Why Tassie Cameron Broke the Rules When Writing her Ten Days In the Valley Female Characters

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ABC/Paul Sarkis
ABC/Paul Sarkis

The male antihero who viewers don’t always like or support has become a staple on a lot of television shows over the years, but the same can’t be said for many female characters. The new drama series Ten Days in the Valley, coming Sunday, October 1 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV, looks to throw that rule out the window. Emmy Award-winning actress Kyra Sedgwick stars in Ten Days as an overworked television producer and single mother, in the middle of a fractious separation, who does a lot of questionable things that don’t always put her in the best light. But Ten Days in the Valley doesn’t care if you like Jane, it only wants to make sure she’s complex, interesting and multi-dimensional enough to pull you into her world and the show’s central mystery.

It’s a world that gets turned upside down when Jane’s young daughter, Lake (Abigail Pniowsky), goes missing in the middle of the night. Suddenly, everyone’s a suspect, including her family, friends and co-workers. In addition to Sedgwick, Ten Days also stars Kick Gurry as Jane’s ex, Erika Christensen (Parenthood) as Jane’s sister Ali, Malcolm Jamal-Warner as Jane’s right-hand man, Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead) as Casey, Jane’s young assistant, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, Oz) as Det. John Bird who is leading the case on the missing child.

Ten Days in the Valley was created and written by Canadian Tassie Cameron (Mary Kills People, Rookie Blue) and executive produced by Cameron, Kyra Sedgwick, Jill Littman, Sherry White, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Marcy Ross. The first season will consist of ten episodes and we here at The TV Junkies have been eagerly awaiting this show for awhile now. We recently spoke exclusively with Cameron to learn more about Jane as a character, the experience shooting Ten Days in L.A. and why even though a child goes missing, parents shouldn’t worry about tuning into this new series.

 

The TV Junkies: So I’ll be honest, I am a little worried, especially since I have kids, that it’s going to be hard to watch the show given it’s all about a missing girl. Calm my fears, Tassie!

Tassie Cameron: I’ll be pretty straight up about it. I would not watch a show, as a parent myself, where I thought the child might end up dead. I’m not even sure I could relax if the kid was just missing, which is why you’ll see the child in the first and second episode. We follow Lake’s story and in most episodes we cut to her. What’s happening to her is mysterious and confusing, but you follow her. I did not want this to be a horror show for parents. I wanted it to be something where you are like ‘I’m getting the signal that this child is going to be OK, so I can relax into the bigger mysteries at play here.’ That should put your mind at ease.

TTVJ: There’s obviously a biographical element to this show for you. You’re a showrunner and you have a daughter. How much of your personal experiences did you put into Jane, and did you learn anything about yourself through writing this season?

TC: Obviously there’s a lot of personal stuff in this for me, but at the same time it really is a character I made up who is not me. That was really hard for me at first because I found it really hard to write her. In some ways she was similar to me, but in other ways it was so different. I was so worried that I would be judged, or this character would be judged, or we’d be seen as the same person. It was hard to get my head around at first. There was a lot of me in Andy McNally in Rookie Blue though, and there’s a lot of me in everything I write.

I think that if I ever needed to learn the lesson that making a television show is not curing cancer, I learned it by making this show. When you’re in the middle of running a television show it seems like the most urgent thing in the world. You feel so stressed, and so in the middle of it, that you can neglect everything else. I think in some ways it was me trying to work out whether that’s the right way to be living, and the answer was ‘No.’

ABC/Paul Sarkis
ABC/Paul Sarkis

TTVJ: You can’t ask for a much better actress to be attached to your show than Kyra Sedgwick. What was the process like bringing her on board, and what was it like working with her?

TC: Bringing her on board was amazing and kismet a little bit. She read the script and liked it, so I flew to New York for 24 hours. I sat in her living room and we just talked for the morning. I met her and Kevin Bacon and we had a lovely time. She was so smart, so fiercely intelligent and so well read. She’d seen movies that had reminded her of this and we had a very engaging conversation. When I left she decided to do it and came in as an executive producer. That was not a vanity credit on any level as she worked with me on scripts, was integral to casting and a role model on our set. She is such a pro. The mood on set is set by your number one on the call sheet, and Kyra Sedgwick is amazing.

TTVJ: We’ve seen so many male antiheroes on TV, and you guys are giving us a female character that maybe goes along those lines. There are times when it’s difficult to understand or support some of the decisions and actions Jane does. Why did you want to make Jane maybe not the most likable person?

TC: When I was starting to write this I decided to write down all the rules I had been following, as a writer, for a long time. Not bad rules, just rules. Making your main female character likable is one of those rules. So I decided to cross off the word ‘likable’ and not think of it again. Make her interesting. Make her real. Make her honest. Make her passionate. Make her sexual. Make her a good mother. Make her a bad mother. All those things were in play, but making her ‘likable’ I decided to cross off my list of concerns. I broke a bunch of other rules too, like setting it in the world of entertainment. I also brought in the press and journalism and a bunch of things where I thought ‘let’s just see what happens.’

TTVJ: Rookie Blue ran successfully on ABC for many years, but that was still shot in Toronto. What was the experience like shooting Ten Days on the Paramount lot?

TC: It was amazing and like dropping into the Wizard of Oz. It was a surreal experience — going around on a golf cart, I had a parking spot on the lot and going through the gates every day. It’s always sunny, we had three stages and a budget for a rain tower. [laughs] One of the first days I had written rain into the script, and I showed up on set and they had a rain tower that was like four stories high. I nearly burst into tears because I’ve never seen a rain tower. You can’t afford a rain tower in Canada, so for me it was a delightful experience. That being said, I’m a Canadian and love being here. I started a company here and I’m incredibly patriotic. So this was like being abducted by really pleasant aliens for six months.

TTVJ: One thing I know we here at The TV Junkies always love about your projects is that you not only have a bunch of different and interesting female characters on screen, but you always have a lot of ladies behind the scenes as well. That seems to be the case on Ten Days where you have Canadian writers Sherry White and Marsha Greene, among others. Is that something you make a priority, or does it just sort of happen that way?

TC: It was important to me. We only had one American writer on the show with Bryan Gracia, a latino ex-LA Sheriff and all around amazing guy, that we brought up to Toronto for our writing room. The rest of the writers were Canadian because some of the best writers I know are here. There’s no reason for me to go to L.A. and try to find better writers when there are amazing writers here. Same thing with post production and we did it all here. The teams here for sound, music and editing are as good as any in the whole wide world. I felt very happy that I was able to staff an American show with Canadian writers. It was a point of pride for me.

In terms of the women, that is a more organic thing for me that always seems to happen. I love working with other cool women. We did that on Mary Kills People as well, and there’s a similar vibe on Ten Days. We had four female directors and diverse directors. It wasn’t a rule, but that is important to me.

ABC/Paul Sarkis
ABC/Paul Sarkis

TTVJ: I was a big Parenthood fan, so I was also excited to see Erika Christensen as Jane’s sister, Ali. I’m also a big sucker for sisters on TV so what can you share about their relationship?

TC: I love Erika so much. She’s so great and one of the most natural actors I’ve ever seen in my life. She’s amazing. This relationship — which seems very supportive, and is very supportive, between these two women — in the stress of the situation they are in, you will see the things they’ve been hiding from each other. Their relationship gets severely tested over the season, but they are both good people who adore each other. It’s an interesting dynamic that I don’t think I see very often.

TTVJ: This is a limited series and there’s only 10 episodes. Will the mystery be solved by the end of the season, and is the door left open for Season 2 with these same characters?

TC: We are leaving the door open with these characters, yes. I think when the episodes play out that you’ll see how much potential there is in the relationships we’ve set up, the dynamics that are at play, the enemies Jane has made and the stories she’s uncovered. I think it’d be a different kind of mystery, obviously not a missing child, but we could go in a bunch of different directions with a really cool, interesting, equally taut and surprising mystery that involves Jane Sadler.

 

Are you excited to check out Ten Days in the Valley? Add your thoughts in the comments below!

Ten Days in the Valley airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV.

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