This Life’s Louis Ferreira: “David has something to prove”

Louis Ferreira has been a near-constant presence on our TV and film screens for decades, appearing in everything from Stargate Universe to Breaking Bad to Saw IV , but he doesn’t talk to the press much.

“I usually don’t do a lot of these,” he admits.

That’s a shame, because from the moment the Portuguese-Canadian actor answers his cell phone on a busy Vancouver street—his warm, gravelly voice instantly familiar—he is open and charming, talking easily about spirituality and politics before we get to the crux of our chat: discussing his role as Natalie’s (Torri Higginson) ex-husband David on the CBC family drama, This Life.

David, a deadbeat dad who only resurfaced once he learned his ex-wife had terminal cancer, could have been a thankless role for any actor to take on. But Ferreira says he was eager to play the part.

“I think what David represents is something that I believe in strongly, which is fathers doing right by their children, ultimately,” he explains.

He also says This Life is a hallmark for what Canadian TV is capable of.

“I was actually impressed with what CBC and Canada have done,” he says. “It’s a very well-done show. I was really proud to be part of it, to be honest.”

In an exclusive interview, Ferreira, who also has a recurring role on Space’s Aftermath, tells us more about David’s motivations, his working relationship with Torri Higginson, and wrapping popular CTV series Motive earlier this year.

How did you first become involved with This Life?  
Louis Ferreira: I think we had someone on the first season of Motive that knew me and asked about me, I think, through Kristin Lehman and was like, ‘What’s he like?’ and she was like, ‘Nice.’ I think that’s kind of where it started, and then from there the part came to me. And there was just that last episode of the first season, where [the creators of This Life] were like, ‘If it goes, there’s going to be a journey with him.’ Based on what they were telling me about the character, the ex who comes back, I was like, ‘Oooh.’ There are certain things that speak to me personally, and David was one of those stories. I was immediately interested, I was all over it, to be honest.

What were your early impressions of David, who is a character who comes with a lot of baggage?
I never thought of it as a guy with baggage, which is something we all have in all degrees of weight, but there was the opportunity to redeem. I love redemption. I love evolution. I love the idea of people coming to epiphanies in their lives and then changing them. I love the u-turn, and that’s what I saw in David right from the get-go, that this man had had some version of an epiphany and was going to come back and do right by his children because he acknowledged that he’d done wrong by them.

When I spoke with Torri Higginson earlier in the season, she said she was upset when she learned David was coming back into Natalie’s life.
I think that’s why Torri and I work together well. We’ll have discussions on set before we roll. It’s kind of a he said, she said, and she’ll state her piece, ‘Well, he did this,’ and I’ll be like, ‘Yes, but she….’ and it becomes almost like a therapy session before we shoot the scene. And we’ve done it several times, and it’s been very helpful, I think, for both of us because we’re able to see and feel each other’s hearts on the situation, and I think it informs the scene sometimes.

So you have a very interactive approach to your scenes together?
Yeah, for sure. I think absolutely we do. And I think we’re both journeymen in the business, and I think there is immediately a respect for that aspect of it, and I think we both sort of immediately connected because she was so rooted in that feeling of what she had going in, that, ‘Why is he coming back?’ and I felt that right away. For me, it was like, not only am I going to come back, but I’m going to prove to you that evolved potential that you saw back in the day that I probably could have been, I now have, in fact, become . . . David’s got something to prove.

Do you think David would have eventually returned on his own if Romy hadn’t called him last season to tell him Natalie was sick?
Yes. I think that the timing with Natalie’s illness, I’d like to imagine that it wasn’t about that, but it was the coincidence of where David got to in his life and how the universe sometimes works in people’s lives, where timing sometimes lines up. Sometimes it’s neither good nor bad, it’s just what it is. I think in this particular case, it was the trigger. I think when he got the phone call from Romy, it was certainly the thing that made him go, ‘OK, that’s a sign and I need to listen to it,’ because he was at that point in his life. So that’s probably what kickstarted it, but certainly going back was something that was on his agenda for quite a while. It’s something that he had to do.

It’s interesting to think about [David’s] younger kids and the older kids in terms of that whole thing of when we’re kids and we fall and it’s like, ‘Oh, no big problem,’ and we get back up. But as we get older, it gets harder and harder. It’s almost the same thing that the youngest of his children is able to be more, perhaps, forgiving, be more open, which is a really beautiful quality. But then as life happens, and egos age and get more jaded, it’s more difficult to do those very things that we did when we were younger, which is to forgive easily and love easier.

I think David has a real soft spot for Romy, because I think he can see with her the hurt that’s inside there, and I don’t think that would make any man—who’s a real man—feel good about himself, and I think that also drives David.

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Last week, David’s second wife, Kate, tells him that she won’t move back to Montreal, which means he’ll have to try to be a father to two families in two locations. Is that something he is capable of now?
David, back in the day, was probably under the bad boy category, so I think now he’s probably some version of a reformed bad boy. But now I think he’s gone into a whole other level, as we do when we get older, and hopefully you get a little bit more into a context of spirituality or things that matter more to you. I like what they wrote in the car, I think he said to Kate, ‘The reality is that I’m always going to love the mother of my children. That doesn’t go away. She’s the mother of my children. How could I not?’ That’s a mature statement.

The other thing I liked about it, about [Natalie] being the mother of my children and me having another family, is that also becomes [Kate’s] responsibility, and it should have been from the get-go. When people with kids move into another relationship, it’s absolutely crucial that they understand that their children come first in a certain way, and they are part of it. It’s not just my moral responsibility, it’s the responsibility of the person who wants to share my life with me. It’s also on them, and that’s true partnership in terms of a healthy relationship. So David is now going, ‘OK, this is healthy, and this is not. And I will choose to be healthy or at least try.’

Just a couple of episodes ago, Natalie and David kind of had that one thing that happened, that one-off [where they sleep together], and you just sit there going, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not good.’ That probably shouldn’t have happened. And I loved that fact that it happened and was never mentioned again, and it’s our imperfections that make things interesting. But at the same time, I do believe that, in his heart, David is trying to do and wanting to do right by his children first and his families. And in this particular case, this is a man with two families.

Motive ended its four-year run in August. Were you happy with the way the series wrapped?
We just had the greatest group of people for four years. It was one big family, and we’re all still very, very close. It couldn’t have been a more enjoyable experience. Truly. From top to bottom, it was just one of those things where everything was right.

Do you keep in touch with the cast?
I just saw Kristin two days ago. We went out for coffee, and she’s just onto a new show now, a big show coming out next year, and she’s doing well, and Brendan [Penny]’s doing great, and I just talked to Lauren [Holly] yesterday, so we’re all tight. But beyond the cast, with that crew—it was just one of those things where everything was just easy and right and no egos and just working together. It was one of those rarities, and we’re all grateful for it.

This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.