Karine Vanasse has a way of lighting up any room she finds herself in—even if that “room” is a Zoom call. As soon as she joins our online meeting—bundled up in a brown Rudsak puffer, her hair pulled back in a runway-perfect slick pony—it feels like I’m reconnecting with an old friend. Though it’s a grey, snowy winter day and she’s recovering from a bad cold, Vanasse still radiates warmth. The award-winning actor—who is best known for her roles in Pan Am, Revenge and Cardinal and has starred in more than 20 movies and a dozen shows in both English and French—has become a familiar onscreen face. She recently finished shooting the English-language adaptation of the highly acclaimed 2017 Québécois time-travel drama Plan B; this new version co-stars Patrick J. Adams (of Suits fame) and was produced by Montreal-based KOTV Productions. Premiering on February 27 on CBC and CBC Gem, the high-intensity series follows Philip (Adams) on a desperate and tireless quest to save his failing relationship with his lover, Evelyn (Vanasse), as well as his law firm and his dysfunctional family through time travel. It doesn’t take long for him to find out that playing with timelines never goes according to plan. We spoke to Vanasse about the new series, working closely with Adams and what’s at the top of her career bucket list. 

Life, no matter how much you try to control it, always has a way of throwing a curveball at you.

What appealed to you about the role of Evelyn? 

“I watched the original series and remembered it enough to want to see how it would be presented years later—how characters and specific situations that had previously been brought to life would be adapted to fit present-day circumstances. The notion of control is pretty much the story’s backbone. When Philip travels back in time, he starts wanting to control every situation and learns the hard way that that’s just not how life goes. That feels like a relevant topic in today’s [climate]. It’s only been six years [since the original show aired], but we’ve come a long way in terms of identifying toxic-relationship signs and exposing certain behaviours.”

What was it like working with Adams, on- and off-camera?

“Because of the story’s reverse chronology, one minute we would be shooting a scene in which Phil and Ev are fighting, and the next we’d be in one where they’re happy and intimate, so we had to be really present and focused. It was challenging. We must have explored every single emotion on the spectrum over the course of the four-month shoot. There is a great deal of vulnerability involved in acting, and I felt safe around Patrick. He would check on me, ask how I was feeling and make sure things went smoothly. He doesn’t give in to the pressure and tension that can build on-set, so he definitely helped me stay grounded. One of the hardest things about acting—and it’s something that makes me love what I do—is the necessity of understanding and decoding the person you’re shooting with beyond their character. That’s what allows you to work together in finding ways to adapt and react under pressure.”

What’s the show’s greatest life lesson? 

“That it’s the little things in life that add up. Pay attention to details, small behaviours and intentions. When you get to a relationship’s breaking point and reflect back, the trigger can often be found in small things that you paid little attention to. It’s an accumulation of decisions, moments of absence, suppressed feelings and thoughts. I think the key is to have the difficult conversations, listen to each other, recognize your partner’s feelings as well as your own, be truly present and not try to control everything. If I were given the opportunity to go back and change something that happened in my life, I wouldn’t. Life, no matter how much you try to control it, always has a way of throwing a curveball at you.”

Speaking of living and learning, what’s the career goal that ranks highest on your bucket list?

“I want to work with Sarah Polley, whether it’s by securing a role in one of her projects, being an extra or even working craft services. I’m still processing the disappointment of not figuring out a way to be involved in Women Talking. I read an article about how Polley took a stance against sexism in the film industry by breaking the existing model—one that isn’t conducive to female actors and having families—and creating a work environment that’s more inclusive. That’s beautiful, and it’s how I aspire to work—that’s how to make an impact that goes well beyond a project.”

What are some of your aspirations for 2023? 

“To slow down! To find stillness and be more alert and open to everything and everyone that comes my way. I want to cultivate the traveller’s mindset in my daily life. Whether I’m forest bathing, starting my day with a three-minute face massage or working, I want to find that inner space that allows me to be a better person.” 

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