CBC's 'Plan B' adaptation brings the Quebec-grown series to a wider audience
Toronto-born actor Patrick J. Adams says that after living in the United States for about 20 years, a lot of Canadians may have assumed he’s only interested in pursuing opportunities there.
But a new challenge in the form of an English adaptation of a popular Québécois time-travel series has brought Adams, whom many viewers may know from the legal drama "Suits," home to Canada.
Set and filmed in Montreal, "Plan B" follows a lawyer in his 30s using time travel to try and save his failing relationship and struggling practice.
The Québécois tradition of artistic storytelling and championing their work is what Adams said appealed to him.
“The amount of talent and creativity that’s just bursting out of a place like Quebec, is a big part of what made me turn back to Canada,” he said.
Adams said he connected to the show’s premise of wanting to co-ordinate the ideal life.
“I have an idea of how I want things to be,” he said. “What will I do in order to make things the way I think they need to be, in order for my life to be perfect? To be the way that I imagined it to be?”
In "Plan B," which premieres on CBC and CBC Gem Monday, Adams plays Philip Grimmer while Karine Vanasse portrays Evelyn. The story follows Phillip's attempts to mend his relationship with Evelyn by going back in time to change events, but he finds that those actions have unintended consequences.
The six-episode series is an adaptation of a 2017 Radio-Canada anthology of the same name, which is currently developing its fifth season.
“It’s really just about a control-freak perfectionist who is attempting to have a relationship with the woman he loves,” Adams said. “But he can’t get past the idea that maybe what he wants is not necessarily the best version of things.”
Vanasse, who starred in the CTV series "Cardinal" and the 2009 film "Polytechnique," said "Plan B" shows that the desire to go back and change certain outcomes doesn't necessarily make the relationship better.
“Even if we can control things, know what would be best for us, that we have the ultimate perfect plan — that’s not how life works,” she said.
Vanasse said audiences can connect to the show by relating to the difficulty of leaving a relationship. She said she felt Evelyn was always confused about her own perception of the situation.
“That’s what being in a controlled relationship creates,” she said. “You’re always kind of doubting yourself and trying to say, ‘well I thought I was sure about that.’”
Working on the project allowed her to remember the satisfaction she felt while watching the first season of the French-Canadian series six years ago, she noted.
The adaptation stays faithful to the Québécois version in terms of the story, and it's helmed by the original creators, Jean-Francois Asselin and Jacques Drolet. However the pace in the adaptation is faster and the stakes are raised higher.
At the time of the original's release, the rise of streaming and the popularity of six-episode seasons in Quebec helped the show become a hit among French audiences, including Vanasse.
“It’s very vivid, in my mind, how I felt when I watched the final six episodes,” she said.
Vanasse said knowing the show has a proven formula for success brings optimism to the adaptation because "it's not just written on paper."
“Something that was created in Quebec, that did well, can now potentially speak to a wider audience,” she said.
Adams likens "Plan B" to the British TV series “Black Mirror," at least when it comes to the approach the show takes to its last episode.
“It really embraced it going hard in the other direction and while the character learned something and is changed by the end, it’s not all wrapped up in a bow,” he said.
Louis Morissette, who played Philippe Girard in the first season of the 2017 French-Canadian series, said his favourite part about the show was that viewers in Quebec were glued to their screens up to the last line. He said it was fun to get that emotion and level of engagement from an audience.
“For weeks I had people writing me like ‘what will happen?’” he said. “People were like, ‘no, you can’t leave me that way.’”
He also hopes they can repeat that level of involvement from viewers with the update.
Asselin said a producer in the U.S. proposed to buy the rights to adapt the show, however they declined was because they wanted to hold onto creative control.
"It was important for us," he said. "So, we decided to make and produce it ourselves and do an English version."
When it comes to that cliffhanger ending, Asselin said audiences can expect "a twist at the end that’ll leave them surprised."
Morissette agreed — in order to know what happens to Philip and Evelyn, viewers will "have to watch up to the last line."
Asselin and Morissette hope to adapt the other seasons that initially aired in Quebec — not just in Canada but around the world, noting there are plans to air additional versions of the show in France, Belgium and Germany.
“The goal is to have people involved everywhere around the globe, work on different seasons and make that a success story out of Montreal,” Morissette said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2023.
Christian Collington, The Canadian Press