Tag Archives: Karine Vanasse

Farewell, Cardinal

This Monday night, a Canadian television series says goodbye. After four seasons, Cardinal ends, closing a chapter on some truly groundbreaking TV.

I was a fan of the Cardinal from the very beginning thanks to reading and loving the source material written by Giles Blunt years ago. The tale of a small-town Canadian cop solving crimes? I was all in. But would a television adaptation work? How would a lead character that was so in his head translate to the small screen?

There are a lot of folks to credit with how it was done, from Season 1 writer Aubrey Nealon, to actor Billy Campbell, director Podz, Sienna Films, and executives at Bell Media. Instead of going inside Detective John Cardinal’s head, we stayed outside, the camera coming in close on Campbell’s face, reading what was there in his expression and in his eyes. The same goes for Detective Lise Delorme. Karine Vanasse, and the creative folks get kudos for breathing life into this feisty, fantastic cop. I can’t imagine two actors more suited to the roles they were cast in. Re-reading the novels, which I will do this summer, means I’ll picture their faces as I scan the pages.

Northern Ontario—and the weather than comes with it—has played a huge role in Cardinal‘s storytelling, reflecting the changes in season in this country and adding another layer (pun intended) to each episode.

Back in 2004, Corner Gas debuted. It changed the way we looked at ourselves on the sitcom front, and proved Canada could do comedy just well—and I’d argue better—than the U.S. Now, with Cardinal Bell it has been done with the drama genre. I’m a huge fan of Nordic Noir—crime dramas set in Scandinavian locales—and Cardinal deserves to stand among the very best of those. And, I’m hoping, Cardinal will inspire more drama like it to be created in this country.

Thanks to Billy Campbell, Karine Vanasse, Glen Gould, James Downing, Kristen Thomson, Deborah Hay, Eric Hicks, Zach Smadu, Alanna Bale and the rest of the cast for bringing these characters to life in such a convincing way. Thank you to Aubrey Nealon, Sarah Dodd, Patrick Tarr, Jane Maggs, Gemma Holdway, Naben Ruthnum, Patrick Whistler, Alison Lea Bingeman, Jennica Harper, Russ Cochrane, Noelle Carbone, Aaron Bala, Shannon Masters, Penny Gummerson and Jordi Mand for writing such wonderful scripts. Thank you to Podz, Jeff Renfroe and Nathan Morlando for your directing. And thanks to the crew, producers, executives and everyone else who made Cardinal happen.

I’m going to miss Cardinal, but I’m so glad it was made in the first place. It’s hard to make television in this country, and even harder to do it right.

Cardinal did it right.

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Cardinal director Nathan Morlando on Season 4: “It was super, super physically intense”

It’s no secret that I love Cardinal‘s winter settings most. The cold and snow are another character, keeping Algonquin Bay’s citizens inside and cut off from each other. That distancing adds to the isolation and gives an added level of dread to the crimes that are happening.

And while it sure looks good and contributes to the story, the extreme climate played havoc during Season 4 of Cardinal. As co-showrunner and season director Nathan Morlando told us, it was a challenge to bring unforgettable scenes to life.

Morlando, who wrote and directed the feature film Citizen Gangster and directed Mean Dreams, gave us a behind-the-scenes peek at the process.

What was it like to come into Cardinal where the world had already been built?
Nathan Morlando: Fantastic, actually because it had been so strongly established. The only negative, and it’s a very temporary negative, is the stress and anxiety you feel initially by inheriting such a successful show. So before it gets really, really, really going, there’s always that voice in your mind, ‘Are you going to be the one who’s going to screw this up?’ But once the machine gets going, like after the first half-hour of shooting, the voice was gone because there was no time for it.

The positive was to inherit such a great show. And to have been invited to follow on the heels of everyone else that preceded me was really amazing. The Cardinal crew themselves were very loyal, passionate; they are super fans of the show. They care so much and they work so hard. This year we spent the first month in February, which was North Bay’s coldest recorded month in their history. Outdoors it was super, super physically intense and psychologically intense because of that. But the crew was just an extraordinary team. And because they are so loyal to Billy, Karine, to the show, to [producers] Julia [Sereny] and Jennifer [Kawaja], there was never a complaint, there was never, ‘We can’t do this.’

Wow!
NM: For the last episode, we spent a week in the woods. And before we shot that last episode, we had the biggest snowfall in North Bay’s history, it was four feet of snow. And suddenly, the paths and how we thought we were going to shoot this thing and move our trucks, we couldn’t conceivably move in the forest. We had an emergency production meeting two weeks before, whether or not it was even feasible to get in there, to get in and out.

Part of our crew spent days, day and night, flattening paths so that we could actually move in the woods. Steve Cosens, the cinematographer, and I had to go into the woods two weeks before to imagine the movement of all these various scenes. Then we had to imagine where our camera was going to move because. So we had to create the actors’ paths and the camera’s paths two weeks in advance.

Aside from all that planning, what about your cameras? They’ve got to get cold to a point where the shutters won’t close.
NM: Yeah, exactly. For the first couple of weeks, because of these cameras [and temperatures], the camera crew had to get on set earlier and stay sometimes four hours after to heat the lenses because the lenses would fog. They had to work extremely long hours to make that happen. So yeah, there were a lot of equipment challenges. We were using a drone, we were really concerned that the drone would crash in the cold. Fortunately, it didn’t.

My favourite seasons of Cardinal have been the winter seasons. I think it really plays well into the feeling, that isolation that you feel, that you’re supposed to feel.
NM: For sure. And the outer environment, so winter, is actually a character this year, which I really loved. And that’s really, that’s the slow mystery actually, is the character of the environment.

What was it like to work with Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse?
NM: They were amazing, as actors and as people, truly. And the crew worked the way they did because they were committed to Billy and Karine. The crew would do anything for Billy and Karine, and that isn’t always the case … that is not often the case. And the crew feels that way about them because of the way Billy and Karine treat people. This is what’s special about them: there is no hierarchy in their perception. Billy and Karine are friends with everyone and they respect everyone. They care for everyone and they make sure everyone is doing well. They’re real team players and team leaders. We were able to do what we did because of the leadership from Billy and Karine. I was very indebted to that and to the crew for feeling that way.

Cardinal airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Cardinal’s Billy Campbell: “The best role I’ve had in my career”

When asked what his experience has been like playing John Cardinal for four seasons, Billy Campbell hesitates and then states the following:

“This really has been maybe the best job I’ve had in my career, and the best role I’ve had in my career.”

Pretty lofty words for a guy whose career has included roles in such series as The Killing, Once and Again and The 4400. Still, Cardinal really is a series like no other. Based on the books by Giles Blunt, the past three seasons of Cardinal have proved Canada can do Nordic Noir too. And do it darned well.

Returning Monday at 10 p.m. ET on CTV, the final season of Cardinal—tagged Until the Night after Blunt’s sixth and final John Cardinal novel—follows Detective John Cardinal (Campbell) and Detective Lise Delorme (played by Karine Vanasse) as they investigate the deaths of several townsfolk in the sleepy fictional town of Algonquin Bay. Monday’s debut catches up with the pair in the dead of winter as they investigate the disappearance of a legal prosecutor. Cold and snow have been a hallmark of Cardinal—the first season was set in winter, followed by jaunts in the spring and fall—and adds to the feeling of isolation and, perhaps, being unable to escape.

“You’re right about the isolation,” Vanasse says. “The whole environment is supporting that isolation and feeling that you have to be quick when you’re outside. If someone is left outside, yes, he’s going to freeze the death.” Isolation and drawing inward have been a staple of Cardinal and Delorme’s relationship too. Yes, they’re work partners, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing karaoke after shifts. In Season 1, Delorme joined the force to investigate supposed dirty dealings by Cardinal; it can be hard to truly trust someone whose been keeping tabs on you. Add to the fact that, in Monday’s Episode 1, Delorme drops a career bombshell on him … Cardinal even at the best of times can be frustratingly distant.

“That’s Cardinal,” Campbell says simply. “That’s who he is, and he’s a prototypical human male in that respect. He has a very difficult time expressing his feelings and these, I imagine, are such powerful feelings. He just has no framework for even dealing with these feelings inside of himself.”

Veteran actor Currie Graham—most recently seen on The Rookie—plays Neil Cuthbert, the villain stalking Algonquin Bay. According to Bell Media’s press notes, there is a final showdown where Cardinal and Delorme put everything on the line to save an innocent life. (Look for more about that showdown next week in my interview with co-showrunner/director Nathan Morlando.)

With the final six episodes scheduled, and interviews in support of it underway, Cardinal‘s conclusion is sinking in for its co-stars. Vanasse and Campbell admit to claiming key wardrobe as physical souvenirs of their time filming in Sudbury and North Bay, Ontario—she Delorme’s winter gear, he Cardinal’s winter boots—and memories of their time filming.

“The biggest thing that I keep from the show is just the profound happiness of working with this crew,” Vanasse says. “That’s what I’m leaving with. It’s been just wonderful from Day 1 to the end.”

“I get misty thinking about the fact that I won’t be going back to North Bay to do another season of Cardinal with people that I love, and with the characters that I love,” Campbell admits.

Cardinal: Until the Night airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Cardinal: Writer Shannon Masters breaks down “Lemur”

Alas, poor Lemur. Perhaps the strongest all-around survivalist aside from Mama (Rya Kihlstedt) herself, Lemur (Nick Serino) met and untimely, and messy, end at the hands of Jack (Alex Ozerov). Jack took advantage of Lemur being on the run from the police during a botched ATM robbery and killed his “brother.”

Thursday’s newest instalment of Cardinal, “Lemur,” also opened the door on what horrors Jack endured when he was younger and shaped who he is today. Finally, after very much looking to Cardinal (Billy Campbell) for guidance during the past two cycles of Cardinal, Lise (Karine Vanasse) has officially read her partner the riot act. We spoke to the episode’s writer, Shannon Masters—who has written for Burden of Truth, Mohawk Girls and penned her feature film Empire of Dirt—about Jack, Lise and killing off Lemur.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and congratulations on being part of Cardinal. I love the franchise and am enjoying Season 3 immensely.
Shannon Masters: I’m glad you’re loving watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Before we get into specifics about the series and your episode, how did you get into the Cardinal writer’s room in the first place?
SM: Two words: Patrick Tarr. We’ve been friends for well over a decade and I think he got tired of watching me bang my head against the wall trying to break into television so took a chance and gave me a shot in the room. Plus, I’m cheap so didn’t break the budget. Ha ha.

This past week has been all about your work. I watched Empire of Dirt the other day on Super Channel and your latest episode of Burden of Truth was on CBC. You’ve taken over Canadian TV over the last 10 days!
SM: Finally. Seriously though, someone has to pinch me because I still can’t believe I get to do this job.

I imagine working on Cardinal has been very different from Burden of Truth and Mohawk Girls. How have you grown as a writer through the Cardinal experience?
SM: Every writing experience is unique, just as each show and showrunner are unique and all provide the opportunity to evolve in different ways. But my growth as a writer on this show specifically was exponential because Patrick trusted (and expected) me to do the job well. That gave me a new confidence in both my ability and my voice. Plus, there is something to be said for having a showrunner who comes in with a rock-solid vision. Lesson: being prepared and having a plan gives you freedom.

It’s been hard to feel anything but anger at Jack and the way he’s been acting. But in the opening moments of ‘Lemur,’ we discover he’s endured something horrifying in his past, including his relationship with this father, and how that connects him to Mama. How do you tackle writing a character like him?
SM: I believe the key to writing bad guys, whether they have a difficult past or not, is to write them as though they believe in what they’re doing, that they don’t think their actions are wrong or bad. In general, people have no idea what they are truly capable of until they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and are faced with hard choices. That holds true for fictional characters as well. So trying to get into their heads and seeing things through their eyes often lends those characters an intriguing level of depth.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the rough cut for ‘Lemur’ yet, but there is a moment before Cardinal goes into the apartment to talk to Roger, the ex-con-turned-accountant. John pauses at the top of the stairs, loosens his neck and takes a deep breath. He wants to keep it together and not wring Roger’s neck. Do you remember if that pause was written in the script, or something Billy ad-libbed?
SM: It’s been such a long time since I wrote the episode so it could have been on the page, an acting choice or something that came from our director. What I do remember is going into Cardinal’s story this episode with the feeling that he knows he’s skidding down the rabbit hole but just cannot stop himself. His cop instincts are too strong and his GUT is telling him that his wife did not kill herself. So while he knows that every moment he pursues these men he’s put away, Roger Felt included, his grip on the situation slips a bit more, but he’s gonna do it all the same. So he’s kind of stealing his nerves here before he dives in yet again.

You killed Lemur! Now there is nothing stopping Jack from taking advantage of Nikki. How could you?!
SM: Lol. Nikki is tougher than she looks.

Lise has taken a fierce stand against Cardinal. It’s been fascinating to watch her gaining confidence and taking command. Has it been fun, as a writer, to explore their relationship in Season 3?
SM: Their relationship is fantastic and it’s been incredibly rewarding to get to flesh it out even further this season. In this episode specifically, Delorme’s ferocity is born from her desire to help Cardinal. She and Cardinal have morphed from colleagues into friends with a mutual deep respect, so she doesn’t want to see him torture himself or torch his career. And she’s also got a job to do. She’s been given a lot more responsibility this season and she takes it very seriously.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Cardinal: Showrunner Patrick Tarr reviews “Jack”

A few weeks ago, I ran an interview with Patrick Tarr. Our chat happened over a year ago, before he took over showrunning duties for Season 3 of Cardinal.

Now that the third cycle, “By the Time You Read This,” is in full flight, I wanted to reconnect not just to ask about what it was like to work with Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse, but why he decided to change some key plot points from Giles Blunt’s source material and his experiences working with director Daniel Grou.

First of all, congratulations on Season 3 of Cardinal. You captured the look and feel of the series while putting your unique mark on it. Have you watched a broadcast episode and, if so, what were your thoughts?
Patrick Tarr: Thanks! When I was first approached about writing Cardinal, the first season wasn’t even finished. I watched episodes with temp score, no VFX, timecodes on the screen. But you still could see what it was, that there was something special in the characters and their world. A few months later, Noelle Carbone, Shannon Masters, Aaron Bala and I were in the writer’s room when the first season started airing. And suddenly it was a hit, it really seemed to resonate with viewers. So the pressure was on: don’t screw this up. I spent a lot of time in post-production of Season 3, I’ve seen these episodes so, so many times. And we all get to the point where we think and hope it’s good, but who knows? So finally seeing it on the air and getting to see that people are reacting positively is a huge relief. Now onto worrying about screwing up the next one.

You did change a few things from the book. In Crime Machine, Roman and Irena are decapitated. And, Noelle Carbone told me she had originally written it as the couple on a burial platform. Why did you decide to change that?
PT: When you get a couple of seasons into any series, you have to be careful about repeating things. There are things that might not feel repetitive in books but will feel much more so in a series, especially one that you can binge. So when we looked at Ray Northwind in Season 2 and the dismemberment in that terrifying shed of his, it seemed like we needed to find something different for our first victims. But of course, it had to be something visually creepy and filled with dread because it’s Cardinal. These are the kinds of conversations we have. We cycled through a few ideas and there was indeed a burial platform version, which I loved, but then that boat image hit and it felt so right. It also tied into stuff that comes out later in the season, both visually and thematically. It connected some dots for all of us. And the way that rising boat shot was executed by Daniel Grou, Dylan McLeod and the whole crew … I find it so grimly beautiful.

And, also, Mama is male in Crime Machine. Why change the character to female? I’m not complaining. I’m just wondering from a storytelling point of view.
PT: Before Sarah Dodd started writing Season 2, she and I got together at Sienna Films for a couple of days with a pile of the Giles Blunt books and talked about what Seasons 2 and 3 might be. There was some shifting around of material, and we also realized that Ray Northwind from Blackfly Season and ‘Papa’  from Crime Machine bore a few similarities to each other that weren’t glaring in the books, but definitely would be on television. The moment that the idea of ‘Mama’ arose, it was electric. I hadn’t ever seen this character before. That is always the most exciting feeling—I have not seen this before. 

Rya Kihlstedt is fantastic as Mama. Did she audition and, if so, was there something she did in her audition that cemented she was perfect for the role?
PT: Early on one of our casting directors, Jon Comerford, sent an email with a link saying something like, ‘Hi this is Rya Khilstedt and she should be Mama but we need to move fast.’ So we all watched her reel and within five minutes it was ’YES!’ from everyone. It was instant—this was Mama. And then Rya came in with such energy and excitement to play this character. And on set, the relationship that Mama’s surrogate kids (Alex Ozerov, Sophia Lauchlin-Hirt, Nick Serino) had with her and with each other was very sweet. They bonded like a real family. Because their story runs separately to the main action for a while, we shot almost all their scenes in the space of a week or so, like its own little indie film.

The Jack/Mama relationship is an interesting one. Before she laid him down on the bed to strap him, it felt overtly sexual. Was that intentional?
PT: Yes, it was. That scene was pivotal, and it became a real challenge to find the right balance. It moved around in the editing a few times. Originally the scene played later after you’d already spent some time getting to know Mama, Jack, Lemur and Nikki. But making this Jack and Mama scene the very first scene of the episode was a bold choice that was like, ‘OK, here we go, meet the family.’ We had spent two episodes convincing the audience that Jack is a terrifying predator (which he is), only to reveal in the first scene of Episode 3 that he’s completely under someone else’s power.

It’s a big moment of character development for both Mama and Jack as you see that she knows exactly which buttons to press to make Jack do what she wants. Which is different from the way that she manipulates Lemur or Nikki. Even within that scene, she uses love and fear, intimacy and pain to keep Jack under her spell. In the book, Papa’s use of sex as a means of control is much more overt. And even though what we shot was pulled back some, I’m sure a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable watching it. I’m not looking forward to the phone call I’m gonna get from my mother on this one.

When I last spoke to you, we were in North Bay and your cycle hadn’t started filming. What was it like working with Billy and Karine?
PT: They have both internalized these characters so much. Their scenes together have all this tension, but it’s not tension borne out of traditional conflict. It’s a deeper thing, I think. They’re both a little afraid of each other, or of what they mean to each other. And as actors, they are both so driven to do more with less. It’s a lot of work, the way that they use looks and silences to convey emotional moments rather than to find pauses between them. Sometimes Billy would come up and ask if I thought he needed to say a certain line and I learned immediately to trust those instincts. It was always better without the line. And Karine finds these emotional beats within beats. The way that she plays Delorme, every scene is really telling a story about her.

I know Podz from his directing of 19-2. What does he bring to the table as a director and what do you learn from someone like him?
PT: The writer/director relationship on Cardinal is not like on other shows I’ve worked on. Because Daniel directs the entire season, it really had to become a creative partnership. He knows his job and I know mine, but there is a lot of overlap between them. We got good at finding compromises and balancing what we each saw in the story along with what our producers at Sienna and our network saw in it. I trusted his instincts because I loved his work in the first season and I’d seen what he’d done with 19-2. What I really got from watching Daniel work is that his every directorial choice is motivated by emotion. Camera moves are emotional. Location choices, wardrobe, casting—it all comes from that place for him rather than what would look cool. The way he speaks to the actors, they can tell he’s put himself into the hearts of the characters and can engage with them about what they’re feeling. And I think that helps them feel trust and comfort and to find something true in what they’re doing in a scene.

I love that, this season, Lise has taken the lead and Cardinal is reporting to her. It has really refreshed that relationship for me, as a viewer. I’m assuming it was fun for you too.
PT: It was indeed. We kind of expected a bit of pushback on that, as suddenly the guy that the show is named after isn’t in charge anymore. But everyone was so into that new dynamic, and how it allowed the characters to go to places they hadn’t before. Cardinal is on this emotional journey and Delorme is taking up his slack and then some. They’ve been through the shit together and she has proven herself to him over and over. So when he starts to lose focus she’s right there calling him on it the way he called her out for digging into his past in Season 1. It also gave a new dynamic to Delorme’s relationship with Kristen Thompson’s Dyson character. Those two are each bearing silent burdens in this season, each of them trying to support someone through grief while struggling with issues of their own.

What can viewers expect from the rest of this season?
PT: Next week’s episode, written by Shannon Masters, is such a showcase for Karine Vanasse. She’s flipping from action scenes to big dramatic scenes, and she’s just so intense and incredible through all of it. You really feel the disappointment in Delorme that her partner is failing her and leaving her to deal with this huge, awful case alone. But even as she feels that she still sympathizes with him and has the patience for him. Moving into the end of the season, as things start to close in on John Cardinal, Billy Campbell will break your heart. Not to mention, we have Mama and her family headquartered at the remote cabin of Lloyd Kreeger (Tom Jackson). They are a volatile bunch. It’s a complicated season with multiple storylines and points of view, but it all comes together in the end. Things that didn’t seem like they would ever connect end up becoming hugely important. There are visual sequences that still take my breath away after multiple viewings. I really hope people will connect with it and want to come back to see what happens next.

Want to score the ultimate Cardinal contest? Visit CTV.ca to enter for a chance to win an on-set experience by watching the latest episode of Cardinal, Season 3, and visiting CTV.ca to submit your answer to the trivia question.

Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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