Caroline Dhavernas, best known for playing quirky slacker Jaye Tyler on
the short-lived 2004 Fox dramedy "Wonderfalls," soured on the small
screen after the series was time-shifted and yanked from the fall
schedule after airing only four of its 13 episodes. "We were put on a
Friday night, and the politics of the whole thing really disappointed
the Montreal native says of her first experience with network TV.
She says she "hasn't really done television since" because of the hours.
"The lead in a show [works] a 16-hour day for seven months,"
and "that kind of life"
wasn't what she wanted.
She has apparently changed her mind. Dhavernas returns to the medium
Jan. 12 with a regular series role for the first time in eight years.
She stars on ABC's midseason Doctors Without Borders–style drama "Off
the Map." Executive produced by "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice"
showrunner Shonda Rhimes, and created by Rhimes' protégé Jenna Bans,
"Off the Map" transports doctors from typical hospital locations to a
clinic set in lush tropical settings—which helped draw Dhavernas to the
project. "We're not in the studio, which is great,"
says the actor. The
pilot was filmed in Puerto Rico in March; once the cast and crew
received word that "Off the Map" was going to series, filming shifted to
Hawaii, where production began in mid-August. Notes the actor, "Our
studio is a clinic in the middle of Hawaii: It's an outdoor clinic with
windows that's entirely open, so we're never in a dusty studio. Then,
once in a while, we'll be shooting around the island."
Charting Her Course
The actor says she's glad to return to a series, "But I'm also glad that I didn't over the past few years when I was offered lead roles."
She explains, "Even with an ensemble cast, you do have the occasional day off. Doing television is like running a marathon, and right now I feel it. I can sleep for nine hours but I wake up like I haven't slept. It's really physically demanding. Also to be away from everyone you know for so long, your soul feels it bigtime. You have to think ahead: 'What is it going to be the next few years? Are we going to be living here [in Hawaii] for the next few years? If that's the case, I think I can make it work.' There's something beautiful about this place. People are very welcoming; they're beautiful and generous with their time and their knowledge of surfing. They love this island so much. I'm learning a lot from these people."
To play the series' Dr. Lily Brenner, Dhavernas went through a medical boot camp before filming on the series began, learning how to take blood pressure and perform basic procedures regularly featured on the drama. "It's been amazing to learn so much about the body,"
says Dhavernas, who has become "hooked" on "Grey's Anatomy"—"It's like candy or any kind of drug you can't live without."
But the surgical element of the series pales in comparison with how much she's enjoying filming some of the outdoor scenes; early promos for "Off the Map" feature Dhavernas ziplining through the rainforest to save a patient. "I love that stuff and had to do a lot of scenes in the water recently. I would do these [action] scenes so many times over an operating room scene. I'm really in my element when I'm on a zipline or in the water; I love it."
Dhavernas says the show is so much more than a typical drama. "It is a medical show, but it's a drama, and a comedy, and a romance, and action. The medical stuff is certainly a part of it, but it's not a show about [Doctors Without Borders]; that's more like the backdrop of it all."Old Friends, New Journeys
Though splitting time between Canada and Hawaii is new for the actor, part of Jaye remains with her on the "Off the Map" set: Former "Wonderfalls" writer Aaron Harberts is penning episodes of the medical series and regularly compares Dhavernas' two characters. "I can't help but feel like Lily could be Jaye had she gotten her shit together,"
Dhavernas says, laughing. "Aaron sees the same actress, same features, same facial expressions at times. They're totally different characters, though: Jaye was a slacker who didn't want to help people, and Lily has an open heart and is here to help people and is pure intent."Jaye was helping because she had to or else bad things happened to people around her,"
Dhavernas continues. "Her journey was to learn how to open up to people, and Lily's journey is completely different; she has to learn how to let go, and she's not a control freak, but she has a certain way of doing things, and she has to learn that, in the jungle, you just wing it and you have to go with your instincts,"
she says. "They couldn't be more different, which is fun; I like playing different characters. Jaye was a bit farther from who I am than Lily is. I feel a bit closer to Lily, but I loved playing Jaye because she was such a weirdo and I had so much fun playing her."OUT TAKES
-Is French-Canadian and began her career at age 8 dubbing television series. Also did her own dubbing for the French translation of "Wonderfalls."
-Appeared in the films "Breach" and "Devil"; also had a role in the HBO miniseries "The Pacific"
-Made her film debut at age 12 in "Comme un Voleur"source