The third episode of Pure airs tonight on CBC, and we sat down with series star Alex Paxton-Beesley. She talked about playing Anna Funk, Noah’s wife, her role in this family, and what this character would be willing to do to protect her family from the Menno Mob that’s destroying her community.
I was expecting Anna to be more of a meek, passive character but was pleasantly surprised by her spirit and strong will. What was it about Anna that made you want to tackle this role?
It was her strength, and this marriage and family that they have. There is something about anyone in an orthodox religion in this day and age, especially in North America, who chooses that life. I think that’s really interesting. It implies a conscious quality about what you want your life to be that is really admirable, regardless of what the specific tenets of that faith or lifestyle may be. Taking that ownership over your belief system is admirable. On the page, Anna is such a pragmatic woman, so willing and ready to solve problems, and she never seems to be weakened by them. She’s so strong, and a lot of that has to do with how functional her relationship is. That’s something that Ryan [Robbins] and I talked about even in the chemistry test that we did together before I had the part, how much these two people understand each other, care for each other, and support each other. That was a real joy to investigate and play.
We learn very quickly that Anna experienced life in the “outside world.” Is that part of the reason why she’s more assertive than you might expect a wife in an orthodox religion to be?
The really cool thing about our show is that our two children — played by Jessica Clement and Dylan Everett — they’re sort of our flashback. Tina is very much living the life that Anna lived. They do go to regular high schools, and they’re learning among Ausländer kids, so they’re seeing that other side of things. Isaac very clearly has chosen that he wants to be a Mennonite, he thinks that’s the right way, and Tina seems to have a few more questions about the world that she’s part of. That’s exactly what it was like for Anna. In my interpretation of it, Anna is so strong in her beliefs because that was choice was really conscious. She was offered something else and instead chose the Mennonite way, and that can be empowering.
The corruption that is going on in their community is affecting this family on a couple of different fronts: with Noah as the patriarch of the family and the spiritual leader of the community, but also with his brother who is affected by the drugs. Can you share how Anna plays into all of this?
Without giving too much away, it is Noah’s intention to keep Anna out of it. When that kind of thing is happening in your community — she clearly knows what the rumours are about what’s happening in their community, it’s very small and everyone would know what’s going on with people — but she’s not the kind of person to sit back and let things happen.
I immediately got the sense that Anna was a strong woman and not content to just sit on the sidelines.
She’s definitely not. She is going to protect her family at all costs.
When I spoke with your TV husband Ryan Robbins, there’s a question he answered that I’d love your perspective on. When it comes to this family and keeping the children safe, if offered a choice between staying in the community and fighting for what you believe in or leaving the community and living in the outside world, what choice would Anna make?
If it was about keeping the children alive, Anna would leave. She’d leave if it was life or death. She would fight pretty hard for her community at large, but at the end of the day, her number one priority is her children and her husband, and that family unit. She would do whatever it takes to keep them safe.
That’s actually different from Ryan’s perspective on it.
Well, get ready to see the juxtaposition of those belief systems.
Noah and Anna’s can’t really be described as romantic, passionate, and all-consuming, but there is a very deep love and equality between them. Can you tell us a bit about playing a relationship like this?
Something that Ryan and I had both felt to begin with, and several different Mennonite sources confirmed that their parents or the parents of their friends were very physically demonstrative with their children, but not with each other. For Ryan and I, that meant that every time Anna and Noah touch, it is incredibly significant. They’re not holding hands and walking down the street. They’re not hugging and kissing and saying that they love each other all the time because it is so believed. It is the foundation of everything that they love each other and that they’re going to be together forever, so they don’t need to prove it all the time. It is just there. In the first episode, when we’re lying in bed and he offers his hand and I take it, when we shot that it was so important taking hands in that moment. We’re sharing a bed, we’ve had children, we’ve been married for a long time but that holding of hands becomes so significant. I find it pretty amazing.
Do you think that Anna is scared that Noah could possibly be corrupted by these forces in their community?
No, I don’t think she’s ever afraid of Noah being corrupted, but I think Anna is afraid of Noah being so badly hurt by the evil that exists in the world that he would lose a sense of himself. His belief is so intractable, so solid, it is everything. It is who he is, and a lot of parts of his belief are innocent. Anna’s seen a little bit more of the world and knows how badly people can be hurt and her greatest fear is seeing Noah hurt that way.
Photos Courtesy of CBC