Open Heart is a “young adult drama” but its appeal doesn’t stop at eighteen year old viewers. The show about a family in crisis when the father disappears is sophisticated and grown up enough to be of interest across the board. Dylan is just 16 and the loss of her father has thrown her for a loop leading to acting out and creating trouble in Open Heart Memorial Hospital where members of the family work, including her troubled mother, played by Jenny Cooper. Mom is dealing with her own secrets and lies and seems strangely remote. We spoke with Cooper who says there is much more dramatic action ahead.
Jenny, Open Heart’s up and running and a success. What’s the reaction been?
It has been really exciting. I love how people are so wrapped up and invested in the mystery. Even my sister called me after the show and said, “C’mon, you can tell me what happened to her father, right?” I can’t, of course! The show seems to have a wide appeal, and the fans are really pulling for Dylan to find the truth about her family and for her to find love and happiness!
It’s a terrific series aimed at young adults that actually shows them as fully formed, thinking adults. Is this one of the reasons the show’s so successful?
That’s a great question. I don’t know if the show treats young adults as adults, but it definitely doesn’t pander in any way. The main character, a teenager, Dylan Blake, represents a time in life already rife with change and soul searching and then doubles down with her father’s disappearance, her mother’s new boyfriend, grandparents who seem to be keeping big secrets and new friends and loves, enriching but complicating her journey. Her whole life is thrown in a tailspin. Dylan wants to know where she came from and where she belongs, and that’s a really relatable journey. At the heart of this whirlwind mystery/family/hospital drama, is a real story about searching for identity that is of interest to anyone who has ever been there which is almost everyone! So I totally agree that it’s of interest, not just to teens, but to the rest of the family too.
Your character, Jane, is the centre of a mystery around which the story is built, the disappearance of her husband.
Jane definitely has a lot her plate right now! She’s not winning any “mother-of-the-year” awards at the moment, but she also really doesn’t mean her children any harm. She’s trying to protect her family, in her own way, and also just trying to keep her head above water. This is a woman who was used to having her time at work as her sacred space, and now, not only does she have both of her daughters in her workplace every day, but her husband has also disappeared, allegedly with another woman. So, she’s a bit frayed at the edges and out of her comfort zone. But I love how strong and capable she is even in the midst of all of this — she’s a survivor — and she’s listening to the feedback she’s getting from her daughters and trying to find some common ground, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
The portrayal of young girls is positive and strong. How would you compare these characterisations to those when you were that age?
I definitely think there was a void in strong role models on the screen for me when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. We were the Gen Xers and seemed to be portrayed as slackers and/or ne’er-do-wells — Friends, Reality Bites, 90210 etc. etc. — I think Ally McBeal, even with all her quirks, emerged as a positive role model for young women. There was something about that show made it okay for us to think we could thrive professionally even though we still had no idea what we were doing in our personal lives! Grey’s Anatomy was also great in that regard. And Open Heart reminds me of a younger Grey’s. Karis and Tori who play Dylan and London are fiercely loyal, bright and talented humans, gorgeous inside and out, and those qualities shine through all of the work that they do. I think they’re going to inspire a lot of young women and I feel really honored to play their mom.
Television is so strong these days. And you have a long history with it. You must be thrilled that your career has been so productive.
This is a lovely time in life, personally and professionally and I’ve worked really hard in both regards to be here…trying to strike a balance is always the great challenge for me. To have enough energy left after running around after my three children (2 year old twins and their 4 year old “big” brother), to do my work and vice versa. And I have to mention, if it weren’t for having such an amazing support system at home, most notably my awesome husband, I would not have been able to travel and do this job at al. I think this business always keeps us on our toes, so “sitting pretty” is not something I have ever felt, personally but I am enjoying this moment. Jenny, up but aren’t you shooting in Toronto? And you’re from Florida and LA? How are you managing in this historically awful winter?
Well, I feel a little guilty about this, because I missed the 100 plus degree weather in Los Angeles when I was filming in Toronto during the beautiful summer months, and missed the North East freeze fest because we wrapped Open Heart at the end of October — about a week before the chill set in. I must have done something right in a previous life for that to work out as it did . I do hope it warms up soon for everyone still shivering up there. Thank you so much for the thoughtful questions and for taking the time to watch Open Heart…I hope you stay tuned because you won’t believe how the season ends!!
Open Heart airs Tuesdays on YTV in Canada and TeenNick in the USA