?
I think you’re definitely on the right track there. I think Sabine is someone who’s been told how to act and told what to do her whole life, and you see that coming from her husband and from her father and the spies are telling her what to do. And her awakening has really been in full force this season, with the bullet holes she saw in the clothing, and she’s really starting to open her eyes to what’s going on. And now with Ania during that air raid in this episode, that moment where she starts comforting that girl, I think she’s starting to notice that she’s playing a part in this whether she wants to or not, and she’s more powerful than she knows. So she’s got some choices to make, coming up, to separate her from the people who are controlling her and telling her what to do.

When we last spoke to you, you were worried fans would hate you because you broke up Aurora and Alfred, but you got the chance to make amends in this episode. Are you happy with the way that payoff played out?
So happy. Again, that was such a long arc in the making, so I think it concluded in such a great way. And for Alfred and Aurora, they’ve been resisting this for so long for all the same reasons that Sinclair has been fighting, for that bigger picture, the mission, the duty of it all, that kind of thing. And for both of them in this episode, the reality is setting in that they’re behind enemy lines, and this is an incredibly dangerous mission, and they both know that they could die at any moment. They’ve seen that with Harry and everything leading up to this moment, but I think that even on a deeper level, what’s happening with Aurora is that she’s questioning those orders in that bigger mission now. Because what she just did on ‘The Hunt,’ that insane episode, she’s starting to lose sight of who she is and what she’s doing, and our season theme of becoming the enemy is really ringing true for her. So, meanwhile, in this storm of the air raid, it’s Alfred with his perfect memory who’s able to remind her of exactly who she is. And Evelyne and Jack just played it so beautifully, and I think people watching that moment feel the same as Alfred and Aurora do, because if it’s not now, when? How are we gonna do this? Yeah, that moment really paid off in a great way.

Neil was captured at the end of the episode. How’s he going to get out of that jam?
We know Neil’s pretty strong. He’s always been one of our strongest team members, so we do have a plan. You’re in good hands. Keep watching, and I think everyone will be pretty happy with how things all go.

So everything comes down to the anniversary party with Voight. What can viewers expect from the finale?
I think it’s a really strong episode of X Company. It’s a really fitting way to say goodbye. It’s glamorous, there’s action, there’s plenty of emotion and so many turns. I think people are going to be really surprised at how everything shakes out and where it all goes. And I think you’re going to feel very satisfied. I think it’s a very fitting conclusion to the series.

This was your last episode of X Company. In 20 years, what do you think you’ll remember most about your time on the show?
I think for me, I’m just really proud of what we accomplished in three seasons. It’s been such an honour to be able to tell these stories and to write such compelling characters for the brilliant actors that we have and to be able to shoot in historic European locations and just working with Mark and Stephanie again. I’m so thankful to them for creating such an amazing series and just letting me be part of it. I think that’s what I’ll remember the most.

X Company airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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X Company’s Livia Matthes on Sabine’s journey to autonomy

When X Company‘s Livia Matthes was growing up in Berlin, she saw bullet holes scarring the walls of many buildings she passed, daily reminders of the toll the Second World War took on Germany. Meanwhile, in school, she learned about the toll Nazism took on the world.

“In Germany, we have the most Third Reich education in the world,” she explains. “We start in third grade, and until 13th grade, we have Nazi education each month. We learn a lot from the time we are small children, so I know a lot about that topic.”

However, even with her background, Matthes found her character Sabine—Franz Faber’s sheltered wife—a little mysterious when she first landed the part.

“There is no material on the wives of Nazi officers,” she says. “There’s nothing, it’s really crazy. So basically, it was an empty page.”

Matthes and the show’s writers have taken that empty page and created one the show’s most compelling characters. Over three seasons, viewers of the CBC spy drama have seen Sabine grow from an isolated mother trying to hide her disabled son, Ulli, from the Nazis to a woman being manipulated by everyone around her to a woman who is ready stand on her own.

As this week’s episode, “Friendly Fire,” begins, Sabine is still reeling from her father’s revelation he believes Ulli was “a parasite.” But Matthes says that painful blow is the final step in Sabine’s journey to autonomy.

“After that conversation, there’s just really no one left she can trust anymore, and basically she has nothing to lose anymore,” she says. “So she will take her life into her own hands and just do what she feels is right and follow her own heart.”

Matthes—who has multiple German TV and film credits and recently popped up in the Netflix series Sense8—joins us by phone from Brazil to give us more insights into Sabine and tell us what she loved most about working on X Company.

How did you become involved in X Company?
Livia Matthes: I had auditioned for another part and then a couple of months later, I received an email that I didn’t get that part, but they would like to propose to me the part of Sabine. So I prepared myself because there wasn’t much information for her, and I really read a lot of books and watched a lot of film.

Then when we all met again in Budapest to shoot Season 2, Mark and Steph told me that they really liked what I did and wanted to know more about Sabine and explore that part more. Then she became a constant character on the show.

What were your first thoughts on Sabine?
When I did research, I couldn’t find anything. There are no documentations, there are no articles, there is nothing if you search the Internet or go to the library. There is no material on the wives of Nazi officers. There’s nothing, it’s really crazy. So basically, it was an empty page. I could interpret her how I wanted to, or how I thought a Nazi woman would be. But in this case, I personally think she is not a typical Nazi woman. Yes, she’s the wife of a Nazi officer, but she doesn’t know what he does, she doesn’t know much about the whole system, she was basically kept in a golden cage. She had to break with all of her friends and neighbours because no one was allowed to know she had a disabled child, and she kept him. They were not allowed to keep a disabled child; they were all sent to the camps, where they did experiments and then killed the children. So it was really interesting for me, the human part. In the beginning, she and Faber never talk about politics, they only talk about personal stuff. Only later, when she wants to be included in all the decisions, that they talk about politics and about life outside.

Ulli’s death was one of the most poignant storylines X Company has ever done. How difficult was that for you to portray?
It was so hard and emotional. I tried to prepare myself psychologically, how the person must feel in that moment. It’s just really insane. I think it was more Faber who decided to kill Ulli, because Sabine’s the mother. I don’t think she would have given up so quickly on rescuing or saving him. Maybe she would have tried to run away at night, do what a lot of Nazi people did, try to escape on a boat to Argentina or Brazil or whatever. But she was a wife, so the man back in those days had all the power to make the final decision, and she couldn’t come up quick enough with an alternative.

Sabine’s Season 2 storyline with Aurora became a fan favourite. Did you have any idea their friendship would be so popular? 
Nooooo. [Laughs.] I didn’t expect it at all, but it was so cool. I loved it. It was super-cool. It was a pleasure personally to play that and also for Sabine, because Aurora was basically the first person since she had her disabled child, that she could create a friendship with. Because basically, she didn’t have friends for years. So, for her, Aurora was a very, very special person, the first person she could open up to, because between the Fabers, they don’t really open up—well, they do at the end—but they don’t really talk about their feelings. They hide them from each other. So Aurora was the first person in a very long time that Sabine could open up to.

Did you have fun shooting those scenes with Évelyne Brochu?
Yeah, we did. We were all in Budapest, so it was like a school trip with work, because we all didn’t live there, and so we became a film family. We only had each other. We would help each other learning lines before really large or difficult scenes, we would meet the night before together and help out each other with all the accents. We would try them out and help each other, so it was really fun. And I think also because the topic of X Company is so heavy and sad and full of fear and tears that, I guess, you need another extreme to balance it, you know? So we all had a lot of fun, and I think that was necessary to keep the balance because the psychology was very heavy.

The Fabers’ marriage has been a very difficult one, but Sabine has been making an effort to get closer to Franz after finding the bullet holes in that dress a few episodes ago. What is the state of their relationship going into Episode 309?
Right now, the relationship between them is starting to get really interesting because, since the death of Ulli, there’s been an invisible wall [between them]. I think Sabine couldn’t forgive Faber for killing him, or for not trying to do something else before killing him, so she erected a wall between him and her heart. And right now, coming into the final episodes, now that she’s emancipated herself from Faber and from her father, from just everyone, they open up in the relationship. Faber couldn’t tell her what he’s up to in order to save her and thinking she wouldn’t understand what he’s doing, but now they’re together in the same boat. Now that she’s discovered the atrocities of the Nazis, and she’s decided that she wants to help as well, I think he tries to see her with different eyes, and their relationship starts to get interesting.

What was it like working with Torben Liebrecht?
Torben is really cool. He’s like an acting monster. He’s a really great actor. In real life, he’s super nice, and he’s one of the funniest people I know. Even right before the take, we’d joke about stuff and then all of the sudden it’s ‘Action!’ and we both become those very different characters. It was really fun, and it was a big jaunt to act with him because it’s really intense to act with him. Then when they yell ‘Cut!’ it’s all jokes again. It was really quite a strong contrast. I really enjoyed it.

Sabine has been very close to her father, but in last week’s episode, he threatened to ‘dispose’ of Ania and revealed that he thought Ulli was a ‘parasite’ and an ‘aberration.’ Where does that leave Sabine?
It’s horrible for her because he was basically the last person in the world she could trust. She can’t trust Aurora anymore, she can’t trust her husband anymore, and right now she’s getting to know who her dad really is. Of course, he’s a loving father, but she’s emancipating herself and becoming her own woman and having her own brain and starting to think about herself, instead of only taking the opinions of her father figure or Faber’s opinions. And now she sees who he really is, and it’s the closest person in her life, so it’s horrible for her. It’s horrible to know what he thinks. And after that conversation, there’s just really no one left she can trust anymore, and basically, she has nothing to lose anymore. So she will take her life into her own hands and just do what she feels is right and follow her own heart because everyone around her, through her eyes, is just crazy.

 

Can you give any hints about what will happen with Sabine in the final two episodes? 
No, I can’t! [Laughs.] But what I can say is really what I just said. She will follow her heart, her instincts, and she will do what she thinks is right no matter what.

Did you learn anything new about the war from playing Sabine? 
For me, what was personally very interesting is to get into the head of a German person at that time. Because Berlin is a super international city now, I grew up amongst people from all around the world, and it was the most normal thing. So to enter into the head of a person who lived during that time, the big personal question is, ‘How could the Nazis and the Third Reich even happen?’ And if you enter the head of, let’s say, a typical person who is not very political at the time and try to see it through her eyes, it changed my view a bit. Because it’s easy to say nowadays, ‘Ah, you should have done something straight away.’ But back in the day, the whole Nazi machine is everywhere. It’s the neighbours, it’s the people you work with, it’s the pregnant women [in Episode 307] who only talk about babies [for the Reich], it’s throughout your family, it’s everywhere. The whole Nazi machine is so present. And in Sabine’s case, she’s not politically active, she doesn’t have political knowledge. Where would she start to do something against it without risking her own life? It changed my view on how hard it was to be a resistance fighter or to do something against the Nazi machine.

What did you enjoy most about working on X Company?
I don’t know if there would be just one thing. It’s all a mix because it really was a trip. For me, shooting those very emotional scenes. It was hardcore, but it was also the best acting school I could have. So playing Sabine, but also being with that crew. Everyone was so passionate about what they do. We worked together in one boat and worked together for the same bigger goal, and we would help each other, help each other running lines. It was that mix of a very emotional Sabine character put together with that incredible crew in beautiful, beautiful Budapest.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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X Company 309: Sacrifices are made in “Friendly Fire”

The penultimate episode of CBC’s outstanding Second World War spy drama, X Company, has finally arrived, and with it the directorial debut of series co-creator Stephanie Morgenstern. The action-packed instalment sees Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) and Krystina (Lara Jean Chorostecki) travel to Berlin to help the team assassinate Voight, the scientist who could win the war for the Nazis.

Episode writer Daniel Godwin promises that viewers are in for a treat with Morgenstern at the helm.

“Her attention to detail is so impeccable, and then, of course, her experience coming from the acting and writing worlds, combined with her knowledge of the show, I think really shines through in this episode,” he says.

Here is our spoiler-free preview of “Friendly Fire.”

“Action Krystina” is back
We got a taste of Krystina’s spy skills when she nabbed Scubaman earlier in the season, and this second peek has us clamouring for more. Krystina spin-off? Yes, please.

Can Faber be trusted?
You will likely have a better idea after this episode.

This is a huge Sinclair episode
Which means it’s a huge Hugh Dillon episode. Enjoy.

Alfora forecast
Classified.

The table is set for the final episode of the series
Some penultimate episodes outshine the finale by stealing all the action or resolving storylines too soon, but the major events of “Friendly Fire”—and there is at least one true stunner—are thrilling and emotional while upping the stakes for next week’s “Remembrance.” Kudos to Godwin and Morgenstern.

X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Image courtesy of CBC.

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