Kristin Kreuk Dishes on 'Intense' 'Burden of Truth' Season 2 and 'Smallville' Reunions (Exclusive)
Kristin Kreuk is starting a new chapter on Burden of Truth. When the Canadian drama returns for its sophomore run stateside, hotshot attorney Joanna Chang is attempting to start over with a new job, a new name (goodbye Hanley, hello Chang!) and a new case. But following her successful lawsuit against the steel mill in her hometown of Millwood, Joanna is dragged back into a dark world filled with secrets when she's assigned a hacktivist case that will turn her life upside down.
"It's just so intense the impact that these characters have on people's lives, how they see themselves in them, how it helps to give them courage, how it gives voice to some of their struggles with their family and their lovers," Kreuk, who serves as an executive producer, tells ET of the impact the show has had on viewers. "And to see this woman struggle to find her humanity despite all the odds being against her with the horrible live she's had."
Ahead of the U.S. launch of season two (it aired in Canada earlier this year), ET spoke with Kreuk about what viewers can expect in the upcoming episodes, the slow-burn of a maybe-romance between Joanna and Billy (Rookie Blue's Peter Mooney), looking ahead to season three and reuniting with her Smallville co-star Tom Welling for the first time in years.
ET: You've had two seasons under your belt playing Joanna. How has your time spent in her shoes evolved your understanding of who she is?
Kristin Kreuk: Out of all the characters I've played, I believe Joanna and I are the most similar. I can relate to her in a bunch of different ways. Obviously our circumstances are very different, but every year we just go a little bit deeper. The show is ultimately about inter-generational trauma and how we heal from that inter-generational trauma. Our show looks at it through the personal with Joanna, but also societal with the indigenous storyline, which season two gets heavily into. Over the last two seasons and now with the writers' room on the third season, we've been able to go deeper and deeper into her psyche and that forces me to go deeper and deeper into that part of me that is like her.
In the new season, Joanna has changed her last name from Hanley to Chang, she's working at a new law firm and trying to start over. Can you set the table for where Joanna is at the start of season two?
She's starting off the new season invigorated: This is going to be great! I'm going to change. Screw my dad, hate that guy. I'm not going to be a Hanley, I'm going to be Chang. That's going to be my new life. She tries legitimately to do that. We start the season with her at her new law firm, where she's a partner and it's more a touchy-feely type law firm, where people talk about their feelings and people talk about sex. The case she is confronted with is a hacktivist case and all about the privacy movement. Her life ends up being on the line or at least she's threatened quite intensely.
What is Billy up to?
Meanwhile, Billy is in Millwood facing the consequences of winning the case [from last season] and being in a single-industry town, with the steel mill closed, it becomes a depressing town where people aren't working and people are angry. He doesn't have any work and the life that he thought he would have, he doesn't. His brother arrives and drama ensues. Partway through the season, we have a big shift that delves into inter-generational trauma but also racism in the justice system.
You mentioned Joanna's life being on the line this season. How does the new case she takes on ramp up the stakes for her?
The man Joanna is representing is Noah, a hacktivist who believes that we all should have internet privacy and privacy in our lives. What happens is he creates a problem for his former employers who are mining data in a way that's very questionable. They are a huge conglomerate and that puts Joanna at risk because she starts defending Noah and discovering these things.
The season starts off with Joanna and Billy doing their own thing separately and having their stories run parallel to each other. Has that been an interesting shift for you in revisiting these characters this way?
Yeah. It lets us see where both the characters are separate from each other. I like that it's not a traditional storytelling method, their potential... whatever storyline, if it's a love story or not. (Laughs.) I like that we get to see them if they were alone, what would be the things they would be doing and how their presence influences each other. And the reason to come back together is pretty dramatic, so that pushes them into a very intense situation.
You touched on the "whatever" part of their relationship. I was rooting for them to get together in some way, shape or form last season. Are you interested in exploring Joanna and Billy romantically?
They obviously like each other and they have a certain chemistry. I don't know how prepared either of those individuals are to sustain a relationship, Joanna particularly, but also Billy. We haven't really seen much of his [personal life] but you'll see more of that in season two. They're incredibly similar but opposite, if that makes any sense. They both have had terrible upbringings for different reasons. The parenting Joanna received was much more authoritarian and Billy's was kind of the opposite, very neglectful, and that resulted in Joanna pursuing her career in an intense way and Billy not. They're both broken and they can understand that brokenness more than anybody else in their lives, but they don't talk about it because neither know how to talk about their feelings. They have a very complicated connection that will evolve pretty organically, considering the intensity of the circumstances of the season.
As a producer, is there a particular story or issue that you felt really needed to be addressed in season three?
The story that the writers' room is working on right now is really fascinating. It's a story that is pretty well-known in Canada, but it has to do children. In our show, when we're dealing with inter-generational trauma, what I'm excited to look into deeper is how people heal and can you break the cycle? Can you break the cycle? Each season, we get closer to seeing the difficulty of doing that and that it wasn't a light switch and it's something you go back and forth on. There's never one instant change that changes your entire family history or societal history. Season three, I'm looking forward to seeing Joanna deal with the fallout of what happens in season two, where she's faced with a massive, emotional incident.
It was cool to see you reunite with your Smallville co-stars Tom Welling and Michael Rosenbaum recently. What was that experience like?
It's funny, I hadn't seen Tom Welling since we wrapped the show. Michael and I have kept in touch over the years, but it's funny to see someone and be like, "Holy crap, you're exactly the same but totally different." And how they remember things about the show, I realize I have no recollection of any anecdotes from set. (Laughs.) I just don't remember anything anymore, it was pretty funny!
Burden of Truth premieres season two on Sunday, June 2 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
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