- In Diggstown, Vinessa Antoine leads a cast of familiar faces fighting for justice.
Wednesdays at 9pm on CBC
M arcie Diggs is grieving. Her favourite aunt—the one who taught her how to surf, showed her how to find salvation in the sea—has taken her own life and Marcie is flailing emotionally and—in certain eyes—professionally, ditching lucrative corporate law for legal aid in Halifax. She clashes with family, runs from confrontation. When we first visit Diggstown, she's just started to rebuild.
"She's very complicated—there were certain scenes I was a wreck," says Vinessa Antoine, who stars in the new CBC series. "The emotions we all deal with, our insecurities and our guilt and, really, the notion of what is life really about. it sounds like such a cliche but she's dealing with the literal question of that."
Diggstown, which premiered March 6, is a drama created by Floyd Kane, who hails from East Preston. Each of its six episodes focuses on a case of Marcie's—her office includes familiar faces like Stacey Farber (Degrassi), C. David Johnson (whose old show Street Legal returned to the airwaves the same week) and Natasha Henstridge—that highlights race and socio-economic issues in Nova Scotia. It's a view of the province, and of Halifax, not seen on Canadian television since 2006's North/South (which also happens to be Kane's show).
"I went to Cole Harbour High and you could tell there was a difference between the kids from Colby Village and the kids from Eastern Passage," says Kane from Toronto, where he's been based for the past decade. "You feel the class structures in Nova Scotia inform everything. We look at the way the city is laid out—when we say north end, even though there's a gentrification happening, we know what the north end is versus the south end. We know where the power resides in the city."
Antoine, originally from Toronto, is the first African Canadian woman to topline a network television show, a fact blared by headlines last year when she left her gig at General Hospital to make Diggstown. "CBC is looking for Canada's Kerry Washington" blared The Star (Washington was the first African American woman to lead a series with 2012's Scandal).
"I didn't realize I was the first until after I booked it," says Antoine. "Also, really? It was 2018 at the time. I was the first? I was more concerned about diving into who the character is—I put all my time and energy into that. I left that Kerry Washington stuff to other people."
Kane too, has no space to concern himself with expectations. "I wanted someone who was going to take on this character wholly and interpret what I've written and make it her own," he says.
Marcie's version of Halifax often takes place in Dartmouth—the series shot around HRM last summer—but also out on the sea. "Surfing is Marcie's church," says Kane. "It's a place she goes for joy, for cleansing, to lay down burdens. That's what that means to her."
"In the beginning I didn't love it. I was getting pummelled out there in the waves," says Antoine, who notes it's too cold to be surfing in Los Angeles, where she lives, today. "But what I loved is that the ocean is like life, you know—you just do't know what you're gonna get. It felt very much like a church for me too, the idea of getting your ass kicked out there every day and overcoming it to get up and stand on the waves. I just kept fighting for it."