Coroner: Éric Bruneau on Liam’s “demons” and his first English-language role

When the world rang in 2019 a couple of weeks ago, we wouldn’t be surprised if actor Éric Bruneau was a little reluctant to let 2018 go–it was a momentous year for him.

In June, Bruneau and his partner Kim Lévesque-Lizotte welcomed their first child, a baby girl. In addition, the Quebec native was cast in his first English-language TV series, landing the role of enigmatic handyman Liam Bouchard opposite Serinda Swan’s Jenny Cooper in the new Morwyn Brebner-created CBC crime drama, Coroner.

Bruneau, who already has an absolutely bustling TV, film, and theatre career in Montreal, says he wasn’t actively trying to score English-speaking roles, but Coroner executive producer and lead director Adrienne Mitchell saw his work on another project and asked him to submit a self-tape. Soon, he was shooting in Toronto.

In last week’s series premiere, viewers learned that Liam is a military veteran who feels an instant connection to Jenny. But Bruneau said there’s much more to come for his character.

“He’s a little bit cocky, but he’s fun sometimes and he’s romantic,” he says. “I hope people are going to get into his journey in the show. He’s a great guy. I know he’s mysterious, but they’re going to learn to love him, I hope.”

To get us ready for Monday’s new episode, “Bunny,” Bruneau–whose other credits include films Laurence Anyways and The Reign of Beauty as well as TV series Blue Moon, Le Jeu and Trop–recently phoned us to tell us more about Liam and his first experience working in English.

I understand that Coroner is your first English-language TV series. Were you looking to break into more English roles?
Éric Bruneau: I’m not on a mission for playing in English. I really appreciate the experience and I’d like to do it again, but it always depends on the project. In Montreal, I’m working a lot in French. So it’s more about the director and the character and the stories and the experience. But yeah, I’d like to work again in English if the project and the character are great. But now I have a baby, and to be moving your family, the project needs to be good.

Did you find any challenges to working in English?
EB: Well, I worked with a dialect coach, so I had a little bit of the accenting on my mind, but at some point, you just need to hit your mark and be attentive as much as possible and be with the other actors. There was not that much of a difference. What I really appreciate and what I like is that nobody knew my work, so it was like when I finished my film theatre school. I was green and with new people and acting with new actors. I really love that because I’m working a lot in Montreal, so being with new directors and new actors and new producers, it’s good. Artistically, it was great. It was challenging.

Let’s talk about your character, Liam Bouchard. He’s a bit mysterious in the first episode. All we really know is that he’s a Canadian Army vet and he has a strong attraction to Jenny. What else will we find out about him?
EB:  He has a dark side. He has something that he’s trying to avoid. So when he connects with Jenny, he sees something in her. When we were building the character with Adrienne, I met some veteran people who were like Navy SEALs but in Canada to prepare for the role, and I met this guy who told me, ‘My nightmares are worse than yours.’ He’s a sniper. And I thought, OK, this is going to be the key for my character. It’s a thing where he’s having post-traumatic episodes. So we tried to build something around what he saw when he was over there, and how he felt when he was in Afghanistan. We’re going to see how he’s going to deal with his own demons as we see the series.

I like the scene in Episode 1, where Liam and Jenny compare their physical scars. I thought it was an interesting way of echoing their inner trauma. 
EB: Totally. Because it’s fast with them. They both see in each other that they have to deal with some ghosts. This is where they connect.

What about Coroner sets it apart from other shows?
EB: Well, first of all, it’s Serinda’s show, and I hope people are going to love what she’s doing with the character. And what Roger [Cross] did, too, because I think they have a great relationship. After that, it’s always about human beings. In the trailer, it says, ‘Every body has a story,’ but everybody has demons. So I love the dark things about the characters, actually.

I really like the darker, psychological aspects of the show.
Yeah, it’s about these people spending every day with dead people and trying to be…alive. There’s something in them that responds to being in their day-to-day job, being with dead people, trying to find out what’s happening, and trying to stay alive. So, for me, it was beautiful to see these characters fighting for themselves.

You’re also in a great French-language comedy called Trop, which has been renewed for a third season. Have you started filming yet?
EB: No, we’re filming in two months.

Can you say anything about what’s coming up for your character, Marc-Antoine, in the new season? 
EB: I can’t say anything yet, but we can talk about it in a couple months if you want! [Laughs.]

We’re chatting during the first week of 2019. Did you make any big New Year’s resolutions? 
EB: Be the best of me, that’s my resolution. Because, sometimes, you get tired and you accept being a little less. But since having my kid, I’m like, no, no, I need to be the best of me always. For her, with her.

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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