Kristin Kreuk on Burden of Truth's Return, Smallville's Legacy, and Whether She'd do Crisis on Infinite Earths

Kristin Kreuk, the actress best known in comics circles as a star on Smallville and the title [...]

Kristin Kreuk, the actress best known in comics circles as a star on Smallville and the title character in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, will be back on American television tonight. Kreuk's CBC drama Burden of Truth, in which she plays a lawyer who faces impossible odds while squaring off against corporate giants, will premiere its second season on The CW tonight, picking up after last year's finale with Joanna having left Millwood behind to start a new life. Unsurprisingly, things are not that easy. Her new life is arguably even more dangerous, and meanwhile things in Millwood start happening that will ultimately bring her into a collision course with the town.

The will-they-or-won't-they chemistry between Kreuk's Joanna and Billy (Peter Mooney) is complicated this season by the fact that the two are living separate lives at the start of the series, but also by the fact that while Joanna may have done right by the families affected by the mill's pollution, the lawsuit led directly to the mill's closure, and now the town is struggling to stay afloat. A lot of that pressure has fallen on Billy's shoulders. And the Burden of Truth writers' room is already back at work for the show's third season, so there's no promise much of anything will be completely resolved this year.

Kreuk joined to tease what's coming up in the second season of Burden of Truth, and of course we had to ask a few questions about her long-running roles as Smallville's Lana Lang and Catherine Chandler on Beauty and the Beast.

(Photo: CBC/The CW)

Season one felt like a complete story. Can you talk a little bit about what did Season 2 do differently?

With Season 2, I think the first thing that we'll notice is that it looks a little different. It's a little faster-paced, I guess. The stakes are higher. Because Joanna and Billy are living in different places at the beginning of the show, he's dealing with the fallout from winning the case, which meant that the steel mill kind of fell apart, which means that the single industry town has also collapsed. So he's dealing with that fallout. And Joanna's in Winnipeg dealing with this activist kid who, in his efforts to protect people's privacy, has pissed off a massively powerful company that, because Joanna is helping him, is now coming after Joanna.

How does it affect Joanna's relationship with the people back in town? It's easy for them to characterize her as breaking everything, and then running away.

I think that they thought they did a good thing, and they did do a good thing. And it's not the lawyer's job to find a way to help fix the town, but I do think she did [run away], kind of. Understandably -- I mean, I'm biased. But having learned what she learned about her father: about his relationship with Gerrilyn when she was underage, and that he had this affair that resulted in Joanna having a sister she never knew about, and that he was never anything that he pretended to be, and indeed, even decided to go up against her in court basically to belittle her and prove to her that she is a piece of crap. All of that was centered in Millwood, a town that was once her home that she had these positive memories of, that got completely poisoned, along with the field. And so I think leaving made the most sense to her because she needed to start her life over. I think she learns that you can't just do that, but at the beginning that's where she's at, new name, new job, new city: "I'm done with this s--t."

What is her relationship like with Billy, since so much of this is falling on his shoulders?

I don't think they've been in touch a lot over the year that they've been apart, or eight months I think it's been. I think they have a friendly relationship, but when you see them together in the first episode, it's definitely awkward. It's two people that really do want to reach out to each other, but they don't know how, and particularly Joanna doesn't know how. I don't think there's animosity between them, because he didn't really expect her to stay in Millwood, this tiny town. But I think there's just a tension and an awkwardness between them, because she's unwilling to take any steps to be close.

Do you think that some of the differences in the pacing for Season 2 can be credited to simply the fact that Millwood is such a tiny town, and as soon as you move into a even mid-sized city as your backdrop for your half of the story, inevitably the pacing is going to pick up a little?

Yeah. And I think we also wanted intentionally to pick up the pacing a little bit. It doesn't mean we're not still a slow-paced show, because we are, but it's definitely intentional that we did that. We wanted a more high-adrenaline case because we loved the slowness the toxic field and stuff, but it was hard to fill all the episodes in the way that we wanted to. This gave us a little more of that. And then there's a big thing that happens in the third episode, that then drives the show in another direction for a while, and that's a very profound thing for all of our characters, that impacts them very personally.

With her kind of severing her relationships with everybody at the beginning of the season, how was playing that first episode where your character has basically been an island for a while?

The only person she hasn't cut out is Luna. Luna is still in her life obviously. But I loved playing the first episode. I thought it was kind of awkward, and painful, and funny as a result, and it was fun to have all these new actors to work with. It kind of gave new life to Winnipeg, kind of personified that city. Then having scenes with people that I haven't seen, like Billy for instance...those scenes have a lot of weight, and they carry so many unsaid things, and that's really fun to play.

Obviously my readers know you from Smallville and from Beauty & the Beast. These are shows that were larger than life, and I feel like your performance in Burden of Truth is by necessity a bit of a different style of acting. Is that something that, two seasons in, has been fun to explore?

Yeah, I love it. I loved the other stuff too, but it's hard for me to [describe]. I think with Beauty especially, even though the stakes were high, it was still a kind of fun show. It was light and fun, so there were a lot of jokes, and fights, and that kind of stuff. This is much more contained. Although the stakes are pretty high, they're more realistically high stakes, which I think results in a different process. At least for me.

I think probably when it comes to my taste, this show is more in line with what I watch, the content I consume, but obviously I'm not narrowly focused on quiet, intense dramas. It's really fun to be able to do something so vastly different than what I've done for the majority of my career -- at least the American side of my career. It's kind of shocking, because I'm about to start my nineteenth season of television, in as many years in this business, which I find to be terrifying. But many of those seasons were doing Beauty and Smallville, so it's like I have to build a new skillset, and get away from some of the habits I built on those shows.

It feels like this has to be a difficult show to do, emotionally, because you're playing a person who is constantly being put through the wringer in a very intimate way.

Very well put question, yes. I think it is. There's no relief. Every year, we try to infuse some levity and lightness, but inevitably as the season goes on, we're like, "Where do we put it?" When this horrible thing happens in the third episode, and then another horrible thing happens in the fourth episode, you're like, "What space does a human being have for that at this point? They've been stretched so far." So we put it in the first episode. [Laughs]

Without saying anything that would spoil the Season 2 for the American audience...Season 2 again feels like a fairly complete story. What's it like to be doing this show, where kind of every year it's almost like a reboot?

We really like it. I think at first we were like, "Oh, this is kind of awkward." But I think however many seasons we end up doing of the show, we're always going to do that, and give time in between. Like, when Season 2 ends, it's an emotional cliffhanger. It's not a real cliffhanger, but there's a big significant incident emotionally, and then we'll start the next season probably two years after that. We skip major things in people's lives, but then enter them at points where they're going through a dramatic challenge, or something like that. So we don't get stuck in the slog of going through their day-to-day life, where sometimes years pass, and things are great, and that's not drama, you know?

I feel like as the show got bigger, it was almost less weighted down with the political implications of it. I do feel like whenever you're watching a show that's about a small town, and pollution, and all these things, there's a certain segment of the audience that's going to feel like they're being preached to and they're going to tune out. Season 2, it's still you versus a mega-corporation, but the stakes of it being so high almost negates the political stuff. Does it feel that way to you?

I think you're right about that one aspect of it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I do think we delve back into that sticky territory around race and racism through the latter half of the season. But I hope that we don't do it in a way that feels like we're preaching, more that we're looking at an issue from multiple angles. But obviously people had a point-of-view, and that's going to be presented.

As the lead in a show like this, is that something that you have to kind of be super conscious of, that like look. The point-of-view of the show is going to feel like it's my point-of-view no matter whether that's true or not?

Weirdly, I haven't thought about that intensely. Maybe it's because obviously our political situation in Canada is different than it is in the United States, and I believe that here we're becoming more contentious, kind of in a response to you guys. The polarization is happening here also now. I do think in the US, that polarization is way more intense, and because I've been doing this in Canada, I don't think I've thought about it as much as I would have had to if this was a primarily American show. I think we would have had to balance it much more carefully than perhaps we do here in Canada. I don't know if that's true, but I think that's my experience of it.

Before we wrap up, I have to ask a Smallville question. If they ask you, would you be interested in making a cameo next year for the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover?

I'd be open to it. Sure, why not?

Do you feel like that's ever going to end, or do you think that until you're 60 there are going to be being people saying, "Hey, do you still want to be Lana?"

I mean, we'd be lucky if people were engaged for that long. It seems like it's still going on pretty strong. The two Fan Expos that I did this year, people really want that to happen. Michael [Rosenbaum] and Tom [Welling] really egg them on, but no one's making any effort to actually pursue this thing. But yeah -- I hope that the show is that exciting for people that they'd want that, even when I'm 95 years old.


Burden of Truth will premiere its second season on The CW tonight. The series airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the network.