MISE À DAY
You never quite leave where you come from. The proof, the life of Erika Soucy in Portneuf-sur-Mer colors a large part of her young career. As an author, she has given us collections of poetry, theater and the novel Les Murailleswhich has been adapted on stage. For TV, she lent her words to the first four seasons of Léo before taking the leap solo with The Pearls, which recounts the daily life of a single mother in a small town on the North Shore where rumors take on unexpected proportions and where survival is sometimes a way of life. An ode to the strong women in her life and to a region from which she draws her creativity.
How important was it to camp Pearls on the North Shore?
It's a matter of pride. This small village, everyone can recognize themselves in Quebec and even internationally. By being very typical, we touch on the universal. It was my way of giving back to people back home. In a village, there is no anonymity. As soon as something happens, there is a snowball effect. The impact is often on women. My mother, after her divorce, there was gossiping in the village. This is my way of paying homage. I also think that if we are proud of where we come from, we will want to stay there. If I hadn't been born on the North Shore, I wouldn't have the career I have as an author.
The series begins with a lie. How is this a good vein as dramatic as comic?
I'm really not good at lying. In the regional identity, we are very transparent. So as soon as it starts, you tell yourself that everything is going to suck. There is adultery and there are all the little survival lies. Stéphanie (Bianca Gervais) does not carry the same luggage as the others. She has to make her way in a capitalist world when for her everything is a question of survival. My mother had this resourcefulness ready for many sacrifices. Following the rules when your life is comfortable is easy. I told the director and the actors that in The Pearls, everyone is fighting for their piece of meat.
We find all the nuances of the mother-daughter relationship. How did you develop it?
When I build my characters, I like gray areas. Stephanie is emotionally dependent. When she makes decisions for her daughter, she is carried by a sincere love. Mother-daughter relationships are complex. It's a lot of work to develop the psychology behind the characters. Everyone has their own interpretation, depending on their experience. I worked with Cindy Boulianne, a sexologist friend, because we talk about sexuality in adolescence and I wanted to have responsible and enlightened writing, especially when it comes to abortion. She talked to me about my characters as if they were patients and that helped me understand their motivations. When you understand the characters, you can create surprise effects.
There is diversity in the characters, but nothing is pressed in broad strokes.
It was not trivial that an Innu woman was the comic-relief. It is a statement. The Innu have a great sense of humor. My friend, Alexandra, tinted my handwriting. And it is not trivial either that a black woman, Esther, is the director of the bank. It is realistic that people with an immigrant background occupy positions of power in the regions. It is also a statement.
It is a so-called feminist series. How did you find the right tone to be unifying?
The characters, apart from Laurence, are feminists without having the vocabulary or the activism. They simply play all the roles: mother, father, proletarian. It's integrated. I wanted to talk about solidarity, sisterhood, but also betrayal, which is deeply human. I wanted to talk about the heritage we carry and pass on. Laurence does not want to be like her mother, but she becomes one. It is difficult to free oneself from one's environment when it sticks to our skin. I got pregnant at 22 when I left the conservatory. When Stef says to Laurence: “You won't just be a mother, we'll find solutions”, it's verbatim from what my own mother told me. We've often seen pregnant teens a little trash on TV, but it's not just that. Stef, Cynthia and all the others are in a system of social conditions. There is a very militant side that I want to embrace more and more.
► Pearls Broadcast on Club illico