This Life writer on the challenges of deep character dramas

CBC
CBC

Hope can be a very powerful weapon and it’s something that This Life’s Natalie Lawson (Torri Higginson) has for the first time in a long time. After finally experiencing some side effects at the end of the Season 2 premiere, Natalie seems to be receiving the drug, rather than the placebo, in her drug trial and is feeling hopeful for her future. However, she’s still dealing with the return of her ex, David (Louis Ferreira) and the start of what could be a heated custody battle. Elsewhere, her sister Maggie (Lauren Lee Smith) got an unexpected new roommate when she accepted Raza’s (Hamza Haq) offer to move in.

In this week’s episode “Perfect Day,” written by Alison Lea Bingeman and directed by Lyne Charlebois, Maggie will be having her family over for a somewhat surprising housewarming party. Meanwhile, Natalie has an adventure of her own thanks to her friend Tia (K.C. Coombs). The TV Junkies recently spoke with Bingeman, whose credits include writing on Bomb Girls and 19-2, about what we can expect from this week’s episode. She also shared some insights about what it’s like to write on the character focused family drama.

TTVJ: How does writing a show like This Life differ from other shows you’ve written on like 19-2 and Bomb Girls?

ALB: With This Life we go for deep character and with Bomb Girls it was patriotism, the war and a new life for all these women, so everything was writ pretty large, whereas This Life is a quiet drama. The shifts that happen often happen internally with our characters, so how do we portray that and show that in a compelling way? I felt like this show was really about deep feeling. The writers’ room was very emotional and we shed a lot of tears.

TTVJ: Since this is a family drama, do you as writers put a lot of your personal experiences into the show?

ALB: As a writer of character drama we really have to have an empathy gene to us. We talked about our lives but also talked about the lives of people we knew. But more than writing our own experiences, it was bringing these characters alive so that they felt like they existed. It felt like Maggie was a real person to me, so was Caleb and so was Natalie. It was like ‘oh these people are now in my life.’ It’s more like that where these people inhabit you.

TTVJ: Joseph mentioned that despite how much we want to hate him, David is an example that there are no villains on This Life. Is it possible for Natalie to see that having him back in her children’s lives may not be a completely bad thing?

ALB: Part of Episode 202 is her view of the past and her relationship with David that in a very subtle way shifts. When you go through a divorce with someone you protect yourself in a way by making them the bad guy. She’s had this view of David for a lot of years and it’s given her the strength to raise these children. So for her to walk through that she’s had to have a certain view of him, and in this episode she opens up to the possibility that he may not be that person that she’s been thinking of for the last 10 years. It’s a glimpse of who he was and that her perception has altered slightly.

CBC
CBC

TTVJ: One of the things that is endearing and relatable about the Lawsons is that they always tend to get in one another’s business. Will that continue to be true when it comes to this custody battle?

ALB: Yes, and that’s why it’s relatable because in any custody situation you do have to get in other people’s business. In one way Natalie is a warrior for her children because she wants what’s best for them. No matter what happens to her, she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they are OK.

TTVJ: Maggie invites the Lawsons over for “a very unconventional housewarming party.” What can you preview about that?

ALB: Maggie takes a big leap–an unexpected, big leap–into a new situation that completely takes her family by surprise.

TTVJ: While we’re used to seeing the characters primarily interact with one another within the family unit, Natalie spends a good deal of this episode with her friend Tia who we met back in Season 1. Why’s that relationship and friendship so important to Natalie?

ALB: There’s a number of reasons and one is when you’re involved with something so complex as a cancer diagnosis, it’s hard for other people that aren’t in the middle of that to relate to it. Tia is right smack in the middle of it with Natalie, so there’s a shorthand between those two that she would not find with other people in her life. There’s a lot of things Natalie doesn’t have to explain to Tia because Tia just understands. Both of them have similar diagnosis and its the catalyst for their initial contact this week, but the other is that Natalie is living with hope. She’s feeling good and she wants to go out and have some fun. That propels her to have a day of adventure and it’s really about Natalie having an adventure with somebody who is in a similar situation to her and can understand.

TTVJ: Do you have a favorite character to write for?

ALB: I’ve always found that I really relate to Natalie. I’m a mother of two young men, having recently went through the teenage years with them and gone through the soul-searching Natalie goes through raising her children.

TTVJ: On the flip side then who is the hardest character for you to write for?

ALB: I love them all in their very special way, but I would say sometimes Matthew because I would get angry at him. He’d always make me mad, so for me to write him from the inside was an interesting process.

 

What do you think of Season 2 of This Life so far? What are you most looking forward to? Sound off in the comments below!

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