CTV’s The Disappearance has passed the halfway point in its six-episode season as the Sullivan family has dealt with one harrowing reveal after another. Anthony’s Mom, Helen, went above and beyond to get much-needed intel on Anthony, to the point that she potentially jeopardized her pregnancy. She’s processing a ton of emotions about who she is if she’s isn’t Anthony’s mother, and that internal disquiet sends her back down familiar roads. This morning, I spoke with Camille Sullivan, who plays Helen, about the role and what we can expect in the latter half of the season.
Sullivan was on holiday when she was offered the part of Helen in a deal that came together so quickly she didn’t have time to go home first. “It came completely out of the blue. I was travelling in Europe with my husband and a couple of friends and I had sketchy Internet and then all of a sudden I got an e-mail that I was supposed to receive four or five hours [earlier] saying I got a job offer out of nowhere,” she recalls.
“I flew directly back to Montreal with my flip-flops and sundresses and stayed there and my husband came a week later and brought my coats. Tom Hastings, one of the executives at CTV, remembered me from Intelligence. I was in Montreal for a week to prep and then we started. We shot the first episode and then shot the back five.”
She prepared for the role by researching true crimes about missing children. “I started watching documentaries about children who had gone missing and been found or never been found. What struck me was that the parents would say they felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness,” she explains.”You want, as a parent, to save your kids, find your kids, and protect your kids and you can’t do anything. The emotion starts there and then you just jump in.”
Sullivan had previously worked with Aden Young in a feature film called The Unseen, and that gave them a welcome shorthand in their roles. “It’s a modern-day retelling of The Invisible Man and he is disappearing literally and figuratively and our daughter goes missing and he has to come back to reality so we can try to find her.”
“It was certainly great for me coming in because there was somebody I knew already. It made me more comfortable. He’s a lovely actor to work with. In the movie, we were also ex-spouses, so we came into [this] one very natural.”
She’s particularly fond of that extended family scene in the first episode. “My favorite scene is where we are having dinner and we’re all together and it’s one of the few scenes as a family where we all got to play together for a good five pages. That was a really enjoyable experience and a really great way to get to know the other actors who were so lovely.”
“I was worried about the scene where we find the boy who was not [Anthony]. On the day we shot it, I beat myself up about it because I thought I was terrible and then I watched it and I was relieved.”
When Helen revealed that she was pregnant, it added an extra layer of complexity to how her character is handling her grief and loss of personal identity. Sullivan relished that dichotomy. “There’s a lot going on with Helen. One of the most interesting things, the most human, is that you would do anything you could [to find your child],” she explains.
“Sleeping with [the ex-con who was threatening Henry so] maybe he’ll tell me where my son is is an easy choice. It’s the aftermath that’s interesting when she realizes how much of a personal toll doing that took and then getting into a situation that’s more than she’s able to handle.”
“I think the whole idea of being pregnant and the [new] child is a difficult one for her. Her struggle is to try and find a way to continue to live and part of that is having a child, but she also obviously can’t abandon her child that’s hopefully still out there. I think it’s a real back-and-forth hurdle the whole time and I think when she almost loses the baby, she realizes. ‘I need to protect this baby as well and in that way, I need to protect myself.'”
Sullivan enjoys that the show is a bit of a twist on the procedural and says we’ll be rewarded at the end of this journey with the family. “They’re investigating at the same pace or even slightly ahead of the police. They’re not passive participants at all. That’s what makes it so interesting and different,” she says. “The pace that the show has set is fast and a lot has happened and it continues that way but ramps up even more so. [The] ending is going to be very, very satisfying for anyone who’s watched the story.”
If you recognize Sullivan but can’t quite place her, there’s a good reason. She appears regularly in film (The Birdwatcher, Sisters & Brothers, Mothers & Fathers) and TV (The Man in the High Castle, Rookie Blue, Intelligence) projects, and has been awarded with Gemini nominations and Leo statues for her work. She loves being able to jump between both mediums.
“I feel really fortunate that I get to do both,” she shares. “When I work in TV for a while, I’m like, ‘This is great, I love doing this.’ Then, after a while, I want to do something else. There’s something fun about doing a movie and doing something fast and dirty and then getting out.”
The Disappearance airs Sunday at 9pm ET/PT on CTV. You can watch the first three episodes online now at CTV’s website. In case you missed it, our exclusive interview with Peter Stebbings, who directs the entire series, is here.
Here’s the formal logline for Episode 4: Susan and Charles focus their investigation on Stephen Price – their main suspect in Anthony’s disappearance. Still driven to pursue his own investigation but confined to a hospital bed, Henry confides in Fred, Catherine’s patient. While Luke is convinced that his father’s past is connected to his son’s case, the discovery of a new clue becomes a turning point for the investigation.
Photos courtesy of CTV