Diggstown joins CBC’s drama lineup tonight, starring Vinessa Antoine (General Hospital, Being Erica, Haven) as Marcie Diggs. The character is described as “a star corporate lawyer who reconsiders her priorities after her beloved aunt commits suicide following a malicious prosecution.” She is reunited with a former colleague, Colleen MacDonnell (Natasha Henstridge, Eli Stone) at a legal aid office in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where she vows to protect innocent lives from being destroyed by the justice system.
I chatted with Antoine and Henstridge last fall about their roles on Diggstown and why they really wanted to be a part of this series. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Initially, what did you find most intriguing about Diggstown and your characters?
Vinessa: For me, it was playing a character that we often don’t see, but also isn’t very stereotypical. She’s a corporate lawyer, but she doesn’t come from a place where she’s powerful, running the show, and when she snaps her fingers, everybody jumps into place. We’re very used to seeing those kinds of characters, particularly with black women, like Olivia Pope and Viola Davis’ character on How to Get Away with Murder. These are very powerful, strong women, and while that’s absolutely necessary to see, it’s also necessary to see — from a black person’s perspective — the vulnerable side of being a woman of colour. [Diggstown] is a little more messy and from the heart.
Natasha: I simply read the script, and it was the best thing that I’d read in such a long time. I was so jazzed about it. It was a beautifully crafted, well-written script. I do like to play strong characters — and this is no exception — but with flaws and messiness as well. I’m also playing an openly gay character for the first time, which is super important to me. I have family members and lots and lots of friends that are gay that have struggled. I know what they went through in growing up and being closeted. But it’s not about Colleen being gay; it’s about the whole person. Beyond that, there’s such a beautiful balance between the cases and caring about who the lawyers are.
How are we introduced to Marcie Diggs?
Vinessa: [It comes following] a very tragic incident in which her aunt committed suicide. [The series begins] after she’s already made the decision to leave corporate law and dedicate her life to helping the less fortunate, the vulnerable people in our society in legal aid. But those old skeletons — the dark feelings of guilt and shame — and questioning who she actually is in this world come up in the first episode. She’s dealing with it the best way she can.
Mental health issues are something that’s kept behind closed doors. You’re meant to feel ashamed or you don’t talk about it. With Marcie, it’s prevalent in her family. They’re a religious family as well. This tight-knit community in Nova Scotia, North Preston, is heavily religious. The idea of mental health and suicide are not discussed very much. There is a feeling of wanting to run from that, and I think that’s where Marcie is. She dives into these other worlds to get away from the reality of what’s going on in her world. It’s not only with mental health, but with sexuality [as well]. There’s a lot of things that happen within the black community that are going to be revealed.
What brings Colleen and Marcie together in the series?
Natasha: Colleen is the head of legal aid. She runs the show there after leaving a fancier position in Toronto and going through a divorce. She’s raising two kids and ends up in Halifax. Marcie was actually one of Colleen’s star students, so she invites her to work for [legal aid] … to the dismay of some of the other lawyers. Colleen has a soft spot for Marcie Diggs. At the same time, my character is trying to balance all of these different things. She secretly wants to be liked, but pretends she doesn’t care what anybody thinks of her.