Elyse Levesque on her role as risk-taking reporter in CBC’s Shoot the Messenger

Elyse as Daisy Channing and Lucas Bryant as her co-worker Simon Olenski
Elyse as Daisy Channing and Lucas Bryant as her co-worker Simon Olenski

An ambitious young Toronto newspaper reporter uncovers a story that has huge implications reaching the highest political office, a web of Somali gangsters and, for herself, imminent danger.

The CBC’s gritty new crime drama Shoot the Messenger stars Elyse Levesque as Daisy Channing as the risk-taking reporter who will do anything to get the story.

She’s hoping to get material for the case late one night when she witnesses a murder. Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness created the story based in part on real events.

We spoke with Levesque on the eve of the show’s premiere:

M&C: The premiere of Shoot the Messenger is finally here. Are you excited? 

Elyse Levesque: It’s something that’s been incubating for quite a long time now but ultimately I’m quite proud of it.

It’s the first show I’ve done that I genuinely look at it and am so proud of the work. I feel like it has a great build to it and everyone collectively did such great work.

I was invested in everyone and definitely everything connects back to Daisy in this series.

I had to pay attention to the twists and turns even if I didn’t have scenes because it all affected the reality of my character.

The script is so smart, it has this giant web of connections and actually I read scripts multiple times to digest it all. There are so many faces, so many names.

M&C: The events are said to be based on fact. What is real?

EL: It’s dealing with real people. All the characters feel like human beings. It deals with real relationships — my father (Nicholas Campbell) who has dementia and how that affects our lives.

I have Detective Lutz (Lyriq Bent) in a story you don’t hear about much, the connection between reporters and cops who work together.

It’s interesting that these people have this professional and personal relationship at the same time. What makes the show most real is that there are some parallels to certain scandals in Toronto.

It tells real stories that look at the human experiences of love, loss, death, lies, deception, murder and the pursuit of the truth and being faithful.

M&C: It’s very cool that the series is a woman’s story. It’s encouraging to us and to young women and girls. Their voices are important.

EL: Sudz and Jenn wanted to create a female character that was a complex and flawed a person. A lot of times, especially on TV except for Showtime, HBO and other speciality channels, a lot of what you see out there is surface depictions of women.

You’re either the virginal character or you’re made into digestible characters versus someone who is a human who has mixed feelings about a bunch of things, who has insecurities and is intelligent and funny and self-deprecating.

It’s really cool and exciting to play a real person. Take gender out entirely and Daisy’s a person doing her best in a really extreme situation.

M&C: Daisy’s really ambitious and will endanger herself to get material. How did you feel about that?

EL: In the first episode she’s so hungry for the story and immersed and makes a fatal error and that creates a ripple effect, a bad one.

She is definitely a bull in a china shop. She’s super eager and hungry for the truths of the story and she’ll risk anything and everything to get to it.

As the series goes on we see why she is so obsessed. There are reasons why she is.

I would view it as running from her own truths so she doesn’t have to look at herself and she saves people and hopes it will redeem her.

M&C: She also neglects her ill father (Nick Campbell) because of work. What’s wrong there?

EL: As the show goes on we understand why she has a rocky relationship with him. It becomes clear, he wasn’t always brain-injured and there is something connected to that, that she harbours guilt around.

We’ll know that later, why she avoided dealing with him. There’s more to it. She is the damaged sister and the older one but she behaves like a child.

M&C: How did you get to know the world of reporters?

EL: I did research on my own like crime in Toronto and trying to understand the reality of the world here.

One of the fantastic things was that Sudz and Jenn are friends with a journalist on the Leader Post named Lisa Priest. She was a resource throughout filming. We met early on before we started filming and talked for a couple of hours about her experiences in the field.

She corroborated what they had written and thankfully they did a good job and flushed out a believable world for the communities.

They also highlighted what it’s like to be a woman with the extra pressure of proving yourself and not necessarily being taken seriously.

It’s improved somewhat but we are still a male-dominated society in which you have to be cutthroat to get the story.

Shoot the Messenger premieres tonight, October 10, at 9pm on CBC.

DON’T MISS: Lyriq Bent on playing Detective Frank Lutz

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