Canada Question
Jordan Gavaris and Julia Stiles tackle reconciliation and betrayal in TV comedy ‘The Lake’

Jordan Gavaris and Julia Stiles tackle reconciliation and betrayal in TV comedy ‘The Lake’

Jordan Gavaris and Julia Stiles tackle reconciliation and betrayal in TV comedy ‘The Lake’

Prime Video is ready to make a splash with “The Lake.”

The cottage-country laugher is the Amazon streaming service’s first original comedy series and stars Caledon-born Jordan Gavaris as Justin, a father trying to reconnect with the teenage daughter he gave up for adoption. He attempts to reconstruct their relationship at the lake where he spent summers at his family’s cottage, uncovering a betrayal when he learns his father handed the cottage down to his stepsister.

“My character is making a very clumsy attempt to reconnect with his birth daughter that he had in high school after accidentally getting his friend pregnant,” Gavaris said at an Amazon event announcing the series in April. “He has since come out as a gay man. The story just centers on the two of them trying to connect over a summer at the lake while contending with the family drama that comes with Maisy-May.”

Julia Stiles plays Maisy-May, the stepsister, and her star power adds an immediate degree of credibility to the Canadian series. The “10 Things I Hate About You” actor said the new role offered exactly what she was looking for.

“This is the first character I have played where I can deep dive into the despicable aspects of a person’s personality without having to soften that,” Stiles said. “It was as simple as just wanting to go to work and laugh every day.”

Stiles said she now has the luxury of being more selective about the scripts she chooses to take on.

“When you first start out as an actor, you just want to get a job. Now there is a lot more that goes into deciding what I’m going to do. It ultimately comes down to whether I think I would be challenged when I go into work.”

Stiles, last seen voicing a character in “Dragons: The Nine Realms” (the “How to Train Your Dragon” spinoff), said the primary appeal of “The Lake” was its hilarious writing and it being a complete break from the typical characters she has played.

“I’ve never really done much comedy. I love going to work and improvising and entertaining myself while we are filming.”

The freshest face in the cast is American newcomer Madison Shamoun (“Black-ish” and “All American”) as Billie, Justin’s daughter. She said learning from Stiles was a valuable experience.

“I love that woman,” Shamoun said. “She just has a great energy and you wouldn’t know that she is who she is. She was so giving and casual. So easy going and just so good at her craft. I feel like I learned so much.”

Julia Stiles as Maisy-May in

Representation is at the forefront of the series. The story of a gay parent trying to forge a relationship with his biological Black daughter was part of the appeal for Gavaris.

“There’s something special in this show to me. I felt that the representation didn’t feel exploitive or forced into the narrative in a way where we had to check boxes. It was just there because that’s just what this family looks like.”

Perhaps best known for his stint on “Orphan Black,” the actor elaborated by saying that the character portrayals on “The Lake” are completely genuine in their representation.

“There are always going to be political conclusions drawn based on onscreen representation, but this is a liberal show. You don’t taste the medicine. This is not a show that’s coming at you with some sort of politically progressive agenda. It’s just a love story between a father and daughter.”

“We have a little bit of everything for everyone,” Shamoun added. “That’s not normal even though it should be. I think we are getting more of it even in our writers’ room. We have people of colour. We have lots of women. We have older and younger. It’s a melting pot, and I am so proud of this show and how inclusive we are with everybody.”

The North Bay filming location will also look familiar to Ontario cottagers.

“It felt like summer camp,” Gavaris said. “We were on location for the entire series without any sound stages. In between takes we would sit around this unlit bonfire with a guitar. We were in this COVID bubble and (the cast) really left an imprint on each other because we really didn’t have anyone else to hang out with.”

It was a big change for Shamoun, who traded the glamor of Los Angeles for the woodsy wonderland of Lake Nipissing.

“It was the antithesis of where I am from. In LA, we have millions of people and in North Bay, it was like 40,000. It was a small-town vibe. I’d go to the grocery store and see the same people and we would connect that way. It was a nice reprieve from where I am from and made shooting the series all the more special.”

Native New Yorker Stiles said that despite being exposed to some elements of the country through her Canadian husband (she said she calls a lavatory a “washroom” instead of a “restroom”), there were still elements that surprised her about the Great White North .

“Just seeing cars stopped at stoplights for pedestrians or people waiting in orderly lines for the bus. It was just so political to me. I guess I heard that’s a Canadian thing.”

Speaking of Canadian, the show’s lead said shows like “The Lake” will finally put the international spotlight on this country.

“The fact that ‘Squid Game’ became an international and global sensation was really cool, but it also opened up space for Canada to be a part of the international conversation where media is consumed. It’s not just because this is a Canadian series, it’s because it’s a good television series and now we know that if it is good people are gonna watch it.”

“The Lake” begins streaming on Prime Video June 17.

Murtz Jaffer is a Toronto-based entertainment writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @murtzjaffer


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