In the surprising Canadian hit series CRACKED, a team of police detectives are paired up a psychiatrist and a psychiatric nurse in a special Psych Crimes & Crisis Unit to help solve crimes where both victims and/or perpetrators may exhibit mental and emotional issues. In our modern world of increasing stressors and people who have hit their limits and begin to “crack”, it is essential that law enforcement understand that not all crimes are so easily put into defined categories and learn to navigate a world where people need more than just a gun and a shield to protect them and solve crimes. In a recent exclusive interview, co-star Luisa D’Oliveira talked about some of the unique challenges and rewards in portraying a detective assigned to this special task force.
What drew you to CRACKED and the role of Detective Poppy Wisnefski?
LUISA: I was drawn to this show because it really focuses on mental illness and the gray area of it. I think that is important when dealing with such subject matter to not do things in black-and-white. It’s a complicated topic. I just thought, first of all, that it was a chance to tell great stories, and, second of all, that it might do some good socially. It’s awesome to have a double-whammy project. I think that is sort of rare.
What do you love the most about portraying the character of Poppy?
LUISA: I love how driven and focused she is. Everything in her life is clear and I think that kind of clarity in a person is something that everyone is striving for in their lives, to know exactly what they want do and how to get it and being able to take steps towards it. To me, that’s such a wonderful thing about her. She has her own views on mental illness and her own personal difficulty with it. It’s a really important point of view to bring to the show, someone who is not very familiar with it and not that comfortable with it, and she’s forced to face it in a couple different ways — both through her work and her personal life.
It seems at times that Poppy and her partner Leo (Dayo Ade) are the calmer duo in the face of these different cases they encounter. Is that something you bring to the role or is that something that is written into the character?
LUISA: I think it is a little bit of both. Poppy is comfortable in the cop world. She grew up in it. Almost all her family except for one brother is in the force. And I think it’s something that I bring as well to the role because I tend to be a very grounded person. Even when I talk, I kind of have this lower cadence. That is just what people tell me. So I think it sort of evolved in that way. Especially since our main character, Aidan (David Sutcliffe) has such intense issues, they needed other characters to be very grounded and kind of level out the field so that everyone is not running around throwing their hands up in the air and experiencing whatever emotional difficulty they might have all the time.
How would you describe Poppy and Leo’s relationship as partners? It seems like they have a pretty good balance in what they are trying to do as a team.
LUISA: Yeah, Poppy and Leo tend to click pretty easily from the beginning. They don’t really have any difficulty working together. I think it’s easy for them because they don’t have the pressure put on them of having to define this unit. They are both sort of looking to the head psychiatrist and the head detective to guide the unit. They know what they want to do within it, but they are sort of sliding into a supporting role. I think that really helps ease their working together. And I think they get along well. One of the reasons why on Poppy’s side she gets along so well with Leo is because she just gets him to a certain extent. He’s a big dude and he’s pretty straightforward. There’s a communication between them that doesn’t really create any barriers. She doesn’t always understand the strange empathy he has with some criminals, but aside from that, they function together pretty well. It’s pretty cool, Dayo and I brought a lot of our own personal relationship to the role too. From the very first day, we immediately slipped into this brother-sister relationship. On a personal level we get along really well, and it is reflected in the writing. So it was such a nice surprise that we were able to have art imitate life, or life imitate art. (Laughs) I don’t know which came first there, the chicken or the egg, but it all just sort of worked.
Is Poppy even aware that Aidan is so fragile and kind of flips out at times, or if she aware, does she just kind of ignore it?
LUISA: I think she is learning it. In the beginning, she knew he was this weird detective that kind of freaks out in a coffee shop with a chicken dance, or something like that in her mind. Whatever the gossip around the water cooler was at the police station. But at the same time, she knows he is a good cop. Clearly since he’s been in homicide and he’s been in a bunch of different squads. So he’s been around and he’s really good at his job, and she’s basing her judgment of him on that. It’s not until she starts working with him for a bit that she starts to sort of sniff out his strangeness — which she does start to do more. It’s kind of interesting the way her opinion of him changes. She doesn’t really let much show. She keeps it really close, in that if she does think he’s flipping out, she really doesn’t talk about it. She sees enough of a really good cop in him to overlook any strangeness that he is giving off.
It feels like Poppy has a lot of loyalty for her unit, which is interesting because she also really ambitious. Is she balancing her career against the people she wants to protect, or is that her just doing her job the way she sees it?
LUISA: I think it is a couple different things. I think she is very aware of police culture and from a very basic level, you won’t survive out there where it’s dangerous as you have to have the backs of the people around you — that’s just how it goes. So she’s in this unit now and she will have their backs and she will make sure that when they are out their working that she doesn’t do anything to put anyone in danger. She is on the same page as Aidan. I remember in Season One where Aidan told Daniella (Stefanie von Pfetten), “You’re my partner and I need to know you so that I can trust you.” I think Poppy is right on board with that. She needs to know the people she is working with and what she can expect from them, especially since two of them don’t carry any weapons. Her entire family is in the force and she’s smart enough to know that you build relationships. That’s just what you do. You want to respect everyone; and you don’t want to piss anyone off. She does want to make her way up, but she knows that she can do that by doing a good job where she’s at so she can move to the next level. So she’s smart. She knows that and she’s young and she knows it’s not going to happen overnight. She’s bidding her time and learning her lessons.
What are we going to be seeing for Poppy in the upcoming storylines? Is she just doing the job or is there something more going on?
LUISA: Up to this point, she’s been getting to know the job and getting familiar with the people, and working with this new viewpoint in dealing with people with mental illness and investigating crimes in a more empathetic and compassionate way. They are always looking at things, like who’s the real victim here? So she’s been doing a bit of gear adjusting and working the cases and doing her work. But closer to the end of the season, you’re going to see some of her family come in and that’s when you get to see a bit more of what it has been like for her growing up in the force and she’s also going to have to face mental illness in a much more personal way that she did not expect. It will really be quite a challenge for her. It’s not something that might necessarily be resolved in one episode.
For you, has there been one particular mental illness storyline that was showcased that really touched you a bit?
LUISA: In the episode involving Poppy’s family, the mental illness and the way it affects people in that particular episode, that touched me personally. I also really liked the “Cherry Blossoms” episode. That episode also really touched me a lot because it was sad to see teenagers involved in bullying and suicide. It’s so terrible. Kids are young and so impressionable and vulnerable — and the way that social media is now, there is so much faceless bullying. It is a lot easier than when you do it face-to-face. Louie C.K. did this amazing little rant, I think he was on a late night talk show where he was saying how before Facebook and before social media came out, when you made fun of someone you did it to their face. There’s an interesting thing that happens when you are young, like when kids are 7 and they call someone a “stupid face” and that person suddenly screeches up their face all sad — that’s when they realize they made someone feel bad. That’s how kids learn empathy. They learn, “I say something mean to you and then you get upset.” They make that connection. Now with social media, you can make fun of someone and it goes out there and you don’t see the way it makes the other person feel. There isn’t an emotional repercussion that kids learn. So I think that is dangerous. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to change in the future as it is evolving — and it’s going to be a really big debate — but I think it is a really important thing to look at: how young kids are learning to be social and how to interact with people with so much bullying and so much suicide. It’s quite scary. So that episode did effect me quite a lot.
It is interesting to see that CRACKED has decided to embrace so many controversial mental illness issues, but they do it in such a thoughtful and touching way. It’s unusual.
LUISA: It is unusual. It’s a hard sell somethings. Audiences don’t always know what to do with it. “Do I like the show? Does it make me feel uncomfortable?” People respond differently, but I think it’s the only way you can put it into a TV show respectfully. It is to just show what’s out there with as much truth as possible because at the end of the day it is about awareness and respect for the people who are dealing with the topic or subject matter that we are dealing with that week. I think that is the only way to really do it right. That’s what we really try to do in every single episode — to tell the truth, as much as we are able to.
To see more of the unusual world of CRACKED and the special cases and crimes they navigate, be sure to tune in on Friday nights at 8 p.m. on Reelz Channel.
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