[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
With just two episodes to go in the final season of Cardinal, the series spends the last two hours focusing. of course, on Cardinal and Delorme, but also gives a fair amount of time to how Scott became the killer he is. I’d say it was a surprise that Scott has become such an empathetic character, but it’s not. While the storyline delivers all the key ingredients to make us care about him, it’s Shawn Doyle‘s performance that brings it all home. I had the chance to speak with him this week about playing the role, joining the show for its final mystery, and a few of his other current projects.
When I’m asked about which Canadian TV shows to watch, Endgame (no, not that one) is always on the list, so I’m admittedly biased toward watching Doyle. In that excellent one-and-done Showcase series, he played an agoraphobic, and deeply heartbroken, chess master who solved mysteries without ever leaving his hotel room.
Instead, he employed a range of field investigators who went out into the city and brought back all the pieces he required to solve the mystery. I adored it, and the supporting cast is a who’s who of excellent CdnTV talent. The whole series is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV in case you missed and need a binge rec. You can also stream all eight episodes of Bellevue on CBC Gem if you need another Doyle rec!
I was thrilled to see Doyle in the cast list this season, and he was excited to reunite with series star Billy Campbell, his co=star in Lizzie Borden Took an Axe and The DIsappeared. “We wanted to work together again. And he was keen on getting me on the show,” he recalls. “I remember saying to him, ‘I haven’t read anything yet, so don’t push too hard,’ knowing if I read it and didn’t think I could do it or wasn’t interested, it was going to be a bad situation.”
“But fortunately, when I finally did read the material, it was really well done. There was a lot to sink my teeth into.” Doyle relied on previous real-life experience to inform his portrayal of Scott as a man emotionally stunted at the age of his tragedy, who approaches his kill list with a childlike earnestness and determination.
“My entire approach was based on the fact that I can’t ‘outbad’ the previous bad guy who’s been going through this town killing all these people, who’s very competent in what he does. And he’s very scary,” he explains.
“And so it was important that I found some quality that was different than that. I worked in a home for people with head injuries in my twenties. And one thing that was just so apparent was that from the moment their growth got stunted, from the moments of whatever particular trauma they had, that was always there. It’s always their default position and their starting point with any discussions or emotional terrain or anything that they have to experience from day to day.”
“They always reverted to that point in their life of the accident. So, for me, it was really important that not only did I not just try to be a scary, menacing character doing bad things, but that he was doing it from a place of pure belief and damage. I felt that the more vulnerability I could bring to it, the more effective it would be in terms of helping to tell the whole story.”
“The idea [was] that he has borne witness to such injustice, that he’s seen it from every level. His own personal sense of loss with this group [and] the authorities, and how they manipulate the entire situation, his entire moral compass is skewed. If that was good behavior, then what is bad behavior? Why is this any worse than what they did? What is the baseline for truth in the world?”
“I think he ultimately comes to trying to achieve a sense of personal justice. And of course, there’s no morality involved in that [but it’s] the only way that he can see himself going forward.”
“[What else] would he do if he could do anything? He’s had one mission for his entire life, which is to kind of get his feet under him by seeking some sense of justice. But once he got that, I would imagine that he would find it was insufficient to give him any kind of equilibrium in his life and give him a reason to move forward.”
As we’ve seen so far this season, the winter has its own part to play, and over the final two episodes, Doyle is outside in it the whole time. “[We were in the] woods two or three days, if I remember correctly, It was a real feat in terms of getting in and out and having crew members in there and lights and everything that was needed to shoot it,” he says.
“Pete did an incredible job to get all that together. It was very cold. But I had the most comfortable costume. I’ve probably ever worn while out here. It was beautiful. I loved it.”
While the role is a heavy one, Doyle says it didn’t weigh on him like his CSA-nominated role in last year’s CBC drama, Unspeakable (streaming on CBC Gem), which was based on a true story. “That was a heavy, heavy, heavy project. I’ve played a lot of heavy characters, but the challenge with that particular role and the reason Rob[ert C. Cooper], who created it, who wrote it and directed a lot of the episodes, wanted me to play it was he saw the pathos that that character needed and he felt I could embody that,” he shares.
“But there was not much levity. I didn’t look at it in the larger scheme of what the entire scandal was from a political point of view or a historical point of view. I really focused on the fact that I was the father in a family that was disintegrating. And that I was paralyzed, first, because I didn’t understand how to deal with the particular situation, and then because I didn’t understand how to deal with my rage over the situation.”
“So, in effect, it could be any scenario, but it was much more about dealing with the paralysis that my character was going through with regards to this family. It was really, really hard because none of us like to feel paralyzed in our lives or ineffectual or as if we don’t know how to move forward. During the process of shooting, those qualities, or that feeling, kind of translated into me personally, so it really became a tough, tough shoot. One of my most difficult, I would say.”
“Scott was a heavy role, but it was actually really invigorating to play because there was such release emotionally throughout the entire thing. So in fact, it fed me, as opposed to the character I played in Unspeakable who was trapped inside his own rage. And that’s what made that very, very difficult.”
You can also catch Doyle now over on Super Channel Fuse in Mirage, a jet-setting mystery that took him across the globe during the nearly four-month shoot. “That was the opposite [of Cardinal] in terms of temperature. The journey was half of shooting that show. We started in the Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi for a little bit, and then we traveled to and around Morocco,” he explains. “We started in the desert because it was cooler than it would have been towards the end of our shooting period. It was so hot in the desert but stunning and beautiful.”
“It was a huge journey but it was fantastic. In the process of it, I broke a toe and got a concussion. It was kind of a spy adventure series that played out in my life a little bit.”
Next up for Doyle is the limited series based on James Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty. A self-confessed West Wing fan, he says it was a dream project and cast. “It’s based on the book, but that’s kind of a departure place. It’s much more about the larger stories. Obviously, James Comey is the lead character, but it focuses on that time as much as it does on that character, and in that situation,” he points out.
“It was the most extraordinary experience to work with those people. Billy Ray‘s an extraordinary director and he brought together this incredible cast and crew. You had to show up every day with your A game, much as you would have had to with Aaron Sorkin and The West Wing.”
“I think that’s kind of the closest to a West Wing experience I’ve ever had. We all had days where we would have five- or ten-page monologues. Then you have to show up and you just were expected to do it [and] know it cold and do a great job. Everybody was incredibly supportive of each other. Jeff Daniels [who plays Comey] was a prince to work with and so professional and so talented and skilled and committed.”
“The fact that I had both Cardinal and A Higher Loyalty in the same year was just a dream for me, though they’re such entirely different projects.”
“The quality of the work was so high in both of them. When you work with people of this quality in both of these projects, one common trait always is that it’s just easier because there’s a level of creativity mixed with calm that just makes the work habits so much easier and so much more enjoyable.”
“It’s a funny thing. You’d expect it to be maybe more stressful or more difficult to get to the places you need to get to, but when you’re working with people of that quality, it just brings it out of you, I guess. I’m not sure. It’s always wonderful.”
In this week’s Cardinal episode, Cardinal has a come to Jesus with Kelly about his inability to move forward, and that impacts a field trip he and Delorme take to the city when they finally identify Scott. Meanwhile, Scott keeps reliving his loss and working down his list, which increasingly unnerves Sheila and Taj. Sarah Dodd wrote the script, directed by Nathan Morlando.
Cardinal airs Monday night at 10 pm ET on CTV. You can catch all of the previous episodes now on Crave and unlocked on CTV.ca. All our coverage, including interviews with series stars Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse, is here. Check the show’s official Twitter feed for info on a cast and crew live Tweet during the episode. Here’s a sneak peek of “Scott.”
— Cardinal (@CardinalCTV) April 30, 2020
Photos and video courtesy of Bell Media