From IFC Films and eOne, the serialized investigative drama series Burden of Truth (airing on The CW) follows attorney Joanna Hanley (Kristin Kreuk), as she leaves her career as a partner in a big-city corporate law firm to solve the case of a mysterious illness affecting the female high school students of her hometown. Along with local attorney Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney), Joanna knows they must find answers if they’re going to be able to deliver justice and solve the mystery of this life-altering case, all while searching for her own truth about the dark secrets that ultimately forced her family to leave town.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Kristin Kreuk talked about getting more involved with Burden of Truth as an executive producer, figuring out just what kind of show they wanted to make, finding her own voice in this business, what she loves about playing her character, the romanticism we develop about our past, the dynamic between Joanna and Billy, getting tongue-tied over the legal jargon, how happy she is with the way Season 1 played out, how much better she knows her character, now that they’re working on the already picked up Season 2, and the importance of keeping a dialogue going with the creative team behind the series, as the show continues.
Collider: First of all, congratulations on Season 2! That’s a huge accomplishment in TV, these days.
KRISTIN KREUK: Thank you! We’re pretty excited!
One of the most exciting and scary aspects of signing on for a TV series is that you don’t fully know what will be or where it will go. When it came to this, what were you most excited about and what were you most nervous about?
KREUK: I think I was most excited about being able to be involved, from almost the conception of the show, and being able to shape the character and where she’ll grow, so that I can mitigate all of the risks one takes with a TV series. I was really excited about that. What I was worried about was that you never know with TV. It was a blank slate, so we had to figure out the right tone. We didn’t know if it was be a lighter show, or a more heavy drama. We had no idea. So, that unknown was particularly terrifying.
What were the most surprising things about getting that much more involved with a series and also being an executive producer?
KREUK: How much it’s an empty void, in the beginning, was a surprise. You’ve got a sense of the character and the world that you’re living in. For us, it was also topics that we wanted to cover and ideas we wanted to look at. But apart from that, at the beginning of a Season 1 show, it’s just so empty, and that was surprising to me.
More and more frequently, women in this business seem to feel more confident about taking charge of their career, their projects, their characters, and finding their own voice, as a producer. When do you feel like you really found that voice and that confidence to speak up, not just for yourself, but the characters that you’re playing?
KREUK: I still don’t feel like I’m very good at that and I still have a long way to go. I was so scared for so long. On Smallville, there came a point where I finally got the courage to give my opinion on something, and it was so hard. I remember being on the phone with the producers and stating my opinion, and then quietly crying. I was so terrified to voice anything. And from that point on, it’s been a slow process of becoming more and more confident, speaking up, and having people listen to me. Before this show, I had gone out and started pitching some of my own ideas, that I brought to eOne, who is akin to the studio on this. I mentioned my own stuff and they were like, “Yeah, maybe not. But here are some ideas of ours that we have in development. Do any of these resonate for you?” I was able to select from a bunch of shows that they had and find something that really moved me, and then go from there with them. That felt like a huge step forward. I obviously have a long way to go, but this is a really good step for me, in the right direction.
After doing Smallville and Beauty and the Beast, which had sci-fi/fantasy twists to them, was it an adjustment to play someone who lives in the world of mere mortals and humans?
KREUK: No. I wanted to do that. I think the main difference is the stakes. When you’re in the world of life and death because of aliens, or superpowers, or military experiments gone awry, the stakes are really intense, all the time. On our show, there are possibly life and death stakes, but it feels more like I can channel my own life experience. It doesn’t feel like you’re in a constantly heightened state. There’s a little more nuance and the fluctuations live in more of a gray area.
This character is clearly going to be on quite the journey this season. What did you most enjoy about playing her?
KREUK: I love her because she’s a person who is great at her job and she doesn’t care what people think about her. She’s not going around adjusting her behavior, in order to have people like her, or think that what she is doing is okay. She’s so fearless, in that regard. That’s not what she was raised to value. Success is her gauge of what is good, and not how much people like you. It’s about respect, and I love that. It’s weird to go to set and come home and everyone has hated you, all day long. It’s something that I don’t do well with, normally, in my own life, so it was such a liberating thing to play a character who’s like that.
It’s always fun when a character who has run from their past has to go back and confront their past, and have to rely on people that may not necessarily think the best or the highest of her. What can you say about her relationship to this town and how the town feels about her being there again?
KREUK: I don’t know what it’s like for you, but when I look back on my past, I have a certain idea of what happened. Your memory is a certain way. But in reality, especially if there’s a hometown – and my hometown is Vancouver – when I go back, I have massive feelings around it. For Joanna, it’s really palpable because she left so abruptly, at the age of 14. There’s a romanticism about her past, and a feeling that this was when it was good for them, before her parents split up. For her, going back, she has one idea of her father and of how they were respected in the town, but when she returns, she realizes that recollection was probably false, and that’s really jarring for her. The season is about her coming to terms with her childhood and learning what her childhood really was, and facing that and seeing how that affects how she makes decisions, in her current moment.