TORONTO – When we last visited “Sensitive Skin,” things did not look good for Davina and Al.
Particularly Al (played by Don McKellar), who was flatlining in a hospital after suffering a heart attack.
Then there’s Davina (played by Kim Catrall), a woman of a certain age struggling to redefine herself post kids and career. When things pick up in season 2, premiering Sunday on HBO Canada, her world has changed — some would say for the better.
Instead of living in a sterile, downtown Toronto condo, she’s moved into a houseboat on Lake Ontario amid the Toronto Islands. Instead of Al, she’s there with a bright little terrier named Pixel.
McKellar, who once again directed all six episodes, says viewers should prepare to meet a very different Davina.
“We’ve pushed the character quite far,” he says. “It’s quite a radical push. We’re not jumping any sharks. It’s still a continuation of the same characters but it’s a definitely surprising combination.”
McKellar, Catrall and the producers were coy about Al’s fate. There were hints that Al was still “present,” but what that means is unclear. All producer and Rhombus Media co-founder Niv Fichman would say is that “Al is not completely gone.”
McKellar, Catrall and others stayed on the islands while production was based there last summer.
“It feels about as far as Yellowknife,” marvelled McKellar. “On the weekend I took a canoe out,” he says. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is wild. Herons, wild turkeys, mink — this is the middle of the city!'”
Catrall, still best known as a “Sex and the City” girl, seemed right at home in a very country-like atmosphere.
“It’s so great to film in a place,” she says, “that’s so close and yet so far.”
Camping out on a real houseboat during production “has been a fantasy of mine,” she adds. “It’s kind of like you’re away, but you’re home. The water is very calming.”
Born in Liverpool and raised in Vancouver, Catrall says she’s used to islands. She still lives on one now — Manhattan.
Still, the Toronto Islands are a much more rural experience. Restaurant choices are limited to one, Catrall says. Equipment has to be sent over by barge.
Production hassles aside, the experience was worth it, says Catrall. Being on the islands helped her relate to her character, who is finding herself on her own island journey.
Also an executive producer on “Sensitive Skin,” Catrall is proud to be associated with a series told from the point of view of a woman at mid-life. It’s a rare perspective, she feels, on TV these days. “It’s a story that nobody else is telling,” she says.
Some friends and fans wondered why Davina seemed to be drifting away from Al before his heart attack last season. Catrall acknowledges “Al was a source of lightness in Davina’s life,” but, she says, “sometimes relationships run their course.” Besides, she says, “he’s never listening to her!”
Fellow executive producer Bob Martin (“Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays”) is back as head writer, with Colm Feore and Joanna Gleason returning as continuing characters. Mary Walsh also makes a return appearance.
“Sensitive Skin” is based on a short-lived British series of the same name. Fichman says season 2 sticks with the British blueprint. In the original, Davina moves to a houseboat on the Thames, “so it’s very similar,” he says.
“We’re hoping for a third season in which case we’ll be totally liberated to do what we want.”
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.