Despite her family’s objections or possible danger, Ruby Howard (Kari Matchett) still feels compelled to take action. Ruby is a woman with strong beliefs and a passionate anti-war activist. She’s also the woman at the center of the new CBC drama series Fortunate Son, premiering Wednesday, January 8 at 9 p.m. ET. Ruby and her family have fled to Canada from the U.S. because she is being pursued by the FBI. Once there, Ruby cannot stop her activist ways, and she is working to help smuggle American draft dodgers and war deserters across the Canadian border to safety. One such deserter is Tavis Hunter (Darren Mann), who brings a troubled past with him and ends up leading the U.S. Intelligence services straight to Ruby’s door.
For Matchett, Fortunate Son not only opened the opportunity to return to Calgary to film, but it presented her with Ruby, a wonderfully complex role. Matchett recently spoke to The TV Junkies about why, just like Ruby, she felt so compelled to take on this role, as well as how great it was to see showrunner Andrew Wreggitt put a mid-40s woman as the main protagonist of the series. She also previews some trouble that may lay ahead for Ruby during Fortunate Son’s first season.
The TV Junkies: What was it about Fortunate Son that really made you want to be a part of this project?
Kari Matchett: There’s a lot of things I read or go out for, where there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me. With this show, I read the character description and was given the script, found out it was shooting in Calgary during the summer where my mom lives, and more than all that, the subject matter was something I felt so deeply in my heart. I have not read a character this well-written, this age, and with this important of a subject in maybe my whole career. I felt that I had to play this part or I was going to die! [laughs] I just felt it to the depths of my being.
I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to play this part. She’s just such an amazing woman. Andrew Wreggitt is an amazing writer, and he’s crafted beautifully complex characters in a complex world. It also has so much resonance, despite being set in 1968, with what’s happening in our world. That’s 50 years ago and it still resonates.
TTVJ: That was something that really struck me in watching the first two episodes. The show’s themes of activism and speaking out for what you believe in really hit home with our world right now.
KM: It’s amazing that we really haven’t learned yet or figured it out.
TTVJ: I also didn’t realize, maybe because the show is called Fortunate Son, that Ruby really is the character we’re following here. It was such a pleasant surprise to see it was a female-led show.
KM: Well it is named Fortunate Son, so you figure it’s about him and that song. It’s so great that Andrew has written a female, in her mid-40s, as the main protagonist.
TTVJ: Can you share a little about her and what she’s going through in the first season?
KM: For many years, since I was a teenager, I’ve been obsessed with the 60s and considered myself to be a bit of a hippie. I lean towards some levels of activism, have left-ist politics, and I’ve just related to that era. I always felt like I should’ve been born then, and when I imagined being alive then, it was always as a teen. But Ruby, she was born in the 1920s, so she’s a woman who is truly on the front lines of change. She’s a real original thinker and would’ve been one of the first activists to do these kinds of things. There’s been suffragettes throughout time, but in terms of her political activism, she was stepping out of that traditional role of the mother. She wasn’t weighted by that and is driven to do these things.
She got involved with a group in the States because she was so saddened by what was happening with the Vietnam War. There was an accidental death though so she was pursued by the FBI. So she and her family have fled the U.S. because of possible persecution by the FBI. What happens is that the FBI enlists the help of the CIA, who then enlists the help of the “Fortunate Son,” played by Darren Mann. The show opens with him coming across the border with Ruby, because she can’t help herself and has gotten involved in activism North of the Border. The first season really is about how he enters their lives, impacts their lives, and how the family copes with that in this political arena of trying to fight what’s happening in the States.
TTVJ: Ruby’s family isn’t the most supportive of her activism. What drives her to keep doing this when it starts affecting your family?
KM: That’s a very interesting question that Ruby asks herself. Why is anyone compelled to do anything? She just has to do it. Change would not happen in our world unless there were people like Ruby. Despite her husband’s imploring or daughter’s wishes that she could be more normal, she has to do this. She believes in it and that it’ll ultimately serve her children, her husband, and the world. It’s such a beautiful character to step into.
TTVJ: You mentioned your mom living in Calgary and getting to shoot there during the summer. What was that experience like?
KM: Everywhere in Canada is like heaven in the summer, and Calgary is just gorgeous. Everyone is on the streets because they only have like two months of warmth, and it’s just a gorgeous part of the Earth. So getting to film there, and have my mom there, was so great. I’ve had the good fortune of shooting other projects in Calgary as well, and they just have the best crews. I think part of the reason is that they’ve had big films there because of the location, and those crews are just some of the best I’ve ever worked with.
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Fortunate Son premieres Wednesday, January 8 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.