Spoiler warning: Do not read this article until you have seen This Life Episode 209, “Well Fought, My Love.”
On Friday, Janet-Laine Green told us about her experience playing Janine Lawson on CBC’s This Life. In the second part of our interview, Green tells us about receiving the news her character was going to pass away in Episode 209, “Well Fought, My Love,” and what it was like to portraying her final scenes of the series.
Several of your cast mates told me they were shocked by the events in Episode 209. When were you told Janine was going to pass away?
Janet-Laine Green: I think a couple of weeks before I went down to shoot, and it just tore me apart. It just broke my heart. Honestly. I think because of the reasons that I said before, that it’s such a special show. It’s rare in a series—and I’ve done a lot of series—that you actually have the sense of family and real joy to be on the set, and we just all connected so well, the young people and my kids on the cast, and shooting in Montreal was just a joy, so beautiful. So when I got the word, I went, ‘Why? Why would you do that?’ And I couldn’t take myself out of the character. And it really is, that series, like any series, it’s all about storylines, story plots, what’s going to shock the family, shock the audience. And because it is a family, when something like that unexpected happens, that’s a great storyline. But I totally took it personally. I really went, ‘Oh, it doesn’t really matter if Janine’s in the show.’ Now I know that’s not true and having some time away from it, I went, ‘I can see why they would do it.’ But it really makes me very sad not to be in the show. Really sad. Because we like each other so much. I think that, more than anything, it was a really special combination of people.
It was definitely a shock.
It is shocking. You’re not set up for it at all. And that’s I guess what I mean by living your life to the fullest is, one doesn’t know when you’re going to die. And when there’s illness, it gives you such a different perspective on life and death. When one has been ill, you’ve been dealing with life and death quite a bit. And you’re looking at, ‘Have I done everything I wanted to do?’ and ‘What do I want to do?’ But when something like that happens that quickly, there is no looking back, there is no preparing, it’s everybody else who has to deal with the fallout.
I haven’t seen the episode, but I was there with Natalie, and I was there with Gerald, but I didn’t see how anybody else reacted. And that doesn’t matter really, it’s just being on the other side. Playing dead was awful. It was awful. Because you want to say goodbye. You want to say goodbye to your kids. You want to say goodbye to your husband. You want them to say goodbye to you. But there is no goodbye. And I think that’s even more shocking than if you have some time if you’ve been ill.
What was it like to play a body in the episode?
It’s very hard, because, for one, Peter as Gerald is trying to resuscitate me. So they had built this contraption, and they had paramedics there—real paramedics—and he had to pound on my chest to try to get me back. And they had built sort of a metal contraption to sort of protect my body from the real strong pressure that you have to give. And I went, ‘No, I’m just going to do it, and I’m not going to wear the contraption. Just, Peter, do what you need to do.’ But the hardest thing is holding your breath and not showing your breath. That’s really hard. You have to hold your breath for quite a long time. Because the camera sees it.
And then people are really sad around you. You can’t go, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’ And after I had finished playing dead, the director said, ‘Oh, I much prefer you being alive. You’re a much better actress when you’re alive!’ [Laughs.] But that was Louis [Choquette] again. Louis shot my last episode, so it was really nice to start with him and finish with him.
Do you have a favourite scene of the season or the series as a whole?
I loved the scene in 209 where Peter and I are just kibitzing in the kitchen and making tea and just being sort of silly, and he had to go to work and I wanted to go for a walk. It was so natural and everyday, and yet a couple who had worked through their marriage and were just having a cup of tea and were happy to have time for each other. That was actually a really beautiful scene. Even if I didn’t die, it had such a nice quality to it, and then she walks out into the sunshine.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your time on This Life?
Thank you. Thank you to CBC for greenlighting this production, and thank you to the wonderful cast. I adored working in Montreal and all the people that made me feel so welcome and comfortable. It has just been a treasure in my career, doing this show.
And what’s next for you?
We’re going to Mexico for a month in about a week, and then I’m coming back and doing a play called Peace River Country at the Tarragon (Feb. 7 – March 19, 2017), which is a brand new play about fracking in Alberta.
This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.