Why The CW's 'Burden of Truth' Is Summer TV's Best-Kept Secret
By Philiana Ng
Cause One Productions/Cause One Manitoba
Smallville alum Kristin Kreuk returns to The CW on Burden of Truth, a Canadian TV drama that deftly combines elements of true-crime intrigue, along with a splash of Erin Brockovich, mixed in with a fish-out-of-water tale, a la Hart of Dixie -- only far more serious. In the series, Kreuk plays big-city power attorney Joanna Hanley, who returns to her hometown of Millwood in order to represent a large pharmaceutical company against a group of sick teenage girls. Over time, however, Joanna discovers that there's something else going on, teaming up with ex-classmate Billy Crawford (Rookie Blue's Peter Mooney) in uncovering the conspiracy that's been making these girls fall ill.
What makes Burden of Truth stand apart from the usual fare on The CW isn't just the fact that its DNA is firmly rooted in reality (no superhero capes here), its gradual unraveling of the main investigation creates an aura of mystery that successful crime dramas like True Detective and Sharp Objects have accomplished in exquisite fashion. Uninterested in charting a will they-won't they romance between Joanna and Billy (though hints of a burgeoning connection are planted), the series instead focuses on their unexpected partnership as they navigate and attempt to expose -- oftentimes unsuccessfully -- the corruption holding the town hostage.
"We get to take a little bit more time and explore some of the things that would really be happening, spend a lot of time in discovery or doing a lot of the things that often when we watch lawyer shows, we don't get to spend a lot of time doing. As an actor, it's that much more of a fun challenge because we see the intricacies along the way and I think that might be what hooks the audience," Mooney tells ET. "You really get pulled into their world. You're really inside this one case for this one season with Billy and Joanna. As opposed to a quick bite every week, it's a big, long feat."
Already in production on season two (the freshman run aired earlier this year in Canada), ET caught up with Mooney, who some may be familiar with from his cop days as Officer Nick Collins on Rookie Blue, to chat about the surprising appeal of Burden of Truth, his own obsession with true crime and what's in store for the rest of the season.
ET: Fans first became familiar with you as Nick Collins on Rookie Blue. What has the transition from cop to lawyer been like?
Peter Mooney: The first thing is the props are very different. I don't have to worry about handcuffs anymore and it's a lot of files. (Laughs.)
What was the initial draw to the character of Billy Crawford?
Billy is so different from other characters I've played. He's someone who is fiercely intelligent but keeps that a well-guarded secret. He's kind of embarrassed of the capabilities of his own mind. I find any time playing someone with that kind of duality is an exciting thing. In terms of the contrast with Kristin's character, Joanna, and Billy, that was also attractive as an actor getting to play across from someone who is so opposite from your character.
What's your take on Joanna and Billy's unlikely partnership?
It's a really fun dynamic to play because they're so opposite in so many fundamental ways. Other than a similar geography up until they were 14, they have very little common ground. But they kind of fit into each other really because they have such different strengths and different weaknesses and a different outlook. They complement each other beautifully, but because they don't have that much common ground, it's not an easy road between the two of them. It's pretty bumpy.
Speaking more specifically to Wednesday's episode, "Witch Hunt," this episode represents a crucial point in Joanna and Billy's investigation into what caused the girls to get sick -- and we get a sense of who their opponent will be for the rest of the season. Can you give us a little tease?
What's cool about episode five is this is the episode where, for everybody, it gets personal. For Billy, it was personal right out of the gate with [his niece] Molly, who was one of the girls who got sick. But with Joanna, now that she's essentially up against her old firm, that's a whole other level. For everyone, it becomes a real personal fight. And for all the girls who have fallen ill this season, the fact that now people have started looking at them with fear and suspicion, some parts of the town are turning against them, it just makes it all that much harder for them. Everyone in this series, by episode five, is fighting a personal battle.
You mentioned Billy's close relationship with his niece, Molly, which isn't something we've seen on TV much before. What have you enjoyed about exploring that bond?
I love that we're looking at a family that comes from pretty rough origins, that comes from difficulty, but that has navigated their way into this non-traditional sense of family. Billy, in so many ways, serves as a proxy father figure and even though Molly is his niece, they have a special closeness. I love that with them, they've built their own family out of what they had. I think it's a really solid family that they've built and I love that about it.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, I imagine things get hairy for everyone involved in the case. What can you tease how the season wraps up? Will there be surprising turns?
I'll be honest, things don't get easier for any of our characters for a while. (Laughs.) It gets pretty tough and this season does resolve in a way that I felt was really beautiful. But it's not how I expected [it to end]. It was a really satisfying trip reading those last two episodes. Audiences are in for a real ride until the end.
You're already knee-deep in filming season two, which I read focuses on an entirely new mystery. Can you give us an early preview?
It is, although what they did so beautifully with the new season is they kept everything we had from last year, so all the characters from last year we've come to know actually play a role in this new mystery. The two things end up being more related than it first seems.
Do you feel like you have a handle on being in this world now?
Billy's a little more comfortable in season two. I think he's adapted to his role and to what it means to be a lawyer and how he can be that, while also sticking to his moral compass. Billy's a little more confident in his abilities in season two and the way that him and Joanna come to pair up again is pretty cool. (Laughs.) I don't want to give anything away, but the circumstances that bring them back together is pretty fantastic.
Did you find yourself diving deeper into a true-crime hole after Burden of Truth?
I'm a real podcast junkie, so S-Town and Serial, I loved these things even before I started on the show. And because with this show, we're not tackling a case of the week, we have that intricate, long weave through these investigations like some of those serialized true-crime things that I love.
Lastly, what do you want people to know about Wednesday's episode?
It's the danger that fear and the unknown can present, and how when things are scary, people can turn on each other at the worst of times. That's what [episode] five is about for me, but I will say to the fans, it heads towards a beautiful place and an unexpected resolution and an unexpected glimmer of hope towards the end of it.
To get a sense of what the show is all about, watch a trailer below.