Coroner: Morwyn Brebner and Adrienne Mitchell Talk “Fire”

CBC
CBC

*** Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Coroner Season 2 episode “Fire” ***

Dr. Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan) finally knows the truth about what happened to her sister, as well as her role in her death. She started to try to move on from that trauma, process it, and figure out where she goes next in the Coroner Season 2 premiere. In the middle of everything, Jenny got called to the scene of a devastating apartment fire where she found herself quickly connecting to a woman named Kelly (Nicola Correia-Damude, October Faction). 

As part of our full coverage of Coroner here at The TV Junkies, we’re excited to  announce that our weekly doses of Coroner, in the form of post-episode interviews, will return once again in Season 2. These interviews will be available every week as soon as the show is done airing. This week, Coroner showrunner Morwyn Brebner and executive producer/director Adrienne Mitchell join us to discuss, “Fire”. They provide us with insights into Jenny’s mental state, what it was like creating the fire, and why Jenny felt such a strong connection to a woman she just met.

 

The TV Junkies: I imagine premieres are very hard. What was the goal for you with this one?

Morwyn Brebner: Premieres are really, really hard because you don’t want to end up in setup-itis. For a second season, the hardest thing is where to start. Some shows skip a lot of time, and you can lose the emotional connection for where everyone was, or you start immediately, but then there’s not enough change. So figuring out where to start is so interesting. We thought so much about the emotional depth, and how well we know the characters, that we were lucky to not do a lot of setup in that way. 

The hope for this season is, because we know them all so well, that we can be deeper with them and move the balance of the show into deeper emotion. We were really hoping to start that with the premiere. I find premieres, though, to just be the hardest thing in the world.

Adrienne Mitchell: What I loved about the premiere was that it had a primordial vibe to it. There are all sorts of emotions surfacing for Jenny about processing the fallout of the realization of what she did. We don’t often spend time on how you get yourself back together again after you’ve confronted something you’ve done, or that was a point of trauma for you. It’s certainly not a straight line, and there’s a lot of emotions there that connect with other people’s emotions. 

You know how when women hang out a lot together their cycles sync up? I think that can be the same thing for these traumas. You can connect with people that you wouldn’t otherwise connect, and that’s what happens in this episode for Jenny with Kelly. The imagery, the fire, the sleepwalking — all of that sets up this very deep primordial, subsconscious vibe for this season. 

MB: It’s important that people aren’t always conscious of what’s driving them. With Jenny, so many things are acting on her, and she’s processing so many things, that it’s interesting to think that she doesn’t know. At the beginning of the season, she doesn’t know where she is, in a weird way. For her to be in a place of working through things is such an obstacle because she’s so smart and usually so on it.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: Things get extra scary for her because we see that she’s also sleepwalking now. Is that something she’s going to continue to deal with throughout the season?

MB: Yes, it’s definitely something she has to deal with. Anxiety is so interesting because it can roam around and take different manifestations. We were looking for how her anxiety could come out in a new way. Like the dog in Season 1, the sleepwalking is the manifestation of her inner anxiety. She does continue to do so and it is very important.

AM: There’s an interesting thing with it where she starts connecting her own trauma with the trauma of the people she’s investigating. It’s very exciting for me, as a director, to explore narrative and story the way Morwyn and her team set it out this way. It’s not a linear narrative and it’s an unique way of telling the story.

TTVJ: Adrienne brought up Kelly, played by Nicola Correia-Damude. She seemed to have a really strong connection with Jenny. Will we see her again?

AM: Yes, we will definitely see Kelly again.

TTVJ: The image of Kelly holding her dead baby was extremely powerful. 

MB: We thought a lot at the beginning of the season about our representation of the dead, and the show’s relationship to the dead, because it feels like this has been a harsh year. One of the things that’s really important to everyone who works on the show is that there is a humanity. Jenny’s empathy is a really strong thing for her, and I know for Serinda, that’s also important in her playing of Jenny. We were trying to figure out how to portray that with a deep sadness and empathy. That image felt like a nice way to do it, which I know is weird, but that didn’t feel grizzly. It’s more emotional than voyeuristic.

AM: To me it’s such a female image. There’s a bond between the two of them. Jenny lost her sister and Kelly lost her baby. There’s this really visceral and tactile way that they are connecting. It feels like that sense of trying to find a sense of healing.

MB: In terms of production, that community garden and that image of them sitting together that Adrienne so beautifully shot in that amazing light as the day was going down, it was another example of the amazing weather luck we had this season. In Season 1 we had nothing but rainstorms and snow. This season we had this strange weather charm that I’m so grateful for.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: While talking about production, this premiere deals with a huge apartment fire. That seems like a pretty big undertaking to create. Adrienne, you had some really beautiful shots in there of Jenny in the smoke. Can you talk a little about creating that and filming that?

MB: This was Adrienne’s directorial magic and it was amazing!

AM: We start by looking at Morwyn’s text and thinking ‘what is the point of view?’ You can film a fire so many different ways, but it’s very clear in the text that Jenny is in a state of emotional fog. She knows something about herself, but has no fucking idea how to get to the end of this horrible realization. There’s a metaphoric, subjective fog and you connect that to fire and smoke. If you really see how that was shot, it was designed to be all through Jenny’s point of view. You see people appearing and reappearing and her perspective as she moves through the space.

Technically, it was very complicated and Samy [Inayeh, cinematographer], the team, and I had to identify what was going to be practical and VFX. Almost 90% of the smoke was practical and we really designed a very unique scenario. The smoke became a character and it kind of danced with Serinda as she moved through. I wanted it to be like she was moving through the fog.

That’s all about looking at what Morwyn wanted and finding a very particular, strong point of view on it. I remember after we wrapped thinking ‘therein lies one of the most ambitious openings in Canadian television.’ [laughs]

MB: 100%! But man, it paid off!

AM: I loved every minute of it. I’m up for any challenge and Morwyn knows this about me. She throws lots of good challenges at me, and I say ‘how am I going to do this?’ She says ‘if anyone can do it Adrienne, you can.’ [laughs]

TTVJ: I guess we should set high expectations now for Season 3.

MB: Our producing editor Teresa De Luca pointed out that in Season 1 we had water, and in Season 2 we have fire, so for Season 3 we need earth. We’ve got the elements and I love that idea.

TTVJ: We heard Adrienne’s take on the fire as a director, but why did you choose that as the writer?

MB: I look to the source material, the M.R. Hall books, and try to find something to tether the season to and anchor it. One of the books is called The Burning and is about a fire. When we did the development room, the world was feeling just so apocalyptic. When I looked after at the material we worked on, it felt so depressing. We never want the show to be depressing.

So instead of looking at the apocalypse in a bad way, look at it as a way of revelation where it burns away everything and only leaves you with the essentials. You then only have what you really need to be yourself and move forward. What if that’s what Jenny is doing? It’s the idea that with every step she takes, she’s getting deeper to the truth of herself, in a good way. She’s leaving behind the things she doesn’t need and moving toward things that are maybe more frightening, but that allow her to go forward where she’s moving toward a truth.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: Elsewhere, Ross is not only turning 18, but he’s keeping a pretty huge secret from his mom that he didn’t graduate and won’t be going to school. What is he thinking and how long can he possibly keep this hidden from Jenny?

MB: Not very long! Jenny is very smart. [laughs] He’s in a weird spot and also off the path. He’s drifting a little.

AM: What’s cool about him is that he’s got an A type mom who is dealing with anxiety and trauma, but who is still so high-functioning. It’s formidable to have a mother like that and she expects him to do the next thing. So I think there’s a bit of resistance there, and we’re starting to see his first attempt at finding who he is and his own personal path. There’s a courage to that and it’s not easy.

MB: There’s a real strength to that too. He’s a dreamer, but there’s a real intelligence to his dreamy, floating ways. Ehren Kassam is so connected to that in a really great way too.

TTVJ: Liam is also going through some issues of his own dealing with some PTSD he has. How might that continue to manifest itself this season and will we see more of Mal, his army buddy?

MB: We will see more of his army buddy, but it’d genuinely be a spoiler to talk about it more.

AM: It will unfold in a bit of a roller coaster ride over the season. Stay tuned because there will be many layers to the personal stories of not only Liam, but with Mac (Roger Cross) as well.

TTVJ: What can you preview about next week’s episode?

MB: Jenny’s sleepwalking evolves and we get a look at what Donovan will be dealing with this season.

 

Thoughts on the Coroner Season 2 premiere? Share them below!

Coroner airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.