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Jann Arden’s clueless alter ego is back in town for Jann’s second season

Unlike her TV alter ego, Jann Arden is aware of her own good fortune. 

The iconic singer-songwriter and star of CTV’s hit comedy series Jann—returning for its second season on Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT—has been able to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic from the socially-distanced comfort of her rural Alberta home.

“I’ve got nothing to complain about,” she says during a phone chat from her house. “My nearest neighbour is a half-mile away. I usually work out here anyway, and I’ve done a lot of recording here. I have a big piece of land, a huge garden, and I’m here with a dog. I want for nothing.”

That isn’t to say the coronavirus hasn’t thrown Arden a few curveballs. For instance, her official induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame was scuppered when the JUNO Awards were cancelled in March, and her much-anticipated cross-Canada tour had to be postponed in May. Still, she’s taking it all in stride. 

“It was disappointing, but [COVID-19 has affected] all of my colleagues, everyone on the planet, every person that I know,” she explains. “Good things come out of bad things. I think it has actually taken the façade off of a way that we’ve been living that’s been so empty, and without a lot of merit, and truth, and vulnerability….I, for one, am grateful to have had the opportunity to slow the hell down.” 

As philosophical as Arden is about 2020’s setbacks, it’s safe to say her hilariously narcissistic TV namesake wouldn’t handle things so well.

“Oh, she would have been terrible!” Arden laughs. “Everybody in Jann’s family would have been made miserable, she’d be like, ‘You have no idea what I’m going through!’”

Of course, TV Jann—Arden’s less-successful, much more self-involved doppelganger—doesn’t need a worldwide pandemic to make people miserable. Her lack of self-awareness and desperate attempts to revive her career kept her family cringing—and viewers laughing—throughout Jann’s critically-acclaimed first season. 

Jann’s self-serving antics crescendoed in the finale when she left her mom Nora (Deborah Grover), who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, on the doorstep of her pregnant, bedridden sister Max (Zoie Palmer) so she could go on tour with her on-screen nemesis, Sarah McLachlan.

This naturally caused some hard feelings. 

However, as the second season starts, Jann is sporting a new, family-first attitude. After finding out Max is in labour, she decides to ditch McLachlan’s disaster-prone tour—think food poisoning and exploding musical instruments—to make amends with her family and win back her ex-girlfriend Cynthia (Sharon Taylor). The problem is, no one is particularly happy to see her when she returns, and her knee-jerk selfishness trips her up at every turn.

Exhibit #1: When she finds Max and brother-in-law Dave (Patrick Gilmore) cradling their newborn baby in the opening minutes of the premiere, she indignantly cries, “You couldn’t friggin’ wait for me?”

Things don’t get much better over the next few episodes, as Jann finds out her former manager Todd (Jason Blicker) has signed a hot new talent (Nia Taylor) and her new manager Cale (Elena Juatco) keeps pushing her outside her comfort zone.

“Things really pick up where they left off,” Arden says. “You kind of got to know everyone in the first season, and I love the new situations that the writers have put them in.”

She’s also pleased with Season 2’s stacked guest-star lineup, which includes k.d. lang, Elisha Cuthbert, Keshia Chanté, and in the first episode, McLachlan—who gamely skewers her nice-girl image to settle a score with Jann.

“She’s fantastic, and she’s such a good sport,” Arden says of McLachlan, making it clear that the Jann/Sarah rivalry doesn’t extend to real life. “Half of the stuff you see was her idea.”

As in the first season, Arden’s natural comedic timing and willingness to take the piss out of herself help keep Jann likeable even when she’s at her worst. Meanwhile, Grover’s whimsical and tender handling of Nora’s Alzheimer’s journey continues to provide emotional depth. 

Arden’s real-life mother passed away from Alzheimer’s complications in 2018, just after the first season wrapped. When asked if that loss made shooting Season 2 more difficult, she says it was actually the opposite. 

“You know what? It was a delight,” she says. “I got to live in a world for the five or six weeks when we were shooting where my mom was alive. And Deborah reminds me so much of my mom. My mom was hilarious. She was very intrepid; she wasn’t precious about dying.”

Arden says she’s thrilled that Jann allows her the opportunity to educate the Canadian public about Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I think to be able to see a main character in a contemporary, modern scripted comedy on a major network, to see that in your living room is so accessible, and it’s been really important,” she says.

During Season 3—which has already been ordered and set to go before cameras in January—Arden plans “to keep the pressure up” with Nora’s journey.

“There are so many great things that we can do with the story, and it makes it interesting,” she says. “You have to have pathos to have humour, right?”

Meanwhile, Arden says there are no plans to include COVID-19 stories in future seasons.

“We’re not addressing it, we’re not mentioning it,” she says. “In TV Jann’s world, it never happened.”

For the sake of Jann’s family, that’s probably a good idea.

Jann airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Preview: Pure deals a second season on Super Channel Fuse

When we last left Pure, its characters—and the show itself—were in disarray.

Eli Voss, the Season 1 villain who had forced Noah Funk (Ryan Robbins) and his wife, Anna (Alex Paxton-Beesley) into ferrying cocaine through Mexico into the United States, was killed by Noah. But the Funk’s actions led to them being excommunicated from their Ontario Mennonite community. Noah, despondent and feeling like he had failed his family—and gotten his brother, Abel (Gord Rand), killed—left the community altogether.

As for the show, CBC opted not to renew Michael Amo’s creation for a second season. Thankfully, Super Channel stepped in and ordered six more episodes. In the U.S., Season 1 was broadcast on Hulu and then picked up by WGN America; the American superstation will also broadcast Pure day and date with its Canadian counterpart.

A woman stands, facing two men who are walking towards her.When we catch up with the Funk family on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse, Noah is nowhere to be found. It’s a year since the events of the Season 1 finale, and Anna and her children Tina (Jessica Clement) and Isaak (Dylan Everett) are still on the outs with their community. In danger of losing her home, Anna pleads to the elders for help. Of course, the colony knew what Voss was doing at the time but still blame the Funks for the sins brought among them. Anna was forced to pick up the pieces after her husband left and has shown great strength in doing that. She’s very different from the woman we first met in Season 1.

Meanwhile, Det. Gates (Cory Bowles) has been searching for Noah at Anna’s request. And it’s while he’s doing it that Gates stumbles upon a crime scene introducing viewers to Hector Estrada (Victor Gomez) and his hitman Orff (Conrad Pla), two dudes that are just as evil as Voss and intent on getting the cocaine pipeline going again. We’re also introduced to Det. Valerie Krochak (Zoie Palmer), a former hockey player turned forensic accountant who becomes embroiled in the case.

After over a year since Super Channel announced a sophomore season, it’s good to jump back into Amo’s world. For such dark subject matter, Pure is rife with humour and heart. The scenery is stunning (Nova Scotia stands in for Ontario) and while much of the dialogue amongst the Mennonite characters are spare, a lack of words is made up in facial expression, body language and eye movement. And, when they do speak, it’s to say something truly important, heartfelt and with conviction.

Pure airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Super Channel Fuse.

Images courtesy of Super Channel.

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Jann: Zoie Palmer on Max and Jann’s “very cool sister dynamic”

Zoie Palmer has well over 100,000 Twitter followers that she interacts with on a regular basis, but back in 2015, she picked up one particular follower who wanted to cast her on a TV show she was developing: Jann Arden.

“Yeah, we met on Twitter of all places, and she talked about me being on the show,” Palmer says. “She’s funny as heck, and she’d been watching a show I did, and I’ve been watching her career forever. We just got on like a house on fire, it was just a natural thing.”

Their online friendship led to Palmer being cast as Max, the fictional sister of fictional Jann Arden, in the CTV comedy Jann. As the series begins, Max finds out she’s pregnant with her fourth child—despite her husband Dave’s (Patrick Gilmore) recent vasectomy—and is well over being the responsible sister who cares for their mum Nora (Deborah Grover) while Jann freely pursues her music career.

But even though Palmer says the siblings “may not know each other” if they weren’t related, she also says that they need each other.

“They bring a lot to each other,” says Palmer. “And because they’re so different, the comedy of that is endless.”

Max and Jann’s complicated, hilarious, and ultimately loving relationship is on full display in Wednesday’s new episode, “Major Party Foul,” as Jann takes over planning Nora’s 75th birthday party from Max.

We spoke to Palmer, who will also be appearing in the upcoming second season of Pure, during a visit to Jann‘s set last fall to learn more about Max and her experience working on the show.

Jann is quite a change of pace from your recent work on Dark Matter, Pure and Wynonna Earp.  Have you found it fun to work on a comedy?
Zoie Palmer: I love it. You know, Dark Matter was amazing, I loved it, it was a great three years. But then when things are over as an artist, the best thing that can happen is that you do something that is nothing like the thing you just did. That’s how I want to make my career, to go from totally unrelated thing to totally unrelated thing.

You play Jann’s sister Max on the show. They seem very different from each other. 
ZP: Jann has no kids and a music career, and Max has three kids and is pregnant, so their lives are very different from one another. And I don’t know if these two people would know each other if they weren’t sisters, you know what I mean? They’re really different. But it’s incredibly complementary and they kind of lean on each other in a weird way. Like, Jann brings to the table what Max doesn’t and Max absolutely brings to the table what Jann needs a lot of the time. So it’s a very cool sister dynamic. I think a lot of siblings have this thing where they think, ‘I don’t know if I’d know my sister or brother if we weren’t actually growing up in the same household,’ and I think it’s the case for these two, but it’s very cool that they are. They bring a lot to each other, and because they’re so different, the comedy of that is endless.

Jann has mentioned how nervous she was about acting in this series. Have you been helping her out at all on set?
ZP: There are technical things, like jargon on set where she might ask, ‘What does it mean when they say this or that?’ But overall really, because she presents such an honesty in her life, she really is an authentic person. The Jann that you saw [during the set visit], the Jann that we see on set is the same Jann that is in the kitchen making coffee. That’s her. I think the reason why that lends itself so well to acting is that she’s able to very easily tap into a real moment, which you need so much as an actor. So she kind of comes by that side of acting quite naturally. She’s pretty real, and she doesn’t have many moments that are not real.

Besides Jann herself, what do you think viewers will enjoy most about the show?
ZP: I think people are going to see their own family on TV in a lot of ways. Because this show presents all of those dynamics: the disagreements, the uncomfortable moments, the love. You know, I have one sister, and my mother used to say, ‘You have to be there for each other. You only have each other.’ I heard it over and over. It was a mantra in our house. So, I think it will be relatable.

You’ve been working all over Canada the last several months, shooting Pure in Halifax and filming Wynonna Earp and Jann in Calgary. Are getting homesick for Toronto at all? 
ZP: I’ve been travelling since May, but I love what I do and I love being in new places and, for me, it’s like a dream. It’s what I wanted to do since I was a kid, was this, so I love it. But, yeah, I have my things I like, my shower I like, and my park that I like to walk in. All the things you have at your house that you want.

Jann airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Jann Arden is unabashedly herself—sort of—on new CTV comedy Jann

When CTV hosted journalists on the Calgary set of its new comedy Jann in October, series star Jann Arden noted that she was just 17 days into her acting career. The Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter has oodles of experience in front of live crowds and has flashed her wicked wit on shows like The Social, but acting in front of a camera—and being No. 1 on the call sheet—is new. And nerve-wracking.

“I’m scared the entire time,” Arden admits during a press conference with the show’s cast and creators. “I think you have to do things in life that scare you.”

Showrunner Jennica Harper (Cardinal, Motive) confesses that she had last-second jitters about her star’s ability to crossover to television as well.

“We obviously were thrilled to be jumping into this project and also knew that it was going to live or die by Jann,” says Harper. “This is who people were going to be coming to see. And so on Day 1, there was sort of a moment where we were all like, ‘Oh, my god….”

“Can she f–king act?” Arden cuts in, causing the room to erupt in laughter.

Once everyone regains their composure, Harper continues, nodding toward Arden, “Then there was the answer, and it was ‘Oh, my god, she’s fantastic.’ It’s gonna be great.”

As that exchange proves, no one had anything to worry about. Arden has natural comedic timing, and as one of the day’s scenes—which journalists were invited to watch on monitors—later demonstrated, she also has impressive dramatic chops.

In Jann, which premieres on Wednesday, March 20, at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, Arden plays a largely fictionalized version of herself. She’s a recording artist who, unlike the real-life Calgary native, is a bit of a has-been, forced to rent out her beautiful country house to Airbnb guests who are more famous than she is. Her sweet but hapless long-time manager Todd (Jason Blicker) is endlessly supportive and books her all the gigs he can, but the payments are inconsistent at best—unless you’re looking to stock up on cheese wheels.  

On the home front, younger, more responsible sister Max (Zoie Palmer) is raising three kids and caring for their mother Nora (Deborah Grover), but her surprise fourth pregnancy shakes things up and soon mom is moving in with Jann. Meanwhile, Jann’s ex-girlfriend (Sharon Taylor) is moving on with another woman, and a younger, hipper music manager (Elena Juatco) is trying to push Todd out of the picture and resurrect Jann’s career—situations that are skillfully mined for laughs and cringe-inducing moments of second-hand embarrassment throughout the season’s six-episode run.

Harper and series co-creator Leah Gauthier (Motive), who set up their writer’s room in Arden’s kitchen, readily acknowledge shows like Episodes and Curb Your Enthusiasm—where Matt LeBlanc and Larry David played extreme versions of themselves—were heavy influences. And fictional Jann is certainly a narcissist who seems allergic to introspection and good decision making. However, she has a good heart and always manages to remain likable.

“You’re still rooting for her even though she’s making the wrong decisions,” says Gauthier.

And Jann also has a softer centre than those aforementioned shows, which is most evident in the tender and realistic way it deals with Nora’s dementia. Arden’s real-life mother, Joan Richards, suffered from Alzheimer’s and passed away in December, just weeks after filming wrapped. Arden wrote about her mom’s struggle with the disease in her best-selling 2017 memoir Feeding My Mother, and some of those experiences appear in the series.

Following the press conference, Arden returns to set to film a scene with Grover that involves an increasingly confused Nora wandering out to the car to find her missing purse and Jann realizing that something may really be wrong with her mom. The pair performed the scene over and over and over again, some takes ending stoically and some ending with Jann in tears. It is here that Arden and fictional Jann seem to merge, and the moment is quietly devastating.

Part of the blending between real and fiction may be related to Grover’s resemblance to Arden’s mother.

“I think she felt I had the right feeling, a certain sensibility, and that seemed to work for her vision of her mom,” Grover says.

As for any emotional toll that filming such scenes may take on her, Arden is matter-of-fact about it.

“I don’t mind tackling the hard stuff,” she says. “That’s life. It’s not a beer commercial, you’re not running down the beach all the time.”

Besides, Arden says living with her mother’s disease made her a better person—something that one presumes might happen to fictional Jann as well.

“It’s a devastating disease, but I don’t think I’ve ever been a better version of myself because of my mom’s illness,” she says. “You know, she put me in a position where I got sober after a lot of years and didn’t hide behind a lot of stuff. I’ve changed so many things about my health and well-being and got out of a really shitty relationship that went on far too long. And I think it gives you a lot of bravery because my mom is like, ‘You gotta be where you are.’”

It also helps to be who you are.

“I’ve made a living being myself, and just being unique to myself,” Arden continues. “That’s how I’ve made my money. That’s as simple as it is. I’m not the best singer, I’m not the best actor, I’m not the best anything. I do what I do, and it’s indigenous to me. So yeah, it’s great for me to have people see that, to have women see someone like me on television that’s not 5’10” and 100 pounds. There are lots of scenes where I’m in f–king boxer shorts and my hair is in a weird ponytail and people laugh before I even open my mouth, and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s reassuring.’

“Just be yourself.”

Or a version of yourself.

Jann airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Jann Arden taps alter-ego in new original comedy Jann, joining CTV’s midseason schedule beginning March 20

From a media release:

As announced last night during SUPER BOWL LIII, CTV’s all-new original comedy JANN begins streaming Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app beginning March 20. Starring multi-platinum award-winning Canadian singer, songwriter, broadcaster, author, and 2019 Order of Canada recipient Jann Arden as a fictionalized version of herself, the six-episode series JANN is a comedy with heart that bridges fame and family.

While Jann Arden is as talented as ever, in the world of JANN (the series), she’s no longer the household name she once was, and is now dealing with the harsh reality that her former music career is slowly fading away. She plays corporate gigs and community events, like the local farmer’s market, and to make ends meet, Jann lives in the guest house on her own property, while renting out her actual big home to other, more successful people.

The series follows fictional Jann and her somewhat desperate (and hilarious) struggle to find a new audience. To get what she wants, she’ll take career advice from both her old-school manager, and a new manager who wants her as a client — a slick hipster who has fresh ideas that are scary to anyone older than 26.

As Jann is on her quest for renewed fame, she’s also dealing with obligations and pressures from her ‘real’ life. Her mom is beginning to show signs of memory loss and needs someone to look out for her. Her sister is newly (and angrily) pregnant and needs support too. Plus, Jann’s recent ex is moving on, and they’ve committed to being friends…though Jann is still hoping for more. Can Jann stage a comeback and be there for the people who love her?

Starring alongside Arden in JANN are Zoie Palmer (SEX AFTER KIDS, DARK MATTER) as Jann’s sister Max; Deborah Grover (ANNE WITH AN “E”) as Jann’s mom Nora; Patrick Gilmore (TRAVELERS; YOU, ME, HER) as Jann’s brother-in-law Dave; Elena Juatco (OPEN HEART) as Jann’s new manager Cale; Jason Blicker (F/X: THE SERIES) as Jann’s long-time manager Todd; Sharon Taylor (BAD BLOOD) as Jann’s ex-girlfriend Cynthia; Alexa Rose Steele (DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION) as Jann’s eldest niece Charley; Ceilidh MacDonald as Jann’s niece Sam; Keaira Pliva (TIN STAR) as Jann’s niece Frankie, and Donna Godlonton as Jann’s neighbour Rhonda.

Guest stars in the inaugural season of JANN include Canadian indie pop singer-songwriter and guitarist Leslie Feist, Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist Kiesza, and TV personality Rick Mercer.

On the series premiere of JANN titled “The Big House” (Wednesday, March 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app), musician and former star Jann Arden is having a rough week in both her career and personal life. Her loyal manager screws up her chance at a huge gig, and her ex has decided to move on and see someone else. Things seem to be looking up when a slick new manager comes into Jann’s life, promising to reinvigorate her career. But that might prove challenging now that her mom, showing early signs of memory loss, is moving in with her. The episode is directed by Ron Murphy (WYNONNA EARP, TRAILER PARK BOYS) and guest stars Leslie Feist.

Encore presentations of JANN air Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Set and filmed in Calgary, JANN was co-developed by Bell Media and Project 10 Productions and is produced in association with Project 10 Productions and Seven24 Films.

JANN is executive produced by Andrew Barnsley and Ben Murray for Project 10 Productions, and Tom Cox and Jordy Randall for Seven24 Films. Jann Arden, Leah Gauthier, and Jennica Harper created the series and will also serve as Executive Producers with Jennica Harper Showrunning.

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