Swan gets real in new drama

Cana­dian ac­tress takes on crime and au­top­sies

The Expositor (Brantford) - - ENTERTAINMENT - DANA GEE [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/dana_gee

Serinda Swan felt there was more to her new TV char­ac­ter coro­ner Jenny Cooper than the study of bod­ily flu­ids, skin tis­sue and blood spray pat­terns.

Swan felt Cooper, the lead in the new CBC drama Coro­ner, had an in­ter­nal life that was also ripe for dis­sec­tion.

“I re­ally want to keep her as hu­man as pos­si­ble. I don’t want her to be a coro­ner that hap­pens to be a per­son. I wanted her to be a per­son who hap­pens to be a coro­ner,” Swan said she told Coro­ner showrun­ner Adri­enne Mitchell and cre­ator Mor­wyn Breb­ner when they were dis­cussing the role.

“I wanted to be able to lead with her hu­man­ity. I wanted to lead with ev­ery­thing she feels.”

In the new eight-part se­ries we meet Cooper just as her hus­band has dropped dead.

Once an emer­gency room doc­tor, Cooper’s mount­ing anx­i­ety has forced her to make big changes and nav­i­gate new, very of­ten emo­tional, wa­ters. To help start anew she packs up her teenage son, moves to Toronto and takes a job as a coro­ner.

“First and fore­most it’s watch­ing a woman’s ex­pe­ri­ence in this new life,” said Swan, who grew up in Van­cou­ver, but has called Los An­ge­les home since 2009.

The daugh­ter of a theatre di­rec­tor (Scott Swan) and an ac­tress turned spir­i­tual healer (Alan­dra Na­pali Kai), Swan’s first gig was along­side her mother on the Ted Dan­son and Is­abella Ros­sellini 1989 film Cousins when she was just three years old. She re­mem­bers there was candy.

In her teens she be­gan to model, but that life was not for Swan. She didn’t like the scene, the process and what it rep­re­sented, and how it made her feel. She says it was a life she was happy to walk away from.

“We can all be duped into think­ing our value is the sex­ual en­ergy we can get from an­other per­son, or the sex­ual at­ten­tion we can get,” said Swan adding she never saw her­self as a model turned ac­tor.

“That has noth­ing to do with me. That’s my mother. That’s my fa­ther. That’s my ge­net­ics,” said Swan of her model-friendly looks. “If I solely rely on my ge­net­ics for my life’s cre­ativ­ity then I’m a bit of a jack­ass.”

Her new TV char­ac­ter is a long way from glossy mag­a­zine pic­to­ri­als. Sure she has great eye­brows, but Jenny isn’t run­ning around crime scenes in four-inch stilet­tos and per­fectly tai­lored, de­signer suits.

“I put on eight pounds for the char­ac­ter, and I made sure when I cut my hair my bangs were a lit­tle off. I wanted it to look util­i­tar­ian. I wanted it to look like she did it in her sink,” said Swan. “I didn’t want this to be a pretty, shiny char­ac­ter.”

A pair of Hunter gum­boots used for out­door crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tions is as fancy as Cooper gets.

Swan says she is look­ing to sub­stance over sex ap­peal, plain and sim­ple.

“The peo­ple who have longevity in this in­dus­try are the peo­ple who have made them­selves, and they have made them­selves into many dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters,” said Swan, who played Anne Ban­croft op­po­site Jes­sica Lange’s Joan Craw­ford in TV mogul Ryan Mur­phy’s minis­eries Feud.

“As a woman we are told our value de­creases as we get older,” added Swan. “I’m like: my value ac­tu­ally in­creases. On the out­side I may not be val­ued as much by so­ci­ety, but the con­ver­sa­tions I can have and my abil­ity to con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety, the wis­dom, that in­creases my value.”

There is no word yet if Swan will get to play Cooper again. That will be de­ter­mined after the se­ries goes to air. Ei­ther way, she says she is re­ally proud of the show and loved that she got to shoot it in Toronto, and Toronto got to re­main Toronto.

Swan also had an ex­tra ex­pert on set if she needed to talk about be­ing a coro­ner. In fact, she had ac­cess to an ear­lier Cana­dian TV coro­ner: Ni­cholas Camp­bell, a.k.a. Do­minic Da Vinci, from Da Vinci’s In­quest. Camp­bell shows up in this new se­ries as Cooper’s fa­ther.

“He’s a leg­end,” said Swan, when asked about the award-win­ning Camp­bell. “On the last day of shoot­ing he said this is one of his favourite projects he has ever worked on. It brought tears to my eyes.”

“Oh yeah, I do,” said Swan, who then ex­plained what hap­pens in a reg­u­lar au­topsy after they take out or­gans and dis­sect and test them.

“At the end of it ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing your brain, goes into a yel­low plas­tic bag and gets sewn into your stom­ach, your chest cav­ity,” said Swan. “So any time there is ever an open cas­ket ev­ery­thing is just in there, in the stom­ach, in a bag.”

Right now Swan is back at home in Los An­ge­les and work­ing on the ed­u­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy com­pany she co-founded two years ago.

Deedly (as in good deeds) is a free ed­u­ca­tion app to which kids from grades 6 to 12 can sign up with their teach­ers. In the app is a cur­ricu­lum that is based around world is­sues like men­tal health, ed­u­ca­tion, poverty and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion. Through the app kids have ac­cess to char­i­ties that work with those is­sues.

“I had this mo­ment in 2011 when I re­al­ized that my voice can’t just be telling my story. It needs to be an ed­u­cated voice, and it needs to tell the story of many,” said Swan.

BEN MARK HOLZBERG/HAND­OUT PHOTO

Serinda Swan plays cor­ner Jenny Cooper in the new CBC drama Cor­ner.

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