Rivalry between wealthy families, spacious and modern mansions, prestige and stardom stories... Today’s television overflows with shows where money and abundance are everywhere. But far from these luxurious settings, sometimes a few shows stand out by presenting characters lacking in financial resources who can only rely on their solidarity and inner strength to get through adversity. The result: a scripted series that feels very real, unexpectedly rich and powerful. Producer Julia Langlois shares why these stories deserve to be heard.
On the set – Photo: Sébastien Raymond et Laurence Grandbois-Bernard
Everything began when the actress and author Florence Longpré went to meet Trio Orange’s team to present her idea for the series pilot. A powerful concept, she not only created it, but she also plays the main character. When Julia Langlois speaks about this moment, her enthusiasm shines through: “We read the episode and we were amazed! We were somewhere else. We were presenting an environment that we rarely see on the screen. It was also a fresh and young writing style. We liked it so much that we told ourselves that we would do it, even if we never had done fiction before.” Indeed, even if they had several great documentaries and factual shows in their portfolio, Can you hear me? was not only the first project of its kind for Trio Orange but also for the young creator Florence Longpré. Come what may, the author and the production team took up the challenge with beginner's passion and energy. For almost a year, they worked together to develop the series before presenting it to Télé-Québec.
The producer emphasizes that the choice of network was not made by chance: “Télé-Québec is committed to providing opportunities for the next generation, which is why they trusted Florence. They gave us great freedom of creation. This is priceless.”
La comédienne Eve Landry et la réalisatrice Miryam Bouchard – Photo: Sébastien Raymond et Laurence Grandbois-Bernard
In the media in general, we see more and more producers putting extra effort into showing us inclusive projects. But far from trying to check items off a list, plurality has imposed itself in Can you hear me? As Julia Langlois tells us: “There are many types of diversity in the series: sexual, cultural, physical, and artistic. And it was all done naturally. First, we have many women that work in the various production positions, like the editor, the wardrobe designer, and so on. But it was not our intention. We chose the best people for the project and it ended up being a lot of women. Same thing for the casting, which is very multicultural. We have characters that are white, black, Asian, Arabic — but their cultural background is not a focal point in the series. It’s colorful, simply because poverty has no skin color. We see people of all origins, but also of all shapes and genres. Second, we also have diversity in our artists since our actors are not all equally popular. We chose actors for their talent, not caring if they’re famous or not.” The series is a captivating mix where everyone deserves their place for who they are, instead of what they portray.
Actress Mélissa Bédard on set – Photo: Sébastien Raymond et Laurence Grandbois-Bernard
Producer Julia Langlois – Photo: Chantale Lecours
Watching the various episodes, we can easily go from laughter to tears, from anguish to hope. This makes it difficult to classify in a precise category. “It’s complex, and it was a challenge to find how to classify Can you hear me? when we wanted to register it for some TV awards. It is not documentary; it is fiction, but there is an obvious authenticity. The characters talk, and are good and bad at the same time, just like in real life. There is no romance. It’s without discrimination, without mockery, without judgment. We are in what Americans call dramedy. It’s not exactly a dramatic comedy, it’s more like a comic drama. It’s not exactly a drama, not exactly a comedy. It’s possible to be right in between, just like in real life,” says Langlois. Indeed, author and actor Florence Longpré’s series offers a different proposition from what is usually presented on Canadian television, helping to build a strong media culture by presenting angles that are not often shown on our screens.
Filming outside – Photo: Sébastien Raymond et Laurence Grandbois-Bernard
Boldness comes at a price. The unique and often shocking side of the series initially repelled several viewers. As Julia Langlois recounts: “Looking directly at abuse and poverty themes can be disturbing. It gets to your core; it's polarizing and upsetting. We have received some comments from the public saying that they really didn't like it the first time. Then time and word of mouth took effect. Many detractors have become faithful and committed admirers, despite being shaken by the series at first. The public became attached to these three girls and their reality — proof that these kinds of series have a place. This is our greatest reward.”
This success manifested itself beyond the reactions of the public, with 14 nominations at the 34th prix Gémeaux, the award for Best Non-English Drama Series from the Rockies Awards in Banff and the Best Comedy Award at SERIES MANIA festival in France. The gamble paid off.
Author and actress Florence Longpré and actor Christian Bégin – Photo: Sébastien Raymond et Laurence Grandbois-Bernard
Can you hear me? is one of those crazy ideas that became a big achievement. A disconcerting, powerful series, showing that audacity and authenticity are undoubtedly a great treasure.
The second season of Can you hear me? (M’entends-tu?) airs on Mondays at 10 p.m. on Télé-Québec and on telequebec.tv. The series is also available on Netflix. Follow the show on Facebook and Instagram.