All posts by A.R. Wilson

A.R. Wilson has been interviewing actors, writers and musicians for over 20 years. In addition to TV-Eh, her work has appeared in Curve, ROCKRGRL, and Sound On Sight. A native of Detroit, she grew up watching Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant on CBC, which led to a lifelong love of Canadian television. Her perpetual New Year's resolution is to become fluent in French.

Jann’s Elena Juatco on channeling Cale and the Season 2 finale

On CTV’s Jann, Elena Juatco plays Jann Arden’s hip new music manager, Cale—a ruthless deal-maker who has no time for social pleasantries or touchy-feely nonsense. 

In real life, the Vancouver-born actor and singer, who first rose to fame during the second season of Canadian Idol, is an extroverted people person. 

“I’m much more friendly, chatty, and outgoing than Cale is,” Juatco says during a phone call from Ottawa, where she’s filming the Hallmark holiday movie The Key to Christmas. “It’s funny, I’ll talk to someone for like an hour, and then someone will say, ‘That’s Cale from Jann,’ and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, my God!’ and feel betrayed. Because I’m different, I smile, I gesticulate with my hands, but when we put my hair up in a bun and I put on the Cale face, something else takes over.” 

Juatco’s steely “Cale face” and deadpan line deliveries contrast wonderfully with series star Arden’s zany physical comedy and witty zingers. The odd couple’s bickering over the direction of Jann’s career has been one of the central storylines of Season 2, with Cale relentlessly pushing Jann out of her comfort zone and Jann finding increasingly hilarious ways to resist. Tensions came to a head in last week’s episode when Cale learned that Jann has been secretly getting advice from her ex-manager, Todd (played by the underrated Jason Blicker). 

To get us ready for Monday’s season finale, “The Tunies,” we chatted with Juatco about channeling Cale, working with Arden and Blicker, and whether Cale and Jann will end the season on a positive note.  

First of all, 2020 has been a crazy year. How have you handled COVID-19 and the strange events that came with it?
Elena Juatco: I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been healthy and safe in Toronto with my husband and my dog. I was actually in Los Angeles until March 11.  I flew back home from Los Angeles, and when I was in the air, Trump announced the European ban, the NBA shut down, Tom Hanks got it. When I landed in Toronto, my husband said, ‘You’re not gonna believe what just happened.’ But I was blessed that that was a scheduled flight, that I never got stranded. I’ve been lucky, and I’m even more blessed that I’ve been able to get back to work because Canada has been able to keep their numbers low.

But Season 2 of Jann was expected to run much earlier than it did, and we were all supposed to be at the Canadian Screen Awards together. I’d just gotten my dress when they cancelled the event. So the sad part, with these announcements, and [Season 3] being renewed, and the premiere of the season, we haven’t been able to be together in person to celebrate the achievements as a cast together. I can’t wait to get back at it.

You have a background in the music industry. Did you base Cale on any managers you’ve met?
EJ: I didn’t base her off anyone. I channeled her from myself I guess, that power, the laser-focus, the going after it, and the knowing how to get there. And so much of it is fearlessness. She doesn’t care what people think about her. She doesn’t care if people judge her. She doesn’t need to be nice to anyone, but she knows how to get what she wants. I think that’s just a really powerful thing that I think every woman has. So to get to play Cale, I get to channel that. It’s a bit freeing and fun. 

In Season 1, Cale stole Jann  from Todd because she thought it would be easy to revive her career. But in Season 2, she’s found out what a challenge Jann can be. What can you tell me about their relationship this season?
EJ: I think from the very first time you see Cale in the Season 2 premiere, when she pulls that curtain back and tells Jann’s mom to stop texting, she’s an absolute mess. Like her hair’s a mess—I mean, she still has her bun in, but it’s a frizzy—you can tell right away that Jann is breaking her down, and it’s a lot more difficult than what she was expecting. When you meet her in Season 1 and she’s representing Feist, I think she’s just used to people doing what she says. And with Jann, there’s just been this clash of heads throughout this season, of Cale trying to get Jann to do things she doesn’t want to do. But I put her through the ringer. It would be hard for me to think if my manager did some of the stuff Cale did. I don’t know if I could handle that. Like the balls in the avatar episode, I’m just like, ‘Cale, what are you doing?’ It’s really hilarious.

Speaking of the ‘Covered in Balls’ episode, is it hard to keep a straight face when Jann Arden is doing things like rolling around in a motion capture suit?
EJ: There’s something that does come over me when I’m Cale that I won’t break, and they actually noticed that in my audition. I auditioned with Jann and with Jason Blicker, who plays Todd. Jason was doing some ad-libs, and I was just staring at him and I would not break. And I remember the table was like, ‘How is Elena not breaking?’ I was just Cale, and I will always be unimpressed with Todd, that will never change. So there is some of it where I’m just Cale and I will not break, but then sometimes you have those days. When we filmed the finale, at the Tunie Awards, that was an 18-hour day. It was a long day, and sometimes you’re tired and Jann is going off and she won’t stop. I can hold it for so long, but then it’s when Jann keeps ad-libbing past when you think someone would stop and you’re like ‘Oh, my God, they’re not calling cut.’ Then it’s like I’ll start to break and pray I don’t ruin the take. That’s happened a few times in Season 2. But you can’t blame me. I mean, it’s Jann. 

I love the rivalry between cool, calculating Cale and sweet, loyal Todd. What’s it like to work with Jason Blicker?
EJ: I love him so much. Honestly, when I got the part, my next thought was, ‘I hope that Jason Blicker got Todd.’ I remember being in Calgary for the first read-through, and I saw him turn the corner, and I was like, ‘I’m so happy it’s you.’ Because in our call-back, there was just this great chemistry we had, and it’s so easy and so fun. I love all of our scenes together.

It’s such a great relationship, too, the power dynamic. I love how in Season 2, you see him kind of get to Cale. Whereas before, she was kind of like, ‘Ugh, I’m not threatened by you, old little man.’ But then he starts getting to her. He can kind of crack her open a little bit, and you see maybe a little bit of insecurity come out.

In last week’s episode, Cale found out that Jann had been secretly seeking Todd’s advice.  Can you give us any hints about how that revelation will play out in the finale?
EJ: There’s definitely a clash between Jann and Cale, and something will happen in the finale.

Oh, that sounds cryptic. Is that all you can say?
EJ: Something will happen. 

What was your favourite episode of the season?
EJ: I really loved the episode ‘Covered In Balls.’ The ball gag and the avatar and the scenes that I had with Todd, the one long take that we did walking through the entire studio. You kind of see that shift in our relationship, where she asks him for help. I also really loved the one where k.d. lang makes a guest appearance, because obviously k.d. lang, but I also love that you got to see Jann play a song and sing. You’re reminded that in all the craziness and the mess and how horrible she is to her family, that at the core of it, Jann the character is an artist that has a real talent that touches people through music. I really loved that moment, and also, Cale got a one-on-one concert and Jann sang a line for her. That face when I’m watching her, that was a real face, it was me listening to Jann sing, because in real life, gosh, she’s got a talent. But with Cale, a manager cares about a client because they believe in their talent. So even in that moment, you see that Cale does see Jann’s talent and understands that. 

Schitt’s Creek, which you guest-starred in during its last season, became an international hit after Netflix started streaming it, and it was just announced that Hulu will soon be streaming Jann in the U.S. How excited are you that another great Canadian comedy is going to get a wider audience?
EJ: I’m absolutely thrilled. This is such an exciting time for Canadian comedy, and watching Schitt’s Creek sweep the Emmys, it was a win for all of us. We all shared that. It was an absolute honour to be on their very last season, to make it in and to be in such a pivotal episode as well, where my character got to play a hand in the fate of the family. It was such an honour to be a part of that and to witness the success it’s had.

They’ve been really amazing trailblazers to show that we’ve got amazing comedies up here. We’ve got incredible writers, actors, comedians, such great content is made here. [With Hulu], a wider audience will get to be exposed to Jann and, hopefully, share the laughs. I’m over the moon. 

Jann airs Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Jann co-creators Jennica Harper and Leah Gauthier on the success of the show and writing Season 2

CTV’s sitcom Jann is an undeniable critical and ratings success. Its first season garnered rave reviews, millions of viewers, and a 2020 WGC Screenwriting Award for Best Comedy Series.

However, there was a time when the show’s co-creators and executive producers, Jennica Harper and Leah Gauthier,  were unsure if the series—which stars singer-songwriter Jann Arden as a highly fictionalized version of herself—would work.

“It was a real act of faith at first,” says Harper, explaining that Arden “was very funny and very talented” but unproven as a comedic lead. There were also some concerns about the show’s unique blend of tones: part entertainment industry satire, part slapstick comedy, part family dramedy.

“It’s not a comedy in the conventional way, it’s a little bit more cable, I think,” says Harper, who also acts as the series showrunner. “There’s a bit more of a blend of very silly comedy right up to, hopefully, poignant, dramatic moments. We’re trying to kind of have our cake and eat it, too.” 

Harper and Gauthier got their cake and more when CTV quickly greenlit the series for Seasons 2 and 3. But having a hit show creates new worries.

“You immediately put pressure on yourself,” Gauthier says. “Like, ‘Can we do it again in the second season?'”

The answer to that is a resounding yes. The first four episodes of Season 2 have provided some of the series’ funniest moments as chronically narcissistic Jann works to win back her family after ditching them to go on tour last season. Her hilarious quest has featured a wrestling match with Sarah McLachlan (who guest-starred in the first episode of the season), some bizarrely unconventional couple’s therapy with girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor), and a disastrous camping adventure with sister Max (Zoie Palmer) and mom Nora (Deborah Grover).

On Monday’s new episode, “Drop the Single,” Jann is in for more uncomfortable situations when Cale (Elena Juatco) pushes her to record an electronic dance track and she shares a talk show couch with a very unimpressed k.d. lang. The instalment also features some of the show’s patented family drama as Dave (Patrick Gilmore) brings the baby to visit his mom.

We recently chatted with Harper and Gauthier about their approach to writing the new season and what to expect in the show’s second half.

Season 2 has been excellent so far. Did you find it easier or harder to write than the first season? 
Jennica Harper: Easier. When we were breaking the stories for Season 2, I was just so excited because it became clear who the characters are and we had the casting. When we wrote those [Season 1] scripts, we hadn’t cast anybody yet, other than Jann, of course, and now that we know those actors and those characters, it was a lot more playful. 

Leah Gauthier: For sure. And as we watched [the actors] as we were making Season 1, we were like, ‘What are these characters naturally great at that we can pick up on in seasons following? Is this character really good at panicky situations? Has this person come up against Jann as a buddy or as an enemy? Where can we expand on what organically happened on its own and lean into it?’ Because the Charley character, she becomes sort of a social influencer in Season 2, and that was because we were watching Alexa [Rose Steele] in real life, and were thinking, ‘This woman is very interesting and her social media following is huge’. That’s the kind of thing that we sort of lean into and pull from real life, that’s kind of what we’re doing in these later seasons, and I feel it’s more fun to write. 

JH: Another example was with Nora, Jann’s mom, who’s played by Deb Grover. There are these moments where she’s kind of sassy, not just this sort of sad person going through her early stages of memory loss, and we loved that.

How does an episode of Jann begin in your writers’ room? 
JH:  We essentially develop a story arcs document for the season, and that’s something that Jann, Leah, and I do together. Traditionally, that would be the three of us going to Jann’s house in Calgary for a few days and just talking about the shape of the season, because it’s serialized, and what the theme is before we figure out what some individual funny story would be within that. For example, in Season 2 it was about whether Jann could make things up to the people she pissed off and also Cynthia and Jann giving it a go and her relationship with Cale, with Cale being someone who has a lot of ideas that Jann is uncomfortable with.

The three of us developed a road map for the season and some story ideas that could go with that and had them fleshed out. So when we get together with the rest of our writers, we’re presenting our thoughts for the whole season, ‘What do you think?’ Then we ask them to respond and help us refine that and start talking individual stories. That’s not necessarily typical on other shows. Sometimes you just show up and there’s a blank page and you kind of have to figure out one by one what the episodes are going to be. But we kind of come in with some of that work done, so that we can really be running when we have the writers together.

Where do you come up with some of the crazier situations that Jann gets herself into? 
JH: We pull from Jann’s personal stories for sure, anytime we’re chatting about something that kind of works. For some of the family storylines, we have more relatable stories [from our own lives] that apply. But there’s also a lot of what-ifs. You know, ‘What if Jann and Cynthia went to couple’s therapy and maybe this person isn’t even a therapist?’ There’s a lot of just pitching jokes and story ideas in the writers’ room. 

LG: Our writers’ room is a really comfortable space. Everyone feels really comfortable to pitch any idea, even if it’s crazy. Sometimes people will start with, ‘OK, this is a bad pitch, but what if Jann is hanging from her crotch on a barbed wire fence?’

And Jann is game for doing whatever. She understands that the physical comedy lands really well. She’s really helpful because no one is scared to say, ‘I was thinking we’d put you in boxer shorts and you drag garbage cans out the front’ because she’s not ever gonna shut it down. 

JH: She actually pitches it sometimes. She’s the one in the camping episode that really ran with the idea of having an emergency situation in the woods. She went all the way. She went, ‘What if I use a sock?’ That was in the script for a little while, and then we thought this is bizarre for even us. But I think the show works because she is fully committed to looking ridiculous. 

LG: And she’s such a good sport. In the last episode, when she’s on that inflatable pink couch, she was flipping around upside down and sideways on that thing, and she’d just had her gallbladder removed about 15 days before. That’s how committed she is to doing whatever it takes to make people laugh. She’s a true hero. 

Speaking of the inflatable pink couch, how much of the physical comedy is specifically scripted and how much of it is just finding funny situations that allow Jann Arden to be Jann Arden?
LG: For the pink inflatable chair thing, it was scripted that she was stuck in it and she couldn’t reach her pop and she knocks the pop over and says, ‘What a waste.’ But then she kept going, like flipping up and back. That was just her going for it. 

JH: We try to create the space, like you said, for her to run with it. And sometimes we realize later and add it. Like in Episode 3 with the fall out of the rickshaw, Charley pulls up outside the school and Jann is texting and she gets out and she falls, and it’s very funny. 

LG: That was her own stunt. We put a pillow underneath the black mulch, and then we [told her], ‘You’re good.’ 

JH: Yeah, ‘Just fall like you mean it!’

LG: And she did. 

I love Jann’s relationship with Cynthia. I’m a woman of a certain age, gay, and in a relationship, and it’s rare to see characters and humour representing my demographic.
JH: When we were recently talking about Season 3, Leah said how important it is that we feel we are writing a woman in her 50s and living her best life. I mean, obviously, Jann is not actually living her best life yet, but there’s sort of an aspirational quality to it. You know, we want to see women in relationships, we want to see women in sexuality. That’s really important to us and we feel it’s really underrepresented. I think people who haven’t watched the show maybe don’t know how progressive it is.

LG: We’re writing Season 3 now, and in one of our Zoom writing rooms, I said to everyone, ‘As we’re wrapping up our first drafts, can we look back at them with an eye for the moments where Jann can be very proud of herself. ‘ She’s a woman in her 50s that is not done. She’s not over, we haven’t forgotten about her, she’s still excited about stuff, she still gets to do really cool shit, the game’s not over. I want people to watch this and go, ‘I can still do lots of stuff. I have so many days ahead of me that I can do some great things.’ 

And Jann is so helpful in those rooms, too, because she’ll just tell us a story from her real life and we’ll just be like, ‘Got it. Hot flash, girlfriend, laying on the bathroom floor. Cool, it’s in the show!’ 

You’ve had great guest stars this season, including Sarah McLachlan, and in the next episode, k.d. lang. How was it to work with them?
JH: Intimidating. I was very excited, but there were definitely moments where I couldn’t believe this was happening.

LG: Jennica was freaking out. 

JH: I was, in my calm way, freaking out. No, it was very cool, and they were so different. Sarah was really like, ‘Let me do the silly stuff, I’m totally excited about this,’ and k.d. was more reserved, but I thought it was hysterical how she, just with her facial expressions, absolutely nailed the ‘I can’t, this woman is ridiculous,’ vibe. 

LG: She’s very cool and calm, that k.d. lang. She drove herself there and dressed herself, nailed it, and then drove home. 

What can you preview about the second half of the season?
JH: A big thing that’s ramping up is Jann and Cale’s adversarial business relationship. It’s going to really come to a head.

LH: I’m excited about [an episode where] the sisters go on a road trip. I really like the sister dynamic, so putting them in a car together and sending them off was really fun. That’s Episode 207, and I’m really looking forward to that. 

Can you tell me anything about Season 3?
JH: We plan to shoot after the new year, so a little later than normal. We’d normally be shooting now. We’ve already scripted the whole season, we’ve got drafts of the whole thing. We’re revising and punching them up a bit, but we have a story to tell, so we’re pretty excited. 

Jann airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Jann Arden’s clueless alter ego is back in town for Jann’s second season

Unlike her TV alter ego, Jann Arden is aware of her own good fortune. 

The iconic singer-songwriter and star of CTV’s hit comedy series Jann—returning for its second season on Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT—has been able to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic from the socially-distanced comfort of her rural Alberta home.

“I’ve got nothing to complain about,” she says during a phone chat from her house. “My nearest neighbour is a half-mile away. I usually work out here anyway, and I’ve done a lot of recording here. I have a big piece of land, a huge garden, and I’m here with a dog. I want for nothing.”

That isn’t to say the coronavirus hasn’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, she’s taking it all in stride. 

“It was disappointing, but [COVID-19 has affected] all of my colleagues, everyone on the planet, every person that I know,” she explains. “Good things come out of bad things. I think it has actually taken the façade off of a way that we’ve been living that’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.” 

As philosophical as Arden is about 2020’s setbacks, it’s safe to say her hilariously narcissistic TV namesake wouldn’t handle things so well.

“Oh, she would have been terrible!” Arden laughs. “Everybody in Jann’s family would have been made miserable, she’d be like, ‘You have no idea what I’m going through!’”

Of course, TV Jann—Arden’s less-successful, much more self-involved doppelganger—doesn’t need a worldwide pandemic to make people miserable. Her lack of self-awareness and desperate attempts to revive her career kept her family cringing—and viewers laughing—throughout Jann’s critically-acclaimed first season. 

Jann’s self-serving antics crescendoed in the finale when she left her mom Nora (Deborah Grover), who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’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. 

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 McLachlan’s disaster-prone tour—think food poisoning and exploding musical instruments—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.

“Things really pick up where they left off,” Arden says. “You kind of got to know everyone in the first season, and I love the new situations that the writers have put them in.”

She’s also pleased with Season 2’s stacked guest-star lineup, which includes k.d. lang, Elisha Cuthbert, Keshia Chanté, and in the first episode, McLachlan—who gamely skewers her nice-girl image to settle a score with Jann.

“She’s fantastic, and she’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, Arden’s natural comedic timing and willingness to take the piss out of herself help keep Jann likeable even when she’s at her worst. Meanwhile, Grover’s whimsical and tender handling of Nora’s Alzheimer’s journey continues to provide emotional depth. 

Arden’s real-life mother passed away from Alzheimer’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. 

“You know what? It was a delight,” she says. “I 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 wasn’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 it’s been really important,” she says.

During Season 3—which has already been ordered and set to go before cameras in January—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.

“We’re not addressing it, we’re not mentioning it,” she says. “In TV Jann’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.

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Coroner: Serinda Swan on Jenny’s Season 2 journey and the joys of creative freedom

As the second season of Coroner begins, it’s clear that Dr. Jenny Cooper—the hit CBC crime drama’s competent but anxiety-prone heroine—still has a lot of personal demons to confront. She’s overmedicating and she’s developed a disturbing sleepwalking habit.

However, according to series lead Serinda Swan, Jenny doesn’t want to deal with any of this. 

“She just suppresses and suppresses and suppresses,” Swan tells us during a phone interview from her Los Angeles home. “She is taking six Ativan a day. She’s really numbing herself.”

It’s easy to understand why Jenny isn’t eager to dwell on her emotions. After all, Season 1 began with her husband’s death and ended with the revelation that she accidentally killed her sister when they were both children, a fact that her father Gordon (Nicholas Campbell) hid from her. That sort of trauma can be messy and time-consuming to unpack, but—unlike her character—Swan has no interest in glossing over the process.  

“One of the things I find can happen in television is that we establish a big tragedy in someone’s life and deal with it in the first season, and by the second season, we are kind of like, ‘Well, we solved that!’” says Swan. “You sort of lose that fundamental, true human trauma that we all have in various different ways. And mental illness was something that, if we were going to do, for me, you really have to do it justice.”

Swan’s commitment to her character’s mental health struggles led to a key moment in last week’s Season 2 premiere, where Jenny threw her bottle of anti-anxiety pills across a vegetable garden and then started to have a panic attack.

“Those are the types of scenes where I’m like ‘Hey, guys, I need about 15 seconds here to be able to show the panic,’” Swan says. “Because in that scene, she didn’t have any of that panic. It’s just written that she throws it and says, ‘Damnit,’ and goes after it.”

Swan’s license to change scenes on the fly are a tribute to the deep trust showrunner Morwyn Brebner and executive producer/lead director Adrienne Mitchell place in their headliner’s creative instincts and acting methods.

“This is the first project where I’ve really worked on asserting myself and said, ‘You guys, this is how I really, truly feel about this character,’ and have been given the space to be able to say it,” Swan says. “Adrienne and Morwyn have been so supportive of me this season—they were, of course, last season—but this season, Adrienne came to me and said, ‘I trust your instincts and you need to do what it is that you feel is right for Jenny.’ It was this beautiful sort of symbiosis.”

To get us ready for Monday’s new episode, “Borders,” we asked Swan to tell us more about her creative approach to Season 2 and preview how Jenny’s relationships with Gordon, who is suffering from dementia, her son Ross (Ehren Kassam), and her boyfriend Liam (Éric Bruneau) might evolve in upcoming episodes. 

When we last spoke, you told us that you helped develop some of Jenny’s physical quirks, such as the crooked way she cut her bangs, in the first season. What were some of the details you wanted to emphasize in Season 2?
Serinda Swan: We started again with the physicality. Her hair has grown out, and I let it go a little bit lighter. It’s a little bit more feminine, it’s a little bit more relaxed because that where she feels like she is. It’s sort of the outward expression of ‘I’m doing great!’ Then quickly, within the very first scene [of Season 2], you see her lighting a candle for Ross and the match burns down and burns her finger, but she doesn’t react, and you start to realize that she’s numbed herself in a way and that she doesn’t have normal reactions to things. So for me, it was sort of, ‘Oh, look at Jenny, she’s so fancy! We put her in a dress!’ And then it quickly becomes clear that it’s a coping mechanism. I wanted to show the polarity between the two. 

There was one other thing that we were playing with that was really interesting for Jenny physically, which was that she is afraid of her anger and is afraid of her physical anger. At the opening of the season, we see her tackle Kelly [Nicola Correia-Damudeand]. Originally, that wasn’t written in the script, and I said, ‘We need something physical in here to trigger Jenny’s sleepwalking, because that is the next iteration of the dog [from Season 1], right? How do we trigger it?’ The last time Jenny got so mad that she touched someone, she killed them, and that was her sister. At this point, she’s so mad, that [she decides] not another person is going to die in front of her. Nobody else is going to help this woman, and she just runs and tackles her, and this odd reaction comes out, her screaming ‘No!’ at this woman.

Kelly becomes a very big part of her life this season. So this is a journey for the two of them, which is really interesting to see. 

What else can you hint about Jenny’s journey this season?
SS: I think that moment where I throw my Ativan is a great analogy for the season. Obviously, she just talked to Dr. Sharma [Saad Siddiqui], and he’s like, ‘You need to feel, Jenny,’ and I’m like, ‘Why? I understand what happened, I understand the feeling is going to be sadness and all of those things. But I know what that is, I’m getting on with my life, I don’t need to go into it.’ She’s kind of reverting into something that she did before, which was control, control, control. 

It’s this constant suppression and avoidance and eruption this season. All of a sudden she has to face her demons. She has to face what happened in the past, and she has to have some really human conversations. She has to have them with herself, she has to have them with her son, with her boyfriend, and this season, a lot of it is around the conversations she won’t have, and eventually has to have, with her father around his choice to protect her from the truth—that inevitably just ended up protecting himself—because it hurt her so badly. There is a resentment there, and think that’s a really interesting thing to see.

In the premiere, we found out that Ross didn’t graduate from high school. How is that going to go over with Jenny?
SS: At first, she acts like a parent with him, and says, ‘You are in so much trouble and you’re going to get a job,’ and the typical parent reaction, but then, there’s this just utter betrayal that he didn’t tell her the truth, so it’s something for her that hits her at a really deep level. 

But it’s also sort of an interesting dynamic as Gordon deteriorates more and more, the relationship between Ross and Jenny gets more and more strained because he doesn’t understand Jenny’s anger toward her father. It’s a really interesting thing for Ross and Jenny to deal with. They’re going through a growing spurt, you could say. 

And we found out that Liam, who continues to struggle with PTSD, is now living with Jenny. Will they be able to support each other emotionally, or will there be conflict?
SS: Again, we try to ground everything in reality as much as possible. When you have these traumas, you either share them all, and that’s how you bond or you don’t share them at all, and that’s how you bond. And it seems like, at the beginning this season, they are doing the latter. They’re both ignoring the fact that they have work to do, and doing work outwardly, instead of inwardly. So Liam takes on the house as a project and keeps renovating for her and doing acts of service for her and kindness and all that, and Jenny’s out solving crimes and they’re both doing the thing that they think they need to be doing but really not talking about it. And as you see for Jenny, that the truth starts to bubble up, the same starts happening for Liam, he starts getting faced with his demons, and that becomes a point of contention within the relationship, of “Are you going to talk to me?”

And so it’s a struggle between two people who may have gotten into a relationship a little too soon but ultimately love each other so much. The love that’s in this relationship is really beautiful and really true for both of them. It’s just the timing that’s really interesting. They both kind of come into each other’s lives as lessons instead of as true, healthy partners, and so watching them kind of navigate that this season now that they’re in such close proximity is beautiful and lovely and funny and really heartbreaking. 

What are you most excited for viewers to see this season?
SS: For me, it’s having the audience continue Jenny’s journey. I’ve had so many messages from people who deal with mental illness letting me know that they felt seen within the show and within the character, and having that kind of responsibility and then sharing that with our creators and insisting on it in every scene and moment that I possibly could is what I’m excited to share this season.  And how adamant I was in holding that we all have cracks, we all have tears, we all have points of trauma in our life, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not capable, it doesn’t mean that we’re not strong, but it also doesn’t mean that we are able to deal with them all the time in the best possible way. 

I’m excited for people to see that, and I’m so grateful that people had that reaction the first season and shared it with me. Not only does it solidify why I’m an actor, but it also makes all the tough conversations that you have to have within the production on why you need a little more time to prepare to get ready for the panic attack or why you feel that Jenny needs to tackle someone rather than sit with someone a lot easier. It makes it easier to walk into a room and take up space for a second and say what I feel. And the beautiful thing about working with a room full of women is they go, ‘Oh, yes, of course, come sit at the table and let’s hear what you have to say.’ And that’s such a rewarding job to have. 

It’s like being forced to do paint-by-numbers your whole career and then suddenly someone gives you a blank canvass and says, ‘These are the colours you have, this is the character you have, but you’re allowed to paint the picture that you want.’

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Kristin Kreuk previews Burden of Truth’s “emotional” third season

Burden of Truth is billed as a legal show, but in reality, it’s an intricate family drama that uses a deeply flawed—and systemically unequal—legal system as its highly-effective backdrop. 

This character-driven approach has been a big hit with both critics and viewers. It’s also one of the reasons series star and executive producer Kristin Kreuk initially wanted to do the series.

“I wanted to do something serialized, and I wanted to be able to delve into the lives of the people affected by these cases as well as our regulars,” Kreuk tells us in a phone interview. “On our show, we just happen to have legal cases that trigger all of our characters, and as the seasons have gone on, I feel that all of our leads are related to each other, like they’re all family in a way, so we kind of get to be This Is Us, but also a legal show, which I really like.”

Over the course of two seasons, Kreuk’s character—corporate attorney-turned-socially woke lawyer Joanna Chang—has experienced some This Is Us-level personal drama. At the start of Season 1, she was an emotionally disconnected corporate attorney working at her ruthless father David Hanley’s (Alex Carter) big-city law firm. However, after she teamed with small-town lawyer Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney) to investigate an environmental case in her rural hometown of Millwood, Manitoba, she discovered she had a secret step-sister named Luna (Star Slade), who was the product of a sexual assault committed by Hanley. As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, in the second season, Hanley was murdered, and Luna was falsely accused of the crime by racist cop Sam Mercer (Paul Braunstein). In the taut Season 2 finale, Joanna proved Luna’s innocence and—in a huge display of personal growth—gave up a posh corporate law gig in Singapore to pursue her budding relationship with Billy in Winnipeg.

During the Season 3 premiere, which airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBC, we find a year has passed since Joanna missed her overseas flight, and she and Billy are in love, living together and running their new socially-conscious law firm, Crawford Chang. It all appears blissful at first glance, but as usual, there are new legal issues brewing that could shake things up.

“The beginning of Season 3 is this crazy time for Joanna,” Kreuk explains. “She’s started a business, and it’s probably not the smartest business choice to start a boutique law firm in Winnipeg and work primarily on cases that speak to a social conscience.” 

The fledgling law firm’s precarious position is immediately highlighted when Joanna and Billy lose a workplace negligence case, devastating their clients, forcing them to cut staff, and causing Joanna—who has never lost a case in her life—to be plagued by self-doubt.

“Joanna is being forced to reckon with the parts of herself where she perceives herself to be weakest,” Kreuk says. “She’s not as good at the things she’s chosen to do as the things that she’s done before, and she has a lot of people who are relying on her in a way that working in corporate law didn’t previously come into play. She’s the most vulnerable that we’ve ever seen her by far, and she’s starting to have a bit of anxiety rumble up.”

That anxiety is made worse when Kodie (Sera-Lys McArthur), an old high school friend, has her children taken away by Millwood Family Services, forcing Joanna to delve further into unfamiliar areas of law and, worse, face more family skeletons.

“There are some secrets in Joanna’s past that affect the way she perceives everything and that she’s kind of buried,” Kreuk hints. “Joanna’s mom was taken from her—not in the same way as Kodie’s kids are taken away—but her mom was taken away. And Joanna’s really mad because she thinks it’s her mother’s fault that her mother abandoned her, so there’s all this personal stuff with family for her: Who gets to have the kids? Who gets to keep them? Why did Joanna’s father get to keep her? What makes it possible for someone to raise their children and why? Who decides?”

Kodie’s struggle to regain custody of her children also continues the show’s exploration of the way the Canadian legal system treats indigenous individuals and communities.

“I have to be delicate here, but in Canada, in the foster care system, we have a lot of Indigenous children, and this storyline will represent that to some degree,” Kreuk explains.

In addition, she says that Owen Beckbie (Meegwun Fairbrother), who is now the Millwood police chief, will be increasingly pushed “to the edge” in Season 3, as he comes to terms with the light prison sentence his former boss Mercer received for causing the death of an Indigenous man. Meanwhile, Luna will be dealing with the aftermath of her false imprisonment, “trying to find her place in the world after seeing the reality of what her situation [as an Indigenous woman] in the country is.”

Luna’s journey of self-discovery—which includes working at Crawford Chang—will also cause some disagreements with her sister.

“Joanna is very strong-willed and can put a lot of pressure on people, like her father before her,” she says. “Despite her growing humanity, she still feels that the job is the job is the job. You do what it takes to make sure your client wins, and that is the most important thing. How you feel about it is irrelevant. And Luna isn’t that person—which is good in who she is—but that will result in conflict.”

The events of Season 3 will also be hard on Billy, who is unaware of the family secret that is driving Joanna to take on Kodie’s “unwinnable” case.

“She’s obviously choosing this for emotional reasons, but she won’t tell him what it is,” Kreuk says. “And indeed the audience won’t know the real reason until probably the end of the season.” 

The situation will lead to “the most intense period of difficulty” Joanna and Billy have ever experienced, she says, but despite this, their arc “is really gorgeous and culminates in a very moving way. This is the most emotional case that we’ve done.”

Burden of Truth airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

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