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Preview: Coroner returns with fresh bodies, renewed energy for Season 4

Coroner may be a crime/medical procedural, but its primary focus has always been on Jenny Cooper’s (Serinda Swan) personal mental health journey as she struggles with grief, childhood trauma and anxiety. That journey takes a turn—and the series gets an infusion of energy—in Season 4, kicking off Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBC. 

In “Emerge,” written by new showrunner Adriana Maggs (Pretty Hard Cases), Jenny is still reeling from the shocking loss of Liam (Eric Bruneau) in the Season 3 finale. On a sabbatical from work, she’s holed up in an Airbnb trailer on a rural farm, growing a garden and trying to take a break from all things death-related. She keeps in close contact with Ross (Ehrem Kassam), who is at home caring for Gordon (Nicholas Campbell) with the help of her recently resurfaced mom Peggy (Jennifer Dale), but is clearly in no hurry to return to the chaos of her life. 

Back in Toronto, Detective McAvoy (Roger Cross) is facing the opposite situation. After taking four months off to recover from his spinal surgery, he’s back at work and eager to prove he’s up to the job, especially to his partner Malik (Andy McQueen) and girlfriend Kirima (Sarah Podemski). Meanwhile, at the coroner’s office, rulebook-thumping replacement coroner Dr. Elijah Thompson (Thom Allison) is making life difficult for Jenny’s staff, who can’t wait for her to come back.

Just as we can count on Jenny having a new hairstyle each season (spoiler: it’s longer now), we know that a new case—probably one in the quiet community she’s seeking refuge in—will soon have her conducting post-mortems again. However, things are not quite business as usual once Jenny gets her groove back; altered relationship dynamics and fresh faces bring new vitality and direction to the series. 

Liam’s death upends Jenny’s healing process in unexpected ways, letting the writers and Swan dig into the confusing layers of compounded grief and survivor’s guilt, subjects TV procedurals rarely make time for. In addition, both Dale and Allison turn in great performances as they shake up Jenny’s world at home and at work; and McAvoy’s reaction to his health scare provides some early twists, adding new shades to his partnership with Malik and giving Cross more opportunities to shine. Overall, the series feels refreshed and like it has a lot more to say, which is quite an accomplishment for a fourth-year drama about death.

Coroner airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.

Image courtesy of CBC.


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.

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Coroner: Ehren Kassam on his beard, the butterfly stroke and working with Serinda Swan

A beard almost stood in the way of Ehren Kassam landing the role of Jenny Cooper’s (Serinda Swan) son Ross on CBC’s crime drama Coroner. You see, Kassam is 21, and Ross was originally supposed to be 16.

“They were just a little skeptical about choosing me because I was a little bit older than the character they were going for,” says Kassam. “And they did want to cast it authentic.”

But, despite his status as a legal adult, he was called in for a  chemistry test with Swan and the results upended any reservations the show’s producers may have had.

“Serinda and I really clicked instantly, and Adrienne [Mitchell] the director, was there, too. We all sat and talked for like 15 minutes, and it was really just this natural, electric feeling, and we were all sort of like, ‘Shit, this is really going to be cool.'”

In the end, Ross’ age was inched up to 17 to accommodate Kassam’s scruff, and the former Degrassi: Next Class star was handed the part, which, he says, led to the “best filming experience of my life.”

Ahead of this Monday’s new Thanksgiving-themed episode, “All’s Well,” we gave Kassam a call to learn more about what makes Ross tick and what will be coming up for him in the second half of the season.

You said you had an ‘electric’ chemistry test with Serinda Swan. What was it like working with her throughout Season 1?
Ehren Kassam: I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better partner because she was the most focused actor I’ve ever worked with for sure. She knew exactly what was going on in every character’s head in every scene, and it was so cool and so inspiring to see that because she does take it as seriously as possible, and I really, really respected that. And we just really clicked. I don’t know how else to describe it. We really got along well. We were always joking around and had this really nice chemistry and really nice balance, and we could always sit and have an actual conversation and talk about the scene before doing them.

We would always sit down with [showrunner] Morwyn [Brebner] and Adrienne and sort of discuss wherever we wanted the scene to go, and it was kind of a new experience for me as well because, as a younger actor, you’re sort of used to just being kind of told what to do, and you’re not really given the liberty to experiment as much as you might want and as much as you might think, at least for Canadian network TV, where most of my experience has been. You kind of just get told, ‘This is your character, you’re the heartthrob teenager and play that as much as you can.’ So this was kind of cool because we really got to sit down and experiment with things and try out different things. And I never felt rushed, and I can safely say that it was the best filming experience of my life.

I was going to ask how being on Coroner compared with some of the other shows you’ve been on, such as Degrassi.
EK: Degrassi, don’t get me wrong, was fantastic and I met a lot of people who I’ll call best friends for a long time. It could have been that my character on Degrassi, I really was just the boyfriend to three different storylines for four years. So it was a great experience and a lot of fun, but I didn’t get that experimentation, getting to sort of try out things at my liberty, maybe because the scenes were never really about me then. So it’s interesting when you then switch to a show that has scenes that are focused on you and relying on you, that you are given the liberty to experiment at your will.

But there are pros and cons to both. I was definitely more stressed being on Coroner than I was on Degrassi. Because when I walked on the set of Degrassi, I always knew what I was doing for sure, and it was almost down to a science. Where on Coroner, I would walk in and I would have no idea where the scene would go. So it was definitely an interesting experience.

I understand that you had to learn to swim the butterfly stroke to play Ross.
EK: Yeah, within the first couple of months of casting, there was a little back and forth about, ‘Can you swim?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I can’t do a competitive level stroke, but I can swim.’ So I ended up booking it, and they said they wanted me to learn how to do the butterfly stroke, and I said I could hopefully learn that, which was me confidently, casually saying that I could learn something that I knew nothing about. Because looking back, I definitely had no business doing that stroke. But I did learn it, and I actually went to the woman who taught me how to swim when I was a little kid. I went back to my hometown a couple times a week and had an hour-long lesson, and then I learned I had to get a full-body wax.

Oh, my. How did that go?
EK: I laid there for three hours, and it was not fun. I thought it might have been blown out of proportion, it can’t be that bad to undergo it. For maybe the first 45 minutes, I thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad.’ And then the next hour and a half, I remember being actually angry just wanting it to be over so bad. And then I thought she was done, and she said, ‘Now we have to do your other side.’ I was so upset. But I shouldn’t have to do it again, because I’m pretty sure Ross has quit the swim team forever.

Yes, Ross has been really struggling with his dad’s death, particularly after finding out that he gambled the family’s money away. Are things going to improve for him as the season progresses?
EK: One of my favourite things about the character was the opportunity to portray a real mental illness at that age. He had to go through so much and then he decides he’s going to quit school and you see that scene with Matteo in Episode 3, where Matteo is like, ‘When are you going to come back? I can’t bring your homework forever.’ And that’s a very clear indication that kids that age aren’t used to actually dealing with mental illness and knowing how to deal with somebody who is going through that. Because Matteo is like, ‘What do you mean? Why don’t you wanna come back?’ And Ross can’t even explain why he doesn’t want to come back. How do you put that into words? So that’s definitely a big scene that ends up playing out, and the way he then finds out how to deal with that—like meeting Liam in Episode 4 and deciding to work on the bridge with him—that’s a nice way that he ends up being able to cope with it. But that’s not the end of the unfortunate things that do happen to him, so he definitely also finds ways to deal with it that may be less orthodox.

When you say mental illness, do you mean Ross is suffering from depression, or is there something more going on with him?
EK: It’s primarily depression and a lot of anxiety that he goes through. The depression stems from the actual things that are happening to him, and then he develops this fear and overall anxiety about going to school and leaving the house. At the end of Episode 2 when he’s crying about how he can’t go back, that’s a real feeling of a simple task, which is going to school, and just not being able to do it.

It seems that hanging out with Liam is helping him a lot. What is it about Liam that he’s drawn to?
EK: It’s actually funny because in the read-through, the first scene where he goes to meet Liam in the woods, I think it was originally written as Liam was outside his house doing chin-ups shirtless and Ross walked in on him. And, the way the scene was written, a bunch of us really got the vibe that they were going to have a love triangle between Ross, his mom and Liam, and that wasn’t what happened at all. Éric Bruneau actually suggested that maybe he isn’t shirtlessly doing chin-ups because it just kind of gave a weird intimation to the scene that probably didn’t need to be there.

But I think in Liam, he finds that he doesn’t have to just go through the motions, he doesn’t have to go to school, he doesn’t have to swim if that’s not going to be working for him anymore and if that’s affecting his mental health. And he finds this really nice way to do this co-op with Liam and I think it helps him heal a lot. And I hesitate to say that it may have even given him an older male role model in his life that he might have been specifically craving at that moment because of his dad.

We only got to see Ross’ dad, David, in one scene before he died, but from just that one scene, it appeared that he was very hard on Ross. Is that the backstory in your head?
EK: A lot of the sadness that comes from Ross is the fact that he and his dad didn’t have a great relationship, is the read that I got. He wasn’t a mean and awful father, but he was definitely a stern, very focused, very strict father. And that opens up to a lot of feelings that he might want to talk about, like, ‘Hey, why are you being so hard on me?’ And then his dad just dies. And that’s interesting to me because when someone dies and you’re mad at them, or when somebody dies and maybe you’re not on the best terms with them. it’s a really hard thing to deal with because, as sad as you that they’re gone, obviously, those feelings that you had aren’t not real or not valid because the other person is gone. You’re still allowed to be angry at the person for the way that they treated you.

He had very real feelings of embarrassment and fear toward his father because his dad put so much pressure on him to be the best swim team member, and his dad was a surgeon and he really wanted Ross to follow in his footsteps, so there’s a lot of that and a lot of unspoken feelings that Ross is definitely feeling about his father. And it’s sad because he won’t ever get the closure that he wants. He can’t talk to his dad, he can’t have that conversation.

Ross and Matteo are very sweet. Will we be seeing more of them?
EK: Not as much as I wanted you to see. You do see him in a few really important moments to Ross, but you don’t get to see as much of the Ross and Matteo and Jenny hanging out and eating pizza kind of stuff. That scene was super cute and I really wanted to see more of that. But we do get a lot more plot development with Matteo and Ross, in terms of things happening to Ross, and Matteo is there helping him understand and cope with it.

Do you have a favourite episode or moment from Season 1?
EK: Honestly, the end of Episode 2 was probably the scene I was looking forward to the most, and then there’s another one in Episode 5 when we have Thanksgiving. Overall, I’m excited for people to see the relationship between Ross and Jenny grow and a lot more scenes with Nicholas Campbell, because he is a great grandfather and he is loads of fun to work with. He comes back in Episode 5, so you do get a lot more of him. I find that our scenes are so electric, and we have so much fun on camera together.

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

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Coroner: Serinda Swan on destigmatizing Jenny’s anxiety and what’s coming in the second half of the season

There is a moment in the next episode of Coroner where Jenny Cooper, played by Serinda Swan, suffers a panic attack while working a crime scene. She ducks into an alleyway and tries to talk herself down, all the while struggling to breathe. From first constricted intake of breath to last grounding exhale, the scene takes up nearly two minutes of air time—time that many other crime procedurals would dedicate to dead bodies and case solving.

But Coroner is not like other shows, and that is partly due to series lead Swan. Given wide creative leeway by series showrunner Morwyn Brebner and executive producer/lead director Adrienne Mitchell, the West Vancouver native immerses herself in Cooper’s quirks and coping mechanisms, letting instinct meld with copious mental health research to create unexpected beats of truth in each episode. The extended panic attack in Monday’s new instalment, “Quick or Dead”—the conclusion of an involving two-part hunt for a serial killer—is a perfect example of her process.

“I know we only have a certain amount of time in the show,” Swan says, “but I can’t shorten the panic attack to make it work for television, because that doesn’t represent people who have panic attacks. Most people’s panic attacks average between two and a half to three minutes, depending on the severity. And so I was like, ‘That’s what’s going to happen.'”

Swan gave us a call following her recent appearance at CBC’s Superfun Superfan Weekend in Toronto to tell us about developing Jenny’s emotional landscape, ending the stigma of mental health issues, and what’s coming up in the second half of the season.

I recently spoke with Morwyn Brebner and Adrienne Mitchell about adapting Coroner from M.R. Hall’s novels, and they told me that they loved how real Jenny’s character is. Is that also what drew you in?
Serinda Swan: I think it was. I think it was that possibility of really showing a human’s experience. I think Morwyn has such an incredible capacity to write that and also leave the space for an actor to fill it. She has a beautiful capacity to collaborate as well. So when we got together, it was figuring out what I would come up with and what Morwyn would come up with, and I remember there was sort of a beautiful passing of the character from Morwyn to me, where she was like, ‘She’s yours now, and you get to incubate her and hold on to her and develop her.’

So I did a lot of work to make her as real as possible, and there were days on set where I was like, ‘The blocking doesn’t feel right to me, it doesn’t feel natural. I feel like I need to go over here.’ And it wasn’t for any other reason than I actually felt that I needed to go over there. And it was really grounding her as best as possible in every single choice that she made so that I could show up and, as soon as they yelled action, I was fully Jenny. It was an incredible experience because everybody supported that.

What sort of things did you add to her character?
SS: Everything from her ticks to the way her trauma shows up, her anxiety. She starts to feel anxiety, but that can be as small as your heartbeat raising, or it showing up on your face, or having a twitch, or breaking out in a sweat, or crying. It can be a multitude of things, so figuring out how to show that. But one of the biggest things was showing the imbalance in her life. Everything in her life when she was with [her now-deceased husband] David was very balanced and very controlled. She was very Type A, and as soon as the things that controlled her and held her together start disappearing, like the husband, like the job, like the money, like the house, you start to see her off-balance and you see her out of control.

And so, what does that look like? It’s everything from me not telling Éric [Bruneau] in the scene where Liam walks around the corner and asks her for a beer that I’m going to be slumped over and leaning against a wall, you know, kind of making fun of myself. Because he’s supposed to walk around the corner, and I’m supposed to be standing there and he goes, ‘Hey, do you wanna get a beer?’ And it’s watching his natural reaction to me doing something personal and embarrassing and how that makes the two of them react and how that deepens their relationship right off the bat. Because he likes that she’s weird. It’s little things, like ‘I’m going to lie down in this part.’ And [the cast and crew are] like, ‘What?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to lie down in this part.’ So there were little things that I would do to make her feel more real.

Mental health issues are heavily featured in the show. Jenny sees a therapist, she suffers from anxiety, and she keeps seeing that black dog. What was your approach to understanding that side of her?
SS: I’m sure we all have times where we have mental illness. Whether it’s like a common cold that comes and goes, or more like a disease that stays with you your entire life, we all have bouts of it, we all struggle with it, we’ve all been infected with it. And it can be as simple a regular cold, where you come in contact with the wrong person and they say the wrong thing, and they affect something in your life. It could be either an old memory or an old trauma or something that they have inflicted on you. And it’s so stigmatized, and it’s something that we hide and we’re ashamed of, and it shouldn’t be that way anymore.

Jenny takes pills, Jenny also goes to a psychiatrist, and Jenny also cries in her car. But Jenny is also a super strong female that is fighting for the truth and is better at her job than most of the men that have been there for many, many years—and she’s having panic attacks on the floors. She’s just human. She’s a human being in all of those experiences, and there’s no judgment on it. It’s watching something that could happen to you and seeing how she goes through it. Just because she takes Ativan and drugs to help, doesn’t mean she’s a drug addict, it doesn’t mean she’s going to spiral down into the opioid crisis. Just because she she sees a shrink doesn’t mean she’s crazy. It’s kind of pushing into all of these stigmas and figuring out who she is and letting her figure it out as well as the audience.

Jenny saw the black dog again in Episode 3. What does that mean?
SS: The dog is an integral part of the story, and, seeing how it shows up in the very first scene [of the series], it makes you think it will probably show up near the end as well. The dog leads her to her own personal trauma, and as you get to the end of Episode 4, you start to realize that there’s a lot more going on with her than you or she can see. The dog is a portal into her own trauma, and as she’s searching for answers in her world, and she’s also searching for them in herself.

Jenny has an extended panic attack in Episode 4. What was your preparation like for that scene?
SS: I did a lot of research on it. There’s a young man on YouTube that actually caught one of his panic attacks on camera, and he actually posted it to show what it would look like. And there are several other people you can watch who have filmed and shared what a panic attack looks like for them, and it’s really good that they’ve shared that. At the end of the season, [Jenny] really comes face to face with her panic and tries to figure out where it’s coming from, and again, without judging it. Sometimes you see her fight it, and sometimes you see her take a drug to try and stop it. Other times you see her lie down on the floor and let it pass through her. So, it’s really just a really honest journey about what it’s like to live with trauma and anxiety.

And it’s not the be all, end all, but it’s one of the first times I’ve seen anxiety represented in that way. And I really wanted to make sure that we did it in a very non-judgmental way, that we didn’t put a stigma on it, but that we also didn’t make her somebody who’s, like, so strong that she’s getting through it on her own. It’s a beautiful look at what she’s experiencing. So, yeah, I did a lot of research. I talked to friends who have anxiety, and I’ve also had lots of anxiety in my life. So I reached in and figured out my own shit as well.

I know we only have a certain amount of time in the show, but I can’t shorten the panic attack to make it work for television, because that doesn’t represent people who have panic attacks. Most people’s panic attacks average between two and a half to three minutes, depending on the severity. And so, I was like, ‘That’s what’s going to happen.’ I mean, you can edit it to show the time cut, but I can’t shorten it. Because that’s not true. So when I talked to Morwyn and Adrienne about it, they really gave me the space to do that.

One of my favourite relationships on the show is the one between Jenny and her son, Ross (Ehren Kassam). I like the dynamic where she supports him sometimes and then he supports her. They lean on each other. 
SS: I’d say, from the get-go, their relationship was one of the most important things for me coming into the show. I had to do chemistry reads for two people coming into the show—one being for Liam, and one being for Ross—because it was really important that we had the right chemistry and also the right idea of these characters and who they could be. And Ehren, from Day 1, just let me smush his face and, like, lick my finger and wipe his face and play with his hair and [treat him] like a kid. He allowed me to step into that mother role. So that scene at the end of the second episode, where we have a fight? If that wasn’t set up properly, it could almost look abusive because it’s a young male swiping at his mother. But when you understand the love that’s there, you see that it’s a small child having a tantrum. And these are things that some networks don’t take risks on because it doesn’t look right. But just because it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t mean that it’s not real. And it’s our responsibility as actors to make sure we set the stage so that people understand that this is real and this is part of life. And Ehren was right there with me. I was like, ‘Hey, can you try this? Let’s try having a tantrum and see what that looks like.’ So it was really amazing being able to work with him and develop that relationship, and I love how it grows over the season.

It’s really amazing because there’s a duality between the young son who’s lost his father, that’s angry at his mother and with the whole situation of being uprooted from his school and his house and all of that, and then there is a side of him where they’re so co-dependent. Because she was 19 when she had him. It was a kid having a kid.  So there’s this co-dependency because they both grew up together. We really see how the husband, David, was the glue that held it all together as the mature adult. And then, throughout the season, you start to sometimes see Ross as the parent and she’s the kid, and sometimes she’s the parent and he’s the kid. And you see them struggle and succeed to redefine their relationship.

Over the last couple of episodes, Ross is also developing a friendship with Liam. And, of course, Jenny and Liam are building a romantic relationship. What role is Liam going to play in their lives the rest of the season? 
SS: Everybody seems to like Liam! It’s a wonderful kind of relationship between Liam and Ross. We get to see Ross grow in a way that he hasn’t before. He hasn’t been around a man like that, and we get to see Liam really care about Ross as the season goes on, which is also confusing because Liam and Jenny’s relationship really starts to develop. It’s hard because they’re both wounded. You start to see him, as the season goes on, start to deal with some PTSD and dealing with what that looks like, and how he’s not ready to be in a relationship and [Jenny’s] not ready to be in a relationship. It’s two people who are kind of coming together at the wrong time but have such a fierce attraction to each other. And it’s not just physical. There’s something about the two of them that just connects them, and they have to figure out how to make that work. It’s the most unideal time and situation.

Episode 4 is a big turning point for the season. What can viewers expect to see? 
SS: I think one of the final scenes in Episode 4 really give you an idea of what’s going to happen internally and externally over the next four episodes. She’s really admitting that she’s going to be diving deep into the truth that may have been missed in the cases and also the truth that might have been missed in her own life. She’s deciding that she’s no longer going to be David’s wife, the perfect woman, and no matter what this turns her into in her own eyes, she’s going to dig for her own truth. And no matter what it turns her into in other people’s eyes, she’s going to dig for the truth within these past cases.  And that leads to a very exciting last four episodes.

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

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