Mary Kills People premieres tonight on Global TV (April 23 on Lifetime in the US), and we sat down with Caroline Dhavernas to talk about her starring role on this intriguing drama. Set in the world of assisted death in a city where it is illegal, Mary is an ER doctor by day, and an end of life counsellor by night. While the subject matter sounds very dark, there is a levity to it. Caroline talks about Mary’s motivations, Mary’s relationship with her partner, and the humour that comes in during these difficult times in life.
I’ve been excited about Mary Kills People since the project was first announced. After watching the first two episodes, I am not sure if Mary’s motives are altruistic or selfish.
I think they’re both. She works with these people out of compassion, mostly because things have happened in her past that have taught her that people should have the right to choose. She deeply feels that this is true, and also it’s becoming a bit like a drug to her because of the meaningful moment and the cathartic moment that she has with these people. She can’t stop doing it just like that because it brings her something very intimate. I don’t believe it’s completely selfless.
There’s also a financial aspect to it.
She’s uncomfortable with that aspect of it, but she has people working with her. She can’t expect them to be in it with no money at all, especially given the risk because we live in a North American city [on the show] where it’s still illegal to do so. Here in Canada, things have changed recently.
Mary also has an ex-husband constantly bothering her for money.
She’s in a tough spot. She’s raising two young girls and trying to juggle everything and make everything work, but it’s really complicated.
If this was a loved one, would Mary still be as willing to help them end their life?
I think you’ll figure that out eventually throughout the show. You’ll get to hear things as the series evolves that might answer your question.
Given the subject matter, viewers may be inclined to think that this is a very dark show, but there is humour in it.
I’m really happy you’re bringing that up because it can seem like a depressing subject matter. The writers were smart to see that it’s part of life to have these moments of darkness [followed by] laughter because of the density. It’s like a funeral. So many times I’ve been to funerals and then never felt as alive as I do after. We rarely talk about death. When we’re so close to it, we’re reminded how privileged we are to be here and be healthy.
I really love the relationship between Mary and her partner, Des (Richard Short). There’s a great balance between them.
They’re two fragile yet very strong human beings at the same time. He’s a recovering addict. He’s made bad mistakes in the past, and she’s giving him a second chance by working with him. They only have each other because they can’t talk about they’re doing with anyone else — except for Annie (Grace Lynn Kung) who is also in the know. Their double life weighs very heavy on them and they’re each other’s breath of fresh air.
Other shows have explored the extremes that a person is willing to go to make ends meet and provide for their family. Do you think Mary would still be doing this if her circumstances were different?
I think she would because she’s making it work although it’s really complicated to fit into her life. If she didn’t have the kids, she’d probably do even more. It’s that important to her.
Are you anticipating feedback from people actively involved in assisted death, or perhaps those opposed to it?
Hopefully people will hear about the show and watch it. I’ll be curious to [hear what they say]. When I talk about it to my friends or people around me, everyone seems to be able to relate to the subject matter because they’ve gone through it in their personal stories.
It really makes us ask how much we are willing to watch a loved one suffer when there is no hope of recovery.
And we do it with our pets. We’re not asking that question, or maybe we are but not for very long. We want to help ease the pain. Human beings have become so complicated. It’s a control issue, and you can see it from both sides, but you say, “I can’t control that this person is going to die and is suffering, so let’s ease the pain,” or you could say, “This is what God chose and let the person suffer to the end of their story.” It depends how you see it.
The question also comes up regarding medical ethics, which should be secular and science-based, but often see religious ideology coming into play — the whole “playing God” aspect. In some people’s eyes, Mary and Des would be “playing God.”
In their eyes, God probably didn’t want people to suffer … if there is a God.
Photos Courtesy of Global TV