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Interview: Mylène Dinh-Robic

One type of show the television landscape will never run out of is the police drama. It has been a staple of television for decades. With that being the case, it becomes kind of hard for a series to set itself apart from the rest of the pack. One series that is definitely changing the police drama and forging its own path is the series 19-2.

Currently, the series is in production on its third season. The original French version of the series began airing on Radio-Canada beginning in 2011 and the English language adaptation premiered on Bell Media's Bravo channel in January of 2014. One of the many reasons for the success of the series is the work of actor Mylène Dinh-Robic.

Mylène was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec and received her BA in Communications from Concordia University. Her first big break came when she played Rita Mah on CBC Television's Vancouver series Da Vinci's City Hall. She followed that up by playing Dr. Olivia Fawcett for the first three seasons of the hit series The Listener.

We sit down with Mylène to discuss her character on the series 19-2, what she did to prepare for the role and how the series portrays the lives of these brave men and women who risk their lives every day to protect and serve.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us the basic premise of the series 19-2?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – The title of the series kind of gives it away. But first, it has to be said that it is based on a very successful French series of the same name. 19 is the police station that all of the cops work at and 2 stands for the car that the show follows. You are following a partnership of cops who are all in the 19th precinct in downtown Montreal. It’s a cop show, but it is not a procedural. You are not tuning in every episode to solve a crime, you are really tuning in to what’s been called a ten hour film.

It’s really about what cops go through at home and letting the audience know that they are human beings underneath the uniform. That’s what you are looking at, what we are exploring and discovering with this show.

It’s also about the profession, it’s about serving, about humanity and the grey zone. It shows that nothing is black or white or good or bad or perfect or flawed. We all have a little bit of all of that in each of us and the show really explores that.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us about your character Beatrice Hamelin?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – Beatrice is one of the cops at precinct 19. She attempts to be a straight shooter and is a woman of few words. She is an extremely respected cop with her peers at the station and does a great job according to her superiors, but her love life is almost the opposite of her professional life. The women she is interested in are either taken, straight or her love interests are destined to be doomed. In her professional life she is so reliable and she will have your back. It’s interesting, Bear’s got your back, but she doesn’t have her own. She doesn’t know how to steer herself towards healthy, loving relationships.

Pop Culture Principle – What kind of preparation did you do for this role?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – We were all trained by the Montreal police and were actually welcomed with open arms by the same crew who trained the stars of the original French version of our show. We start season 3 very soon and we are going into police training again-they train us before each season shoots. Every actor has their own approach. I decided to go on ride alongs as part of my preparation. With different precincts throughout the city. On set, we have a police consultant who is there to show us how to express ourselves, the legal jargon we might not be using properly and the street jargon we should be using.

Montreal cops have a very unique style in their work compared to other big Canadian cities. Montreal cops are I would say similar to what my understanding of a New York cop would be. For example, they might know the girls that work some corners; they know the storeowners in their precinct and are basically in tune with everyone on or off the streets because they are a community service. They get personal with the people they are serving whether you are on the wrong or right side of the tracks, there is a bit more of proximity between the cops and the communities of Montreal than you see elsewhere in Canada. This can lead to great things in terms of effective, targeted police work but can also lead to complicated issues when it comes to respect for cops.

If you would like to learn more about Mylène's preparation for her role, you can read a detailed account from her blog here.

Pop Culture Principle – You had some great scenes with Benz Antoine who plays your partner. What is it like working with him?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – He is amazing! Benz is a very respected talented actor and has been in the business for a long time. He’s also had a lot of success in his original role in the French version of the series. He had an award winning performance in the French version and he’s the only one in the cast who is in both versions. As an actor, he’s just really generous and present with you. I’ve rarely worked with someone who is as in the moment with me.

Sometimes in television, the production pace can move so fast that you get what you can and sometimes the authenticity of the moment and the performance suffers. I feel like my work with Benz survives that pace well on screen, that we’re able to find the truth of our scenes together, quickly. The casting for everyone on this show is also wonderful. Casting is so crucial in any production and again, I’ve never worked on a show where everyone is so invested and just perfect for their parts. My partnership with Benz both as an actor and Bear has been really amazing.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the sacrifices of being a cop is your personal life. We see all the characters struggling with this aspect of their lives with Bear being no exception. Do you hope in Season 3 that she finds love or someone to be with?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – Of course, will she? Probably not because this show is 19-2. I mean it’s not Game of Thrones because people aren’t being killed off every episode, but it’s damn close in terms of heartbreak. I am not an idealist per say, but I do believe that love is out there for everyone, but it’s a tough thing to find. I think this show really explores just how challenging it is, especially for cops who are going out there and risking their lives every day, to find stability in their lives. Her cop radar is great, but her heart radar is completely off track. She is more likely to survive on the job and in the streets than she is surviving her own love life.

Pop Culture Principle - The Season 2 premiere is probably the most intense of the series so far. It’s based on an actual school shooting that took place in Montreal. What was it like for you as an actor and as a person filming such a powerful episode?

Mylène Dinh-Robic –A school shooting and the extremely disturbing trend of school shootings and just any kind of public shooting by a solo gunman is so traumatic for any community. Can you imagine the first responders showing up? For that episode, we had an amazing director named Podz (Daniel Grou) and he was an incredible director to work with. We had an entire weekend to rehearse for that episode with hundreds of kids as extras.

It’s the closest thing to theater that a television actor gets to do because you are dealing with a shot that is 14 minute straight through. What that entails in this traumatic school shooting setting is hundreds of extras and all of the cops coming in and out of the shots in this well-choreographed dance. We had mostly single camera happening that followed Jared and Adrian throughout two stories and twenty rooms.

Basically, the rehearsals were crazy because of all the extras and the dance of choreographing a 14 minute shot across an entire building. But then the actual real shooting, after all that preparation, when we finally went to camera, I can’t tell you what that was like… it was unbelievable. Everyone was ready. The director Podz called action and we were traumatized 14 times over as actors going into a school where there is a student lying in a pool of blood in front of you.

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The episode is based on an actual shooting that took place at Dawson College in Montreal in 2006 and the cops that trained us for that episode were the actual cops who went through that shooting. I was in Montreal when the shooting happened and it was as traumatic for our community as it would be for any community. So, to watch it all over again and be part of something that recreated it, honored the cops and the victims…it was a really disturbing achievement for me.

The end of the episode is such a disturbing reflection of what cops went through that day when Ben Chartier, Jared Keeso’s character, asks actor Adrian Holmes, Nick Barron, how old the shooter was and finds out that he was 16. How does a 16 year old do something like that? It was a mark of pride for everyone involved with this production just how true to life and just how difficult and dirty cop work is. This show doesn’t make you necessarily feel better… but it does entertain you with its level of humanity.

Pop Culture Principle – Your series doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects such as alcoholism and domestic abuse. Do you think it’s important that these issues are talked about on the series?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – Absolutely and unapologetically. No kid gloves. In this day and age of desensitized coverage in the news and in order to educate, people have to able to be touched by characters and relate to what’s happening. Obviously, I don’t relate to J.M., the character played by Dan Petronijevic, beating his wife, but I do relate to how basically unclear that line is to some people. The way that our scripts are developed is always with a particular attention to things not being so clear cut and dry.

In the case of domestic abuse for example, we always wonder why these women or men stay. I’m not saying or the show isn’t saying it knows why, but it is saying: let’s explore why they are staying and examine these broken relationships.

As for alcoholism and drug addiction, it’s a very clear and present social ill in big cities as well as small towns, so why not reflect society back to itself clearly. Let’s not just show everything that is perfect, but show the imperfections too so that we can all actually and hopefully grow as people and as a community.

Pop Culture Principle – Would you agree that the series strikes the right balance with humor, drama and action?

Mylène Dinh-Robic – Yes, I would absolutely agree with that! You have to be able to let go of some of that tension at the end of the day. If you go on ride alongs with real cops? They are joking around all day. But not in a light, sort of careless way. You can tell it’s a defense mechanism to stay grounded, sane and balanced.

Although 19-2 doesn't currently air in the United States, we here at the Pop Culture Principle believe that it is a series that everyone should at least be aware of. We would like to thank Mylène Dinh-Robic for taking the time to sit down with us and talk about this amazing series. If you would like to keep up with all of Mylène's latest news and projects, you can visit her official website here and find all her social media information and her blog!

**Main photo courtesy of Premiere Role Agency**

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