For the last four seasons, Kristin Kreuk has been playing Joanna Chang on the hit Canadian series Burden of Truth. While the series wrapped its run back in March on the CBC, the show has been playing to American audiences on The CW, a network that Kristin is very familiar with, having played Lana Lang for seven seasons on Smallville.
I got the chance to speak to Kristin about wrapping her show, the importance of representation, and what it’s like to be back on the network she helped launch.
Hi Kristin. It’s such an honor to talk to you! I’ve been a fan of yours for 20 years now, and it’s kind of crazy to think about your career spanning over two decades. How does it feel to be back on The CW with Burden of Truth? And then, can you just talk about what it’s like just to look back on 20 years of being on TV.
KREUK: Yeah, I love being back at The CW! I feel like, you know, I know a lot of people over there that I really consider friends and it’s a show that I wouldn’t always see fitting on the network but it does and I’m really happy. But yeah it is crazy that I’ve been doing this since I was 17, a little over 20 years now. And it’s weird to look back on your life in this way, but I mean the time before I was acting, I was in high school. That’s what my life has been composed of for so long, at least career wise, you know. Yeah, it’s kind of wild to think that for a long time. I never thought that this was going to be my path in life and then you kind of get to a certain point, you look back, you’re like wow this has been the path I took in my life.
Your entire adult life has been in front of a camera. That must be just a trip to think about.
I admit it is a really strange, super strange thing. I mean I’m really lucky, but to have your life, your growing up, documented in a way is something that I don’t, I mean now in our modern times — says the old lady — when everything’s documented, maybe that feels more normal but it is very bizarre.
That is a good point. I mean Smallville definitely predates the current way kids in high school are. It’s kind of funny to look back at old episodes and watch everyone on their flip phones and everything.
Yeah, and it’s just wild that it’s already the 20th anniversary of that show! But here you are with Burden of Truth and, you know, I guess it’s also a little weird, we talked about it being on The CW but it’s been on the air in Canada for a while now and it’s actually completed its entire run. Is it weird, going through the whole press tour again after having the show wrap up on the CBC back in March? At least it kind of gets a second life on The CW.
Yeah, it’s exciting that the American contingency gets to see it, but it’s always so weird to kind of feel like you wrapped up talking about a show and then having to talk about it again. Like I have to take a few minutes before I go back into interviews and be like, what is the season about, what happened, what are the themes? I don’t normally have to refresh my brain about [these things]!
What you said earlier — that it’s the kind of show that you wouldn’t think would be a fit on The CW. It’s kind of great that it is because one of the things that I love about the show is that it’s so relevant. We live in a time where representation is important, and here’s a show with an Asian Canadian lead that focuses on issues facing indigenous peoples, issues that focus on the environment, issues of social justice. As an executive producer and star, was that something important for you to have the show kind of centered around those issues?
Yeah, I mean when we went in, we were very much interested in looking at, you know, corporate law, what are the issues that are facing communities in Canada and people in Canada right now. I think that that extends to [the fact that] we have some similar issues in many industrialized countries. Originally we were going to shoot on the East Coast, like in Nova Scotia or something like that, which would have given us a different kind of feel, but we came to Manitoba and indigeneity and Indigenous peoples have a very strong presence in Winnipeg and the surrounding areas. You know our producing company in Winnipeg is called Eagle Vision, and they’re majority indigenous-owned. So the show sort of responded to the reality of where we were shooting and the people we were working with, and I’m so happy that that’s the direction that we’ve taken over the years.
Yeah, absolutely. I also love that from the first season on, your character in particular, starts off with a different surname and of course there’s all the issues with her father that leads her to to adopt her mother’s maiden name, but, again, just leaning into the Asian side as an Asian American as someone who’s always been advocating for Asian representation in media and in Hollywood. It’s just great to see you playing a character named Joanna Chang. On The CW 20 years ago, you were probably the only Asian lead on the network, and now there’s like several. Have you internalized that evolution over the last few decades as well?
Yeah I mean it’s incredible, it really is. And when I was on Smallville back in the olden times, I wasn’t playing an Asian character. We just pretended that I wasn’t Asian, and back then, you know, I think, even when I was originally cast, the main concern is that I wasn’t a redhead! I think it’s just evolved so much the way that we can talk about characters, the way that we can take source material and better represent the people that we’re telling stories about. You know Canada and the United States are countries that are populated by immigrants and it means so much to see my family represented, to see my friends represented. And not only represented but for them to tell their own stories. It makes everything, not only more honest, but more rich. And that means a lot.
There’s a saying that states that the more specific you make a story, the more universal it actually becomes, and I think that’s true with this show.
Yeah exactly, and that was for us very much what we wanted to do regarding specificity. We were like, this is a small town side of Winnipeg in Manitoba, and we’re telling this story of like, you know, a steel town. And what happens when that that mill goes away. And we wanted to be very specific about that, and you know, a lot of what is shot in Canada in the past was like “this is shot in Toronto but it’s some other city, some American city or random Metropolis somewhere.” And we never got to really tell our own stories, because we were always told it didn’t matter, and that’s changing. You know Schitt’s Creek, although, not you know, a real town, [but it] did so well everywhere all over the world, and it was specific to a Canadian story.
Yeah, I mean I think that’s another one of the things you guys kind of pioneered back in the Smallville days was using Vancouver as kind of like this blank slate to be anywhere, and it’s just kind of doubled and tripled and quadrupled over the last several years, to be every city but Vancouver.
Actually it’s very rare. I think there’s one show called Family Law with Jewel Staite that takes place in Vancouver, but there’s not a ton, I mean Da Vinci’s Inquest back in the day — which was an excellent series — was Vancouver-based but there hasn’t been a lot. That is changing and that’s exciting.
I just wanted to say real quick that even though your character was never Asian on Smallville, I knew Lana was secretly Asian the entire time.
Last question. Can you talk about what it was like to work on Burden of Truth for the entirety of its run, especially as an executive producer and being so integral into the creation of it.
This is the most gratifying work experience I’ve ever had, being able to go from pitching a show to getting it ordered to being in a writers room — which I wasn’t there the whole time but for part of it, to being on the ground, and creating this character from scratch and working with all the actors and the crew. It was honestly the most gratifying, and I’ve learned so much through working on this show that will make me better at everything I do and a better person in the long run. So it’s been incredible.
Burden of Truth airs Friday nights at 8pm ET on The CW.