This Life Season 2 Postmortem: Showrunner Joseph Kay on Natalie’s Acceptance


On a show about a woman coming to terms with her cancer diagnosis one doesn’t expect to end things on a somewhat happy note. However, the Season 2 finale of CBC’s This Life did just that, as every member of the Lawson family seemed to be dealing with the hand they were dealt in a new and positive light. Natalie (Torri Higginson) may be out of options with her cancer treatment, but there’s a peace that she now has in acceptance of that.

Her brother Matthew (Rick Roberts) may not have got the exact reunion with Nicole (Marianne Farley) that he was hoping for, but the couple seem headed toward greener pastures. Elsewhere, even Maggie (Lauren Lee Smith) seemed OK over her relationship with Raza (Hamza Haq) and ready to start a new endeavor. The positive vibes continued to Oliver (Kristopher Turner) as he finally came to an understanding with his father (Peter MacNeill) and embarked on a new relationship.

There’s still no word from CBC on whether or not the Lawsons will be back for Season 3, but we here at The TV Junkies are certainly hoping this hasn’t been the last of our time with this family. We recently spoke exclusively with showrunner Joseph Kay about everything that went down in the finale, “Choose Life,” written by Kay and directed by Louis Choquette. He also gave us an idea of where things may be headed should Season 3 happen.

The TV Junkies: Can you discuss Natalie’s outlook at the end of the episode and the peace she seems to have found in acceptance?

Joseph Kay: Pretty much since the first scene of the show Natalie has been trying to prepare for her death, and the more she tries, the more elusive it all becomes for her. She can’t plan and all the things she wanted to happen she had to let go of them and start to trust in her kids’ abilities to make their own choices. For her to start having peace with all of that, and to put that stage of her dying behind her, is realizing that she doesn’t have to micromanage her kids after her death. She’s just going to trust that they are strong and resilient and they’ll be OK. We feel like the next phase of her story would be moving beyond the “getting everybody ready” phase. We want her to just embrace what’s happening to her.

There’s still loads of uncertainty. She is not happy about Caleb jumping into a new family. She accepts, though hates, the idea that Romy may go live with her father in some sense. But she can somehow exist in peace with all that uncertainty and we like the contrast of that.


TTVJ: It was surprising to see Caleb show up with a new girlfriend and her child in tow, and we saw him come to the realization that he’s more like his father than he thought. Why is that something that no longer seems to upset him?

JK: He had fought against it, being the paternal role model and taking the place of his dad, resenting that, dropping off the face of the earth, but he’s now married the purpose needing Caleb with the “David.” The short version is though that he’s becoming his own man and that’s essentially what David said to him. He’s just becoming himself and asserting himself to his mom in a more direct way. He’s not doing things for her specifically and less obsessed with rejecting the idea of his father or pleasing his mother. James Wotherspoon did such a great job with that as so much of it was unspoken.

TTVJ: Just like Matthew, I thought Nicole was ready to reconcile, but things weren’t that easy. Is her proposition really something he could live with?

JK: I think he doesn’t have a choice. We are so excited about that story and we really want to explore that. He needs a lot of control, just like his sister but in a different way. It would be hard for him, but she’s dead serious. It won’t be easy, but I do think it’ll be super fun to write.

TTVJ: Speaking of fun to write, why does Maggie think she’s ready to now open a bar?

JK: I think it’ll be a challenge, but we thought so much about her professionally and it seemed natural. She’s hospitable and she likes to be around people. I don’t know if she’d be good at the business side, and one of the reasons we thought about that is because maybe she won’t be good at it. But it seemed like a good fit for her and Maggie gets to continue to grow up. It seems very her.

TTVJ: Oliver is in a much better place, especially after reconciling with his father, but is he really in a good enough state to be starting a new relationship?

JK: That’s exactly the question we wanted to pose and we don’t know the answer. We just really liked the idea of meeting someone that you really have a connection with at the worst possible time when you’re at your most vulnerable self. He’d usually lie or hide it, but with this guy it’s just all out in the open right away. Their relationship gets to skip a lot of levels, but we’d assume that it needs to get complicated. At the same time though we all felt like Oliver deserved a break.


TTVJ: Can you talk a little about using Leonard Cohen’s song “Bird on a Wire” here in the finale?

JK: I want to say that [Executive Producer] Virginia Rankin and I wanted to do that six months ago. It’s not something that was inspired by his passing and we started working on this in June. Our music supervisor had to work really hard to get the rights and it took forever. I asked for the fireworks and the song and both were really expensive. We kept thinking we’d get one or the other, but at some point the director was too in love with the fireworks so they were happening. Virginia and I hoped there’d be money left over for the song and there was! It wasn’t random though, having a sad song and a beautiful visual, because Natalie is in a happy/sad place. We were obviously very saddened to hear about his passing and he’s an icon to us both.

TTVJ: Have you guys started to prepare for Season 3 and if so, can you give any idea of what you’d like to explore with the Lawsons?

JK: Well we’d like to see if Romy goes to live with her dad and if she does, do we see it or just see it after? We’d like to complicate Oliver’s relationship and what is happening with Maggie and this new bar? There’s also the delight of possibly writing the Matthew and Nicole stuff and what that really means?

On the Natalie front it would be a whole different approach to her story. She’s still the same character, but we feel like we can move beyond some of the pragmatic ways of looking at her death that have guided her most of the series. It’ll be a more visceral experience for her. She’s entering a stage where she doesn’t have any options and she’s going to get sick. It would be dramatic for her.


What did you think of the Season 2 finale of This Life? Add your thoughts about where the Lawsons go from here in the comments below.