The Sounds: Rachelle Lefevre on CBC’s New Intriguing Mystery Series

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? CBC is delivering a brand-new one straight to viewers with the premiere of The Sounds on Monday, October 5 at 8 p.m. The relationship-driven thriller is set in Pelorus Sounds, New Zealand, a tiny little settlement where nothing is quite as it seems. Created by New Zealand-based author Sarah-Kate Lynch and directed by Vancouver native Peter Stebbings (Frankie Drake Mysteries, The Disappearance), The Sounds follows Maggie Cabbott (Rachelle Lefevre) as she searches for her husband, Tom (Matt Whelan), following his disappearance.

As Maggie slowly learns more about her husband’s disappearance, it soon becomes clear that there’s a complicated web of cheating husbands, epic embezzlement and historic crime happening all around her. Lefevre recently spoke to The TV Junkies about what to expect from the series, why Maggie may not have the full support of Tom’s family in the search for her missing husband, and what it was like to travel and shoot the series entirely on location in New Zealand.

The TV Junkies: What was it about the role and The Sounds that made you want to be a part of it?

Rachelle Lefevre: I am huge fan of shows like Broadchurch. I really like the experience of a story unfolding in a long form. Also, I really wanted to go to New Zealand! [laughs] I then met Peter Stebbings, our director for all 8 episodes, and had an incredible meeting with him. That was the last piece of it, and I thought, ‘I have to do this.’ 

TTVJ: You mentioned Broadchurch and you’re right, The Sounds has a very similar feel to it. We’re experiencing this mystery in a very specific location and in a very specific community.

RL: For me, like Broadchurch, the best of the genre always have the location as a character. New Zealand is not just a convenient or beautiful setting in this. It’s deliberately a character, and you get to watch it be beautiful, inviting, and magical, but then you feel like that expansiveness becomes ominous. It feels like a place where Maggie and Tom can start again, but suddenly, it feels like a place you may never find yourself again.

TTVJ: What was it like shooting in New Zealand? How did it compare to other experiences you’ve had?

RL: I had never been there before and always really wanted to go. The short answer is that after one week of living there I was looking for real estate. There’s also just a really high quality of person there. I’m so in love with Kiwis now, and there’s a warmth and genuine kindness that feels like it’s in their bones. It made me feel immediately like I lived there and was welcome.

TTVJ: You also worked with a lot of New Zealand actors. What was that like?

RL: I hate to give you a bumper sticker answer, but I’ll start with one. It was an embarrassment of riches. There’s a risk when you film a show that takes place in a small town that it’s overly quaint or that the characters will be two-dimensional. You don’t want to portray it as a cliché. Every single actor brought such a fullness to their role. We had some local actors, Tainui Tukiwaho and Vanessa Rare, who broke my heart daily playing characters with a lot of grief. I also feel like I have a friends for life now.

TTVJ: Who is Maggie Cabobott and what’s her marriage with her husband look like before his disappearance?

RL: When you first meet Maggie and Tom everything is very bright, they are very happy, loving, and affectionate. For audience members who are paying attention, there’s a couple of references to the fact that these two are leaving something behind. They’ve come here to start over. One of the things I think is really interesting about the story is that Tom goes missing, and because of that, all these things that they thought they left behind show up. Tom is lost, but all the ghosts are found. 

Maggie finds herself grief-stricken with her head spinning in the midst of what is now the mystery of our story. Was he murdered? Did he commit suicide? Is this a large plot and he’s actually taken off with our life savings? What is happening? Maggie has to simultaneously grieve and get her bearings to figure out what happened.

TTVJ: It is very fun as a viewer to try and pick up those hints you mentioned. They are there and early on you start questioning everything that’s happening.

RL: It made it really fun to play. Not only was I playing a character who had all these things happen to her, but Peter and I worked tirelessly to craft a timeline in which we flag things about Maggie to the audience. So it was like, ‘when are we sending out question marks about who this woman is?’ If you do it well, the audience thinks they know, but then you turn it completely on its head. 

TTVJ: One of the things Tom and Maggie seem to be running away from is his family. They don’t seem like the best in-laws. What’s Maggie’s relationship with them like? How do they factor in?

RL: One of the really important roles that his family plays is that they are extremely wealthy billionaires, and that brings up questions about Maggie being a gold digger. Is she only after his money? After 20 years together, you’d think that would go away, but his father is a ruthless businessman and always has an angle. He never stops being suspicious of Maggie, and he always assumes she’s a gold digger. So one of the things that’s really challenging for her is that his family, instead of supporting her and being companions in this grief, is attacking her like she had something to do with it. Tom’s father is a formidable opponent and it does complicate things.

TTVJ: Tom’s family hires an investigator to come and look into Tom’s disappearance. What does Maggie think of that and what’s her relationship with Esther (Emily Piggford) like?

RL: Emily Piggford, the only other Canadian in the show with me, and she was my familiar harbor. She was incredible and just showed up with such a strong idea of who Esther was. Esther and Maggie are two women, neither of whom behaves the way people expect them to. Esther doesn’t respond to the emotional content of the situation the way we expect women to. Maggie isn’t always grieving the way that people want her to be, especially the way we think women should. 

When you have two characters who are at odds, I always think it’s really interesting when you are trying to figure out what’s going on and you’re not really sure. Esther is smart so is she right? She’s cold and that’s a cardinal sin as a woman. So she must be the bad one, but she’s also really smart and so maybe she’s right? She has a lot of strikes against her working for this family and ruthless man, she’s an antagonist to this grieving wife, and she’s not emotional in the way we normally see female characters being.

The Sounds airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem