Kristin Kreuk has swapped Superman and a Beast of a man to battle big pharmaceutical. The Vancouver native headlines and executive-produces Burden of Truth, CBC’s new legal drama, debuting Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Created by Brad Simpson (Rookie Blue), Burden of Truth is a 10-part serialized drama about a big-time lawyer named Joanna Hanley (Kreuk) who returns to her small town as the representative of a pharmaceutical company whose drugs are thought to be making young women sick. Once in Millwood, however, Joanna finds herself—after crushing the case made by the girls and led by her former high school classmate Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney)—questioning whether she’s on the right side of the lawsuit and discovering some bad feelings were left behind when she exited Millwood at 14 years old. Burden of Truth‘s first episode has the feeling of a John Grisham novel—slick lawyer slam-dunks on the locals—and that’s a good thing for viewers.
“He was definitely on the inspiration list,” Kreuk says during CBC’s press day for its winter lineup. “It was, tonally, what we were looking for.”
Often, first episodes can feel cluttered. Introducing a raft of characters, as well as major and minor storylines, in 22 or 44 minutes can be a confused mess. That doesn’t happen in Wednesday’s debut, a credit to executive producer Ilana Frank (Saving Hope, Rookie Blue), who admits Truth‘s storytelling style—one case contained in one season—was a challenge.
“I’ve never done a serialized show before,” Frank says. “All of my shows have been episodic. So the idea that you have time was new to me. There were certain things that we knew we had to hit in the first episode and that was it. We made a short list. We knew we needed a reason for her to go to Millwood, we had to have a reason for her to stay in Millwood. There were certain things that were a must and if they didn’t work there it was going to work somewhere else.”
One of the musts was to pit Joanna against Billy. After eviscerating him in court she reflects on what she’s done and has second thoughts on who she’s fighting for. A lot of that reflection is because of her past with Billy, who is beloved by Millwood’s citizens.
“It’s such an interesting dynamic to take two people who knew each other more than half their lives and through circumstance have them come smashing back together,” Mooney says. “Their freshest memory of each other is them as teenagers. They’re trying to reconcile who they are now, how they’ve changed, who they were then and what their relationship was then.” They start out on opposite sides of the legal case, Mooney explains, and the relationship develops through Season 1 with Joanna and Billy realizing what makes them different as lawyers is a benefit in the courtroom.
Every small town, on TV at least, has a secret and Millwood is no different. Kreuk teases the reason Joanna and her father—played by Alex Carter—left the area when she was a teen will be revealed; that has a huge impact on Joanna and who she is. It also runs parallel to the court case.
“There may be a moment when her and her father are at odds,” she says with a laugh. “She followed her father, she became her father, she did everything centred around him. Everything she learns in town is really new and shocking and jarring for her.”
Burden of Truth airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.