As awareness spreads, the issue of sex trafficking is increasingly showing up in movies and TV shows. Actress Karen Robinson (Lars and the Real Girl, The Gospel According to the Blues), who plays Detective Ingrid Evans on King – a detective show on Showcase – recently sat down with retired Toronto Police Service Detective Wendy Leaver to discuss the issue of sexual exploitation. Karen kindly took the time to answer some questions for Hope for the Sold readers as well.
The interview clip below is part of the King Case Files, which are informative short videos accompanying the episodes. This one goes with the 2nd season’s first episode, which is on the topic of sex trafficking. Please excuse the very brief bit in a strip club, as I try to avoid images like that as much as possible on this blog out of respect for those trapped in the trade.
I can’t think of any single moment. There were nudges in the general direction – my mother’s natural flair for the dramatic; being the baby of my brood and therefore an attention seeker; Cicely Tyson in ‘Sounder’; and Saturday afternoons in the ’70s spent watching a Jamaican children’s variety show called ‘Ring Ding’ where my beloved Miss Lou handed me my ancestors’ oral traditions like treasure. Canada handed me the possibility.
What draws you to Detective Ingrid Evans’ character?
Her groundedness. Her failings. Her passion for what she cares about. Her limitations. Her lingerie (fingers crossed). Her sensible shoes. She works hard. And then she goes home. So . . . her humanness, I guess.
You recently sat down with Wendy Leaver to discuss the issue of sex trafficking. What was the most surprising or shocking thing that you learned?
How easy it is to find oneself in these women’s position. We, the lucky ones, tell ourselves “they’d leave if they really wanted to”. But these women are threatened, beaten, fear for their families’ safety, and are terrified of the humiliation if they are exposed. They don’t trust the police and they often times don’t speak the dominant language. If I were in their shoes, I’m not so sure I could leave either.
What is it like to film an episode about sex trafficking? Does it make the issue seem more ‘real’ because it is being acted out? Did it lead to any interesting conversations on set?
On set, we’re so consumed with telling the story in the most compelling and realistic way possible that there isn’t a lot of time for conversation. What it does leave time for are moments of such clarity in the work that I found myself truly moved by, for instance, Alina’s hope and innocence in her video application to be a nanny, or Jess King’s insistence that Ingrid and she can help women like Alina, women whose dreams of days spent caring for children turn into nightmares of rape and abuse.
What role does film play in raising awareness about injustice?
Few people enjoy being preached at. Everybody has their own stuff to deal with – work, money, kids, relationship, weather, transit, rent, you name it. Stories acted out, if done right, show us our world in an enlightening, edifying, and most importantly for many of these people, entertaining way. These stories, when delivered in a screen format, have the opportunity to reach a huge audience. That’s immense influence.
With a wide-ranging topic like injustice, I think we need to see real people – people who may be like us, our family, our friends, or who may be that person we see on the subway or street, that one we often choose to ignore. Film and tv, and plays for that matter, can lead us to realize that we all want much the same thing – to be seen, listened to, validated. And hopefully that leads to empathy. The ability to see ourselves in another’s shoes.
Karen, thank you for taking the time to share some of your story and thoughts with us. I am grateful that there are people like you who do not waste their talent, but offer it to the rest of us so that we can be inspired, entertained, educated – and hopefully even provoked to action on the things that strike a chord with us.
For those of you who missed the first episode of King’s second season, you can watch it here. You can follow the show on the Showcase channel on Wednesdays at 9:00pm.