Like mother, like daughter… Maybe not so much? That’s at least what it feels like at the start of CBC’s new drama series Fortunate Son, but may not hold true throughout. Despite having a mother who is a radical activist, Ellen Howard (Kacey Rohl), just wants to have a normal lie. She wants to go to school and get a good job. However, that proves to be difficult when her mother, Ruby Howard (Kari Matchett), continually finds herself knee-deep in activism and social causes, even bringing one deserter, Travis Hunter (Darren Mann), right back to her family’s door. Soon, Ellen starts to find out that she and her mother have more in common than she initially thought.
Through Ruby and Ellen, Fortunate Son really gets “into what it means to be a woman in 1968,” Rohl recently told The TV Junkies. The Vancouver born actress, well-known for roles in Hannibal and The Magicians, spoke to us about why she was so keen to be a part of the show. She also previewed how the show’s central mother/daughter duo may end up meeting in the middle as time goes on. Rohl also gives a hint as to whether or not we’ll see her popping up again on The Magicians this season.
The TV Junkies: What was it about Fortunate Son that really made you want to be a part of this project?
Kacey Rohl: I am always drawn to projects that spook me in some way, or that I feel will help me grow as a human being. I also love projects that have a message or start a conversation that I believe needs to be had. The political nature of the show was very attractive to me. It’s set in 1968, but a lot of what we’re dealing with really echoes to now. I like the idea of people sitting down at 9 p.m. to watch a TV show but then thinking about it for a bit.
TTVJ: You’re playing the daughter of Ruby Howard, this fierce political activist at the center of the show. What can you tell us about Ellen?
KR: Out of everyone in the family, Ellen is the most established when we first meet her. She’s trying to walk the walk of what she considers a “normal” person would do. Over the course of the season, we see that she carries more of her mother’s spirit within her than she realizes. She starts to see the value of being a fiery woman and where she can apply that in her own life.
TTVJ: I love good mother/daughter conflict on my shows. It seems like we may get some of that here since Ellen isn’t really into the activism the way her mother is. What can we expect to see with their relationship?
KR: Within the family, Ruby is on one end of the scale and Ellen is on the other. Ellen thinks her mother is quite radical and too much of a shit disturber, while Ellen is very interested in a peaceful, calm existence. She doesn’t want too much drama. She and her mother start to butt heads, but over the course of the season they both start to see each other a bit more. They start to see where they are each coming from and the value that they could borrow from one another. Specifically with Ellen, she still struggles with how her mom approaches things, but she begins to understand the value of rocking the boat a bit. She sees that you shouldn’t just take it, and that you really need to stand up for yourself.
TTVJ: I think as viewers, we can already see that starting to happen for Ellen with her new job at the bank. She clearly went into it thinking one thing, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be what she expected.
KR: It echoed my own personal experience. I grew up with a mom that was quite political, nowhere near as radical as Ruby, but who operated outside of societal norms. I remember going out to the world and thinking I’d be treated equally, but bumping up against things like ‘oh, I guess my feminism is awakened today.’
TTVJ: Despite Ellen being very against her family helping Travis, will we see those two have any kind of interaction?
KR: Yes. I don’t want to get too into it, but he’s very much around. He’s very much folded into the family dynamics. If you put a young, swarthy dude in the mix, then I’m sure the young gal will have something to say about it. We’ll have to watch and find out!
TTVJ: Given that the show is set in the late 60s, did you do a lot of research for the role?
KR: I’ve always had a keen interest in the late 60s / early 70s, so I was very excited to dive into the research for this. Our entire cast watched the 10-part Ken Burns documentary [The Vietnam War], and I committed to only reading books from the period. I really steeped myself into 1968 culture, particularly in everything surrounding the war in Vietnam.
TTVJ: What was it like spending the summer shooting in Calgary?
KR: My whole family is from Calgary so I know the city really well. I love it and think that it has a really unique culture. I also got to have dinner with my grandparents once a week which was adorable. We were also there during the Stampede. That was whacky, and I had never done it as an adult, so it was a whole different experience. It was fabulous though and really fun. Alberta is just beautiful. We’d go on locations outside of the city, and I’d just be blown away by the big skies and rolling hills.
TTVJ: While not related to Fortunate Son, is there any chance we see Marina back on The Magicians in Season 5?
KR: Ahhhh, I think you may be pleasantly surprised. Yep, that’s what I’ll say about that. [laughs] I don’t want Sera Gamble [showrunner, The Magicians] to come knock on my door. I do think it’s safe to say that she’ll make at least “an appearance.”
TTVJ: And with The Magicians, you never know what that actually means?
KR: Yes, that’s very true. I will say that I did some things that I hopefully won’t be too embarrassed of. They involved a recording booth… you know, we’ll see!
Thoughts on Fortunate Son thus far? Sound off below!
Fortunate Son airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.
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.