CBC’s newest drama, Plan B, continues Monday night, and last week, I had the chance to chat with series stars Patrick J. Adams and Karine Vanasse about the drama. In the first part of our conversation, we talk about adapting the show from the original French incarnation under the helm of its creators and keeping track of the multiple timelines.
“I was a little worried at first because my instinct was, ‘Well, are we just remaking what you made in English?’ Because in my experience, that can often kind of be folly. It doesn’t always work. But then when I met with Jean-François [Asselin], who was the creator, and Louis [Morissette] who was the producer and originally played my role, they were both really adamant that they wanted to have actors who were going to come and bring their own flavor to this,” shares Adams.
“While we were still using essentially the same story and a version of the same script, they said, ‘We want to know what you are looking to do with it.’ There was no trying to put us into the same shape. My version of Phil was always gonna be different than Louis’s, and they really embraced that and they wanted that, and so that was refreshing and comforting.”
“It was really unique to not just get scripts of a show that you’re going to shoot, but to actually watch it. And again, that might not be great most of the time, but [here] what I loved about that was I knew that this worked. You don’t always know that. You read a script and it seems like it works and you think, ‘Okay, this translation onto the screen, hopefully we do justice to what we think is a compelling script.’
“With this, we knew, I knew, from watching these six episodes of the French series [that] this story works. The beats of the story work, the characters are interesting, where the different things, the different plot points land over the course of the six episodes structurally really makes sense.”
“So that was a cool way to digest something for the first time and to go into it knowing that I don’t have to question or worry that maybe this isn’t going to work here in this episode, because I’ve seen it work. So now my job is to just bring myself to it and make it as real and authentic for me as possible. And I don’t have to concern myself with the other questions like, ‘Is this actually going to make sense?’”
Vanasse says it helped that there were several other new players involved. “We weren’t the only new elements to the show, creatively. Yes, Jean-François was still directing and was still involved and directing the last episode, but we also had Maxime Giroux and Aisling Chin-Yee, who were directing other episodes as well. So knowing that we weren’t the only new creative element to the team made me feel as though Jean-François and Louis were open to this show being the same and not quite the same,” she adds.
“And just welcoming ideas must be really hard [because] you created something and it’s pretty rare that you have the same creative team involved. So the exercise for them allowing it to bloom differently was probably more of a challenge for them than for us. But I feel like we ended up having the space to to really play without having in mind that we had to replicate something.”
The series weaves in and out of timelines that have been reset, and both actors credit a wonderful script coordinator with helping to keep the narratives straight about who, when, and where the action is taking place and making sure everything tracked.
“Pretty much from day one. It was like, ‘I don’t know guys … here we go.’ It was really tough. We were block shooting according to location because that was the only way to logistically pull this off, so every location we were on, on any given day, we were shooting any given scene from six episodes with three different directors,” explains Adams.
“So we could have three different directors in one day, we could do 10 scenes, which means you’re changing clothes for everyone. And so the beginning of every scene was just a huddle of all of us [level setting], ‘Okay, where are we? When are we? What’s going on?’ And we’d all done our homework and sort of knew, but we’d always need to double check.”
“We got good at our vocabulary on catching up pretty quickly. But we certainly had a few moments where I think we shot a scene or did a couple of takes and then someone would come in and [realize] you’re wearing the wrong clothes, or I think it was daylight and it’s supposed to be nighttime.”
“And we had such a magnificent crew, an incredible group of people, so we’d all pivot very quickly and figure it out. But it was a little head spinning for three months. It was probably the craziest thing I’ve ever shot. Just keeping everything straight was like a full-time job.”
Vanasse says it was a bit like a play and being thrown onto the stage and checking the wings that you were ready to go but jumping in anyway. “The experience on set feeds into the show itself, and all that confusion that was created was totally part of the rhythm of the show, of its dynamic,” she shares.
“It was a whirlwind tornado of ‘Where are we?’ I feel like it’s this underlying question throughout and it was great to feel on our toes for it.”
Photos Courtesy of CBC.