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It’s a crisp fall day and there’s a crowd gathered around the Millwood City Hall building. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air; some of them are waving large signs that read...

Well, that would give it away, wouldn’t it? Because this is a pivotal scene in Season 2 of the CBC legal drama Burden of Truth, which begins Wednesday night, so no spoilers allowed.

"City Hall" is actually the former Shriner’s Hospital at 633 Wellington Cres.; for most of the series, Sanford and Selkirk have been the stand-ins for Millwood, the fictional Manitoba hometown of Toronto lawyer Joanna Hanley (Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk).

Today, Kreuk is wearing an oversized black hoodie over her lacy black dress to ward off the wind. The Vancouver-born actor is doing double duty on the set — she’s also one of the show’s executive producers — and she’s been holding a half-eaten piece of toast and peanut butter for a while. She takes the opportunity to finish it as the cast and extras reset for another take and a large diffusing screen called a butterfly, or "the flyswatter" in on-set parlance, is adjusted to deal with the sun’s refusal to stay behind the clouds.

The hour-long drama is close to wrapping up shooting on its eight-episode second season. Its first — which followed Joanna’s Erin Brockovich-like fight against the town’s steel mill after high school girls suffer what appears to be neurological damage from toxic waste the mill secretly dumped — is still airing on The CW and streaming service Hulu in the United States; both have picked up Season 2.

Producer Kyle Irving of Eagle Vision — the Winnipeg-based production company that’s partnered with eOne and ICF on the show — shows off a Hollywood Reporter review of the show that singles out its Canadian bona fides: "Burden of Truth earns some points for simply owning its Canadian identity and not masquerading as something generically North American. From the star athlete being recruited by McGill to the casual references to Winnipeg to a First Nations subplot that may actually be the show’s most distinctive element, I preferred this geographic candor to The CW’s normal ‘Vancouver can be anywhere’ ethos. The Manitoba locations are nicely shot..."

The second season runs with that geographic specificity, moving a lot of the action into Winnipeg proper; it’s nice to see the city represented as itself, and in a relatively flattering light.

Stars Kristin Kreuk and Peter Mooney on the set of Burden of Truth, which wrapped up shooting its second season in September of last year. The show is set in Manitoba; Winnipeg locations feature prominently in Season 2. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Stars Kristin Kreuk and Peter Mooney on the set of Burden of Truth, which wrapped up shooting its second season in September of last year. The show is set in Manitoba; Winnipeg locations feature prominently in Season 2. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Local viewers will have a lot of fun playing "spot that location," but they might not realize that one of the series’ stars is also a homegrown product.

Peter Mooney, who plays Millwood lawyer Billy Crawford — a childhood friend of Joanna’s and her partner on the mill class-action suit — was born and raised in Winnipeg, and cut his acting teeth at Manitoba Theatre for Young People before attending Montreal’s National Theatre School.

Burden of Truth creator Brad Simpson clearly trusts Mooney’s leading-man qualities, having cast him in both his cop drama Rookie Blue and his medical show Saving Hope. Meanwhile, theatre-goers might recognize the actor from his appearances with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, including After Miss Julie at the Warehouse and Pride and Prejudice on the mainstage.

During a break in filming, Mooney, 35 — wearing a dark suit that’s no match for the unseasonably chilly September day and sporting a small cut over his eye (makeup, not a real injury) — takes a break in the heated production trailer to talk about his role as a small-town lawyer, and the perks of filming in the city where he grew up.

"It’s kind of great because when you’re on set, you spend so much time with these people and you do become like a little family," says Mooney, who is married to actor Sarah Power (Good Witch).

"But it’s always nice to have a reminder of regular life when you’re in the midst of that. Because my home’s not here anymore and my wife’s out of town, it’s really nice to have that real family, to be able to see my niece and nephew and my brother and sister-in-law and my parents."

The Season 2 première sets the stage for a lot of what’s to come: Joanna, now practising at a Winnipeg firm, gets a new client who’s a privacy-protecting hacktivist (Varun Saranga); her half-sister Luna (Star Slade) meets up with the Bear Clan Patrol while walking home alone; and her father (Alex Carter) attempts a reconciliation.

Meanwhile, back in Millwood, Indigenous police officer Owen Beckbie (Meegwun Fairbrother) is dealing with heightened racism in a town that’s dealing with poverty and crime after the mill’s bankruptcy, and Billy is surprised by the arrival of his brother Shane (Andrew Chown).

Winnipeg-born Peter Mooney plays small-town lawyer Bill Crawford. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Winnipeg-born Peter Mooney plays small-town lawyer Bill Crawford. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

"Billy’s personal life and history was alluded to a lot in the first season, but we didn’t spend much time inside of it," Mooney says. "But this season we go right into it, which has been very satisfying as an actor, to spend a year focused on the professional face of someone and then go right behind that and see all the stuff that he tried so hard to hide."

The second season begins a year after the events of Season 1, and sees Billy living outside Millwood in a log cabin on the river, "in some ways escaping and in some ways relaxing into himself," Mooney says, while admitting that as someone who splits his time between Toronto and L.A., the whole rural vibe isn’t really his thing.

As for an area where he can relate to his character, he says, "I really like Billy’s moral compass. It’s very strong, which I think complicates things for him sometimes in terms of his work and in terms of what might be best for a case or for the best way to approach something. I think sometimes he may be a bit rigid in his thinking. But I think he has a really great sense of self and a great playbook that he goes by.

"I identify with that, but it’s aspirational."

Billy’s rigid thinking is offset by his relaxed approach to people — which is in direct contrast to Joanna’s tightly wound big-city attitude; the characters’ affectionate sparring is often Burden of Truth’s only attempt at levity. Mooney admits the show is darker and more true to life than one might expect (especially for CW viewers used to that network’s lighter fantasy fare with a romantic twist), and says it doesn’t get much lighter in Season 2.

"It is a pretty heavy season, but what kind of helps with that is that, just like in life when things get heavy, it kind of forces people together," he says. "A lot of the bonds that were formed last season have deepened in a way by this season, so the subject matter that we’re dealing with is extremely heavy, but there’s a closeness to the characters."

Naturally, the idea of closeness brings up an obvious question: Can viewers expect any romance — hinted at but never explored — between Billy and Joanna in Season 2?

"Well, you see, Billy and Joanna are learning how to get along together," says Mooney, laughing as he intentionally launches into a rehearsed answer to avoid giving anything away. "They’re such different personality types so there’s lots of bumps out of the gate, but at the same time, in so many ways they’re so complementary to each other. They really satisfying each other’s shortcomings, in a way.

"It’s really not that I’m trying to give you a runaround answer," he says. "It’s also that it continues to be sort of tricky through this season as well."


Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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