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X Company 302: The spies attend a ‘Masquerade’

If there was one major knock against the first season of X Company, it was that its cast was too male-heavy. Yes, Evelyne Brochu is the de facto lead of the ensemble cast, and her character, Aurora, is the undisputed leader of the spy team, but that didn’t change the fact she was surrounded by four male co-stars on the show’s promotional posters. Meanwhile, Lara Jean Chorostecki (Krystina) largely languished in the background, and Livia Matthes (Sabine) appeared in just three episodes.

Fast-forward to Season 3, and Brochu is no longer so alone. Yes, she’s still surrounded on the promotional posters (though now only three-to-one), but Chorostecki and Matthes have been given increasingly complex storylines, and Sara Garcia (Miri) was brought on in Season 2. All four actresses feature prominently in this week’s new episode, “Masquerade,” written by co-executive producer Sandra Chwialkowska, as Aurora tries to rein in Sabine, Krystina interrogates Scubaman (Trevor White), and Neil (Warren Brown) attempts to track down Miri. Plus, Madeleine Knight is introduced as Heidi, a woman who will influence Aurora’s path in Season 3.

What’s behind this glorious increase in female characters? According to Chwialkowska, it’s simple arithmetic.

“I have found over the years working on different television shows that the more women in the [writers’ room], the more female faces end up on screen.” she tells TV-Eh in an upcoming breakdown of the episode.

There were two women in X Company‘s Season 1 writers’ room, including co-creator Stephanie Morgenstern. Season 2 had three women in the room, and Season 3 had four.

Here’s a sneak peek of the episode.

Aurora and Faber dance
Chwialkowska says she dreamed up the idea of Faber and Aurora dancing together in Season 2, and the moment is one of her favourite moments of the series.

“In a way, the whole season is kind of a dance between those two,” she says.

More Krystina
Last season, Krystina had a romance with Tom and took out Klaus Frommer. In “Masquerade,” she faces off with Scubaman in Sinclair’s absence — and Chorostecki shines.

More Sabine
Will Sabine tell her father Franz is working with the Allies? Enjoy the fine work of Livia Matthes as you find out.

What will happen to Miri?
Neil and Harry attempt to rescue Miri — and X Company elevates itself once again.

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

Image courtesy of CBC.

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X Company’s Lara Jean Chorostecki on Krystina’s expanded Season 3 role

X Company‘s Krystina Breeland  has been itching to leave the confines of Camp X and become a field agent since the show began. Now, in the third and final season of the World War II spy drama, Sinclair’s (Hugh Dillon) most-trusted intelligence officer may finally get her wish.

“Back in Canada there’s a lot you can do, but I think she feels quite impotent and really wants to make a contribution overseas after the death of Tom (Dustin Milligan),” says actress Lara Jean Chorostecki.

But Krystina’s new path won’t be easy on her boss.

“She thinks that Sinclair is going to grant this wish, and I think we’re going to see a bit of tension between the two of them as he tries to battle with whether or not he could do well without her back at home, back in Canada,” she previews.

Like her character, Chorostecki also hoped to prove her abilities when she first signed onto the series–and showrunners Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern took notice.

“They always say when writers get to know you, that they realize what they have,” she says. “I feel really grateful that Mark and Stephanie realized that I was capable of a lot more and started to write some interesting stuff, and I’m grateful that it fit into their storyline.”

Chorostecki, a native of Brampton, Ontario, joins us by phone from Toronto to share her thoughts on Krystina’s Season 3 journey, the end of X Company, and the current state of Canadian television.

Krystina’s storyline has expanded every season. Did you have any idea what her story arc was going to be when you landed the gig?
No, not really, actually. That role came about while I was in contention for another role that I ended up walking away from. So I was really, really excited to sign on, because I was excited to do Budapest, I really liked Mark and Stephanie’s work, and also World War II. That particular time period is something that has great importance in our lives and something that has great fascination for me, and a  lot of my family is military. So there were a lot of reasons to want to sign up for it.

My mentor always used to say to me that when you sign on for something, that you always sign on for the good of the story and not to be selfish as an actor and always look to the bigger picture, and I’m just happy that Krystina’s storyline, especially this season, has been able to find some room for growth within the greater story, which has always been about the team overseas.

How is Krystina coping with the loss of Tom as Season 3 begins?
I think the best line at the end of Season 2–one I really connected to–was when she was reading a letter in Sinclair’s office and when he started to kind of console her, and I think he just says, “I’m so sorry,” and she says, “Just give me something to do. I just need something to do.” So how she’s coping with this is she’s one of those people — and especially in that time period I think it really fits in–people didn’t have time to mourn. They just had time to move forward. So you bury the anger and you bury the grief and you put it into trying to actively do something, and that is the impetus for why she goes after Scubaman back at home.

Speaking of Scubaman, when we last saw Krystina in the season premiere, she was about to begin interrogating him after his capture. What can you tease about their interaction in Episode 302?
I think it was already previewed at the end of Episode 301, where she said, “My boss is not here, so it’s only me and you.” So you see a lot of this battle of wits between Scubaman and her to try to get him to reveal what he knows. She is left to have to torture someone, I think, for the first time in her life and figure out how to manipulate this character to give up what she needs. So I think it’s really intriguing, and I think the story continues and concludes very well.

It sounds like things will get pretty intense. What was it like filming the interrogation scenes with Trevor White?
Trevor is one of the loveliest men you’ll ever meet. He’s Canadian–well English, too, but Canadian bred–and really, really kind and lovely and just whip-smart as well and vicious in his portrayal. It’s really great to meet someone who can really bury themselves, because he is so kind underneath this veneer. His acting is just so fantastic and very collaborative, which is wonderful.

So they were good. They were hard. It was different because it was a very different side of Krystina, but it was certainly something I enjoyed. She’s been so witty and soft and caring and kind, and [there were] little moments with Klaus last year of seeing that she is capable of being something else, but she’s someone who always brings herself into her work no matter what, so you get in the interrogation that anger that she’s trying to repress and also her skill.

What else is coming up for Krystina in Season 3?
After this particular mission, you’re going to see her request to Sinclair that she gets to go out into the field. I think she feels very impotent back in Canada and just wants to get out there and do something physically with the rest of the team and do something that she feels is contributing in a larger way — even though what’s she’s doing back at home is actually extremely important — but contributing, I guess, in a physical, visceral way. And putting her skill set, because she is one of the most skilled people back at the camp, to good use. She thinks that Sinclair is going to grant this wish, and I think we’re going to see a bit of tension between the two of them as he tries to battle with whether or not he could do well without her back at home, back in Canada. Because he really relies on her friendship a lot, so you really see that friendship strained.

You’ve worked with Hugh Dillon a lot throughout the series. What’s he like as an acting partner?
Wonderful. We get along extremely well. It was great. I didn’t know, three years ago, what to expect when I arrived, and he’s just a really, really hard-working individual and wants to do good work and wants to get things done, and it’s a really great personality for me to be on set with, because we just kind of figure it out together, and figure out how to get it done in way that is best for the characters and best for us as actors and for the world.  We’ve been fortunate to have a friendship from this, and I’m very grateful for that.

Season 3 is X Company’s final season. What do you think you’ll remember most from your time on the show?
Delving into this world, which, as I said, means a lot to this human race and also means a lot to me, personally. Exploring this character in the military. I think scene-wise, the stuff with Dustin [Milligan] was a lot of fun, because we really had some freedom and opportunity to explore those characters, and because there wasn’t much of a buildup in Season 1 to us being together. It was just a lot of fun and hard work to discover what our relationship would be. And then, of course, having a friendship with Hugh, I think was huge.

 

And above anything, which is not particularly linked to the show or the characters, being able to be in Budapest for that long was wonderful. It was wonderful to explore that city and get to know the crews out there, who are really great.

Did you take anything home from the set?
I don’t think I did. I usually do! I couldn’t really, because all she had — well, this season she got to wear other outfits — but all she had was her uniform. I didn’t really have anything to take home. Oh, I’m so boring. I took a lot of pictures. I took a lot of pictures of the set in general, and I got to do my last clap, the last take, I got to do the clapper, which was a lot of fun, and I have a little video of that that I’ll put up on our series finale.

You also play Beth MacLeish on Designated Survivor, which had a huge midseason finale cliffhanger. Can you tease anything about the second half of the season?
It’s hard to say, because there was a shot that happened, so we’ll have to wait and see on March 8th, when it comes back. All I can say is there was a shot, and people are speculating on who was shot, and I don’t really want to ruin people’s speculation.

I think that people can look forward to deepening that mystery and figuring out more about who was behind the attack on the Capitol. I think that’s safe to say. It’s so hard when they end on a cliffhanger. I’m literally tongue-tied. [laughs]

A lot of people still pick on Canadian TV, despite the fact that many top-quality dramas, including X Company, Orphan Black, and 19-2, have come out of Canada in recent years. As someone who frequently works in both American and Canadian productions, what’s your impression of the Canadian industry right now?
I just think we’re finding really interesting voices these days, and that Canada is not exempt from the Golden Age of TV. I think we’ve been putting in our own entries that could fall under that category of Golden Age of TV. Certainly 19-2 and Orphan Black–and I think X Company is excellent, of course. I also think we have some great comedies. The Baroness Von Sketch Show is so fantastic. It’s so good. So across the board we’re challenging ourselves. And Baroness Von Sketch, in particular, and Orphan Black are really bringing female voices front and center. . . We have diversity. We’re really building on what we had before. I’m really encouraged. I do split my time, but I haven’t officially made the move out of Canada yet, and that’s because there’s so much interesting work happening here. It’s not just because there are American shows that are shooting here–and I happen to be grateful to be a part of it–but it’s because the Canadian shows are so fantastic. There’s no need to move, which is really encouraging.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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X Company’s Évelyne Brochu on Aurora’s Season 3 ‘dance with the enemy’

Évelyne Brochu starred in one of the most badass moments on Canadian television in 2016 when her X Company character, Aurora Luft, ran across a muddy field, hoisted herself onto a flaming tank, and coolly dispatched the German soldiers inside.

The thrilling moment, which occurred near the end of X Company‘s second season, was an impromptu collaboration between the episode’s director, rainy autumn weather in Budapest, and Brochu — who admits she surprised herself while filming the action sequence.

“I think the running on top of it just kind of happened,” she laughs. “I think it’s one of the moments I’m most proud of. Because when you do something you’ve never done before, you don’t really know how you’re going to do it, and then all the sudden you blink your eyes and you’re on top of a muddy, fiery, wet tank, you’re like, ‘My God, I managed.’ I think it’s a moment of empowerment for Évelyne Brochu, but it’s also a moment of empowerment for Aurora. It kind of doubled up.”

When the CBC World War II spy drama returns for its third and final season tonight at 9 p.m.,  Aurora and her team of spies will once again be in the thick of it, trying to determine if Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht) has really turned to the Allied side and dealing with the loss of Tom (Dustin Milligan), who died at Dieppe in the Season 2 finale. But something Aurora won’t be dealing with is the crisis of confidence she suffered last season. That demon was vanquished atop that burning tank.

“Aurora is back,” Brochu assures.

And she needs to be, because Season 3 will force the spy leader to go deep undercover, where she will draw so close to the enemy she is in danger of losing herself.

“Aurora knows what she’s getting into, but she doesn’t know how far it’s going to go,” she explains. 

Sitting down with TV-Eh in Toronto, Brochu tells us about Aurora’s upcoming undercover mission, her thoughts on the series drawing to a close, and her hush-hush return to Orphan Black last season.

“There were a lot of secrets I had to keep for a full year,” she says.

Season 2 ended with devastating losses at Dieppe, including the death of Tom. What is the emotional state of the team heading into Season 3? 
Évelyne Brochu: Each character, I think, is grieving in their own way, and I think that’s what’s interesting about a show that focuses on a team, is how one thing can affect people very differently. But I think one thing that unites us, is that there have been a lot of sacrifices. We knew it was worth it when we went to that war, but more from the point of view of an ideal. Now that we’ve been out in the field for that long and suffered losses ourselves, I think this renewed sense of purpose and of focus and of wanting to give meanings to those sacrifices is quite present. There’s something in everybody’s eyes that’s very driven to do whatever it takes.

Aurora faced some major leadership challenges in Season 2, but she made a comeback at the end. Is she still in a strong position as the new season begins? 
Aurora is back. She ran on top of a tank, she got Faber onboard, she got a hug from Neil, so I think now she’s just ready for anything. [laughs] Jokes aside, I think she has a renewed sense of leadership, but she’s also going to do something she’s never done before, which is go undercover for an extended period of time.

She’s been Helene Bauer in and out, always going back to the team and going back to Aurora, but there’s a specific mission that’s going to bring the whole team to Poland, but specifically her, and she’s going to be Helene Bauer night and day. I think that’s the difference for her this season. When you’re 24/7, constantly posing as a Nazi, you can imagine the things that you see, but at some points, if you’re going to keep your cover, there’s going to be things that you do. That’s what I was talking about in terms of sacrifice, thinking, ‘Whoa, okay, I’m going to focus on the bigger picture,’ but how far do you take it? And it’s going to go pretty far.

That sounds pretty dark. 
Nobody knows this, but on every episode [script], there are quotes, and this one is about Nietzsche, and I think it was for Episode 307, and it said, “When fighting the monster, be careful of not yourself becoming a monster, for when you look long into the abyss, it also gazes into your eyes.” And I think that’s the blurred line where Aurora’s going to stand all season. We saw some of that in Season 2, too. When you spend so much time undercover, and you’re on the privileged side, when you’re on the side of those who are occupying the country and not the people who are occupied, it’s kind of peaceful on that side . . . But then there will be a huge shift point. There will be a huge thing that she’s forced to do that will shatter her. I think she will dance with the enemy to the point of rupture. The blurred line eventually starts to rip, and then the truth of what’s actually happening behind the curtain [is revealed].

In Poland, her excuse for going there is to work for a place called Race and Resettlement, so you can imagine that types of things she does there and the things that she will have to see and do.

The scenes between Aurora, Faber, and Sabine provided some of the best drama of Season 2. Where is that storyline going next? 
Faber’s onboard, so what does that mean? Is he really on board? Is he an asset, or is he not? I think in a weird way, Aurora and Faber have the same journey. Both of them have done things they didn’t want to do, they’ve sacrificed loved ones they didn’t want to sacrifice, and they’re both, in Season 3, undercover. They’re both stuck lying constantly, and living with the danger of being uncovered constantly. That’s going to create a sort of mirror effect. That’s going to draw them together. Also, Aurora is going to go to Poland to befriend a high-ranking Nazi above Faber that is Sabine’s father, who we’re going to get to meet. So there will be more interaction with the Fabers, and it’s going to be good.

Was it strange not having Dustin Millgan in Budapest for Season 3?
Yes, it was hard. We were FaceTiming him a lot. It was really, really hard to not be the full cast. I don’t know, there’s something about the number five that was right and perfect. And I think four was perfect — they’re all great human beings. But I think that as a team, onscreen and offscreen, we felt that loss.

When did you learn Season 3 would be the final season? 
I had no clue. We knew quite early in the season, so that’s the most important part, so you can say your goodbyes and sort of make the most of it, whereas if it happened now, I would have been thinking, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I may have done things differently.’ That’s the way humans work, stupidly. You should always be taking everything in. But, yeah, it was sad. I’m still processing nostalgia, I think.

Did your time on X Company teach you anything about your abilities or challenge you in new ways? 
I think physically. I didn’t know I could [do that]. There’s a big fight scene this season, and when the director said, “We’re not even going to take any bits from your stunt doubles. We’re going to take it all from you guys because you guys rocked it,” that’s something that makes you super proud in a sort of unexpected way.

When I was in theatre school, we had fighting class–as if me, I’m going to fight, you know?–and I was thinking theatre, and I was thinking sword fights, and I was thinking that’s never going to happen, and I was thinking action movies don’t really exist in Quebec. So I was kind of like lounging around, bumming through class and sort of letting it slip, but I should have paid more attention because women do get to do those things, and you can kind of surprise yourself. Those moments when you go, ‘Yeah, girl, you can do this,’ those are important. You should cherish them.

You never know when you may be asked to jump on a tank and shoot Nazis.
Yeah! And we’re in a moment in history where we’re wanting to see female characters do more than the stuff we were used to having them do. They’re interesting in their paradoxes, in their strengths, in their weaknesses. I think we explore their worlds, their inner worlds, and you explore what it is to have a female character on a show a lot more, and I think that’s amazing.

The last time we talked, you were keeping the big secret that Delphine was coming back to Orphan Black. Was it difficult to keep such a huge spoiler under wraps? 
It was hard because I’m not a good liar. There’s a thing about acting, which is on a set, and there’s cameras, and there’s, “Three, two, one, action!” There’s something that sort of puts boundaries around it that makes fiction possible. I find fiction very different than lying, because lying is real. When there’s a real person looking at you going, “Mmmmhmmm,” and you’re like, “Eeeek,” you can feel the truth coming through your skin. But I think I managed pretty well. I think I did pretty good. But I had like scripts at home with my name on it, and I’m like, “No one can find these! I’m gonna get sued!” [laughs] It was exciting, though. I couldn’t wait for people to find out.

What can you say about Delphine’s arc in Season 5?
I think we’ve seen a little glimpse of the world Cosima gets thrown in when Delphine sort of warms her up in that yurt that we don’t really know where it is. So I think we’re going to explore a lot of that, and there’s going to be a lot of answers that come from that, and she’s right in the middle of that whole world as the season starts.

Are poor Cophine going to have an easier time in the final season, or are things going to be awful for them, as usual? 
You know how they are. It’s awful, but it’s great! [laughs] No, I mean, the love is real, and the struggle is, too. There’s a lot going on for all the clones, but the love is real.

You’re also in a new French-language TV series called Trop. What’s that about? 
Yeah, my first comedy! I shot that in Montreal. It an amazing show by an amazing woman. I think it’s the scripts that really got me into it. It’s about my character and my sister, who is bipolar. It’s a comedy about mental health and families holding on in the midst of dealing with what it means to have a family member that suffers from that. You know, a work and friendship, sort of a very early 30s world. 

I think the beauty of that show that Marie-Andrée Labbé, the author of that show, focuses on is people that you don’t necessarily put on TV. So there’s the bipolar character, there’s a transgender character, a man who is going through a transition to be a woman, there’s a lot of different characters who are fringey, but who are part of the world and not on the fringe of the world. I feel like sometimes we separate worlds when we do fiction, whereas we’re all in this together. There’s a togetherness. There’s something optimistic in the way that people deal with one another, and are there for one another in a way that I believe is kind of truthful. She spins it, and it’s kind of hilarious, and it’s a little bit feminist, and it’s really cool. 

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

Images courtesy of CBC. 

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X Company 301: The spies return in tension-filled chess match “Creon vs. Ixion”

It was disappointing to learn the third season of CBC’s X Company would be its last. But after the World War II spy drama’s taut and nuanced second season, it’s satisfying to know creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern are ending the show on their own terms. Wrapping the show after three seasons will spare it from the meandering storylines that often bedevil shows that air four or more seasons, and it will also allow Ellis and Morgenstern to keep the spies’ body count honest.

You’re not supposed to live a lot of weeks, if you do live,” Ellis tells TV-Eh. “We wanted to be truthful to that history.”

To that end, the team lost smooth-talking American adman Tom (Dustin Milligan) during the disastrous Dieppe invasion last season. His death looms large in the Season 3 premiere, “Creon vs. Ixion,” written by Ellis and Morgenstern, as the remaining team members struggle with grief and search for new reasons to continue fighting. Meanwhile, Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) comes face to face with the Allies’ new prize asset, Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht), who flipped to the Allied side in the final scene of the Season 2 finale.

Or did he?

Here’s a sneak peek of the episode.

Sinclair vs. Faber
Sit back and enjoy the fireworks between Hugh Dillon and Torben Liebrecht as Sinclair and Faber try to size each other up, playing a high-stakes chess match involving human lives.

“Their scenes together are pretty explosive,” Morgenstern says. “These are two fantastic actors, so different in their performance styles, and so different in their sensibility, but the two of them as actors get along like a house on fire. It was actually quite fun to watch.”

It was apparently great fun for Dillon and Liebrecht, too.

“Hugh said to me, ‘I’ve rediscovered why I love acting so much, acting in scenes with Torben,’” Ellis recalls.

Can Sabine be trusted?
Not only are Faber’s loyalties unclear, Sabine’s intentions are also uncomfortably hazy, now that she’s been told the truth about her husband’s work.

“She becomes a bit of a loose cannon, and she stops following orders and she starts saying exactly what she thinks, and she doesn’t care what people think anymore,” says Morgenstern. “She’s had enough of being a porcelain doll.”

Look for her to seek the help of her father, high-ranking Nazi true-believer Obergruppenführer Ulrich Schmidt (Morten Suurballe).

What happened to Miri?
Still reeling from the loss of Tom, Neil (Warren Brown) and Harry (Connor Price) hit the road in search of Miri (Sara Garcia), who was last seen providing sniper cover from a church tower at Dieppe.

Action Krystina
In Sinclair’s absence, Krystina (Lara Jean Chorostecki) gets to leave Camp X on an important — and personal — mission.

Alfora
Are Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) and Alfred (Jack Laskey) still a thing? Yes. The problem is the wrong people know it.

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

Images courtesy of CBC. 

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X Company’s Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern preview ‘tragic, hopeful’ final season

When CBC’s gripping World War II spy drama X Company returns for its third and final season on Wed., Jan. 11, at 9 p.m., the lines between the show’s heroes and villains will be more blurred than ever.

“Aurora (Evelyne Brochu) and the other characters have to go deep into the territory of the enemy, and to pass for the enemy, they have to begin to adjust what they do to belong,” explains series co-creator Stephanie Morgenstern. “After a while, you start to lose track of what you’re doing that is you and what you’re doing in the role that you have to play, and it leaves a greater and greater stain on your soul.”

Season 2 ended with Tom’s (Dustin Milligan) gut-wrenching death at Dieppe and Franz Faber’s (Torben Liebrecht) decision to flip to the Allied side. Both events will cast long shadows over Season 3, as the depleted spy team tries to find the will to go on, and Sinclair (Hugh Dillon) tries to determine if Faber  — and his disillusioned wife, Sabine (Livia Matthes) — can be trusted.

“Is our enemy becoming us to infiltrate us?” asks co-creator Mark Ellis. “Or is he legitimately turned to try and do the right thing for the Allied cause? We won’t know until the last seconds.”

Meanwhile, all the shifting battle lines will take their toll on the team, says Morgenstern.

“This is a season where everything is put into question, whether it is right to follow orders, or whether it is right to trust the person who’s alongside you.”

Sitting down with TV-Eh in TorontoEllis and Morgenstern talk about the end of the series, what’s coming up for the spy team and the Fabers in Season 3, and their plans to produce more serialized, sophisticated television in the future.

Season 3 will be X Company’s final season. Do you feel you’ve had enough time to tell the story you wanted to tell?
Stephanie Morgenstern: At the very beginning of the writing process, we knew this was our last season, and it was something that felt completely right to us.

Mark Ellis: There’s a thousand war stories you could tell, but there’s two things we wanted to be truthful. One is that our mantra from the beginning of the show has been the life expectancy of these people is 50 per cent in the field. You’re not supposed to live a lot of weeks, if you do live. We wanted to be truthful to that history. We also wanted to ground the show in a war story and not multiple potential stories. And what I mean by that is the first episode of X Company ends with the image of an elite Gestapo officer looking at the face of a Canadian spy, and the series as a whole is about the growing relationship between that German Gestapo officer and this group of five,  and reducing number, of spies. So the story ends in a meaningful, tragic, hopeful way in the last episode of Season 3, but it’s a story that comes full circle, and that’s something that we engineered.

The Season 3 theme is that sometimes to defeat the enemy, you have to become the enemy. What will that mean for the spy team?
ME: Aurora goes from having the occasional coffee date or a walk in the park with Sabine to having to live the cover of Helene Bauer full time. And she’s pulled apart from her teammates, and she takes a job working for a German office in Poland that doesn’t do very nice things. She becomes in many ways complicit with the Nazi machine so she can fulfill a bigger objective. What does that do to you when it screams against every fibre of your moral conscience? How does she cope with it? What will she do to fulfill that objective?

SM: I think we see the same struggle as well in Faber, who’s an extremely conflicted character, as you know, and in Duncan Sinclair as well, who comes into the field again to match wits with Franz Faber. In a way, these are two spymasters who have to begin a very intense chess game, where the pawns are people you’re close to and even strangers. We find that we’re kind of playing by the same playbook. If the enemy is going to make this kind of move, sometimes you have to make the same kind of move yourself.

ME: When Franz Faber comes to the team at the end of the second season and says, ‘What is it you want me to do?’ it feels like we’ve flipped him, he’s going to work for us, he’s going to turn to the Allied cause. In Season 3, we spend all season wondering if that’s true. Is our enemy becoming us to infiltrate us? Or is he legitimately turned to try and do the right thing for the Allied cause? We won’t know until the last seconds.

The Aurora/Faber/Sabine triangle was a highlight of Season 2, and Evelyne Brochu, Torben Liebrecht, and Livia Matthes play wonderfully off each other. Did you always plan to give that story so much time, or did your plans evolve based on the strength of your actors?
ME: I think that there are several levels to the choice to make Faber and Sabine more present in the storylines. One is that you realize that you have very extraordinary actors on your hands, and Torben Liebrecht, in particular, is an actor who is very ready to plumb complex emotional depths within himself. On another level, probably the most complex character we’ve created is the character of Franz Faber, because his love exists on different levels — his love of country, his love of his wife, his love of his son — and yet he’s corrupted each of these things in different ways to try and protect himself and try and protect his family. He’s a great way to be able to test our main characters and for us to be able to look at how Aurora copes with having to become the same kind of warrior that Franz Faber has had to become in Season 3.

SM: If you’re enjoying the Aurora/Sabine/Faber triangle, you’re going to have a really fun season. Because we see much more of [Sabine] and, in fact, we have fun with tracking her evolution from being in some ways an innocent, overprotected young woman who hasn’t even considered the depths that her country’s going to to take on the destiny it feels it deserves. She has a journey from that to a person who has been forced to face the brutal truths of what’s going on around her and in her name. We’re going to meet the character of her father, who is an extremely high-ranking Nazi, and with whom she has a very, very strong bond of allegiance with . . . And the relationship between her and Aurora has sparks all the way through it. They become very intimate frenemies all the way until the very last scene, which I think is going to take people by surprise.

It sounds like Sabine’s father is going to be a major player this season. 
ME: Yeah, the real wild card in Season 3 is Obergruppenführer Ulrich Schmidt, who’s played by Morten Suurballe, the lead in the original Danish version of The Killing. He’s an extraordinary Danish actor, and we had to find an actor that could stand up to Torben Liebrecht, who is such a presence and a character who has at turns been villainous and very complex at the same time.

SM: [Schmidt] is a fully, fully committed Nazi. He believes fully in the entitlement of Germany to rule the world. But at the same time, he has another side as well, which is he’ll do anything for Sabine, his little protected child. He dotes on her, he does what he thinks is best, and it’s always out of a sense of love. This is the contradiction in him, that we see a truly dark side, which I think is very faithful to the beliefs, the literal Nazi beliefs, about human superiority over other humans.

Tom was killed in the Season 2 finale. How will everyone be coping with his loss in the Season 3 premiere? 
ME: I think we saw Neil (Warren Brown) and Harry (Connor Price) stand on the beach in Dieppe more or less exploding with the grief of Tom, and we were seeing Harry spiraling and becoming this much darker version of himself. Neil has lost his best friend. These two men, who are each in very different and desperate places, wind up turning towards each a little bit more, so we see a gathering bond between Harry and Neil. We see a friendship emerge. They’re both changed. I think we see a turn towards optimism for Harry, and we see a change in Neil’s mantra as well. He’s gone from being in Season 1 a soldier who wants to kill every German to seeing that Germans have a conscience on occasion, and I think he’s evolved to a point to where he’s no longer fighting a war based on ideology or trying to avenge people that he’s lost. He’s trying to protect everyone that still remains.

Is there anything else you can tease about Season 3? 
ME: There’s room for levity this season as well. And one of the things we talked about with the writers in the beginning when breaking the season was, ‘What haven’t we seen?’ And one of the things that we hadn’t seen is Alfred smile. We’ve never seen him have a normal moment, a happy time. And the actor, Jack Laskey, is such a warm, open-hearted, funny, charming man, and we wanted to be able to find opportunities for Alfred to exist outside of the constant sturm und drang of synesthesia and memory. Yes, he still fights his memory, and the burden of his memory continues to grow, but he also gets to feel what it’s like to kiss a girl a time or two. [laughs] Not to spoil too much.

SM: It’s funny, because when Aurora goes undercover, she has to do some of the darkest deeds she’s ever done, and when Alfred goes undercover as a Polish civilian, he gets a little, tiny microcosm of what it is to be normal, which he has never experienced. He’s never had a normal family around a table. He’s never had a simple meal with people having a laugh and playing games after dinner. So we get to see a lighter side of him as well.

Stephanie, directing has been a longtime goal of yours, and you directed the final two episodes of Season 3. Was the experience all you hoped it would be?
SM: I’m too close to the content to be able to answer that objectively. It was an extraordinary, terrifying, satisfying experience. It felt like everything [came together], like I’ve been acting since I was 12, and I’ve been writing for less than that, showrunning for less than that. So all of these experiences that have sort of piled onto each other have each given me a different angle on how to tell a story, from the first inception of Alfred and Aurora to the final the culmination of what their journey is. And directing felt like everything converging at once, everything paying off at once. Being able to talk to actors in a language they understand and being able to access the story we started developing so many months ago in a way that a guest director might not have been able to, it felt right. It felt satisfying. It felt…

ME: Scary?

SM: [laughs] Absolutely scary. Yeah! But I’m very proud of the work I was able to do surrounded by this incredible team. The actors gave so generously, and also the First AD (assistant director) and the DOP (director of photography) both became my water wings on the right and left side as I was thrown into the deep end. They kept me afloat. And this was based also on working with these folks for three years and knowing that they had my trust and I had their trust. There could not have possibly been a more supportive stage for me to take this first step onto in the final two episodes.

The idea for X Company evolved from your 2001 short film, Remembrance. How does it feel to have completed the project 15 years later? 
ME: It feels like we’re better equipped to tell that story than we would have been 15 years ago. We developed a feature film script, and every once in a while it mistakenly falls out of a drawer, and we have to avert our eyes from how horrible it is. So we’re very glad that we’ve been able to mature into telling a fairly complex serialized storyline that we wouldn’t have been able to in years past.

Now I have a real sense of, ‘What’s next?’ When you have something that’s been part of your life for 15 years, and you brought that story to its conclusion — that was the last drawer script that we had! [laughs] So it makes the future a little scary, but it makes it also liberating, and it feels good to know there’s a blank canvas waiting to be painted on again.

Do you have any idea what you’d like to paint on that canvas? After the back-to-back successes of Flashpoint and X Company, I know a lot of people are very interested in what you have planned next.
ME: I think we’re interested in shorter format serialized storytelling as our next project. So possibly something like a six-episode series, or four to eight. But there’s some really rich storytelling that can be done these days. There’s an appetite for challenging storylines, and we’d like to continue to evolve as the kind of writers who cut their teeth in very episodic procedural television to something that’s a little more serialized and sophisticated.

One last question about X Company. The show’s historical lessons are, unfortunately, still very relevant today. Is there anything in particular you hope viewers take away from the series, given the current political environment in the U.S. and elsewhere? 
ME: Hitler used to say, “Let’s make Germany great again.” It’s too easy to draw direct parallels between that regime and what’s happening in the United States, but I think you could watch X Company, and even if you just look past the parallels that exist now in ideology, if you look past the fact that here’s a man who in World War II rose to power because he nurtured a climate of fear,  of distrusting of your neighbor…

SM: Of scapegoating, hatred, how different we are from each other, how some people are naturally better than other people.

ME: You could look past all those things and just look at the images on the screen, and you will see images in Season 3 of X Company that you can also see on social media right now, on Facebook, Twitter, CNN. It’s disturbing. But I also hope that people can look at what our main characters are doing, which is they are getting involved, they’re getting invested, they’re standing up, they’re addressing injustice — they’re resisting.

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

Images courtesy of CBC. 

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