Jann Arden is back, and she’s in top form.
“I’ve never felt or looked better, you should see me,” she gushes over the phone when asked how she’s doing.
Arden’s just joking, of course, using her trademark self-deprecating humour to get through a long day of interviews promoting the upcoming third season of her comedy series, Jann. But all banter aside, the singer-songwriter-actor really is at the top of her game. She has a hit TV show, she’s recording a new album, and she’s planning an international tour for 2022—provided the world has “calmed the f–k down by then.” Things are going well for her.
The same can’t be said for Arden’s hilariously self-sabotaging TV alter ego.
In Jann’s Season 3 premiere, airing Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, we find fictional Jann holed up in her house with her mom Nora (Deborah Grover), surrounded by pizza boxes and enough home spa products to fill an Amazon warehouse. Apparently, the events of last season—firing her manager Cale (Elena Juatco), getting spurned by her girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor), and inviting Nora to live with her—have caused the singer to embark on a months-long online shopping spree, responsibilities and utility bills be damned.
“Things are kind of falling apart at the seams,” Arden says of TV Jann’s situation. “It’s hard for me to manage my life even when I’m by myself, so add my mother living with me full-time, being newly single, struggling with my career…it’s just a lot of chaos.”
And Jann isn’t the only one spinning out of control. Cale’s attempts to “ground” herself after getting sacked involve sleeping in the woods. She shows up on Jann’s doorstep dishevelled with twigs in her hair, prompting Jann to ironically scream, “How can anyone go so far downhill, so fast?” Meanwhile, Max (Zoie Palmer) and Dave (Patrick Gilmore) are finding it hard to run their household without Nora’s help, resulting in piles of laundry and their kids dressing like “Victorian orphans” for school picture day.
To get her life back on track, Jann hires personal assistant Trey (Tenaj Williams), commits to recording a new album from the heart, and starts dating a younger man (Charlie Kerr). Never mind that she poached Trey from Max and Dave’s nanny interviewees, can’t get funding for her record, and keeps running into Cynthia.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” says Arden. “But that makes it fun. It’s quite farcical.”
We phoned Arden at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver to learn more about Jann’s Season 3 antics.
Season 3 brings some new people into Jann’s life, including Trey, her personal assistant. Is she going to butt heads with him?
Jann Arden: I think Jann butts heads with anybody who tries to come into her life. Jann wants help, but she wants it on her own terms. So I think Trey brings so much fun because he deals with Jann in a very matter-of-fact way. He doesn’t put up with any crap. Plus, he really loves my mother, so they get along like a house on fire, and I’m kind of on the outside looking in. So I think you’ll see that, not unlike Cale, he’s constantly dealing with the complete lack of respect Jann has for the people around her. He and I together are very funny.
Speaking of Cale, it looks like getting fired has really sent her into a tailspin! I didn’t expect that.
JA: Well, she’s never been fired in her life, so she was probably raised by a Tiger Mother, perfectionism the whole way across. She’s not used to not getting her way, she’s not used to any kind of failure. It’s an unacceptable outcome to do anything in her life without it turning out exactly the way it was in her head. And what she finds, as a lot of people do in life, is that’s not how it goes. You have to face obstacles, you have to change, you have to face adversity and challenges, and Cale is Failure 101. She’s going down a road where she needs to figure out really what life’s about, and I love getting to explore a character like hers because like you said, no one expects to see Cale go on a journey of self-discovery and trying different things.
Cynthia turned down Jann’s marriage proposal at the end of Season 2, and Jann bounces back by dating a younger man later this season. I love the nonchalant way the show approaches her fluid sexuality.
JA: It is what it is. It’s a fluidity, it’s a person who absolutely dates whoever she wants and does what she wants and has no labels. And, you know, some people probably in the LGBTQ community would disagree with how we’ve approached it, but this is completely my doing, this is how I wanted to approach it and not ever make it into an issue for anyone.
On the contrary, Nora is quite taken aback that I’m dating a man. She’s like, ‘I thought you were done with men,’ she’s almost discouraging me from having a boyfriend, which is kind of the antithesis of what you think our society sort of tells us we should be doing. So my mother’s very much on Cynthia’s team. She would love to see us get back together. But I really find myself in sort of a throuple this year—I always think that word is so funny—but I’m literally playing two people, and I think that I can get away with it.
Nora’s storyline is very personal to you. What is going to happen with her this season?
JA: You know, the reason that obviously Nora is a character with Alzheimer’s is because of my own mother. Even before we started the show, I said that’s just a storyline that we need to tackle. Of course, my mother’s Alzheimer’s stretched over a 10-year period, and it was a very slow decline, it wasn’t rapid. So we feel that we have lots of time to uncover how dementia works, that it’s definitely varying degrees. No, a person can’t live by themselves, they can’t really be left alone. Nora has moments obviously where she’s there and she’s funny, but she also has moments when she doesn’t know where she is, she doesn’t know why she’s doing things, and that is the very frustrating part of memory loss.
[Having a loved one with Alzheimer’s] is not an easy thing, but it’s doable, it’s survivable. You’re never going to win against Alzheimer’s, you’re not gonna win the narrative, you’re not gonna win the fight, they’re not gonna get better. And that’s hard for people to admit to. And that’s why those control issues come in all the time, and my character’s always dealing with that because I think I can control the outcome of what’s coming, and I won’t be able to. It’s gonna be really interesting to see that unfold.
You’re very active on Twitter and frequently tweet about issues that are important to you. Are your followers ever shocked at how socially aware you are compared to TV Jann, who is so overtly self-involved?
JA: I don’t think so. I think that people who have followed along with my career the last 30 years, certainly the last 10 years or so of being on social media, know what I’m all about. Thank God I’m not TV Jann, her decision-making drives me crazy. She always makes terrible decisions, but that’s what makes it funny.
In my life, I’m not going to be one of those people sitting on my hands waiting for other people to do the heavy lifting, whether that’s in women’s health issues or animal welfare issues or voting or being vaccinated and worrying about the people around you and not just yourself. I don’t care. I block so many people every day, you have no idea. I don’t care what other people think, but I do care about how they feel. And that is two different things. So I’ll always be outspoken. I’m gonna kick my clogs someday, and I’m just not gonna go and leave this world quietly. At all.
Jann airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and CTV app.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.