This Life’s Torri Higginson on Natalie’s struggle for Control

CBC
CBC

As if dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis is not enough for one person to handle, This Life throws another huge obstacle at Natalie Lawson (Torri Higginson) this season. The Season 1 finale saw the return of her children’s father, ex husband David (Motive’s Louis Ferreira) and now that he’s back in town he is ready to fight for custody when the CBC drama returns for Season 2 on Sunday, October 2 at 9 p.m.

David coming back into their lives throws plans Natalie had to have her brother Matthew (Rick Roberts) gain custody of her children after her death into disarray. She also signed up for a clinical trial that could allow her to hope where her health is concerned for the first time in a long time.

Higginson recently spoke exclusively to The TV Junkies about what to expect from Season 2, including her Natalie’s custody battle and uncertainty around the drug trial. “It was such a delight to come back. I think we all missed each other and the Lawsons,” she says of this season. Higginson also briefly touches on her guest role as Commander Truffault on the sci-fi series Dark Matter.

 

TTVJ: Natalie’s biggest battle this season is the custody battle with David. It seems like having their father back in their lives could be a good thing for her children, so why is Natalie so set against that?

TH: There’s a few things going on there. For one, he hasn’t been there so there’s the personal anger and hurt for the man that left her. I think he was the love of her life and she’s still hurt by that. That translates to anger pretty easily. She’s also able to transfer her anger at being sick to him which is kind of a nice gift in a weird way.

There’s also the element of her going ‘you weren’t there for the kids so how do I know you’re going to be there for them in the future?’ They were hurt by him and who is going to take care of them if he hurts them again? Her struggle is going ‘if I’m not here these kids need as many people who love them around them as possible. So yes, I should let this man back into their life because it’s one more person to love them.’ But his track record hasn’t been great so as much as there’s personal anger and hurt, there’s a mother’s fear of ‘are you going to do this again?’

TTVJ: Things look like they are going to get pretty heated in this dispute, what’s it like playing those emotional scenes opposite Louis?

TH: Well he’s such a delight. I remember saying to Joseph [Kay, showrunner] during the first season saying ‘I don’t know how you’re going to cast this’ because this man, in my mind, is an awful person. Then Louis showed up and I went ‘oh you’re so good.’ He has that wonderful child-likeness that makes you forgive him. It wasn’t malicious, he was just a little bit of a boy still and wasn’t very clear or courageous with his choices. You end up kind of feeling for him because he did the best he could to his ability–his ability just wasn’t so strong.

It’s always interesting as an actor when you don’t agree with your character’s acceptance or non-acceptance of something. I think Natalie is a much better person than I am. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to say it’s best for the kids for him to be there. I would be too petty and angry. She goes through an evolution with it and it is because it’s bigger than her.

@thislifeseries / CBC
@thislifeseries / CBC

TTVJ: Natalie seems to be playing with fire by betting on her brother Matthew to care for the kids, when his home life is a bit in shambles at the moment. How will his situation with Nicole affect Natalie’s custody battle?

TH: That’s what’s so wonderful with the writing of this show. We start this show with one woman and this really big drama, but then life goes on and everybody has big dramas–that’s life and there’s no end to the story. She’s trying her hardest to control what she cannot control and have a conclusion to something so she can feel safe, and life just keeps reminding her that is impossible.

Matthew’s life choices and drama is so big, heartbreaking and so confusing. There’s actually a wonderful scene that happens halfway through the season where you see the clash of the siblings where they go ‘We’re not there for each other. We’re all so caught up in our own dramas that we’re not able to be there for each other.’ It’s a beautiful scene that I think explores the messiness of that and the expectations we have of other people being there for us, without seeing where they are at and their inability to do it because of their own life circus.

TTVJ: Natalie’s battle with David isn’t the only part of her life in a bit of disarray, she’s also got the worries about this clinical trial. What kind of issues will we see her face this season with her health?

TH: There’s a few. This season is her really struggling with control. ‘What can I control? What do I have control over?’ In the first episode she doesn’t know whether or not she’s on the drug or the placebo. She just chooses to believe she’s on the drug and she chooses to believe it’s helping her. She recognizes the only thing she can control is her attitude. ‘I can’t control my body. I can’t control my kids. I can’t control my ex husband. I can’t control my cancer. I can only control my attitude.’ So you see her really struggling to have this positive outlook.

Her journey this season is recognizing that it’s not about control. She starts this season with ‘I’m going to control my destiny with my attitude,’ and goes through this evolution realizing it’s not about control and just about being present.

TTVJ: Switching gears a bit, your character on Dark Matter was actually supposed to be killed off in Season 1, but she became a big ally for the crew in Season 2. Did you have any idea going in that it would expand the way that it has?

TH: No, I didn’t and it was a complete delightful surprise. I was told the first season I’d be in 2-3 episodes. Then I was scheduled for a third episode and Joe [Mallozzi, Dark Matter showrunner] came up to me and said ‘you’re actually not going to be in the next episode, I’m really sorry, but we don’t want to kill you off yet.’ That was really great because I never expect more than one episode. Last season was so much fun as she’s a really fun character to do. I enjoy her so much. I usually get very kind, big-hearted people and she’s so wonderfully self-serving, conniving and super smart–a joy to play.

TTVJ: Have you heard anything about Season 3?

TH: I have not, no.

 

What are you most excited about from the return of This Life? Add your thoughts in the comments below!
This Life airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.