Forget about catching a murderer. The real killers during the filming of Season 2 of Cardinal were the insects. As the title suggests, Cardinal: Blackfly Season—returning Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV—was filmed during the spring in North Bay, Ont., and boasted a horrific number of flying things that chomped on stars Billy Campbell, Karine Vanasse, and the rest of the cast and crew.
“Mosquitoes were first,” Campbell said during a break in filming last summer. “Then we had the blackflies, then the shadflies, horse flies, deer flies … a hands-worth of horrifying things. The thing about blackflies is that they have an anaesthetic they put into you first, so you don’t feel them biting and you only find out later when you get home and take off your shirt and it starts itching. And it itches for days.”
With Sarah Dodd (Motive) showrunning Blackfly Season, the Cardinal franchise once again embraces Giles Blunt’s book series to tell its twisted tale. Where Season 1 set the table for viewers by introducing Det. John Cardinal (Campbell) and Det. Lise Delorme (Vanasse) and the world they inhabit, Season 2 offers plenty for viewers to feast on. The Nordic noir theme returns with the star addition to the cast once again Northern Ontario, ruggedly beautiful and buggy as all hell. It’s against that backdrop we’re introduced to Red (Alex Paxton-Beesley) a young woman who stumbles out of the forest bug-bitten and suffering from amnesia on Thursday. Who she is and what crime she witnessed is the focus of Season 2’s six episodes.
Along for the drama are returning characters in Det. Jerry Commanda (Glen Gould), Catherine Cardinal (Deborah Hay), Staff Sergeant Noelle Dyson (Kristen Thomson), Cpl. Malcolm Musgrave (David Richmond Peck) and Kelly Cardinal (Alanna Bale). New faces in the fictional Algonquin Bay include Ray Northwind (Bruce Ramsay), Kevin Tait (Jonathan Keltz), Det. Alan Clegg (Kevin Hanchard), Scott Lasalle (Kris Holden-Ried) and Leon Rutkowsky (Dan Petronijevic).
We spoke to Campbell and Vanasse, who gave us some Season 2 scoop.
Aubrey Nealon was the showrunner in Season 1 of Cardinal. This season it’s Sarah Dodd. What’s it been like working with her?
Billy Campbell: I’d never had the pleasure of working with Sarah before and I have now. It was as smooth a transition as you can imagine. It was different people involved but the same quality of everything. Aubrey, as you know, did the whole first season himself and it nearly broke him. [Laughs.] Sarah had a few people with her and I think it was a much easier thing all the way around for that reason.
The book this season is based on is called Blackfly season and you filmed during blackfly season. What were the bugs like?
BC: Horrifying. Horrifying. Mosquitoes were first, then we had the blackflies, then the shadflies, horse flies, deer flies … a hands-worth of horrifying things. The thing about blackflies is that they have an anaesthetic they put into you first, so you don’t feel them biting and you only find out later when you get home and take off your shirt and it starts itching. And it itches for days. I slathered myself with mosquito repellant, the DEET-free stuff, and it worked like a charm until I got home and realized they’d gotten under my shirt and had burrowed into my hair and eaten into my scalp. I saw a horse fly down by the river during one day of shooting out of the corner of my eye and I thought it was a hummingbird. I looked and it was a fricking horse fly.
Karine Vanasse: The bugs are really present. I was just really glad I wasn’t bitten around my eyes. There was one scene where they had to film me from one side of my face because the other side was all swollen. The seasons are so well-explored in the books—the beauty of the area and the atmosphere is very heavy—it’s perfect for the heaviness of the story; the weight that Cardinal is carrying compared and contrasting with how lush the landscape is.
Where are we at when we catch up with John Cardinal?
BC: To me, the spine of the show is what’s happening with Cardinal and Delorme. And then, of course, there are the things to support that. The crime itself is almost incidental. It’s almost symbolic of the tortured inner life in a way. Where Cardinal is when we start the second season is, what I’ve figured out, is he really wants to quit. The first time we see him this season he’s lounging in the back of a motorboat on a lake with Catherine and he takes her to see a little cabin on the lake and says, ‘I can fix it up and I can quit.’ She says, ‘Pfft, you’re never going to quit.’ He really wants to be done and, at the same time, he’s afraid of being done because he has a wife who is sick and isn’t sure what he would do if he wasn’t doing this. As far as he and Delorme are concerned, they already feel a certain way about each other.
As far as he and Delorme are concerned, they already feel a certain way about each other. For me, it’s there, it’s just that he can’t even admit it to himself. There is an intimacy between them and I’m convinced a respect for each other as detectives. There is that running under the surface and the things that happen in the second season … Sarah and the gang did a wonderful job of interweaving what will happen in the third season into Season 2.
In Season 1, Lise had a boyfriend in Josh, who was not a character in the books. What about in Season 2? No Josh, right?
KV: Oh no. We see that she’s not really sad about that. What we get from the books is that Lisa really doesn’t have much of a social life. And, by having a boyfriend and then having him leave is just a confirmation that she doesn’t have much of a social life.
What’s her journey in Season 2?
KV: She shared a secret with Cardinal in Season 1 and he didn’t want to talk about it. So, where do you go from there? She still has that feeling he’s keeping something from her and she’s confused about how she’s feeling at her job and working with him. This season we see what it means for Lise to be affected by a case when it hits home. Not because you’re closely related to that person but because you care. That’s new to her.
Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.