Legal drama Diggstown deals with difficult issues up front

A Halifax-based CBC show is now in its third season.

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The truth is, it’s uncomfortable. It is messy, beautiful and sad. Diggstown, CBC’s legal drama now in its third season, embraces those facts – and audiences are probably better off for it.

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Centered on Black Canadian legal counsel Marcie Diggs (Vinessa Antoine), the Halifax-based series covers cases involving vulnerable citizens when they collide with an imperfect legal order. This season adds another layer: the pandemic.

“Initially we won’t deal with the pandemic at all, but when the writers and I reunited after a break, we were still living in COVID. So the decision was based on the idea that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on how people’s lives unfold,” says creator Floyd Kane, a young Scotsman of African descent.

“I have a 13-year-old son and it’s friendships he had pre-pandemic that have disappeared, just because he couldn’t be around those people because their parents have certain sensitivities,” Kane says. “And because we’re a legal spectacle, the way we decided to deal with it was through the long-term care homes.”

Already this season, Marcie was defending a long-term care worker (Jully Black) who was accused of infecting a resident with the virus. But there are still many non-COVID plots. Other episodes focused on a man accused of killing an off-duty officer in self-defense, and a woman from Africville’s historically Black community who faces life in prison.

What is missing, however, is anything taken out of the Nova Scotia mass shooting that took place in April 2020, while the writers were on hiatus. Kane had previously told reporters that he had planned a plot in which a shooting took place at the office prompted by intimate partner violence, but discarded the idea after the real-life shooting took place.

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Season 3 also welcomes new character Michelle, played by former Trickster star Crystle Lighting. Michelle is the ex-wife of Mi’kmaq First Nations member Doug (Brandon Oakes). “I’m a big fan of Brandon’s work,” Lightning says. “He’s a friend of mine, so it was really nice to work with him and bounce back from each other.”

Diggstown’s mix of hit plots and diverse casting has proven a success at audiences beyond our borders. As the first Canadian drama series to feature a black Canadian woman as its main character, the show was picked up by streaming platform BET + and traditional network Fox in the United States.

“I pressured myself in season 1, and certainly in season 2, but since then I’ve freed myself from such pressure,” says Antoine of playing the important role.

“I think for a long time I had this idea that I had to tell the story of every black Canadian woman in this particular character, and I felt that if I didn’t deliver, I would leave my community. And what ultimately happened is that I went into a manic crazy mode about it.

“Now I’m just approaching Marcie as just trying to tell the story of this woman Floyd created to the best of my ability,” she says. “I hope this kind of story and picture on Canadian television is well received. I gravitate to stories that focus on human rights, identity issues, racial issues, political issues, and characters that portray real people. So I hope to bring that to Marcie Diggs in Diggstown. ”

Diggstown airs Wednesdays on CBC and streams on CBC Gem.

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