If you're looking for a new TV show to binge, you've got to give Burden of Truth a watch. The CBC show follows big city lawyer, Joanna Hanley as she returns to her hometown of Millwood to take on the case of a group of girls suffering from a mysterious illness. Among those girls is determined jock, Molly Ross, who is played by Sara Thompson.
Read on as I talk to Sara about her role in the show, what we can expect from this season (or what you've missed if you haven't seen it yet), as well the other passions and inspirations she finds time for when she's not fighting mysterious illnesses.
Can you tell me a little bit about your role as Molly in Burden of Truth, and why you enjoy playing this role?
Molly is an honest, hardworking, never say die extravert with a massive heart. She is a jock and the captain of every sports team in her high school. She's looking extremely forward to graduating high school and continuing her journey with scholarships to some of the top schools in Canada where she wants to study sports medicine in order to help other athletes.
She gets faced with a mysterious illness that breaks out among the girls in the small town of Millwood involving seizures, Tourette's like tremors, fainting, and loss of motor skills. This forces Molly to give up her dreams in hopes of getting better. My favourite part of playing this role is getting to show the audience her journey from beginning to end. You get to see Molly in some serious transitional stages and it's beautiful to see how she overcomes this life-changing battle.
What was the most challenging thing about this role?
Separating myself from Molly to a certain extent. I happen to be very similar to the character (re: Q 4) and so I had to be super cautious not to let it take me back to a certain time in my life and instead use it as a form of therapy. Another huge challenge was the physical aspect of her illness. It was physically and mentally straining to be twitching and seizing all day.
Where was it filmed? Any interesting filming locations outside of Vancouver?
The show was actually filmed in Selkirk, Manitoba. About a 30 to 40 minute drive outside of Winnipeg. It is way more beautiful than I had imagined!
Did you relate to the character in any way?
Very much. I saw so much of myself in Molly and we actually have a very similar story. I was heavily involved in dance and had been competitively dancing all around the world since I was a child. Then when I was around the same age as Molly I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I suffered from tics quite similar and had no idea what it was from, nor did any doctors I went to see.
When I was 16 I had my first grand mol seizure and that's when we realized I had been suffering from epilepsy the entire time. It changed everything from family dynamic to my carer path and really threw me for a loop at a young age. I had to overcome the drastic lifestyle changes and find a way to cope with the loss of independence similarly to Molly. Thankfully I was able to find a medication that worked for me and I've been seizure free for about six years!
What are your co-stars like?
Amazing! I met some very special people on this show, and have made friendships I will cherish forever. We were all very silly together. There were always jokes and laughs on this set, however, when it came down to the work there was always a very professional and supportive dynamic.
Kristen (Kreuk) and Peter (Mooney) always made it so easy to collaborate and bounce ideas off of. They set a great tone every day. Star Slade was very special to work with as well. She is a sweet sweet soul who loves her work and does it with passion.
How did this character vary from others you have played previously?
I've never played a character whom I related to so deeply. Playing Molly opened my eyes to past Sara and also future and present Sara. I was able to find closure in my experiences through Molly and I will cherish that forever.
What's your favourite role you've had?
I have a special place in my heart for all of them, but I would have to say, Molly.
Why did you decide to get into acting? Have you ever considered a career in something else?
Since I was a baby I was saying “I want to be in movies.” I come from Winnipeg, Canada so it's not too common for people in my city to branch out and do something super out of the ordinary, although - fun fact - Peter Mooney is from Winnipeg as well! I wasn't sure how to go about making this distant dream a reality and I started dancing professionally at a young age so I was fulfilled in that through high school.
Once I reached a point that I thought was the peak of my dancing career and had a fair amount of injuries it seemed like acting was the only option. There was no other path for me to take. I had to follow my dreams and I did just that. I moved to NYC straight out of high school and went to New York Film Academy where I studied acting for film and television, and the rest is history! If I wasn't acting I would possibly be dancing, but to be quite honest, I have no idea. Maybe I would try to become a superhero.
What would you say is the most challenging part of being an actress?
The uncertainty of when and where your next job is coming from is probably the hardest part. I quite enjoy living in the moment and having the possibility of everything change within seconds, the lifestyle is part of the beauty of what I do, however, sometimes it does get to me. I also find I get quite attached to characters I play, so letting go of those is always quite hard.
Any other projects in the pipeline for you?
Later this year, I'm in a movie called I Still See You starring Bella Thorne and Richard Harmon. It's a thriller set after an apocalyptic event that leaves the world inhabited by ghosts. I play Janine, Ronnie’s (Bella Thorne) best friend since childhood, who cares more about school gossip and who's dating who than the fact that she is surrounded by possible harmful ghosts. I also have a film called Nomis coming out. It stars Sir Ben Kingsley, Henry Cavill, and Alexandra Daddario. I play Julie, a victim of abduction.
Do you have a dream role?
Carrie Bradshaw, because who wouldn’t want to play her? [laughs] I have dream roles everywhere from Roxie Hart in Chicago to Anna in Like Crazy to Dolores in Westworld. I always thought it would be cool to play someone with artificial intelligence. But if I had to choose one I would hands down say it's a dream of mine to play a Disney princess, like Emma Watson as Belle in Beauty and the Beast.
Have you done any theatre? How did that vary from TV?
I did a lot of musical theatre growing up dancing. So I am no stranger to the stage in that regard, however, I have never done a full-length play or musical. There is just something about the instant gratification of the theatre that sets it apart so drastically from film and television. On stage, you really get to tell a whole story and go through your whole character arch at once as appose to on a TV show that films for five months.
I'd be really interested to hear more about the anti-bullying and mental health organizations you've been involved in, and what your role has been.
Since I was 14 I have been very involved with the idea of doing anything to help young women feel better every day. It's a fine line between wanting to do something and actually doing something and I wasn't sure what a 14-year-old kid could do. I was dancing heavily at the time and had the opportunity to create a spoken word piece about bullying. At the time I had no idea where it would take me, all I knew was that it was highly important to me. I wrote and recorded it myself and was lucky enough to get to perform it all over the world. The pay off was amazing and hearing other girls' stories and how I had helped them by just giving them something to relate to through movement really inspired me.
I got involved with an organization called “The Orange Daisy Project” which is an online space for young women to visit with information on the matter. I go on school tours with the organization to share their main message that you are not alone. Through dancing, acting and speaking of my own experiences I am able to get through to many creatives and help them find the light in the darkness that they deserve.
You're originally from Manitoba — where are you based now?
Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. All over!
Wow, so you must like to travel! Where's your favorite place?
I feel like I'm always traveling but Hawaii is my favourite place in the world. Honolulu feels like second home.
Any trips planned/travel aspirations?
I can't wait to go spend some time in Europe! Hopefully work there as well.
Who is your role model (can be in the industry/outside of the industry).
My mom has always been my biggest role model no matter what.
You said you love talking in silly voices — would you ever consider a role in a comedy movie/series?
100 percent. I love comedy! I also want to do animation. It seems like so much fun. That's for sure something I am going to focus on.
Tune in to Burden of Truth, Wednesday's at 8pm on CBC.