Abigail Winter is a Canadian actress who stars in Global’s hit show Mary Kills People. Her past credits include appearances on shows like Between, Rookie Blue and Saving Hope among others. Coming, up, Abigail is also guest starring in the television series The Detail about three female homicide detectives who solve crimes while also dealing with their personal lives.
In our latest exclusive interview we’ve been able to sit down with her to talk about the show, it’s principal features and what’s in store for it’s second season which is already available in Canada and premieres soon (12/03) on Lifetime in the United States.
– Hi Abigail. First of all, for people who don’t know about the show, tell us about Mary Kills People.
Mary Kills People is a unique, trail blazing drama about a doctor named Mary Harris who also moonlights as someone who helps the terminally ill with assisted suicide. In the world which the show in set, doctor assisted suicide is not yet legal. Because of this, Mary must hide her “side job” to her family, as well as continually covering her tracks so that she is not found out by the police. Overall the show deals beautifully with various types of terminal illnesses and poses an end of life debate that has no clear right or wrong answer. Although the show does deal with the subject of death, it’s important to note that there are also many moments of humour and moments where life is celebrated.
– On the show you play Jess, the daughter of the main character. What can you tell us about her?
Jess Geller is Mary’s sensitive, intelligent, intuitive teenage daughter. She is the type of person who bottles up a lot of her hurt and frustration because she doesn’t trust people with her feelings. Jess can sense that her mother is hiding something, and as Mary grows more and more absent, Jess is not only confused but also feels she’s taking a back seat to her mom’s “double life”. This results in a very rocky relationship with her mother. Additionally, Jess finds herself in a tumultuous relationship with her bad-influence best friend, Naomi. Naomi plays with Jess’ romantic feelings, who is in the middle of coming to terms with her sexuality. And since Jess is also in the midst of figuring out who she is, she has a much harder time standing up for herself with not only Naomi but her mother as well.
– What would you highlight about season one? Where are we going on this second chapter?
The biggest highlight from season one was just as we thought Mary had been uncovered by the police, Des (her partner) testifies stating that he was the only one involved in the operation. Des takes the fall for Mary, ends up going to jail, and in doing so, clears Mary’s name of any criminal activity. Another big highlight from the first season was Mary’s decision to let her new drug supplier, Grady, bleed out from a gunshot wound, since he had too much potentially dangerous and incriminating information on Mary and her family.But the decision to let Grady die has consequences for Mary in season two; Grady’s sister, Olivia has now tracked Mary down and asked her to kill her husband. And if Mary doesn’t follow through with this request, Olivia has all the information she needs to expose Mary’s assisted suicide “business” as well as her connection to Grady’s death. Olivia’s character brings in a lot of grey areas in season two, as her involvement forces Mary to have to use her power as a doctor to potentially engage in criminal acts (being blackmailed to kill a perfectly healthy human). We’ll see Mary be pushed to the limit of how much she feels she can risk losing (her family, her job, her home) in order to keep helping people die on their own terms. There will be a lot of points in season two where the audience will question whether Mary is going too far.
– As for your character, during last season we saw how tension escalated between Jess and her mother. How is there relation going to evolve during this second season? Do you think she will end up discovering her secret any time soon?
In season two, Jess and Mary’s relationship is only going to grow tenser. As time goes on, seeing that she won’t get the truth from her mother, Jess pulls further and further away. She feels abandoned and invisible to her mom, and so starts to give up on any kind of trusting relationship ever existing between them again. Towards the end of the second season, Mary will finally start to take notice of the fact that she is losing her daughter. But by then, no matter what Mary’s efforts are to re connect with Jess, there’s a chance that it may be too late to repair their relationship. I think Jess is much closer to figuring out Mary’s secret. Jess has known something has been off for so long now that it has made her hyper aware to everything her mom does or says. Jess is less likely now to be fooled by her mom’s lies and won’t let it go until she figures out what her mom has been hiding. Also, this season Mary is having a harder time keeping her “side job” from bleeding into her family life, so I feel that there is a much greater chance of Jess finding out Mary’s secret simply because the lies have become too big for Mary to hide any longer.
– Mary Kills People explores a lot of complex issues regarding death and euthanasia. What message do you think that the show transmits about all these concepts to its viewers?
First of all, what I respect a lot about how the show was written is that there is never a specific perspective labelled right or wrong. The show explores all different view points behind the concept of choosing your own death. I think one of the main messages we put across regardless of whether someone agrees or disagrees with assisted suicide is that we explore the topic with a great deal of compassion. Although Mary sometimes doesn’t make the best decisions we always see her act out of the truthful desire to lessen people’s suffering. Assisted suicide is still a very grey area because every individual’s case is unique. I think the show opens the discussion about death and assisted suicide in a way that honours everyone’s different philosophy and personal experiences. Also, I feel as though our culture shies away from talking about death in any context. But death is what gives life meaning. And so, I think that although the show does deal with dying, it also sends a powerful message of how precious life is while we have it.
– Do you have any news on a potential third season?
I unfortunately don’t have any idea about a third season! However, based on the nine recent Canadian Screen Award nominations that the show received, it seems as though people are very drawn in to the show!
– Let’s talk about you, we know that you are also a writer and have penned several short films. Are you working on any new projects right now? Anything special you would like to do in a near future?
I have a huge passion for writing! I actually started into writing by accident when a friend spontaneously asked me if I would write the screenplay for a story she had in mind. I immediately noticed that when I sat down to write, the incessant chatter in my head would quiet down and I would lose myself in the world I was creating. Writing for me is a chance to explore the messiness of human nature that often gets ignored in our day to day life. It’s freeing. In terms of current projects, I have my own feature film in development. It’s called “Every Seventh Wave”, (a title that is full of many themes, but also refers to the myth that every seventh wave in the ocean is slightly bigger than all the rest), and I already have a great team of people on board to help bring it to life. It’s been a challenging, fulfilling journey and I can’t wait for this story to be shared with the world.
– What does Abigail Winter do in her free time? Do you have any favorite TV Shows?
In my spare time I love to play music, read books and cook! I also have a passion for surfing but don’t get to go as much as I’d like to. Right now, I am loving the TV show Ozark. It poses some really interesting moral debates. I also was blown away by the Handmaid’s Tale. It was a powerful story about a not so distant future, and the acting was so good that I had chills the whole time watching it!
An interview by Chris Patterson for Lovingseries.