CANNES, France – Viewers have watched former “Smallville” and “Beauty and the Beast” star Kristin Kreuk grow up on television.
The 35-year-old Vancouver-native has spent half her life in the spotlight. She was still a teenager when “Smallville” launched in 2001, making her an instant Comic-Con crush as Clark Kent’s girlfriend Lana Lang. After a dozen years as a CW ingenue, she finally felt like the grown-up on the set while making CBC’s “Burden of Truth,” which premieres Wednesday.
Compounding that feeling is working opposite young actresses who were her age when she started out on “Smallville.”
“To be around them, it feels like, ‘Oh God, your entire life I’ve been on a set,'” says Kreuk during a press tour in Cannes, where the series was being shopped internationally.
“That’s a weird experience for me to own.”
These young actresses didn’t grow up watching “Smallville,” Kreuk points out, “because they would have been three!”
The new hour-long drama is about a big city lawyer who tackles a troubling case that brings her back in touch with her small-town roots. The series was shot in Selkirk, Man., about 70 kilometres outside of Winnipeg.
In a season-long storyline, Kreuk’s character — fast-rising corporate lawyer Joanna Hanley — is dispatched to the prairie town of Millwood to quickly shut down a case against a giant pharmaceutical company. Young girls at the local high school have come down with a mysterious illness causing uncontrollable seizures. Hanley is there, essentially, to buy off the victims and their families.
The series was created by Brad Simpson, a story editor and writer who previously worked on “Rookie Blue” and the short-lived Toronto cop drama “King.” It was developed at eOne “but it wasn’t going anywhere,” says seasoned executive producer Ilana Frank (“Saving Hope,” “Rookie Blue”).
Simpson, Frank’s stepson, relinquished the producer role and Adam Pettie (“Saving Hope”) was brought in as showrunner.
“I thought: this has got to be made,” says Frank. “Kristin was already attached so some of the hard work was done already.”
Kreuk, also an executive producer, huddled with Simpson in the early going to define her character and continues that collaboration with Pettie.
“I feel like she’s a creation of all of us,” says Kreuk, who sees the young lawyer as “a little socially awkward — like me.”
Frank thinks of the series “as a cross between ‘Friday Night Lights’ and a kind of (John) Grisham thing.” The back-to-the-small-town storyline may remind some viewers of the drama “Everwood,” starring Treat Williams.
“I wanted it to be about the community,” says Frank, “but I didn’t want people with straw out of their mouths. I wanted real people with real problems.”
The main problem in the first season is the mysterious illness inflicting the otherwise healthy high school girls. Representing the victims is Hanley’s former high school classmate, Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney from “Rookie Blue”). Mooney, in real life, hails from “a slightly bigger small town” just south of Winnipeg.
The Selkirk locals were “welcoming and wonderful,” says Mooney. “They got over having a film crew in town fairly quickly.”
What viewers will slowly discover is that there was a reason the Hanleys abruptly left town when Joanna was 14; a secret that will take much of the season to become clear.
“Every week,” says Kreuk, “you will get another piece of the puzzle.”
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont. While in Cannes, Brioux was a guest of Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated that Brad Simpson departed the series.