“I kind of feel like I won the lottery since this is another show that I’m on that’s still going!” she says. “It’s a tough time to be a Canadian show right now, although there are some amazing Canadian shows on TV right now. So proud to be Canadian. I just feel like what’s on television right now that represents Canada is so strong, and it makes me feel really good as a Canadian actor.”
Joining the cast of The Listener in Season Two as Nurse Sandy, head nurse at the fictional St. Luke’s Hospital, Spencer-Nairn was even then no stranger to Canadian audiences, having played Officer Karen Pelly on the acclaimed series Corner Gas.
“Another uniform, another show. There’s something about me in a blue uniform that really seems to resonate with people,” she jokes.
This may be the only commonality between the two shows, however, as Corner Gas was flat out comedy, and The Listener is primarily a drama, with much of the focus on serious issues. But Spencer-Nairn doesn’t mind the change.
“I love it. I never started my career going, ‘I’m a comedian.’ I’m not a stand-up comedian; I was never a comedian per se,” she says, adding, “As an actor you’re called upon to do different things and funny is something I can do. And I can do it well apparently.”
But she says it’s also nice to do a drama and remind people that she does have the acting chops to take on more serious, dramatic roles. However, she does admit that The Listener isn’t all suspense and tension.
“There are serious moments in the hospital,” she says. “But the storyline is fun [to do]—except for the medical jargon!”
This isn’t the only reason she loves her new role on The Listener, however.
“There is something about going to work and wearing scrubs. I could sleep in them!”
Going from a role on Corner Gas as Officer Karen Pelly where she wore a uniform, to her new role as head nurse of St. Luke’s, where she also wears a uniform, Spencer-Nairn does speculate on how much fun it would be to someday have a role that breaks out of the box a little.
“I’d love to play a character and get all dolled up.”
In the upcoming season, Spencer-Nairn’s character Nurse Sandy is still around, but far more infrequently than may have been planned because real life intervened.
“As far as my character goes, she had to go away to Africa . . . because I had a baby,” she says. As a result, Nurse Sandy doesn’t make a lot of screen time for much of the season.
“But she comes back!” she adds, giving us a bit of a sneak preview of what to expect. Here’s a clue—look out for a love triangle between Nurse Sandy, Osman Bey (played by Ennis Esmer), and a familiar face from the last season.
“I come back from Africa and I have to fight for my man!” she says with a laugh.
Despite going away to have a baby—her son is eight months old now and she affectionately refers to him as “the little monster”—Spencer-Nairn was back at work within weeks.
“I actually was working two weeks after I had a baby,” she reveals. “Things happen, you roll with it!”
The cast and crew of The Listener were more than accommodating when she returned to work, which she says made the experience so much more enjoyable.
“They went above and beyond,” she says. “I had my baby with me. It was great.”
When asked what she thinks has made the show so successful, especially given that a lot of shows get axed before they have a chance to get going, Spencer-Nairn has a few ideas.
“I think people think Toby (Craig Olejnik) is dreamy,” she says decisively.
So, secret number one to having a successful show: have a gorgeous lead . . . check.
But she doesn’t hesitate to credit the entire ensemble for putting together a stellar show.
“Lauren [Lee Smith] is amazing. Peter Stebbings, Rainbow Francks—it’s hard to put your finger on what is resonating,” she says. “If I could, I would bottle it and be off to the races!”
But she says the subject matter and the merging of reality-based narrative with the fantastical element of telepathy thrown in makes for an attractive package. In addition, the idea that someone with Toby’s powers would use them for good might be part of the appeal.
“It’s, do you believe in telepathy, [in] someone using his gift and helping people? The news is quite depressing. We live in a harsh society, and it’s like escaping. Like, wouldn’t that be nice?”
Catch up with the all the latest drama when The Listener Season Three premieres Wednesday May 30.
You can also interact with Tara Spencer-Nairn through social media, of which she’s a huge fan [“I love it! What Twitter has done is fantastic.”] Look her up in the Twittersphere at: @Tspencernairn, and be sure to tune in to the show on May 30.