'The Lake': Amazon's Prime Video bites back at stereotype that U.S. TV is better than Canadian shows

·7-min read

Bringing us comedy, turbulent family dynamics and the quintessentially Canadian cottage experience, The Lake, Prime Video’s first scripted Amazon original series in Canada, is a spectacularly funny show, starring Julia Stiles and Madison Shamoun, among Canadian talents like Jordan Gavaris, Jon Dore and Natalie Lisinska.

“I feel really honoured that I get to be a part of the [first scripted original Canadian series for Prime Video], and I think there's always that little bit of nervousness and pressure around representing Canada, and the Canadiana of it all,” Gavaris told Yahoo Canada. “I felt that growing up here [with] our own homegrown film and TV, there's a sort of reflexive expectation that it's not going to be as good and it won't live up to its American counterpart.”

“But in the last five or six years, things have really changed, and I don't know if it's just the shifting landscape of media in general, or if storytellers are just being given more options, more money, more time, but our stuff is good, and I feel really excited, really honoured that I get to be in any way involved.”

Jordan Gavaris as Justin and Madison Shamoun as Billie in
Jordan Gavaris as Justin and Madison Shamoun as Billie in "The Lake"on Amazon's Prime Video (Peter Stranks / Amazon Studios)

If you’re also someone, like us, who grew up believing Canadian TV shows and movies were never at the same caliber of the content we saw coming from our U.S. neighbours, The Lake is as fun, funny, heartwarming and binge-worthy as anything U.S. productions have to offer, and we should certainly take notice.

“I feel really, really chuffed that people are going to see it and know that yeah, Canadians, we can make good comedy, we are funny, we're not just polite,...we have a sense of humour,” Gavaris said.

“We've always had a sense of humour, there have been SCTV and The Kids in the Hall, they've been doing outstanding comedy for years. I think now it's just a matter of people actually getting to see it and finding it, and that's why I'm so grateful for streamers and for things like Prime Video, because everywhere around the world now…[people are] getting to see our little piece of Canadian comedy.”

Simply put by actor Natalie Lisinska, she calls bullsh-it on the stereotype that American content is superior to Canadian TV and movies.

"There's so much talent in this country and perhaps we're just living next to a behemoth, and we've just got to believe in ourselves," she told Yahoo Canada.

"Sometimes it's the budget itself that affects what you're able to do," Jon Dore added. "I think everyone was quite aware of that and definitely spent money to make this thing look as good as it does, and wow, does it ever."

Julia Stiles as Maisy-May in
Julia Stiles as Maisy-May in "The Lake," Prime Video’s first scripted Amazon original series in Canada (Peter H Stranks / Amazon Studios)

What is 'The Lake' about?

In The Lake, Justin (Jordan Gavaris) has returned to Canada after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend in Australia, and he’s spending the summer with his biological daughter Billie (Madison Shamoun), who he and his high school best friend gave up for adoption when they were teens.

In Justin’s attempt to show Billie what his childhood was like at his family’s cottage, he discovers that his father left it to his stepsister Maisy-May (Julia Stiles), who really lives up the “evil stepsister” narrative. While Billie gets accustomed to life at the lake, she also helps Justin with his mission to get his childhood cottage back from Maisy-May, who is planning a massive renovation on the property.

Terry Chenm Jon Dore and Natalie Lisinska in
Terry Chenm Jon Dore and Natalie Lisinska in "The Lake" on Amazon's Prime Video (Peter Stranks / Amazon Studios)

For Natalie Lisinska, who plays Jayne on The Lake, alongside her husband Wayne, played by Jon Dore, she said the cast didn't even realize how Canadian the show actually was.

"I remember there being a conversation between Julian Doucet, the showrunner, and Jon and myself, where Jon was like,...are we using Canadian money? And Julian was like, oh yeah this is 100 per cent Canadian," Lisinska said. "Jon's face lit up with delight."

"As a working actor you're always on shows and they're very much telling you to...neutralize the accent and it was such a joy to just let her rip. I think that Canadians want to see that."

Natalie Lisinska and Terry Chen in
Natalie Lisinska and Terry Chen in "The Lake" (Peter H Stranks / Amazon Studios)

'Knowing just when enough was enough'

The characters in The Lake all shine in their own way with this great ensemble cast. When it came to playing Justin, Jordan Gavaris had an instant connection to the character.

“The moment that I opened the pilot, I connected with the character instantaneously,” Gavaris said. “I sort of thought for a second, ‘oh man, someone's actually written me and they've put me in this story.’”

“Obviously, Justin and I are not exactly the same person but there are a lot of similarities. I'm not a dad, but I just related to his awkwardness, his humour, his messiness as a person, because I don't always say the right thing, and I was just so excited to see a character that I think would normally, on most comedies and most narratives in general, just hang out in the sideview mirrors, but he's really front and centre.”

For Jayne and Wayne, Natalie Lisinska and Jon Dore give us this perfectly loving, but odd-ball relationship that just elevates all the comedy on the show.

"Jayne goes from such highs to such lows and so from an acting perspective, it's so juicy, there's so much to sink your teeth into," Lisinska said. "I was a bit of a wild kid when I was in high school and Jayne feels like that wild version of me that never grew up."

"She peaked in high school and she's never let it go, and that's where we meet her."

"I was intrigued by the breakdown of the character, the description of the character, and then reading the sides, I was a little bit confused only because you're not familiar with the tone, I didn't have access to the entire script when I first read it," Dore explained. "But based on the breakdown of the character, I knew this was absolutely for me."

"Wayne was clearly a guy who didn't quite know what was going on around him...and that's my favourite character to play, slightly oblivious. In my own life,...I have been a bonus parent to an eight-year-old for the past four years, and then I had a child on the way, so I had a lot of things that I could relate to, in my own personal life, trying to maintain this status of the fun guy while also trying to be a parent and maintain a relationship."

The humour in The Lake ranges from giving you a light chuckle to some outrageous lines from the entire cast, while also critically looking at the hierarchical, homogenous makeup of the community at the lake. It's those dynamics that really draw you into the show.

“It was a really funny read…and it was also a really sharp read, the characters were so distinct, their voices were so clear,” Gavaris said.

“The only thing that I had an opportunity to read before I read for the show was the pilot and I thought, well if this is the pilot, it's just going to get better, because so much of TV pilots are introducing characters and setting up problems. It just got better and better and better, which is also just kind of I bow to the writers…for knowing just when enough was enough.”