Goodbyes are tough. They should be, when people care about something, or someone.
It’ll be an intense evening on Monday, May 11, as the beloved crime drama CARDINAL, set in the frigid and fictional Northern Ontario community of Algonquin Bay, airs its series finale at 10 p.m. ET on CTV. Devoted TV audiences, as well as a deeply loyal online community, must say farewell to a show they’ve held dear for four award-winning seasons.
The cast – led by Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse – the creators, and the crew physically parted ways several months ago, but in fairness, there should have been more opportunities to get together this spring, at various awards shows and events, to take stock of everything achieved. But with all such in-person gatherings altered or delayed due to coronavirus, it seems to lend even more weight to the final episode, which is appropriately titled, “John & Lise.”
Campbell, who plays lead character John Cardinal, was in an emotional mood while talking about the end of the series, not only for the obvious reasons, but also because of a personal connection. Campbell understood immediately when he was told that the Cardinal character in some ways reminds me of my own father, in that Cardinal isn’t comfortable letting anybody else do anything for him, not realizing that sometimes the nicest thing to do is to accept such a gesture, be it big or small.
“Absolutely, yeah, I think that’s true – he reminds me of my dad as well,” Campbell said. “I think that’s spot on about John Cardinal. He’s one of those old-fashioned guys, like your dad, like my dad. My dad really didn’t believe at all in taking credit for anything that he ever did for anyone else. He was a very thoughtful guy, but humble to a fault. He couldn’t even take credit for the things that he’d ever done well, at all. It’s a very interesting sort of thing, and I think Cardinal’s got a fair dose of that himself.”
Campbell said that back when he first spoke about CARDINAL with Daniel Grou (director of Seasons 1 and 3, and an executive producer), they were trying to think of one word to describe the main character. Then at the exact same moment, Campbell and Grou both blurted out the same answer.
“Tortured,” Campbell recalled. “I think he’s tortured, he’s tortured with guilt, he can never do enough, he can never be enough. And my dad was that way. He could never ever be enough for himself. Maybe John Cardinal doesn’t feel that he deserves what people want to give him. And that’s a trap thing, but it’s also something that certainly you and I can identify with, because of our fathers.”
Vanasse was asked what she’s most proud of, looking back at four seasons of CARDINAL.
“We were after something real, something that had heart, and it was just an honest ride,” she said. “The level of spontaneous reactions we are still getting from these characters, right to the end, is very special to me. That’s what the job should be about, for everybody, not just the actors, but the writers, the directors. What are we after? Yes, we want people to be entertained, but what viewers are responding to is, you know, truth. That’s it. We want to see characters living something that feels true to us. I feel like CARDINAL did that. It was complex most of the time, but that’s what life is about anyway. So that’s what makes me the proudest.”
Same question for Campbell. What makes him most proud?
“Oh my goodness, I mean, just the show itself – it may be the very best gig of my entire career,” Campbell said. “I got to do some really fun, juicy work with people that I love. It just feels really weird to think that there’s no more CARDINAL. But I love this show, and I love the people that I have been working with, and I loved where we were, and what we were doing. I loved all of it, all the time. And I will miss it dearly.”
As will TV viewers across Canada, and around the world.
BY BILL HARRIS ~ SPECIAL TO THE LEDE