The rain poured down, fog set over the lake, seeped through the forest, and clouded the small town. The mystic setting created the perfect atmosphere for the day and rather than impeding on our behind-the-scenes look at CBC & Netflix’s new drama, it added to the experience.
The beautiful Canadian cottage country setting of Parry Sound provides the backdrop to Northern Rescue, a 10 part series that tells the story of the West family.
I sat down with William Baldwin, who plays John West, and Kathleen Robertson, who plays Aunt Charlotte during a media visit to their small town and lakeside set.
John West is a father of three and recent widower who uproots his family from their life in the city to return to his small home town after the tragic loss of his wife. He takes command of the local Search & Rescue service and is hoping this relocation will provide a much needed fresh start for his family.
Aunt Charlotte plays the sister-in-law to John West and the loving, caring aunt trying to help his kids through their grief, while also coping with her own.
I arrive at this cozy coffee shop — the one Robertson’s character frequents in the series. It’s still dark and raining outside. The little bell over the door chimes; I turn my attention to see a beautiful, smiling Kathleen Robertson running through the door. She’s dressed in a more casual ensemble, donning a chic version of the Canadian Tuxedo. Friendly and sweet she introduces herself as we sit down over coffee for what she makes feel more like two friends chatting.
Northern Rescue is a drama focused on family ties, Kathleen explains how being a mother has changed the way she approaches her work and how she uses her motherly instincts to bring to life Aunt Charlotte’s caring nature.
“The nice thing about this role for me is it’s sort of an opportunity for me to play a character that infuses hope into the family’s lives and is the bright point for them. As hard as things get, as dark as things get, she’s the first one to be like –OK, were going to do this, were going to get through this, were going to be okay! Even though internally she doesn’t feel that way at all.” She laughs and continues, “she’s a complete wreck and a mess inside but she doesn’t have the luxury of showing that–she owes it to her sister to be the strong one for them.”
Robertson has typically played characters with more of an edge and a darkness, from serial killers to intense press aids. She smiles when I ask if this character will have any darkness of that sort. She responds happily that “Charlie is not dark at all” and instead is quite the opposite.
“It does get dark, but the darkness doesn’t originate from her. It’s someone we meet–someone from her past.” When I press for more she simply grins and says “it’s not good” and to tune in to find out more about this mystery man.
I ask what about Northern Rescue first grabbed her attention.
“The scripts,” she explains, “I was incredibly drawn to the scripts.” She goes on to explain how she liked the character for herself, “it was something different, something I hadn’t really done before–as you said.”
The Hamilton native adds, “I love Canada.” She raves, “It was like asking myself ‘Do you want to go to Canada? To work for three months? In the summer? On the lake? With your kids? And get to work with Canadians?’ I LOVE working with Canadians! So every element to me was a yes.” Sitting in this coffee shop in this quaint little town with this friendly face… I definitely see the appeal.
As I leave the quintessential coffee shop and head over to the lakeside set, I realize the brilliance over choosing this location. Not only does Perry Sound, like many small towns, present itself as a happy, family-orientated community, but also, particularly on a gloomy day like today because of it’s ability to be dark, heavy-hearted, and dreary.
The lakeside set is home to Baldwin’s Search & Rescue unit. He’s still in uniform and shooting a scene when I arrive.
As we steal him in between takes, he explains his interest in doing an “edgy contemporary family drama,” particularly one that focuses on “the real issues and examines what it means to be a family today.”
Baldwin, who is also one of the executive producers, explains that Northern Rescue “examines life, love, laughter, loss, healing, and second chances.”
Like Robertson, he expressed his love for filming in Canada and his excitement to be working on a project that holds family at it’s core.
I had the opportunity to check out the first few episodes and I am absolutely hooked. Northern Rescue is the perfect mix of adventure, drama, and family.
Joining the series are Amalia Williamson as Maddie West, the oldest child; Spencer MacPherson as Scout West, the son; and Taylor Thorne as Taylor West, the youngest daughter.
Additionally, Michelle Nolden (Saving Hope) will be joining the cast as John’s wife SarahWest and Michael Xavier (Bitten) as Paul Simmons, a volunteer member of the SAR team.
Northern Rescue is produced by Don Carmody Television (DCTV) and created by award-winning writer Mark Bacci, International Emmy®-nominated producer David Cormican, and Daytime Emmy®-nominated performer and writer Dwayne Hill.
Northern Rescue is the first original drama to debut on the CBC Gem streaming service in Canada. All episodes begin streaming March 1 on CBC Gem exclusively in Canada, day-and-date on Netflix worldwide.
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