Jenny calls her first inquest on this week’s new Coroner. It’s an episode that proves she means what she says about correcting past mistakes, and features a case that forces McAvoy to look at his own past history.
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Jenny and McAvoy work together to prove that the investigation was flawed, which also makes McAvoy realize his badge only takes him so far in terms of racial diversity. Jenny’s personal history with medications for mental illness gives her a perspective that lets her see what her predecessor couldn’t or didn’t. And that impresses chief pathologist Da Silva.
Jenny’s right hand, Alison, also steps up when her boss needs help. Last week, I jumped on the phone with Tamara Podemski to talk about her character, the show, and her other current projects. In this first installment, she discusses creating the character, writing for APTN’s Future History, and a thriller that you can catch now on Crave.
Podemski initially put herself on tape to audition for Coroner, with her husband, actor Jamie King, in the position of director. “It was a very normal audition process. We have a self-tape studio in our house. I remember my original take on Alison, which was partly there in the writing. I connected with her quirkiness and her social awkwardness and her over-eagerness, so I [leaned into that],” she recalls. “My husband asked me if I thought it was too far, and I said, ‘If it is, great, let them tell me to take it back a bit.’”
“When I got the callback, I continued with all that sensibility. I didn’t want her to be a in a totally different world. I did feel like there was something in the way they were writing her that she was the undrugged version of Jenny Cooper if she didn’t have Atavan to manager her.”
“I did a screen test with Serinda [Swan]. Great things can happen when you’re given the chance to play with another actor. It was improv and play and Serinda was totally up for that. I don’t know if I’d have gotten the role if I hadn’t had the chance to play and explore in the room.”
“These are real luxuries that don’t really exist anymore. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and back in the old days, you’d go in the room and have that time. Over the years as casting sessions and budgets are cut and the self-tape wave has taken over, [that’s gone away]. You’re cast from a tape [you shot] in your living room and then the next time you meet is on set.”
“I feel like I book more jobs when I get to go in the room. It’s not lost on me that there’s still a magic that can happen when the creators are behind the table and giving you love and support and encouragement to play and then you have another very skilled and able and engaged actor who’s ready to meet you there. She was the perfect playmate.”
Podemski loves how Alison’s been able to grow just in the first five episodes, and how the change in bosses released her in a way. “[When we meet Alison], she’s surrounded by the four walls of the office. I was thinking of a personality under pressure in a very closed environment. ‘What would an eccentric personality be like in an environment like that?’” she shares.
“I was always waiting for someone to tell me [it was too much], but nobody told me to put the brakes on.”
“She was nurtured in her oddness. Everything of her nature and quality is there in the script. There is a consistency of voice [between different writers]. They feed off of what they’ve seen and what’s already developed. I felt like it was a really organic development of a character [from] many people creating her together.”
Podemski is also a writer on Future History, an Indigenous documentary series that airs Tuesdays at 7:30pm ET on APTN. She joined the project through her sister, Jennifer. “She has become a very prominent voice in the world of Indigenous storytelling and reclaiming the narrative — telling our stories from our points of view. By telling them from our perspective, you’re correcting the colonial narrative that has been shown up to this point,” she explains.
“She was developing [the series] with an Anishinaabe archaeologist. It was based on the idea that so many Indigenous artifacts are kept by museums. So what if we did a documentary series about repatriating these items from museums? That was a very difficult show to tell. She expanded it to all different types of rematriation — to reclaiming the voice, identity, and culture, so it’s not just these items we’re bringing back. It’s all aspects of culture.”
She shares that her long history in the business alongside her sister gave them a shorthand that was integral to getting the project going. “I speak her language. The best thing you can hope when you’re creating anything, especially a longform narrative of 13 episodes … you want someone who can almost read your mind and everything you want to do and say,” she points out.
“It was totally terrifying. We had [to do] all the research to find all the people and places and the logistics of getting into all these places and bringing film crews into those places. It was very challenging, probably one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done [but] very gratifying.”
The series is airing Season 1 now, and has already been renewed for a second, which meant Podemski was ramping up on it while she was shooting Season 1 of Coroner. “I had to be careful that I only [wrote] on days where I didn’t have crazy amounts of [Alison] dialogue,” she says.
“When I’m in research mode, I’m mush. I love it. I have to remember that every season does get easier because you get in your groove and your learn from your mistakes.”
“My job is to find the people that we’re featuring. Once we have all the participants that we’re profiling, we then have a format and premise of the show. Our two hosts travel around kind of like a road trip to each of these people who all represent a different form of this movement of reclamation.”
“It’s called Future History because we are correcting the future or correcting the past to Indigenize the future. I’m the one who will place people in an environment doing an activity while our host is interacting with them. I’m setting up the scenario to hopefully showcase both the host and the guest’s ideas to have this dialogue.”
“Usually the people we’re profiling are crazy brilliant. I like to create scenarios to highlight and give a platform to their work because they’re pretty extraordinary.”
You can also catch Podemski in the thriller, Never Saw It Coming, which is now streaming on Crave. “I don’t usually do them. It was a fun departure from my usually heavy drama stuff. It’s based on the novel by Linwood Barclay. It’s that murder mystery whodunnit … with twists and turns you didn’t expect. I play the lead detective,” she says.
“People who love the crime novel type shows and stories will certainly enjoy it. My favorite part was working with director Gail Harvey . She just is so fun and easy and relaxed. We shot the whole thing in 12 days. I was thinking, ‘How you can do that?’ When you’re just a cool, calm, and collected chick, Gail Harvey can do that.”
Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Video Courtesy of CBC