Kristin Kreuk has, literally, grown up on television. The Vancouver native, who landed roles on both the Canadian teen drama Edgemont and The WB/The CW superhero series Smallville in 2001, has seen steady work since.
Her current role? Playing Joanna Hanley on CBC’s Burden of Truth, where she also serves as an executive producer. With Season 3 of the CBC legal drama in production for a winter return, we sat down with Kreuk during the Banff World Media Festival, where she received the Canadian Award of Distinction.
How do you view it when it comes to women being represented either in front of the screen or behind the scenes? Obviously, there’s an issue. Do you feel as though it’s getting better?
Kristin Kreuk: Absolutely. Are we there yet? No. We’re not. I’ve said this many times, but prior to, I think I’ve worked with two female directors on my seven and a bit years on Smallville. Maybe one more than that. So going from that to, I worked with a few more on Beauty and the Beast, and with Burden, we don’t get a lot of directors but for our first two seasons it was like 50:50. Now it’s not, but a part of the reason why it’s not is that so many women are hired across the board until mid-2020. So that’s great. It just means that there are spaces now for the young ones to come up and fill that void. And they need to be supported to do that. And given the chances.
But yeah, I think that it is changing. And in Canada, I feel like we may be a little further ahead and I don’t know for 100 per cent because I haven’t worked in the States for a while, but from what I hear anecdotally you can still end up in a writers’ room in the U.S. and it isn’t even close to par. It’s very much weighted towards male voices. So I know that they’re working on it too.
It feels as though, to me, this has been a natural evolution for you, to move towards being an executive producer. Has it been a conscious decision?
KK: It was a conscious decision for me. I was just joking with these guys. I have been saying for years that I’m done with acting. I want to produce. And I’m moving in that direction. And so it was a decision I made because A, some of this is very practical. I have no other skill sets. I’ve been doing this since I was 17 years old. I understand, I’m going into my 19th season as lead on a television series, which is so insane to me. So I have all this experience with storytelling and I’ve seen how you start a story and I can kind of imagine where it’s going to go and how it might fail or what might happen to it. So all of that lends itself to moving into a more creative producing role.
It’s still hard for me to make the transition. I think that it will be a process over time to the point where I can take on a show more on my own and not have other producers that I need. I will always have people, I think because I’m not a money person and just it’s not my skill set yet. Maybe it will be one day. As of now, I don’t feel like I have the entire skillset required to do the job, but I think that I’m getting closer and closer.
Directing? Does that interest you at all?
KK: You know what, it doesn’t. And I wish it freaking did. I wish that’s what I wanted to do. I think I’m a visual person. I think I’m just uncomfortable handling a set. I think that it’s a very specific environment that I just don’t… And it’s not even out of fear. I just don’t want to do that. I don’t think. I mean, never say never, I suppose. But I have friends who are like, ‘Yeah, I want to direct,’ and they’re former actors who are moving into other fields. Women especially want to move out of acting because as you get older, sadly, you sort of age out a little. Which we can also change when we’re in positions of power. But yeah, I wish, I wish, wish. Directing, I wish, directing.
It was interesting watching those Season 1 and Season 2 clips again this morning because, specifically the Season 2 clips that I made note of, where the camera was in tight. I feel like that’s different from season one.
KK: It’s new. We made a conscious decision to change the look of the show between Season 1 and Season 2. And then Thom Best, who was our Season 2 director of photography, and director Grant Harvey got together and kind of pitched a whole look. And they were like, ‘We want to get more intimate close-ups of the characters,’ which we had certainly not done and I’m always like, ‘Blah, I don’t want to be that close.’ But it really was effective. Really effective.
Not only that, they shift compositionally. So they changed the compositional palette of the show and the colour palette, too. The whole thing is a little more cinematic versus season one, which was also beautiful, but much more like small-town and warm and glowy and I think that the shift was really great for the story that we were telling for season two.
You mentioned Edgemont so I have to ask you about that. It’s on Encore+. Have you gone and looked at any old episodes?
KK: God, no. I can’t do it.
Isn’t that incredible that this show that you made is now available on YouTube for people to stream any time they want?
KK: It is so bizarre to me that Edgemont was and continues to be popular. It was so popular. Not just in Canada. In France, it was massively popular. I would get recognized for Edgemont in France. So funny. And I was on Smallville simultaneously. I did both those jobs at the same time. And I think that it’s great. It’s such a fun small little show and we did five seasons of that show. And it was great. I loved it. I mean, I hated it at first because I had no idea what I was doing and I felt so uncomfortable, but I grew to love it.
What would you have told your younger self?
KK: I would’ve told myself to take classes. I would’ve told myself to make an effort to develop a deep relationship with acting because I didn’t have one and I didn’t understand it. I had only done theatre. So when I started acting, I didn’t know how to be smaller. And then when I did smaller, I lost all of my feelings. And so it was this weird thing and instead of just going like, ‘I’m uncomfortable and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just going to go and work really, really, really hard.’ I got scared. And I was like, ‘I’m not doing this any more.’ And it turned out that I just kept doing it and I never really gave myself the time to develop a craft. And I did it all on set. Which is fine, I guess, in the end, but it put me through a lot of discomfort of being like, ‘God, I suck, I suck, I suck, I suck, I suck.’
There are just so many things I would’ve told myself. Also, ‘Don’t stress so much,’ is great too. I think the big lesson, too, is getting over the hump of caring too deeply about what people think of you in a negative sense, because when we started on Smallville, there were no social media. Thank God. But there were forums on the Internet and, I forget, there’s actually a technical term for it, but when you’re drawn to reading the worst things you can about yourself.
It was just something that I was compelled to do. It was almost like I was trying to numb myself to this thing. But why did I care what these people thought? If they thought my eyes were too far apart or they thought that I looked too young or they thought whatever. Or that I was this or that. I’m like, ‘Why was I obsessed over this?’
Season 3 of Burden of Truth returns in winter 2020 to CBC.
Feature image courtesy of Kristian Bogner. Other images courtesy of CBC.