THIS LIFE is CBC Television’s new hour-long drama series about a single mother in her forties who must juggle the transitioning lives of her three young kids, anchor her unconventional family, and reinvent her own life. There’s also the matter of her latest medical diagnosis: terminal cancer.
Natalie Lawson (Torri Higginson), the series protagonist, is dying of kidney cancer, but throughout THIS LIFE, the illness jump-starts a journey that will cause Natalie and her loved ones to discover who they are and what they’re truly capable of.
You’ll be tuning into a series that’s adapted from Richard Blaimert’s Nouvelle adresse, a Quebec phenomenon and an original series that’s garnered close to a million viewers each week.
But as many of us who have been working behind-the-scenes all summer in Montreal on THIS LIFE will attest to, you’ll be coming back week after week because of the series’ incredible humanity.
It seems for far too many Canadians across the country, cancer is woven into a family's identity -- including my own. The disease is all-encompassing and spreads much further than the person it’s consuming. “Goodbyes” take on extra importance and family vacations to the Bahamas turn into family staycations at the local hospital.
However, life doesn't have to be defined by a cancer diagnosis, and just like it is the case in my own family, Natalie and her fictional Lawson clan refuse to let it control their lives. Therein lies what I think is the beauty of THIS LIFE... this show focuses on what it is to live in the face of cancer.
As a result, at the core of THIS LIFE, is, well, life itself.
THIS LIFE is a story about the challenges, big or small, that populate Natalie and the Lawsons’ daily lives. For the show’s lead character, this means reining in her son Caleb (James Wotherspoon), 19, who’s trying to balance his future prospects with the pressure of being a father figure to his two little sisters. It also means keeping a watchful eye on her daughter Emma (Stephanie Janusauskas), 15, who launches into her first serious relationship with a boy. Finally, it’s also defined by Natalie’s struggle to contain her youngest daughter Romy (Julia Scarlett Dan), 13, whose gifted mind isn’t translating into success at her new school and, instead, threatens to break her at the seams.
But even outside of Natalie’s relatable experience lies other Lawsons in crisis. Natalie’s oldest brother Matthew (Rick Roberts) is sinking in quicksand as cracks begin to show in his “perfect” facade. Then there’s Maggie (Lauren Lee Smith), Natalie’s wild-child little sister, who takes the news of the diagnosis as an opportunity to stop wasting her life away. Rounding out the Lawson siblings is Oliver (Kristopher Turner), who early on fled from home to start an artistic life in Los Angeles by way of New York City. He returns home to support Natalie but clashes with his parents over a problematic past, making it hard to carry a secret he left behind in LA. Finally, Gerald (Peter MacNeill) and Janine (Janet-Laine Green), the Lawson grandparents, begin to doubt the way they raised their kids in the face of their daughter’s illness, raising new questions about Janine’s long held faith and Gerald’s stringent ways.
Aside from its unique story and colourful characters, THIS LIFE will also offer viewers the chance to visit Canada’s most cosmopolitan city: Montreal.
Specifically, THIS LIFE will introduce you to one of this country’s most unique neighbourhoods, Notre-dame-de-grace. NDG is a diverse neighbourhood that hosts much of Montreal’s tiny anglo-community, including Natalie and her kids. It’s also produced a bevy of Canada’s most recognizable names including actors Jay Baruchel, Jessica Pare, and William Shatner, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, pop-rock star Sam Roberts, and poet Irving Layton.
Consider yourself primed and ready to watch all new episodes of THIS LIFE, Mondays -- 9pm -- on CBC Television.
I’m Max Morin, Story Coordinator and your official insider for all things THIS LIFE. Stay plugged-in to the blog -- we’ve got many more behind the scenes treats to come!
Watch the stars and producers talk about the tones and themes of THIS LIFE:
Watch a video about the process of adapting Nouvelle adresse into THIS LIFE: