Évelyne Brochu starred in one of the most badass moments on Canadian television in 2016 when her X Company character, Aurora Luft, ran across a muddy field, hoisted herself onto a flaming tank, and coolly dispatched the German soldiers inside.
The thrilling moment, which occurred near the end of X Company‘s second season, was an impromptu collaboration between the episode’s director, rainy autumn weather in Budapest, and Brochu — who admits she surprised herself while filming the action sequence.
“I think the running on top of it just kind of happened,” she laughs. “I think it’s one of the moments I’m most proud of. Because when you do something you’ve never done before, you don’t really know how you’re going to do it, and then all the sudden you blink your eyes and you’re on top of a muddy, fiery, wet tank, you’re like, ‘My God, I managed.’ I think it’s a moment of empowerment for Évelyne Brochu, but it’s also a moment of empowerment for Aurora. It kind of doubled up.”
When the CBC World War II spy drama returns for its third and final season tonight at 9 p.m., Aurora and her team of spies will once again be in the thick of it, trying to determine if Franz Faber (Torben Liebrecht) has really turned to the Allied side and dealing with the loss of Tom (Dustin Milligan), who died at Dieppe in the Season 2 finale. But something Aurora won’t be dealing with is the crisis of confidence she suffered last season. That demon was vanquished atop that burning tank.
“Aurora is back,” Brochu assures.
And she needs to be, because Season 3 will force the spy leader to go deep undercover, where she will draw so close to the enemy she is in danger of losing herself.
“Aurora knows what she’s getting into, but she doesn’t know how far it’s going to go,” she explains.
Sitting down with TV-Eh in Toronto, Brochu tells us about Aurora’s upcoming undercover mission, her thoughts on the series drawing to a close, and her hush-hush return to Orphan Black last season.
“There were a lot of secrets I had to keep for a full year,” she says.
Season 2 ended with devastating losses at Dieppe, including the death of Tom. What is the emotional state of the team heading into Season 3?
Évelyne Brochu: Each character, I think, is grieving in their own way, and I think that’s what’s interesting about a show that focuses on a team, is how one thing can affect people very differently. But I think one thing that unites us, is that there have been a lot of sacrifices. We knew it was worth it when we went to that war, but more from the point of view of an ideal. Now that we’ve been out in the field for that long and suffered losses ourselves, I think this renewed sense of purpose and of focus and of wanting to give meanings to those sacrifices is quite present. There’s something in everybody’s eyes that’s very driven to do whatever it takes.
Aurora faced some major leadership challenges in Season 2, but she made a comeback at the end. Is she still in a strong position as the new season begins?
Aurora is back. She ran on top of a tank, she got Faber onboard, she got a hug from Neil, so I think now she’s just ready for anything. [laughs] Jokes aside, I think she has a renewed sense of leadership, but she’s also going to do something she’s never done before, which is go undercover for an extended period of time.
She’s been Helene Bauer in and out, always going back to the team and going back to Aurora, but there’s a specific mission that’s going to bring the whole team to Poland, but specifically her, and she’s going to be Helene Bauer night and day. I think that’s the difference for her this season. When you’re 24/7, constantly posing as a Nazi, you can imagine the things that you see, but at some points, if you’re going to keep your cover, there’s going to be things that you do. That’s what I was talking about in terms of sacrifice, thinking, ‘Whoa, okay, I’m going to focus on the bigger picture,’ but how far do you take it? And it’s going to go pretty far.
That sounds pretty dark.
Nobody knows this, but on every episode [script], there are quotes, and this one is about Nietzsche, and I think it was for Episode 307, and it said, “When fighting the monster, be careful of not yourself becoming a monster, for when you look long into the abyss, it also gazes into your eyes.” And I think that’s the blurred line where Aurora’s going to stand all season. We saw some of that in Season 2, too. When you spend so much time undercover, and you’re on the privileged side, when you’re on the side of those who are occupying the country and not the people who are occupied, it’s kind of peaceful on that side . . . But then there will be a huge shift point. There will be a huge thing that she’s forced to do that will shatter her. I think she will dance with the enemy to the point of rupture. The blurred line eventually starts to rip, and then the truth of what’s actually happening behind the curtain [is revealed].
In Poland, her excuse for going there is to work for a place called Race and Resettlement, so you can imagine that types of things she does there and the things that she will have to see and do.
The scenes between Aurora, Faber, and Sabine provided some of the best drama of Season 2. Where is that storyline going next?
Faber’s onboard, so what does that mean? Is he really on board? Is he an asset, or is he not? I think in a weird way, Aurora and Faber have the same journey. Both of them have done things they didn’t want to do, they’ve sacrificed loved ones they didn’t want to sacrifice, and they’re both, in Season 3, undercover. They’re both stuck lying constantly, and living with the danger of being uncovered constantly. That’s going to create a sort of mirror effect. That’s going to draw them together. Also, Aurora is going to go to Poland to befriend a high-ranking Nazi above Faber that is Sabine’s father, who we’re going to get to meet. So there will be more interaction with the Fabers, and it’s going to be good.
Was it strange not having Dustin Millgan in Budapest for Season 3?
Yes, it was hard. We were FaceTiming him a lot. It was really, really hard to not be the full cast. I don’t know, there’s something about the number five that was right and perfect. And I think four was perfect — they’re all great human beings. But I think that as a team, onscreen and offscreen, we felt that loss.
When did you learn Season 3 would be the final season?
I had no clue. We knew quite early in the season, so that’s the most important part, so you can say your goodbyes and sort of make the most of it, whereas if it happened now, I would have been thinking, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I may have done things differently.’ That’s the way humans work, stupidly. You should always be taking everything in. But, yeah, it was sad. I’m still processing nostalgia, I think.
Did your time on X Company teach you anything about your abilities or challenge you in new ways?
I think physically. I didn’t know I could [do that]. There’s a big fight scene this season, and when the director said, “We’re not even going to take any bits from your stunt doubles. We’re going to take it all from you guys because you guys rocked it,” that’s something that makes you super proud in a sort of unexpected way.
When I was in theatre school, we had fighting class–as if me, I’m going to fight, you know?–and I was thinking theatre, and I was thinking sword fights, and I was thinking that’s never going to happen, and I was thinking action movies don’t really exist in Quebec. So I was kind of like lounging around, bumming through class and sort of letting it slip, but I should have paid more attention because women do get to do those things, and you can kind of surprise yourself. Those moments when you go, ‘Yeah, girl, you can do this,’ those are important. You should cherish them.
You never know when you may be asked to jump on a tank and shoot Nazis.
Yeah! And we’re in a moment in history where we’re wanting to see female characters do more than the stuff we were used to having them do. They’re interesting in their paradoxes, in their strengths, in their weaknesses. I think we explore their worlds, their inner worlds, and you explore what it is to have a female character on a show a lot more, and I think that’s amazing.
The last time we talked, you were keeping the big secret that Delphine was coming back to Orphan Black. Was it difficult to keep such a huge spoiler under wraps?
It was hard because I’m not a good liar. There’s a thing about acting, which is on a set, and there’s cameras, and there’s, “Three, two, one, action!” There’s something that sort of puts boundaries around it that makes fiction possible. I find fiction very different than lying, because lying is real. When there’s a real person looking at you going, “Mmmmhmmm,” and you’re like, “Eeeek,” you can feel the truth coming through your skin. But I think I managed pretty well. I think I did pretty good. But I had like scripts at home with my name on it, and I’m like, “No one can find these! I’m gonna get sued!” [laughs] It was exciting, though. I couldn’t wait for people to find out.
What can you say about Delphine’s arc in Season 5?
I think we’ve seen a little glimpse of the world Cosima gets thrown in when Delphine sort of warms her up in that yurt that we don’t really know where it is. So I think we’re going to explore a lot of that, and there’s going to be a lot of answers that come from that, and she’s right in the middle of that whole world as the season starts.
Are poor Cophine going to have an easier time in the final season, or are things going to be awful for them, as usual?
You know how they are. It’s awful, but it’s great! [laughs] No, I mean, the love is real, and the struggle is, too. There’s a lot going on for all the clones, but the love is real.
You’re also in a new French-language TV series called Trop. What’s that about?
Yeah, my first comedy! I shot that in Montreal. It an amazing show by an amazing woman. I think it’s the scripts that really got me into it. It’s about my character and my sister, who is bipolar. It’s a comedy about mental health and families holding on in the midst of dealing with what it means to have a family member that suffers from that. You know, a work and friendship, sort of a very early 30s world.
I think the beauty of that show that Marie-Andrée Labbé, the author of that show, focuses on is people that you don’t necessarily put on TV. So there’s the bipolar character, there’s a transgender character, a man who is going through a transition to be a woman, there’s a lot of different characters who are fringey, but who are part of the world and not on the fringe of the world. I feel like sometimes we separate worlds when we do fiction, whereas we’re all in this together. There’s a togetherness. There’s something optimistic in the way that people deal with one another, and are there for one another in a way that I believe is kind of truthful. She spins it, and it’s kind of hilarious, and it’s a little bit feminist, and it’s really cool.
X Company airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.