By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
Allison Tolman tends to play characters who everyone trusts right away.
“They do,” Tolman agrees. “I don't know what it is, because in real life, I'm super untrustworthy.”
She was kidding - we think. But either way, Tolman’s character is a beacon of trust, amid shady, dangerous, and possibly supernatural circumstances, in the new series EMERGENCE, which debuts Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.
Tolman, who is best known for her role as a trustworthy police deputy named Molly Solverson in the first season of TV’s FARGO, plays a trustworthy police chief named Jo Evans in EMERGENCE. Jo’s world changes due to a plane crash in her jurisdiction, and the sudden presence of a young girl named Piper, played by Alexa Swinton, who apparently was on the flight, but claims to have no memory of what occurred, and hasn’t suffered any injuries.
The mysterious kid’s first instinct, of course, is to rush into Jo’s arms. “She's like, ‘That's the lady,’ yeah,” Tolman says. But inherent trustworthiness aside, the subsequent investigation draws Jo into a conspiracy far larger than she ever imagined, and Piper’s true identity is at the centre of it all.
Interestingly, besides Jo and Piper, just about everyone else in EMERGENCE makes you wonder what their real motivations are.
“That's fair, because I think this show inspires a lot of mistrust,” Tolman says. “Who's going to turn? Who's a double agent? It sows the seeds of doubt, so that you’re looking at every character like, ‘Are they who they say they are? What is their deal?’ ”
The list of questionable individuals potentially could include Jo’s freshly divorced husband Alex, played by Donald Faison. But at the outset, when Jo finds herself in a jam, the first person she calls is Alex, because she knows he will help her with a minimum of questions asked.
“I guess their divorce is still fairly new, but they still care about each other so much,” Tolman says. “This is still her person. And when she needs help, he's like, ‘Okay, what do I gotta do?’ ”
Such co-operation obviously isn’t always the case in divorce situations.
“But it's nice, though - and I think it's actually reflective of a trend where divorces are less acrimonious than they used to be, in a lot of cases,” Tolman says. “Not in all cases, of course. But in a lot of cases, people split up because they just aren't right to be married any more. They may still have children together (as is the case in EMERGENCE). They still consider themselves a family. I know divorced friends who vacation together. They still love each other. And in a situation like this, Alex is the person who Jo wants around her.”
When things are this unsettled, though, everything is in flux. The intriguingly dark atmosphere in EMERGENCE is established right at the beginning, with something as simple as the digital display on an alarm clock fluttering ominously in the middle of the night.
“It’s spooky, right?” says Tolman, with true excitement in her voice. “Michele and Tara (writers and executive producers Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters) are masterful at what they do, I think. They know how to tease out a mystery.”
We definitely trust you on that one, Allison Tolman.