Natalie Lawson (Torri Higginson) isn’t going down without a fight, at least if she has anything to say about it. Faced with whether or not she should join a clinical trial that could prolong her life, the Season 1 finale of This Life ended with Natalie making the decision to go for it in hopes of keeping her cancer at bay awhile longer. Health scares weren’t the only thing Natalie had to deal with, as she also now faces a custody battle over her children due to the reappearance of their father David (Motive’s Louis Ferreira) and what seems like the end of her brother Matthew’s (Rick Roberts) marriage.
Showrunner Joseph Kay exclusively spoke with The TV Junkies about the return of David and the future of Natalie’s children, as well as what possibilities lie ahead for Matthew, Oliver (Kristopher Turner), Maggie (Lauren Lee Smith) and the rest of the Lawson gang. CBC has yet to renew the drama for Season 2, but Kay said he’s already returned to the writers’ room and is making plans should that happen.
The TV Junkies: You obviously wrote the finale not knowing whether or not you’d be coming back. How does that affect your decision making and were you concerned at all about leaving some things up in the air?
Joseph Kay: I just had to leave it all out on the table. We felt that we had to do honest storytelling and obviously what’s happening to Natalie is not over. It was never even a consideration to try and wrap it up in case we didn’t come back. It felt like a natural place to go to, in terms of moving things into another stage. I had to not think about the idea that it may not continue. Every episode of the show is designed to lead you into the next and we just did that in a bigger way with the season finale. It was deliberate of us to introduce a new stage to things with the ex-husband and the drug trial, which for the first time offers her hope.
TTVJ: For most of the season we’ve known Natalie is sick, but she’s not shown a ton of the effects yet. This episode she had a real scare. Why was it important to include that moment in the finale?
JK: Because we haven’t. We’ve spent an entire season of television telling you that this woman is dying and very ill but we’ve not seen the physical manifestation of that. It’s an emotional story but there’s a point at which the physical needs to start entering the story. In terms of the story reaching a new stage, we wanted it to be clear that as this continues the physical component of her disease has to catch up with the story telling.
TTVJ: Was it always the plan to bring David back and have you already made the decision of who will eventually get custody of the children?
JK: We don’t know but we have some really good ideas. In the writers’ room there are some very healthy discussions, and I would say there’s maybe a direction we’re leaning, but we don’t know for sure. I think it was right around the time we were working on the fifth episode. Natalie is really struggling with the idea of telling her kids, she talks about David a bit and finds out from Matthew that in order for the custody agreement to be formal, David would have to sign off on them. It was at that point we thought that we should meet him in the first season, and be this thing that appears at the end that suggests there’s stuff we don’t know about these people that we’ll dig into going forward.
TTVJ: Maggie is officially the world’s worst secret keeper. What was her motivation behind telling Nicole (Marianne Farley) and what does it mean for her relationship with her brother moving forward?
JK: From Maggie’s perspective, her motivation was that she believes in telling the truth–maybe not to herself all the time–and being honest. This season starts with Maggie telling Natalie that she’s not living her life and finishes with Maggie offering to live Natalie’s life. In the middle of that is a story where Maggie is challenged to grow up a bit, and she really struggles with whether she wants to or what that means. I don’t think this would be obvious to Maggie, but telling her brother to come clean and telling the news to Nicole is Maggie processing how she might go about growing up. It’s a mature truth telling that you could look at and say ‘she did a terrible thing,’ but I think you could plausibly look at it and say ‘well no, I think she did the right thing.’ She had the interest of Natalie’s kids at heart. It’s part of her coming to terms with where she is in her life and this challenge where she has to find something in her life. It’s a huge point of conflict in her relationship with her brother and her relationship with Natalie as well.
TTVJ: If we didn’t know better it looks like Oliver is turning things around in his life, but the psychologist’s question of whether this is a manic episode keeps nagging in the back of our mind. Can you give any insight into Oliver’s mental health and the decisions he made in the last few episodes?
JK: What comes across with Oliver is that he has issues in his life that he’s not good talking about and he compartmentalizes everything that has happened to him. What we are seeding there in the end–being the opposite of depressed–is that it’s not over, that part of the storytelling is not over for Oliver. He’s made progress, dealt with some very big things that happened to him in his past, but he’s not really dealt with the ongoing things. We were talking in the writers’ room about why he came back. He lived away for a very long time, came back to help his sister, but why has he stayed? What is it about Oliver and his journey that he feels like he has to be close to home? I think the short answer is that he’s still on his journey.
TTVJ: The show featured what some people would call “controversial relationships”–Maggie’s threesome and the relationship between Caleb (James Wotherspoon) and an older Danielle (Rachael Crawford)–why was it important for you guys to tell those stories?
JK: In both of those cases we did it because that’s where we believed the characters would go. We weren’t trying to be edgy with it, but we just believed that Maggie would be the kind of person that would make herself lovable to a couple and that she’s the kind of person that gets those offers. It’s definitely a fine line between wanting to tell that story and being able to tell that story on network television. With Caleb it was the same thing, it goes there in the French series so there was precedent, but we only did it in our adaptation because we believed that he needed a mom and she needed a son. He had been this kid that takes so much on himself and he needed an outlet and a way for it to all get destroyed. She was there. We just believed it.
TTVJ: I know you have already been planning stories for next season. Is there anything you can share about what those plans include?
JK: We’re really excited about continuing to tell this story and there’s lots left to tell. We’re excited about the volume of things that we still have and want to tell with these characters. We’re excited about where they were left with everybody entering new phases. We’re only at the beginning of thinking about it but there seems to be tons of good material.
Did you enjoy This Life‘s first season? Do you want it renewed for Season 2? Sound off in the comments below!
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.