Internationally, Canada is known for a few key things: good beer, our love of hockey, saying “I’m sorry” a lot and for our cold Canadian winters. Of all those things, the cold is perhaps the one that draws the least amount of visitors.
Not so for American actor Billy Campbell, who seems to have a penchant for the Great White North. Over the last several years he’s remained in Canada to work on shows like The Killing in Vancouver and Helix in Montreal, getting his permanent residency along the way. And now he’s coming up in the new six-part series Cardinal, which shot in the middle of February out in Sudbury, Ont. No wonder all the promo shots have the actor and his co-star Karine Vanasse (Revenge) in giant parkas.
“I am a fan of the outdoors. I actually did a little film in the Antarctic so I felt pretty prepared for the Ontario cold,” Campbell says. “I loved it. I confess I’m a little weird that way. My first day of shooting I had all my equipment on and my face felt like it was falling off, but I actually enjoyed it. I love Canada. Canada is my spiritual home I feel more Canadian than I do anything else.”
In Cardinal, Campbell plays the title character John Cardinal — a demoted homicide detective in a small North Ontario town who is reinstated when the body of a 13-year-old girl he had spent all his unit’s resources looking for surfaces. Vanasse plays his new partner, det. Lise Delorme, whom Cardinal quickly decides not to trust.
The show debuts Wednesday night, taking the place of Kiefer Sutherland’s new fall hit Designated Survivor for six weeks until that show returns from its hiatus in March.
If the title or premise sound familiar, that’s because the series is based on the John Cardinal Mystery Series novels by Giles Blunt. It was adapted by Aubrey Nealon, who has had plenty of experience producing on series like Orphan Black, Rookie Blue and Saving Hope.
Did we mention it’s dark? Because it definitely is. As in, one dead kid in the premiere is just the beginning of this story kind of dark. It’s also a raw, emotional trek through Canadian terrain unlike anything we’ve seen onscreen before and Campbell and Vanasse kill it together. Luckily, that darkness is something Campbell was able to put aside when he was working and not take it home with him though.
“At the end of the day it is all make believe. Maybe it’s more difficult for the audience than it is for us,” he says. “Audiences don’t see the camera crew just standing there so you can really suspend your disbelieve and fall into the story. For me no matter how grisly things are there’s like 30 people standing just behind the camera, some of them are picking their nose ad some are chewing gum so it’s really never that frightening. Not for me anyway.”
It didn’t hurt that the actor really enjoyed his screen time with Vanasse, either.
“You’d have to be a cinder block not to have chemistry with Karine; she’s just about the most delightful person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” he says. “She’s a brilliant film actor. I didn’t have to do a damned thing to have chemistry with her. She’s a delight and really, really good. It was like a walk in the park.”
A super dark and twisty walk in the park in which we’re trying to find a killer before he or she strikes again, mind you. All in six short episodes… we already feel the need to mount a campaign for season two.