Cardinal kicks off its second season on CTV tonight, and this morning, I had the chance to speak with Karine Vanasse, who plays Lise Delorme. I’ll roll pieces of our chat out over the season, but in this first installment, she talks about working in English-Canadian TV, the changes from Season 1 to Season 2, and working with a female-led producing and writing team.
Vanasse jumped at the opportunity to play Delorme when Cardinal was announced in 2015. As a French-Canadian actress, it would give her the opportunity to gain exposure outside the French-language Canadian work she’d previously done (like Blue Moon with Mary Kills People‘s Caroline Dhavernas), as well as her American projects, Pan Am and Revenge.
“I first heard about the show being developed and looking for their Delorme. I read all the scripts that came my way in October/November 2015 and I started to fight as much as I could for it. I read the books afterward. From reading the scripts, I knew it was very strong material. Billy [Campbell] wasn’t involved yet. I felt like CTV was fully committed [to the show],” Vanasse recalls.
“I had been looking for opportunities on the English-Canadian side. It had been a wish of mine. I think Canadian viewers didn’t know I was French-Canadian. From Revenge and Pan Am, they thought I was European. To be allowed to bring my French-Canadian roots to [Cardinal] and [have it] now traveling all around the world and being internationally well received, there’s some pride in that. Being part of a strong Canadian show makes me very proud.”
Vanasse says moving into English-speaking roles also gave her the opportunity to expand her character range. “I started at such a young age in Quebec. Sometimes I think it’s healthy to move away from the [French-Canadian side of the] business because people know me so well. People don’t know me as well on the English side, so it allows me to explore new areas,” she explains.
“It helps for the French-Canadian side to see me do that, as well. It feels like it’s bringing me new opportunities and allowing me to reinvent myself a little bit more. It’s a strange path to be recognized more in the States and come back to your own country and get more work. I usually play sort of warm characters who are sympathetic and [Revenge‘s] Margaux LeMarchal was not that [and she] showed that I had a wider range. It felt like coming home to do Cardinal.”
While Season 1 was helmed by one director, it was shot in a typical individual-episode fashion. Seasons 2 and 3 opted for block shooting, with a single director for each season. “The stories are quite linked so it made sense to wrap Season 2 and start 3 soon after. We were so lucky that CTV greenlit both seasons,” says Vanasse.
“We had one director for Season 1, [Daniel Grou], and he came back for Season 3. Season 2 was [directed by] Jeff Renfroe. I’m so glad to see that’s what TV is doing more and more, when you have one vision carrying through the episodes. It’s not always possible with 10 or 12 episodes. Having one director that you can try to understand his vision and get a sense of the world, it unites the whole thing.”
“I like the fact that we have six episodes [so] that you can go in-depth with the characters. You don’t have that much dialogue. It makes a difference that the camera takes the time to get reactions from the characters, so even if words aren’t being said, you get to go in-depth [as a viewer], and as an actor you get to explore those characters.”
Vanasse says the swap from winter in Season 1 to summer in Season 2 also lent itself to that character development. “The cold in Season 1 helped us set the tone for who these characters are. The constriction and tension that came from the cold helped us establish [them] and the tone of the show,” she explains. “It looks more comfortable [in Season 2] because it’s summer, but it’s less because of the flies. It was a different way to integrate the environment and the characters with how they evolve.”
The new season has Sarah Dodd on board as the showrunner and head writer among a writing staff of women, and Vanasse appreciated that dynamic. “Women are really involved in front of and behind the camera. Our producers and writers are female. I felt like it was a great balance,” she shares.
“Also with how they developed Delorme from how she was presented in the books, especially book one. I really like how women exist [in the show]. I feel pretty strongly [that] viewers will appreciate her development [in Season 2], and the development of Dyson (Kristen Thomson) in Season 3.”
Cardinal airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CTV.
Images courtesy of CTV