This Life’s Kristopher Turner on Oliver’s Downward Spiral

CBC
CBC

The signs have been there for weeks on This Life that something is up with Oliver (Kristopher Turner). Not only did Maggie (Lauren Lee Smith) witness the mess and filth he’s been living in, but the audience has seen him unsuccessfully deal with some failures with his art work. On Sunday night’s episode of the CBC drama, “Intervention,” written by Alison Lea Bingeman and directed by Ruba Nadda, the harsh truth of just how bad things are with Oliver was finally revealed to the Lawson siblings as they attempted an intervention.

Unfortunately, by the end of the episode, Oliver showed no signs of that intervention being a success, and in order to find out what’s ahead for him, The TV Junkies spoke exclusively with Turner about his character’s troubles. The actor, who hails from Winnipeg, shared some insights on what’s gotten Oliver to this point, as well as what it was like filming that intense intervention scene with his costars. He also previews what lies ahead and why things may first get worse before they can get any better for Oliver.

The TV Junkies: This was such a powerful episode for Oliver. What kind of preparation did you do for his story? Have you done any research around addiction and mental illness?

Kristopher Turner: The answer is twofold because on the one hand I have a history of mental illness in my family. My aunt is suffering from a form of dementia and so that’s very near and dear to me, having watched a loved one descend into it.

On the flip side of that there’s also the very human aspect of addiction and my own understanding of going into places that are dangerous–meaning my own understanding of Oliver’s journey as an artist. I related to a lot of the delusions that he has in terms of wanting to see himself as a type of artist and at a certain caliber. When reality stops validating your delusion you have the choice of ‘do I double down on my delusion and alter my reality to make it true?’ or ‘do I accept what is true and try to deal with that?’ On one hand there is genuine mental illness, but on the other there’s our own created mental illness.

TTVJ: It seems like everything is beautiful on This Life–the sets, the direction, the scenery–and I always joke that I want to live in Natalie’s kitchen. However, I can safely say I want to be no where near Oliver’s apartment. Why was that such an effective tool to show what’s going on with him?

KT: First off, there was no acting required because that set was put together with brilliant precision. It smelled as bad as it looked and there wasn’t a lot of acting needed by any of us. I remember the day we filmed the intervention there were plates of food that had grown mold, flies in there and I don’t know what the set department did, but that mess was real. It was gross in there. From watching it you can see it in the actors because we were experiencing it.

I think it was effective because it is relatable, maybe not that extreme, but who among us hasn’t let the dishes pile up a little too much? When we get in the zone of something we can stop thinking of hygiene or cleaning my room–I think it’s very human to do those things. So I recognize it but it’s just on a much heightened scale for Oliver’s position.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: The intervention scene was so powerful, especially having all the Lawson siblings together in one room. What was that like to film?

KT: I can’t speak for my castmates, but I get the feeling they thought the same thing in that it was the first scene in the whole series where it was just us interacting. There’s a lot of scenes we’re all in together, but we’re dealing with other things, and this was just the four of us coming together. I think it was the longest continuous scene in the show so it played like a play. We rehearsed it as a play where we explored the space and to see where we end up. What she [director Ruba Nadda] filmed was what we did on basically the first rehearsal. TV can be so technical so to be able to work collectively and with the cameramen following us, letting us play and capturing that, it felt really great.

TTVJ: Oliver, and really all of his siblings, lashed out during the intervention by dropping some harsh truths on each other. Will we see fallout from that in the coming episodes?

KT: Oh absolutely! There’s so much avoidance of truth in this show and so much trying to live in the delusion to avoid reality, and after that meeting a lot of truth starts coming out. Once the truth has been said like that you can’t go back anymore. This has a ripple effect through the rest of the season.

TTVJ: Oliver is still incredibly lost at the end of the episode and a bit out of control. Will we see things get worse before they get better?

KT: Oliver is at his deepest in delusion at the moment and this is a catalyst for a much deeper spiral for him. Watching the episode I feel like Oliver is becoming slightly aware of what’s going on. Once the family comes around and starts putting a mirror up to the place–I don’t think he ever thought of it as messy until he sees it in contrast with the other people. When faced with a difficult reality we either breathe and accept that reality, or double down and try to delude ourselves even more in order to block it out. Oliver is on that spiral where he just gets more and more deluded as to what’s really going on.

TTVJ: Changing beats a little bit, one relationship I really enjoy is Romy (Julia Scarlett Dan) and Oliver’s. Will she be able to forgive his rejection earlier this season?

KT: I think what the audience is going to see now is Oliver’s world. As much as he’s deluded, there is a part of him that is aware of how unsuitable his lifestyle is for Romy. As she becomes aware of what Oliver’s going through she can understand why he made the choice he made. So it starts to become a little more justified in her eyes when she gets a glimpse into what he’s dealing with at the moment.

 

What do you think will happen to Oliver? How much danger is he in? Let us hear your thoughts to the comments below!

This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.