Caroline Dhavernas was only 25 years old when she was selected to star in the 2004 Fox series “Wonderfalls.” It was a massive effort for the Canadian actress that resulted in 14 episodes shot over seven months, most of which didn’t air in the original run because the show was canceled.
The series left Dhavernas with a huge cult following and a vivid memory of how difficult it is to be the star of a TV series. Since then, she has been content to chase parts in ensemble casts such as in “Off the Map” and “Hannibal.”
It would take a very special project for Dhavernas to change her mind and be willing to be the star. She found that project with the new Lifetime series “Mary Kills People.”
“I have been really yearning for this kind of part,” Dhavernas says. “Mary is such a wonderful part because it isn’t all black and white but there are a lot of gray zones and contradictions.
“I have been yearning for a role that has a tone that is very unique and at times is a thriller and at times is a comedy. That is the kind of role that is fun for an actor.”
Dhavernas plays Mary Harris, a single mom and emergency room doctor who’s also an angel of death. She and her partner, a former plastic surgeon, help terminally ill patients die on their own terms. Her life begins to unravel because of problems at home and an investigation by the police.
Working on “Mary Kills People” was equally as draining physically on Dhavernas as working on “Wonderfalls” but the new series also was an emotional test. The series had to present a balanced look at the the topic of assisted suicide because it’s complicated and a very sensitive matter to so many.
Dhavernas says her own views on the matter didn’t change during the filming.
“It is shown in the series that something happened in Mary’s life when she was a teenager and you will understand why she believes people should be allowed to chose the time of their death. She feels very strongly about it,” Dhavernas says. “It’s easy for me to understand why Mary does what she does. During the filming, while talking about it, it just confirmed what I already felt.”
“Mary Kills People” is the latest credit for Dhavernas who began acting when she was 8 dubbing voices for television productions. Since then she has been in a number of Canadian productions plus films like “Hollywoodland.”
Not all of her roles has been as conversation-starting as “Mary Kills People.” She expects the series to launch some debates.
“I think this is a debate we should have,” Dhavernas says. “This kind of show is a great way to start a conversation. It’s also good for me because I have been working a long time and I don’t want the work to become boring.
“I’m drawn to projects and people who take risks. If I don’t want a role to be part of my life, then why do it?”
Don’t feel too sorry for Dhavernas over her having to take on the demands of a starring role in a TV series. Lifetime has ordered only six episodes in this first season so the workload isn’t as demanding.
As for a second season, Dhavernas jokes she would probably consider increasing her workload.
“Maybe we will do eight episodes,” Dhavernas says.
Mary Kills People
- 10 p.m. Sunday, April 23, Lifetime