CTV’s Cardinal concludes its second season tonight with a finale that wraps the primary arc and sets up the third (already filmed) season that will arrive later this year. This morning, I spoke with Alex Paxton-Beesley, who plays Terri, about the season, her recurring role on Murdoch Mysteries, and working on Pure, which arrives in the US on WGNA this spring.
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Paxton-Beesley is a massive fan of Cardinal‘s first season, and put her wishes to be part of it into the universe, and the universe answered. “I was at the Writers Guild of Canada Awards around this time last year and I was asked, ‘What show would you be on if you could be on a show?’ and I said Cardinal,” she recalls.
“The first season was one of my absolute favorite things probably ever. I think it’s one of the greatest things this country has ever made. [It] doesn’t shy away from being Canadian or pander to it, either. The intersection of being in the North with an Anglophone cop, a Francophone cop, and an indigenous Canadian cop, it spoke to me as a Canadian and felt really true.”
“And the way it was made, visually. It’s so wonderful. You can have so much space on camera in this show. The Canadian landscape and geography really become part of it to devastating and brutal effect in the first season and in our season in a completely different way. It’s a phenomenal resource. For me, it’s a huge part of what I think we are as Canadians. We are informed by our landscapes, and to see it onscreen is really special. When I got the opportunity to audition, I was floored and excited and so scared and I wanted it to so badly. When I got it, I was pretty darned excited.”
Paxton-Beesley didn’t know the entirety of her arc when she signed on, and between that and personal research, she was able to create Terri’s backstory and build her performance. “It was a very quick process. I didn’t have a ton of time with the material. I had to fill in a lot of blanks, which was interesting. Through the journey with Terri, that was actually pretty useful, to make things up and see what stuck,” she explains.
“I watched quite a few things on You Tube that were really fascinating. I read a whole bunch of books. I read books about people who had been through trauma that didn’t necessarily lead to a brain injury. I read a great book called Be Ready for the Lightning [by Grace O’Connell]. That was one of my touchstones for me for what I imagined Kevin and Terri might have gone through in their not onscreen past. There are a couple of You Tube videos of awake brain surgeries that are just fascinating. It’s insane what you can find research wise.”
The finale pushes Terri to psychological and physical limits, and Paxton-Beesley was thrilled to do some of the actual stunt work herself. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve worked with Randy Butcher and Jacqueline Legere who has been my stunt double before. She’s incredible. She’s just the coolest strongest woman who so thankfully looks so uncannily like me. Even she said it was one of the hardest things she’s done,” she shares
“I did a lot of very specific workouts just to have the strength to hold myself in certain positions. It took on and off about four days [to shoot it]. It was the craziest, most challenging thing I’ve done. It was very intense. There is something really, really useful as getting as close to real as possible to do it. You have to trust your team to pull you back.”
“It was quite empowering. I have a chronic pain condition and I’ve been working with that for a really long time, and any time I get to do a stunt like that, I’m like, ‘Yes, I can do that, and I will!’ That was one of my favorite things about Terri. She’s a very strong and stubborn woman in the face of all kinds of adversity. I did some of it, but Jacqueline did it for real. She’s so cool. I can’t even talk about.”
Paxton-Beesley’s favorite scenes include the brain surgery scene in Episode 2, and working opposite Billy Campbell. “Honestly, any scene with Billy was wonderful. He’s such a great actor. The space that they’ve written into the show… there’s not that much dialogue, she points out. “The early scenes with Billy were so beautifully, sparsely written that I loved working on them.”
You might also recognize the Paxton-Beesley from her recurring work on Murdoch Mysteries, but she hasn’t booked another appearance yet. “I would love to be back on that show because Freddie is so much fun,” she says. “Every year, they call and ask what [my schedule is like] just in case. She’s fighting for so much agency within her time period and that’s awesome. I love it so much.”
Pure was a 2017 show that I very much enjoyed, and a year on, Paxton-Beesley fondly recalls the experience. “That was equally intense and complete different. You’re trying to step into beginning to understand a society that is so rules-based and there are boxes that everyone needs to fit into because that’s what makes them feel safe and that’s they agreed on as a community,” she says.
“Trying to understand where those lines are and were for this fictitious sect [was part of the process]. I was involved form the very beginning so getting to have those big creative conversations with the cast and crew was a real discovering of community that was awesome and hard. Working with that cast was a joy.”
Paxton-Beesley recently filmed a role for the You Tube Red series, Impulse. “I have a couple-episode arc. I’ve never worked exclusively in French before,” she shares. “It’s an American show in English, but my character only speaks French. I haven’t used it in so long, so it was a challenge.”
Cardinal airs tonight at 9 pm ET on CTV. Here are a few sneak peeks of “El Brujo,” directed by Jeff Renfroe and written by Sarah Dodd, and stay tuned after the finale for a network sneak peek of Season 3, coming later this year.
Photos Courtesy of CTV and CBC; Videos Courtesy of CTV