*** Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Coroner episode “Black Dog” ***
Life is always going to throw some curveballs at us along the way. It’s inevitable, but what really matters is how we react to those curveballs and keep moving forward. For Dr. Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan), she’s got quite a few curveballs coming at her, and in the new series Coroner, viewers get to watch and see how she deals with them. In Monday’s premiere, Jenny began her work as coroner and worked her first case, the death of a teen in a youth detention centre.
The premiere episode of the CBC drama, “Black Dog,” written by showrunner Morwyn Brebner and directed by executive producer Adrienne Mitchell, also revealed how Jenny’s personal life was recently upended by the untimely death of her husband, who coincidentally left behind some major trouble for Jenny to deal with. Jenny must now tackle her new position as coroner and learn to navigate raising her teenage son, Ross (Ehren Kassam).
As part of our full coverage of the show here at The TV Junkies, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be having a weekly dose of Coroner in the form of post-episode interviews with Brebner and Mitchell. These talks will be available every week as soon as the show is done airing. In them, we’ll break down the stories and cases of the week with Brebner and Mitchell as they provide insight into story decisions, give details on the Coroner characters, and preview what lies ahead this season.
The TV Junkies: You two have a history of working together, most recently on Bellevue. After that ended were you looking for something to partner up on? Can you talk a little about how Coroner came to be?
Adrienne Mitchell: At Back Alley we were looking for a property that we could option centered around a female, but also be very character-driven and have an investigational line to it. We found the book series called The Coroner by M.R. Hall and loved the character. At the same time, we were developing and working through Bellevue with Morwyn and Jane Maggs. I was really impressed with Morwyn on so many levels and loved her writing. She’s also a wonderful playwright and has done awesome work co-creating Saving Hope and Rookie Blue. I wondered if she could be interested in this, so after Bellevue was in production, I sent this to her.
Morwyn Brebner: I read the book and really wasn’t looking to do anything, but I really liked the character so much. She stuck in my mind and felt like a genuine, actual woman to me. Her wit and doggedness just made her feel like a real woman to me. I liked working with Adrienne so much so I said ‘I’ll do it!’
AM: Morwyn brought so much to it. We had to change a lot from the novel so it was situated in Toronto.
MB: It’s definitely true to the spirit of the books and the character, but I felt like it was important to allow it to transmute itself — to be something new in this new medium and place. I think everyone feels really excited about what it became.
TTVJ: Since this is Jenny Cooper’s story, a lot hinged on who you cast for the role, and Serinda is so great. What were looking for as far as Jenny, and why was Serinda the perfect choice for you?
AM: Coming at it as an executive producer and director, I was just looking for somebody I would lean into. We had some really amazing actors read for the role, but there was something about Serinda. She had this sparkling intelligence and assuredness, but you also knew there was a lot of shit under there that she had to resolve. We loved her short hair and how she carried herself. I just thought she felt new and fresh. She’s attractive and pixie-like and you feel the intelligence, but you also feel that there’s a mystery there that you want to lean into. You can also root for her. All those things made me gravitate towards her.
MB: I don’t know how to improve on that answer. You want somebody that can fully embody the character and that has strength, vulnerability, intelligence, is funny and you care about her journey. She’s really engaging.
TTVJ: Something I really liked about Jenny Cooper is that when we meet her she’s not all put together. On other shows like this, we see the person at the center almost have these super powers when it comes to solving the crime, but she feels very real. Why was that so important to ground her like that?
MB: For me, it’s important as a woman writing a show about a woman and her job, that it’s just like in real life. So you’re always having to prove your expertise in a way a man never would. It’s often that thing where for us to assume she’s good at her job, we have to see a super heroic moment instead of just believing that she is who she is. That was important, and the show’s a hybrid in a weird way of her work and life. We were trying to fuse the two together in a way that allows us to see her and feel her as a character while she’s also doing her job. We were trying to integrate the two together.
AM: It’s interesting on a socio-political level, in that we were involved with a former partner of this show, and they emphasized to us that Jenny needed mostly wins. They didn’t want to see the mistakes because they thought male audiences would turn it off. So it was interesting to see where we are with depicting women. We wanted to fight against that because men can make mistakes and do heroic things because they are fully developed characters. We wanted the quirks of Jenny, and she has a lot of them. That humor is so much of Morwyn’s voice that she brings to it and it’s so fun to behold. She’s quirky and she talks fast, but she’s really dogged and doesn’t give up. She’s passionate and you want to root for her.
MB: For me, there’s some wish fulfillment in that she doesn’t care what people think. Serinda embodies this trueness to her instincts, beliefs and impressions so well. There’s something about that that I find to be an admirational quality.
TTVJ: Jenny discovers in this episode that when her husband died, he left behind all kinds of money issues, and that they were going to lose the house. Are there repercussions from all this that she and her son are going to have to deal with?
AM: There’s a mystery at the end of that episode and an image that will come back. I can say it?
MB: Can you say it?
TTVJ: Is it the dog? I was going to ask what’s up with the dog but figured you’d not give me any answers. [laughs]
MB: [laughs] Yes, the dog! You’ll have to keep watching to find out what’s up with the dog.
AM: The thing that triggers what that dog is is the death of her husband. So it’s just beginning to unravel layers to her life that she’s not aware of yet.
What did you think of the first episode of Coroner? Add your thoughts below!
Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC and is available on CBC Gem.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.