Bellevue Star Shawn Doyle on His Role and Telling Canadian Stories

Bellevue‘s third episode airs tonight on CBC (check out Heather’s preview here), and we sat down with Shawn Doyle to discuss his role on the show and how Canadian TV is evolving.

Peter is a father figure and protective of Annie to an extent, but is also the person to enable and encourage her instincts when it comes to her work. That continues through the first season, but they will also butt heads. “Peter respects her instincts as a police officer, but he may question her approach sometimes,” Doyle shared. “She’s less experienced than he is, so that comes into conflict in terms of the procedures at work. What you’re going to see through the season is that as the mystery evolves, their relationship evolves because it’s hinging on certain secrets from the past surrounding the death of her father who was Peter’s boss. When that comes to the surface, that causes a great amount of conflict. The roles of distrust continually shifts back and forth between the two of them.”

The story told in Bellevue is so much more than mystery and secrets. It looks at the human condition and how people react during challenging times. Doyle said, “The reason I was interested in the show in the beginning was that it seems to be a unique amalgamation of this mystery/thriller with very human drama. It’s grounded and a real exploration of human relationships and the human reaction to this [missing] teen, their identity politics, and the town’s reaction to that.”

Shawn Doyle Bellevue

Some of the people in this town show their true colours when Jesse goes missing and they learn that their shining star is transgender. “The underbelly of any town — large or small — can be dark,” Doyle told us. “When these things are revealed, it’s almost like … it belongs in an upside down world at a moment where people are reacting and responding and revealing things that you don’t expect.”

There’s also a brewery coming into this town to lift it out of the despair following the closing of the mine, and the townspeople are trying to keep up appearances while this dark cloud hovers over them. Doyle can relate to this. “Stoicism is an important part of most working class towns. I grew up in a small working town and it’s all about soldiering on, keeping everything together, and moving ahead.” He added, ” [Then there’s] the power that institutions are allowed to hold over people, like the church or hockey as [religion] in a way.”

There has been a notable shift in the type of series that are being produced in Canada over the past decade or so, and Bellevue is continuing this trend of bolder, more specific storytelling. “Here in Canada — for a long time — there was a monolithic thinking that there was one thing that everybody liked. That was from the top down through all the networks and programming people,” Doyle explained. “Now, two things are happening: first, we are recognizing that everybody likes different things, and there’s a place for everything; and second, all these stories, no matter how specific and nuanced, can reach a huge audience now, not just in Canada but around the world, and we’re gaining confidence in telling our very specific stories. I could list 20 shows that were brilliant, but we lose sight of that on a regular basis being next to America. There’s always pressure to keep up with and emulate whatever the latest tone or style trend that’s [popular] in the States. It’s not a game where we can succeed, but we can succeed in telling our own stories.”

Photos Courtesy of CBC

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