TORONTO — In trying to grasp the trauma her “Absentia” character endured while in captivity for several years, Canadian actress Stana Katic reflected on a meeting she had with a real-life victim of such harrowing circumstances: Jaycee Dugard.
The Hamilton-born star says she has someone in common with Dugard, who was abducted in June 1991 on her way to school in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Dugard was held for 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, and gave birth to two daughters in a hidden compound in the couple’s California backyard.
The opportunity came up for Katic and Dugard to meet “in a social setting,” the actress said in a recent interview, noting it happened not as part of her research for “Absentia” but “just because.”
A photo of the two of them together can be seen on Katic’s Facebook page in a post from July 2016.
“She’s a beautiful human being,” Katic said during a stop in Toronto to promote Season 2 of “Absentia,” which premieres Wednesday on Showcase.
“She is, in so many ways, fully realized. After having come from a situation where her identity was stripped away from her in so many ways, for her to unfold into this authentic and fully realized woman — she’s got a great sense of humour, she’s a good person — I admire her.”
Katic said she didn’t use Dugard specifically as a reference point as she crafted her “Absentia” character, former Boston FBI agent Emily Byrne, who is trying to return to “normal” life after being kidnapped and presumed dead during a risky hunt for a serial killer.
But she found Dugard’s story left an impression on her.
“In no way can I say emulated it or anything like that, because that experience is, to me, I have to completely respect it and protect that,” said the former “Castle” star.
“Her ability to recover and her resilience as a human being and the growth that she’s had since that, I honour and respect that woman so much. However, reading her story, hearing about her and meeting her in person, I can’t say that it didn’t leave granules of information for me.”
At the start of Season 2, Emily is in a dark place as she tries to bond with the son she had in her former life before she went missing. She’s also researching her troubled childhood at an orphanage and starting to remember snippets from her time in captivity.
The new season was shot in Bulgaria and explores themes of identity, finding a sense of self and having dominion over yourself, said Katic, noting it also delves into the lives of other characters surrounding Emily.
Overall, Katic feels her character is like Odysseus from Greek mythology and an antihero going through psychological challenges in order to find her way home.
“That’s the kind of character that I am drawn to in my own TV and movie-viewing experience,” Katic said.
“For instance, I love Tom Hardy in ‘Taboo,’ I love Cillian Murphy in ‘Peaky Blinders,’ and of course Tony Soprano…. Humans are imperfect and so why wouldn’t a female character be … a version of an antihero?”