TV: the challenge of embodying health issues with authenticity
Noah Parker, Anthony Therrien and Marine Johnson in the “Six Degrees” and “The Red Bracelets” series
This winter, the Six Degrees and The Red Bracelets series rouge features young protagonists who live with different issues, such as low vision, cancer and cystic fibrosis. Métro spoke with a few performers about the challenges of embodying this difference with authenticity.
Comedian Noah Parker stars in both series. In Six Degrees, which is back for a second season, he plays Léon, a visually impaired teenager.
“I didn't know much about this reality,” he says straight away. To prepare for his audition, he was inspired by the acting of Al Pacino, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a blind man in the film Scent of a Woman.
Subsequently, he met several times a visually impaired man, Méridick Forest, an acquaintance of the author of the series Simon Boulerice, who partly inspired the character of Léon.
“I went to his house, observed him and even filmed him to see how he moves, how he deploys his cane. I took a lot of little things down, it really helped me with the physical acting,” says Noah Parker.
Méridick Forest also acted as a consultant on the film set, which allowed the actor to up his game.
I have a lot more fun when I have to work harder and my character is further away from my daily life.
Noah Parker, who stars in Six Degrees and The Red Bracelets
In The Red Bracelets, Noah Parker plays Justin, an athlete promised a great career in hockey. Until bone cancer led to the removal of one of his legs. He stays at the hospital with other young patients, including Félix, played by Anthony Therrien (whom he also plays opposite in Six Degrees).
To prepare, the two actors met a young man who had this same type of cancer. “It allowed us to learn a lot, especially about phantom pain. He also told us how we live learning that we have cancer and how to deal with an amputation,” says Noah Parker.
For Anthony Therrien, playing Félix “was a transformation physical first and foremost. The two actors notably shaved their hair to look like their characters, who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
“There is also logistical and practical work with the wheelchair and crutches,” he adds. We were lucky enough to do a lot of rehearsals.”
Marine Johnson didn't “know much- thing” to cystic fibrosis before reprising the role of Florence in the second season of Six Degrees, which was previously played by Amaryllis Tremblay.
Like her colleagues, she has also met people with the same illness as her character, including Sarah Dettmers, who was involved in the process of creating the series.
“She told me about her life course: where she went, her daily life, what is difficult for her, her accomplishments and lots of details, such as breathing, shortness of breath… As I am super curious, I asked her a lot of questions!” she says enthusiastically.
They are very combative people, who want to live, to enjoy every moment, because they know that everything can end.
Marine Johnson, on people with cystic fibrosis, as her character in Six Degrees
Marine Johnson loved playing a character who lives with a difference. “In general, we like to have the chance to play roles like that to surpass ourselves,” she mentions.
The biggest challenge for her was to find the right balance in her game. become cartoonish, she says. Also, the shootings are done out of order. As there is a progression in the character's illness in season 2, I had to find the correctness in the gradation of his physical and mental state.”
Season 2 of Six degreesis currently available on ICI Tou.tv’Extra.
The series Les bracelets rouges is broadcast on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on TVA and is available as catch-up.
When the disease is invisible
Unlike the characters mentioned above, the one embodied Milya Corbeil Gauvreau in Les bracelets rouges has a mental health disorder which is not revealed until later in the series. “My disease is invisible, but it is not because we do not see it that it does not exist”, underlines the interpreter of Lou. To embody it with authenticity, she met a person suffering from the same disorder as her character as well as a mother whose daughter suffers from this disease. “I did a lot of research and watched movies that talk about this disease,” she adds. I even suggested [director] Yan England dye my hair pink to add to the craziness of my character.”
With Amélie Revert