Sandra Chwialkowska found her reality mirroring fiction during Season 2 of X Company. Like the CBC drama’s lead character, Aurora, Chwialkowska was surrounded by three other men in a country she was unfamiliar with.
After working on series like Lost Girl, Remedy and Cracked, Chwialkowska joined X Company this year to contribute directly to what’s going on in Aurora’s head, expand Sabine’s role and introduce Resistance fighter Miri into the mix. We spoke to her about all that and got a sneak peek into her next episode, “Fatherland,” airing in a few weeks.
I wrote this a week or so ago, but X Company has really upped its game in Season 2. Aurora’s team is tight and their storylines are great. And, I can’t help but be drawn to Faber and Sabine’s story too.
Sandra Chwialkowska: That was one of the things that we kept checking in on. The actor that plays Faber, Torben Liebrecht, and the actress that plays Sabine, Livia Matthes, are such incredible people that it’s hard not to fall in love with them. But, at the same time, that’s something that was really important to Mark and Stephanie; to really explore the moral compass and how someone like Faber got involved in the Gestapo and everything. We talked about how maybe he joined the ranks as a way to impress Sabine’s father. He wasn’t a die-hard. He did what many men kind of had to do: join the party. Not to excuse any of his behaviour, but we’re really interested in the human side.
You joined X Company in Season 2. How did that happen?
I was on the last season of Lost Girl when Season 1 of X Company was done. I’ve been wanting to work wth Mark and Stephanie for some time. I’d heard nothing but rave reviews about how they’re the best showrunners in the country and I love learning from the best. I’m actually working on the development of my own series with Temple Street, who produce X Company, and the development executives asked me if I was interested in coming on board X Company. They recommended me to Mark and Stephanie, we had a meeting and we really hit it off. I think part of it was to maybe get another female voice in the room and they were just looking for writers who had experience.
This season is really about Sabine coming to the fore and opening her eyes a little bit. The relationship between her and Aurora is going to deepen.
Do you feel like you brought something to the writers’ room that wasn’t there before?
I would say that, in some rooms that I’ve been in before, I have been the only female. I have sensed tokenism in the past, ‘I’m here to put the words in the ladies’ mouths,’ and that kind of thing. In X Company, there was a real strong sense of getting gender balance, but not because we had to satisfy a network demand. It was Mark and Stephanie—who are incredibly passionate—saying, ‘Aurora is the leader of the team and we want to really get into her head.’ And. obviously, Sabine, as the show has become more serialized and delved into Faber’s domestic life, rose to the fore.
Some showrunners say they want a really opinionated, vocal room. Mark and Stephanie really want that. Our room has Denis McGrath, Adam Barken and Dan Godwin. When they know what they want, Mark and Stephanie are very firm. But when it’s an open question, they sit and let the dialogue go. It’s a true debate and a true discussion and the best idea wins.
What was it like working on Season 2 in Budapest?
I literally felt like I was Aurora. I shared an office with three men for four months. [Laughs.] I really felt like her. I felt like a stranger in a strange land, on assignment in a foreign country and you don’t know anyone. You just have this little posse. What’s fascinating about Budapest is that it’s a city that has been occupied by so many different regimes over the centuries; that’s why it works as a location for big Hollywood movies and X Company. One street looks like Paris and another looks like Berlin. It’s the bizarre melting pot of regimes that have occupied it. You really feel the war is a living history. You see bullet holes in buildings. And they have these things that are unique to Budapest called ruin pubs; they’re these old, ruined buildings that were bombed out during the war that have been turned into pubs. We would go there after work for dinner or a drink and really feel the history.
You’re a supervising producer on X Company. What does that title entail?
I wrote one and a half episodes this season. I wrote Episode 4 and co-wrote Episode 8 with Mark and Stephanie. It means that I’m a writer in the room but I’m also producing the episode, which means meetings all through pre-production in terms of costumes and wardrobe and location scouting. In the case of ‘Last Man, Last Round,’ that incredible fortress really dictated the story because they had to escape from that location. I’m also liaising with the director, the art department and casting. That was also the episode where we cast Miri and Klaus. There is a lot of producing that goes beyond the writing of the script. Being on-set is a huge thing too, dealing with fires as they come up, being the eyes and ears for Mark and Stephanie because they can’t be everywhere at once.
Let’s get to some storylines. Faber and Sabine’s relationship seems to be crumbling. Will that continue as the season goes on?
We’re going to spend a lot more time with their relationship and their marriage and the impact of losing Ulli. This season is really about Sabine coming to the fore and opening her eyes a little bit. The relationship between her and Aurora is going to deepen. There is going to be some pretty shocking stuff coming up between them.
And, looking forward to the next episode you co-wrote, Episode 8, entitled “Fatherland.” What can you tell me about that?
The title is really relevant because it has two meanings. One is it’s about patriotism and allegiance and that’s a big theme in the episode. What are we fighting for, where does our allegiance lie and why? The team will get a very visceral reminder of what they’re fighting for. The Fabers explore allegiance in that way, as to what side they’re on and why, and what that does to an individual.
X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.