Three Pines is based on a Canadian mystery series by Louise Penny about Montreal Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The Amazon Prime adaptation takes on a very sympathetic angle towards the Mohawk people constantly disregarded or terrorised by the local police and RCMP. Sarah Booth plays Officer Yvette Nichol, who tags along with Inspector Gamache’s crew.
I had the privilege of sitting down with Sarah Booth to talk about her career thus far and her experience on the set of Three Pines, which so far has been an impeccable example of Canadian television’s renaissance.
Sarah Booth grew up in a small rural town and didn’t even know acting was a possibility until her high school started an arts program. From there, it was love at first sight, especially when she landed the leading role in her school’s production of Fame. She studied theatre at Dawson College in Montreal and put on shows with other students.
“I loved it. It was three years of just growing up and being with all the theatre kids. We had our wing to the school, and the rest of the college was like, oh, all the weirdo theatre kids are in that wing. We also learned not only how to act but also how to hang lights, run a show stage, and manage. It was beneficial because once we got out of school, we were all kind of like, hey, world, here I am, but no one cares. So, you have to put on your work.”
Sarah emphasises the importance of putting on your own shows and producing your own films to make it happen for yourself. She has a “take creativity into your own hands” approach to this industry. Especially regarding her husband’s work as a producer with his company Mimetic Entertainment Inc. They put out a film together last year called Last Call, a one-take feature about a mental health hotline.
In Three Pines
Q: How would you describe your character, Yvette Nichol?
“In the book, she’s a little more stubborn and rude, takes good advice and puts a spin on it to make it her own. And in the television series, when I first got the audition breakdown, they said, we want her to be a little more eager, awkward, earnest, accident prone. And I hadn’t heard of Louise Penny. So, I did my research, and I was like, oh, this is very different from who she is in the book. So, I had the liberty to create something on my own and put that on tape for them.”
Sarah describes Yvette Nichol as having puppy energy and often bringing comic relief to otherwise heavy topics.
“At first, it was hard because I knew the subject matter was important, and I didn’t want to be offensive. So before certain scenes, I would have a conversation with the actor if I felt an urge in the rehearsal to do something and I didn’t think it was really PC.”
More specifically, Sarah brings up a moment in episode three of Three Pines when the main characters have to investigate an old residential school’s basement covered in markings from students. “And I asked Elle-Máijá’s character, why can’t you read that? And I had that idea of doing that, and then I was like, oh, God, that’s so offensive. But she’s like, no, no, say it. Because, like, this is the stuff we deal with all the time.”
For the most part, Sarah Booth’s character Yvette Nichol takes on that placeholder for the average white cop with no filter and no sensitivity to the Indigenous people they are supposed to protect but end up hurting. Sarah says she had no idea the RCMP’s original purpose was to wrangle and oppress indigenous people before co-star Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Night Raiders) brought it up to her.
Of course, the star of the show, Alfred Molina, is the only non-Canadian actor, and according to Sarah, “He was so open to all suggestions. It’s not his culture. And so, he was so open to the all-Quebec crews throwing some stuff at him.” Sarah also got to work with Canadian acting royalty Tantoo Cardinal, “Oh, she’s fantastic. She’s so great. She’s just so grounded and stoic, but also hilarious and, like, she has a goofy side.”
Three Pines is available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime. The final two episodes will be released Friday, December 23. Be sure to catch up on all the released episodes; it’s not a show you want to miss.