When you are given a platform for your voice to be heard, it’s how you choose to use it that truly matters. Canadian legend Jann Arden is choosing to make hers count and use it for good through her new CTV sitcom JANN. In the series, airing Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., the iconic musician plays a fictionalized version of herself, at a crossroads in her career and struggling to make a comeback while juggling a family who needs her. Arden co-created the show with Leah Gauthier and Jennica Harper, and together they knew the power they held and stories they wanted to be telling.
“We always knew that the characters were going to be female-heavy,” Arden recently told The TV Junkies. From a family that includes her sister Max (Zoie Palmer), mother Nora (Deborah Grover) and niece Charley (Alexa Rose Steele) to Jann’s new manager Cale (Elena Juatco). Along with the female focus, Arden says JANN had to be providing laughs while also tackling bigger issues such as the start of Nora’s battle with dementia. “Leah worked with me on the road for quite a few tours,” Arden said. “She knows my sense of humor and she knows that my sense of humor is dependent on pathos and sadness.”
That means that the show is “not all fun and games. You can’t have all joke, joke, joke, boom!” Arden and her team are taking things even deeper though, and despite many strides being taken towards better representation on screen, it’s still rare to see a comedy series led by a queer woman. However, that decision was a no-brainer for the JANN team. “I never even thought about it twice” Arden said of her character. When viewers first meet the fictional Jann, she has just came out of a serious relationship with a woman, Cynthia (Sharon Taylor). Throughout the course of the season, viewers will learn she’s also had relationships with men and some may have involved hilarious guest stars like Rick Mercer.
While on screen Jann is very upfront about her sexuality, the singer has been quiet about her own personal life throughout her career. With JANN though, she’s using the platform to now acknowledge publicly what she says has never intentionally been kept a secret. “I never thought that my personal life was a big secret publicly, ever. I just quietly went about my work and my life. I was never “in” anywhere. Every single person that I know and work with knew my life,” Arden explained. “I am a fluid person. That’s how I was born. That’s the way I’ve lived my life.”
The confidence and sense of self Arden possesses comes from ideals her parents instilled in her very early on in life. “I had a very unique upbringing,” she acknowledged. “When I was young, my mom and dad saw me with girlfriends and boyfriends and always welcomed everyone, and everyone had a spot at the table.” Arden says her dad worked in concrete and her mother was a homemaker. By all means they were “just these people,” but they taught their daughter some pretty amazing lessons about love and who she was that have remained with Arden throughout life.
“I remember breaking up with a girlfriend once, and my dad was on the other end of the phone, and he said to me ‘we’d love you if you were pink with purple spots.’ I remember my mom grabbing me one day at the kitchen table and saying ‘you know you’re a normal person, right? You’re a completely normal person.’” Arden said that motto of normality and love became “my platform and I never missed a beat.” In fact, “that’s what happens when you look at a human being and say ‘you’re a completely normal person.’ I never felt marginalized.”
While Arden always felt loved and accepted in her personal life, she did take an attitude of “I just want to do my work” and has not publicly talked about her relationships or sexual identity. But with JANN, she acknowledged that “this was the opportunity” to tell her story once and for all. However, much in the same way her parents treated it, “there’s no rockets going off. It’s just another little piece of this story and I think it’s about time we normalized any sexuality.”
As Arden so often does by being open with fans about her family and lessons learned throughout her very successful career, she wants to use JANN as a way to leave them with another very clear message. “Whatever it is that you are, it is completely normal and you are a normal human being. Go about your life.”
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.