Last week Saving Hope gave us one of its most disturbing storylines to date. In an expertly played scene, Dr. Dawn Bell (Michelle Nolden) was raped by boyfriend Lane Berkley (Shaun Benson) in her office. The scene was difficult to watch but we couldn’t help but be impressed by Nolden’s performance in that scene and the one that followed.
Dawn has long been a favorite character on Saving Hope with her direct, and sometimes bitchy personality. While her current storyline is a difficult one, we can’t hide our excitement over the fact that it will allows us to see more of Dawn on our screens. Because of the seriousness of the topic and the impact that it will likely have on Dawn, and on viewers at home, we thought it would be a good idea to speak with Nolden about the topic and how difficult it was to film the assault scene, as well as to get a preview of what’s to come for Dawn as the season goes on.
The TV Junkies: Dawn had a pretty horrible encounter with Lane in the last episode. What was your reaction when you heard that she was going to be raped?
Michelle Nolden: It was slightly horrifying, but I had positive reaction in a sense that we were delving in to Dawn’s life. I knew from the beginning that that was probably where it was going to go, and I feel very grateful that the writers have given me such great stuff as an actor to play. But actually having to do it was horrifying.
TTVJ: How difficult was that scene to film and how do you prepare yourself for something like that?
MN: You know I don’t think that there is a lot of preparation that you can do for it. I knew that I would be working with David Wellington, who is one of my all time favourite directors, so there is an immediate trust that is there. So I knew that David would give us a very safe place to do that work. And Shaun and I knew each other also so that kind of helped. You know it’s really hard, I think Shaun did a really fantastic job in that role and it’s really hard to play the bad guy. I think that as two actors we were able to create a safe place to do the work that needed to be done.
TTVJ: He really did do a great job at being creepy didn’t he?
MN: Oh yes, and he only gets creepier and creepier.
TTVJ: What is Dawn going to do about the rape. Will she report Lane?
MN: I think Dawn is a really private and proud person. I think that she has kind of always been that way. She witnessed Charlie and Alex together so she knows how to put on a brave face. And Dawn really loves the hospital. She loves her doctors, she’s got a real respect for them and I think that she believes that her role as Chief is to be fair and to protect them. So I think she is going to have to kind of balance that and what it will mean to Dawn to report it. In terms of the media, hospital gossip, whether anyone is going to believe her and if she wants to go down that road–the things that all women in this situation go through–I think she has to go through all of that stuff. I don’t think that it is going to be resolved very quickly. I think it’s going to take all season for Dawn to find some sort of healing from that. But I think that she will ultimately find it.
One of the great things that the writers have done is that this forces Dawn to rely on some of the other doctors and open herself up again. She’s just been hurt so many times in the last little while that she has no choice but to trust again.
TTVJ: Is Dawn going to continue to work with Lane on the board? How is she going to handle that?
MN: That’s the thing, and I think that is where they [the writers] have done such a great job. They made that very messy and very complicated. The fact that they have to be in the workplace together is just a whole other level of it. It just brings all of these other complications into it. I think that Dawn’s life is that hospital so I think that she is going to find a way to do it and I think that she is going to find a way to go forward. That’s going to be at her own peril in terms of her own healing and her own ways of making things right and her innate sense of justice.
And on of the things that I love about Dawn is that she is always fair. I know some people may not like her, and she can be really harsh and kind of a bitch sometimes, but Dawn takes her responsibility as Chief really seriously and she really loves those doctors. She protects them and she’s always trying to make the best decisions. So I think that innate sense of justice is going to prevail. She is going to do what’s most responsible, but also what’s actually going to make him pay for it. So Dawn has to figure all that out.
TTVJ: Are we going to see the return of the bitchy, tell it like it is Dawn that we know and love?
MN: I hope so. I love playing that part of Dawn. She’s been very happy this season and I think that is because the writers have done such a great job at sort of opening her up. While she’s probably still bitchy when she’s off screen, we are seeing another side of her that we’ve NEVER seen before.
There are definitely a few episodes coming up where we’ll have the Dawn that we’ve loved to hate come back. And she’s fun to play because she says all the things that I’d really like to say in my life but I can’t. She’s candid right? She says it like it is, and I don’t think that she has a lot of patience for people when they’re not doing what they are supposed to do and I respect that.
TTVJ: Is Dawn going to be able to recover from this? Are we going to see her happy again?
MN: I think it will be the same for her as it will be for anyone that this has happened to. It will always be there. Something like this is always with you. You don’t really ever forget anything like that but I think that Dawn will come to a place of healing. But I think that is going to take some time and I think that she is going to have to rely on the people around her to do that. There’s a scene in the next episode with Zach [Ben Ayers] where you will see that. I think that she is going to start to realize that there is friendship and help and love for her in other ways and I think that she’ll start to open her heart.
TTVJ: With Peter Mooney joining the cast this season, is there a possibility for some type of relationship between him and Dawn?
MN: I don’t know. Peter Mooney’s character and Charlie went to med school together so it’s quite possible that they would all know each other from back in the day. I do hope that there’s something that we can touch on, that shared history that they have, but for a romantic thing I have no idea. We rarely know past what is happening in the episode that we are about to shoot. It’s kind of one of the things that is exciting about doing all this.
I knew that Dawn was going to find love this season, but I didn’t know how it was going to play out and it definitely played out differently that I expected.
TTVJ: What ever happened with the girl that Dawn was trying to adopt last season? It hasn’t been mentioned at all this season.
MN: No it hasn’t. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say there, but it will come up again and we will find out what happened there for sure.
TTVJ: Did I see that you were working on a movie right now? Can you tell me about it?
MN: Yeah I’m working on a film in Montreal. We had a little hiatus from Saving Hope and then Dawn wasn’t in the episode following that so it gave me a little two week blip, so I scooted off to Montreal and did a film called Run To Me. I play a psycho in it. It was very fun. Bad characters are often the most fun to play.
TTVJ: Are there any other projects that you’d like to discuss? I know you did another movie last year as well, will that be coming out soon?
MN: I did a film earlier in the year called Prisoner X where I play a CIA agent and am dealing with a time travelling terrorist so that is coming out fairly soon. I also did a film called Christmas Horror Stories, which I think was released on Friday so it should be in theaters now.
TTVJ: Is there anything that you’d like to add?
MN: I really love Dawn and I’m very grateful to be able to play her and I really enjoy this journey for her. Even though this subject matter is very difficult, I think that it has opened her up in a way that I think will be very interesting for the audience to join in and to go through that journey of healing with her.
What’s your favourite thing about Dawn? Were you shocked by what happened to her? Are you looking forward to watching her journey throughout the rest of the season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Christy is a self proclaimed and proud TV Junkie. Her love for TV began at an early age with shows like Degrassi, Alias, ER, Buffy, The X-Files & Friends. You can now find her watching, ok obsessing over, shows like When Calls The Heart, Saving Hope, Arrow, Outlander, Grey's Anatomy and many many others. You can catch Christy on Twitter at @ChristySpratlin where she will likely be live tweeting her favorite shows and talking about everything TV.