Caroline Dhavernas is ready for her close-up. Again.
The petite Montrealer, some may recall, was tapped for TV stardom several years ago in the Fox drama Wonderfalls, in which she played a character who received cryptic messages from inanimate objects. Critics were wild about the show and Dhavernas herself, but Fox pulled the plug on Wonderfalls after only four episodes.
Now Dhavernas is back in the spotlight as the idealistic Dr. Lily Brenner in the ABC medical drama Off the Map, which comes from the creators of Grey's Anatomy.
Then or now, Dhavernas is no neophyte to the fame game. She was already an acting veteran by the time Wonderfalls came and went in 2004. A child star in her native Quebec, Dhavernas began in the business by dubbing American films into French and doing voice work on Canadian series.
Following the demise of Wonderfalls, Dhavernas was sought out by casting directors, which resulted in the 2006 film Hollywoodland, starring Ben Affleck, and the Canadian feature Passchendaele.
And now she's back. Dhavernas has lived primarily in Los Angeles since Wonderfalls but recently relocated to Hawaii, where Off the Map is filmed (the drama is set in a remote town in the South American rain forest). She took time for a chat at the recent TV critics’ tour.
What makes Off the Map unique among medical dramas?
It's a very different medical drama. We're not in a hospital, we're not wearing scrubs and we have very little to practise medicine with. There's the culture shock between how we do things and how the locals practise medicine. And there's two languages going on. The stakes are much higher and that brings people closer together in the medical profession.
What was your prep to play a doctor?
There wasn't that much to do. We have medical techs to help us out with all the medical stuff and jargon. I watched a documentary called Living in Emergency, about Doctors Without Borders, which was really amazing. These doctors aren't your typical doctors. Mostly they're people who didn't feel comfortable practising regular medicine back home.
What pushed you toward acting as a child?
Both my parents were actors, so I started when I was eight years old doing voiceover work, dubbing American movies into French and so on. When I was 11, I started doing television and film and just fell in love with it.
You must have been an outgoing kid.
No, I was very shy and sometimes people would wonder whether I was being forced to do this by my parents, which wasn't the case at all. I was thrilled to be there, but my internal world was very busy. Outwardly I looked like I was having a bad time, but I really loved it.
Why do you think Wonderfalls came and went so quickly?
I was certain we had something different and unique and funny. It was a risk for the network to say yes to Wonderfalls in the first place. Then a new president came in and didn't really get the concept.
Any lessons learned?
I learned you can't plan ahead on American television. The critics loved the show. Four episodes aired out of the 13 we filmed, then fans had to wait for the DVD to find out the rest of the story.
ABC is the network of strong female-driven dramas – Grey's Anatomy, Rookie Blue et al. Is there a presumption of success with Off the Map?
Not for me. You just can't plan for anything in the business of American television. No one else in the world does things this way. No other business has the budget to make expensive pilots and just throw them out if they don't think people will like it. The process itself is so bizarre.
Is there something in your Canadian upbringing that comes out in your character?
Possibly. I think Canadians are used to doing a bit of everything. We're open-minded people. My character Lily is sometimes described as being a bit of a Girl Scout. I've never been a Girl Scout but I certainly know what it means to be adventurous. I'm always ready to jump in the water.
What do you miss most about living in Montreal?
I don't have to miss it all that much, because I do go back there all the time. I was just there for the holidays. My house is there, my friends, my family are all there. What I miss mostly is living in the city, and the opportunity to go to the museum or to go see live music whenever I like.
But pretty nice to live and work in Hawaii, right?
What I gain in Hawaii is that I get to live right by the ocean and learn how to surf. So you know, you win some, you lose some.