Unlike her TV alter ego, Jann Arden is aware of her own good fortune.Â
The iconic singer-songwriter and star of CTVâ€™s hit comedy series Jannâ€”returning for its second season on Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PTâ€”has been able to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic from the socially-distanced comfort of her rural Alberta home.
â€œIâ€™ve got nothing to complain about,â€ she says during a phone chat from her house. â€œMy nearest neighbour is a half-mile away. I usually work out here anyway, and Iâ€™ve done a lot of recording here. I have a big piece of land, a huge garden, and Iâ€™m here with a dog. I want for nothing.â€
That isnâ€™t to say the coronavirus hasnâ€™t thrown Arden a few curveballs. For instance, her official induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame was scuppered when the JUNO Awards were cancelled in March, and her much-anticipated cross-Canada tour had to be postponed in May. Still, sheâ€™s taking it all in stride.Â
â€œIt was disappointing, but [COVID-19 has affected] all of my colleagues, everyone on the planet, every person that I know,â€ she explains. â€œGood things come out of bad things. I think it has actually taken the faÃ§ade off of a way that weâ€™ve been living thatâ€™s been so empty, and without a lot of merit, and truth, and vulnerability….I, for one, am grateful to have had the opportunity to slow the hell down.â€Â
As philosophical as Arden is about 2020â€™s setbacks, itâ€™s safe to say her hilariously narcissistic TV namesake wouldnâ€™t handle things so well.
â€œOh, she would have been terrible!â€ Arden laughs. â€œEverybody in Jannâ€™s family would have been made miserable, sheâ€™d be like, â€˜You have no idea what Iâ€™m going through!â€™â€
Of course, TV Jannâ€”Ardenâ€™s less-successful, much more self-involved doppelgangerâ€”doesnâ€™t need a worldwide pandemic to make people miserable. Her lack of self-awareness and desperate attempts to revive her career kept her family cringingâ€”and viewers laughingâ€”throughout Jannâ€™s critically-acclaimed first season.Â
Jannâ€™s self-serving antics crescendoed in the finale when she left her mom Nora (Deborah Grover), who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimerâ€™s disease, on the doorstep of her pregnant, bedridden sister Max (Zoie Palmer) so she could go on tour with her on-screen nemesis, Sarah McLachlan.
This naturally caused some hard feelings.Â
However, as the second season starts, Jann is sporting a new, family-first attitude. After finding out Max is in labour, she decides to ditch McLachlanâ€™s disaster-prone tourâ€”think food poisoning and exploding musical instrumentsâ€”to make amends with her family and win back her ex-girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor). The problem is, no one is particularly happy to see her when she returns, and her knee-jerk selfishness trips her up at every turn.
Exhibit #1: When she finds Max and brother-in-law Dave (Patrick Gilmore) cradling their newborn baby in the opening minutes of the premiere, she indignantly cries, “You couldn’t friggin’ wait for me?”
Things don’t get much better over the next few episodes, as Jann finds out her former manager Todd (Jason Blicker) has signed a hot new talent (Nia Taylor) and her new manager Cale (Elena Juatco) keeps pushing her outside her comfort zone.
â€œThings really pick up where they left off,â€ Arden says. â€œYou kind of got to know everyone in the first season, and I love the new situations that the writers have put them in.â€
She’s also pleased with Season 2’s stacked guest-star lineup, which includes k.d. lang, Elisha Cuthbert, Keshia ChantÃ©, and in the first episode, McLachlanâ€”who gamely skewers her nice-girl image to settle a score with Jann.
“Sheâ€™s fantastic, and sheâ€™s such a good sport,” Arden says of McLachlan, making it clear that the Jann/Sarah rivalry doesn’t extend to real life. “Half of the stuff you see was her idea.”
As in the first season, Ardenâ€™s natural comedic timing and willingness to take the piss out of herself help keep Jann likeable even when sheâ€™s at her worst. Meanwhile, Groverâ€™s whimsical and tender handling of Noraâ€™s Alzheimerâ€™s journey continues to provide emotional depth.Â
Ardenâ€™s real-life mother passed away from Alzheimerâ€™s complications in 2018, just after the first season wrapped. When asked if that loss made shooting Season 2 more difficult, she says it was actually the opposite.Â
â€œYou know what? It was a delight,â€ she says. â€œI got to live in a world for the five or six weeks when we were shooting where my mom was alive. And Deborah reminds me so much of my mom. My mom was hilarious. She was very intrepid; she wasnâ€™t precious about dying.”
Arden says she’s thrilled that Jann allows her the opportunity to educate the Canadian public about Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“I think to be able to see a main character in a contemporary, modern scripted comedy on a major network, to see that in your living room is so accessible, and itâ€™s been really important,” she says.
During Season 3â€”which has already been ordered and set to go before cameras in Januaryâ€”Arden plans “to keep the pressure up” with Nora’s journey.
“There are so many great things that we can do with the story, and it makes it interesting,” she says. “You have to have pathos to have humour, right?”
Meanwhile, Arden says there are no plans to include COVID-19 stories in future seasons.
“Weâ€™re not addressing it, weâ€™re not mentioning it,” she says. “In TV Jannâ€™s world, it never happened.”
For the sake of Jann’s family, that’s probably a good idea.
Jann airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.