Saving Hope’s Erica Durance On Her Directorial Debut

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Bell Media

There have been quite a few changes for Dr. Alex Reid (Erica Durance) this season on Saving Hope. Sure, she’s still the doctor at Hope Zion that we’ve come to know and love over the years, but she’s also taken on a few new roles. The roles of mother, mentor and unrelenting supporter of Charlie’s (Michael Shanks) ghost world have made her character much more complex, considerably raising viewers’ interest and enjoyment.

In this week’s new episode “Torn and Frayed,” Durance takes her first crack at directing, so we thought it would be a great time to talk her. Read on as we discuss what that experience was like, how she feels about the changes to Alex’s character and what’s to come for Alex and Charlie as the season comes to an end.

The TV Junkies: How did this opportunity to direct come about? Has it always been something you wanted to try?

Erica Durance: It’s something that I have been taking notes on and watching for the last 15 years kind of privately on my own. Then the opportunity arose for me to chat with Ilana (Frank), she’s our boss, and just see if that was a possibility. So we went through and figured out how it would all play out. I wanted it to be an experience that I could learn from, but wouldn’t really affect anyone else around me. The situation was a really smooth transition and I really enjoyed it a lot.

TTVJ: What was the most challenging part of directing?

ED: As an actor a lot of the work is introspective and you don’t have to disseminate those feelings to anyone else. It’s all you working in your own private way. So the experience of putting all the work that is in my head out there so that it can be carried out was probably the most challenging for me.

TTVJ: Is it harder to direct the scenes that you’re in?

ED: I don’t know that I really noticed that, but what ends up happening when you’re in a scene is that you end up focusing on every one except yourself. I made a joke where I said as long as I’m in focus and did a relatively good job I was like ‘OK, let’s move on.’ So what ended up happening is I was just so excited about everything else that was going on, and everybody else’s performances, that I kind of put myself on the back burner a little bit.

I personally like being behind the camera quite a bit. One of the reasons that I fell in love with the business is all of the work that it takes to get that one moment. I find everything that’s happening behind the scenes quite fascinating. So me being behind the camera experiencing it all, and having all of their help and support and seeing all the things from that perspective was awesome. Then seeing the whole project through editing, and how important the whole process is, it gives you a whole other perspective of things. It was really great.

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Bell Media

TTVJ: What was it like co-directing the episode with Steve DiMarco?

ED: I basically did all of the legwork and all of the other stuff myself because I wanted to prove that I could do it. Steve was gracious enough to be there and kind of oversee things and have my back. He just helped to make it a really smooth transition. He was wonderful and gracious and I bounced ideas off him. He was really great to have but I was determined to do it all myself and take this step on my own.

TTVJ: There are some pretty emotional storylines in this week’s episode. What is it like directing those?

ED: What I loved from seeing it from this perspective–in the direction world–is that you are able to tell the story from a visual medium, so there’s a totally different mechanism to tell the story on an emotional level versus the technical stuff like we show in the ER and in the OR. And definitely understanding it from an actor’s perspective, what they’re going through in those moments, so you need to be able figure out what you can do to help the situation. So those moments were great, but they were all very exciting for different reasons. I personally love working in the ER and the OR because it’s so spontaneous and last minute. You’re working with the crew to catch the little things that are happening.  So that was a different kind of flow for me and I found that really interesting.

TTVJ: More specifically there’s a scene with Zach (Benjamin Ayres) and Dawn (Michelle Nolden) that I really loved how it all ended up coming together.

ED: Yeah they did such an excellent job with it. There were some things that they were both really uncomfortable with and we talked through it and I fought for some things that I thought were really important to tell their story. It’s so fun to work in such a collaborative way. Theirs is a surprising relationship really. There’s something that’s similar about them, but also so different, and they work very well, and maybe it’s because it’s not something that was so predictable.

I tried to have a bit of a theme with the episode and our writer Patrick [Tarr] put it out there as ‘How do we break people free from being trapped in some way?’ Sometimes we can break ourselves free and sometimes we need someone to help us break ourselves free. I kind of feel like Zach and Dawn have set each other free from the turmoil that they went through. Now they’re starting to walk together into this new chapter of hope. Those kind of things for me are one of the reasons that I love the show, so I try keep pushing for them however I can.

TTVJ: Since you did direct, I have to ask about the blue lights. Can you explain their meaning for viewers who’ve not figured it out yet?

ED: The blue lights are representative of spirits. When we first started the show they were everywhere and I loved it because I feel like that’s how it is in real life. But it became invasive for people visually to see that all the time, so they have now tried to limit it to the experiences where there’s more life and death situations or where Charlie is working with a ghost, and it’s representative of that on a different level.

TTVJ: We know that the lights are actually there when you’re filming and are not put in in post production so is it part of your job as a director to figure out where they are going to go in a scene?

ED: Yes, that’s right. You have to figure out when you want them, where you want them and how you want them to play out. And of course our technicians and our DP [Director of Photography] heads that up and our camera operators work with that as well. It’s a collaborative effort to figure out how you want to tell that story of life and death, and what it means to you. For me, if I had my way, they would be everywhere, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea so you just have to go with what you can do at the time.

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Bell Media

TTVJ: Alex has played many roles other than just doctor this season–mom, mentor, friend. Have you enjoyed the new direction of your character and her journey this season?

ED: You know I have, and I am fighting for her to continue to go that way and show different sides of herself as we all have. Next year I’m looking forward to pushing her in some different directions. Every year I fight for it, and I continue to fight for, her to show real humanity. Where she can make mistakes and pick herself up again. I’m hoping for next year to have a little bit of that as well. Who knows where she’s going to end up, but I want to play someone that is relatable and sometimes that means that she does things that not everybody likes at first, because we do that in life. So that’s one of the directions that I’d like to take her as well.

TTVJ: Romantically things have been very stable this season. Is it safe to say nothing can come between Alex and Charlie at this point or is there still some drama to come?

ED: There’s always drama, nothing is safe. You always have to work for that in your own life too really. It’s always when you just sit back and think everything is OK is when you take the best people in your life for granted. So it’s important to tell those stories too.

TTVJ: Although she’s been supportive, will Charlie’s ghost seeing abilities continue to affect their relationship?

ED: Oh yeah, it’s a big deal. Can he see things or is he crazy? We don’t know.

TTVJ: What can we expect to see for Alex over the last few episodes this season?

ED: She’s still struggling in how to help Charlie with everything that he’s going through. Is it a medical issue or is it actually something that he can see? So there’s some life and death stakes coming up in seventeen and eighteen.


Have you been enjoying the changes in Alex this season? What do you want to see happen over the last few episodes of Saving Hope this season? Be sure and let us know in the comments below!

Saving Hope airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

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