Hermione Wilson / TV Junkies
Remember Marci Coates, Alison’s rival for school trustee on Orphan Black’s third season? Well she was portrayed by Canadian actress Amanda Brugel and you’re going to be seeing a lot more of her from now on. The TV Junkies recently spoke to Brugel about her upcoming role on CBC’s Kim’s Convenience that begins Tuesday night on CBC, what it was like working with Emmy-winning actress Tatiana Maslany, and her dream job on a new TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
The TV Junkies: Can you tell me a little bit about your character on Kim’s Convenience, Pastor Nina?
Amanda Brugel: Pastor Nina is new to the area as well as to the congregation, it’s a predominantly Korean congregation. She sort of has to navigate a world in which she doesn’t really know everyone culturally, she doesn’t know the language, she doesn’t know food. It’s an entirely new world for her. The lovely thing about this character is that she’s so optimistic and excited to learn anything new that she really takes it to the next level. She learns certain greetings in Korean and tries new foods and just learns how to interact with people. It’s been really cool to play someone who’s so wide eyed and so innocent and so enthusiastic. You don’t really find a lot of people like that.
TTVJ: The show has such a diverse cast and is so representative of Toronto culture and all the great things about it. What do you think about that aspect of the show and, in general, how do you think we’re doing in terms of diversity on Canadian TV shows?
AB: When I saw the first two [episodes], to be frank it took me a minute to adjust to the different races and faces, simply because I think I’m just used to seeing a blanket look across the board with North American television in general, that suddenly seeing this cast that was predominantly Korean and then even the background performers that were different races and colours. It was wonderful because it creates an fuller environment, a more realistic environment. To answer the second part of your question, I think we’re doing better than we were five years ago. I think the explosion of the consciousness of the lack of diversity, particularly on social media, has really helped push things along. The younger generation especially is demanding that they are reflected on TV. I don’t think we’re near where we should be, but it’s progress.
TTVJ: How did you get involved with Kim’s Convenience? What attracted you to the project?
AB: I had be asked to audition for it several times but I was working. Finally, I put myself on tape for it while I was in a hotel room in Jamaica, so it was an awkward little audition [laughs], but I was cast. I had gone to school with [co-showrunner Ins Choi] when I was in university–he was in fourth year when I was in first–and so I had developed a relationship over time, but then we lost touch as you do. But I had followed the evolution of Kim’s Convenience so I had already an attachment to it and I had seen several [of the stage] productions. I had an attachment to it from afar over the years, and especially to Ins, so it was lovely to get to be a part of it.
TTVJ: Speaking of another Canadian production,Tatiana Maslany recently won an Emmy for her performance on Orphan Black. You portrayed Marci Coates in Season 3, Alison’s rival for school trustee, and I was wondering if you could speak about what it was like being on that set?
AB: It was a wonderful experience. Working across from Tatiana is like working across from an old friend. I don’t understand how she can be so open and humble when she’s literally carrying the show on her back. There was a lot of pressure on her and she would go out of her way to make sure, from the very first day I arrived, to make sure I was OK. She actually sent me a text, two days before saying that she was excited to be able to play with me. That never happens with the lead of a show.
Immediately I felt it was an open, warm, positive environment. There’s a lot of play there, there’s a lot of room to improvise and go off book and Tatiana is so unpredictable, and that was the best part of working on the show. Sometimes I was a little scared entering a scene because I had no idea where she would enter from or what she would do or what she would say [laughs]. It’s so easy, especially in television, to sort of go through the motions because you need to get the shot and move on. When you have someone who’s just excited to play as if you were in theatre school, it’s a gift.
So she deserved it. I was in my living room when she won and I screamed and I woke up my baby [laughs]. My parents called me like I had won! I feel like there was a collective scream across Canada when she won.
TTVJ: Another project I see you’re apart of, which I’m really excited about, is the upcoming TV show The Handmaid’s Tale. Although it’s a U.S. production, it’s based on this iconic Canadian novel, which is so cool. What’s that been like?
AB: As far as dream jobs go, this has been it. I have, not unlike Canadian women our age, been exposed to [the Margaret Atwood novel] when I was in high school and it has been with me throughout, in a lot of literature courses. I wrote a series of short stories to get into the York University writing program and I got a full scholarship based on my stories about The Handmaid’s Tale. So I’ve had this deep connection to it from when I was younger, so this job has been unreal. The production value and the bar is set at such a high level–that’s across the board, including Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes, they are extraordinary actors–but the wardrobe and the sets and the direction and the lighting, everything is just beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in terms of quality, attention to detail and the skill of the people behind every department. It’s next level.
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Kim’s Convenience airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC. The Handmaid’s Tale is scheduled to premiere on Hulu in 2017.