Jenna Wheeler-Hughes

The CBC television series Bellevue is dark in nature. Oscar-winner Anna Paquin stars as a police officer investigating the disappearance of a transgender teen. Set in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business and seems to know how they should best handle it, the series is propelled by a notable cast that includes Shawn Doyle (ACTRA award winner, Canada Screen Awards winner) as Peter Welland, Billy MacLellan (ACTRA Winner, Gemini Winner) as Brady Holt, (ACTRA Awards-nominee) Victoria Sanchez as Maggie Sweetland,

Jenna Wheeler-Hughes was asked to join without auditioning, a strong sign of confidence when considered against the lauded cast already in place. As one of the most morally untethered characters in the story, this normally luminous actress brought an overwhelming tone of real danger to the action. Tapping into the unobvious threat that could walk among us in everyday life, Jenna’s performance became a benchmark for Bellevue.

This role afforded Wheeler-Hughes the opportunity to play an egocentric and opportunistic character willing to do whatever it takes to achieve her desired ends. Under police interrogation, Lily begins to charm and then seduce the officer to maneuver herself into the proper position. The switch that Lily switches in her mind to accommodate whatever measures she needs is almost visible.

Her psychopathic nature is never more evident than when she drags an innocent young girl into the freezing wintery woods and locks her in a shed; all because she wanted the lead role in the Christmas pageant. Nowhere in her demeanor is the realization that this is murder by freezing to death. It’s an action that will follow her for the rest of her own life.

Canadian Screen Awards, CA winning directors Adrienne Mitchell and Kim Nguyen both worked with Jenna on Bellevue. The actress describes each as being very supportive of her approach to the role as well as creating the proper environment.  They were always respectful while still helping me to find the right energy for Lily. Playing Lily was alarmingly easy for me. I can’t say it was difficult for me to bring the craziness required to portray a psychopath. As an actor, it’s always very exciting to play someone out of the ordinary.

Having the opportunity to play someone that requires a lot of edges is a great opportunity to test your limits and see how far you can dive into a character. I believe everyone has a dark side. I really had to bring mine out while filming the forest scenes. When the time came to lock that poor girl in the shed, they wanted me to improvise. I remember hearing cut and having Adrienne Mitchell jokingly say to me, ‘Wow, you really can be a bitch!’ Though it’s not the kind of thing you want to be said to you in daily life, that’s a huge compliment in this situation.”

This very statement illustrates what is so beneficial from the perspective of this talented actress. Finding the proper outlet to frame the actions that often seem outlandish is what has empowered Jenna Wheeler-Hughes to inhabit a wide spectrum of roles with truly incredible authenticity.

By Punit