In The Mix

Dark Angel

Playing an angel of mercy is Caroline Dhavernas’ “dream role.”

Mara Reinstein
  • Maude Chauvin

Caroline Dhavernas never had time to fantasize about becoming an actress.

The daughter of two respected Québecois actors, she started doing dubbing work for a TV production of Babar at age eight. She was on camera three years later. By 21, the Montreal native already had an agent in New York City and started getting regular TV jobs.

Even so, Dhavernas calls starring in Lifetime's Mary Kills People her "dream role." For two seasons she's portrayed Mary Harris, a hard-working, divorced ER physician who gets a rush out of risking career and family for her side gig — delivering lethal drugs to the terminally ill as an angel of mercy.

"I read the script and fell in love with it," recalls Dhavernas. "It was very ballsy, and the subject matter was fantastic. Mary wants to help people, but she needs this business like a heroin addict needs a fix." In the most recent season, the good doctor delves deeper and darker into her illegal work (viewers can catch up on Hulu and other platforms). "Because of the people she bargains with, Mary ends up in all these places she never expected," the actress explains.

Since 1990, Dhavernas has worked in movies and television in Canada and the U.S., appearing in such diverse fare as Hollywoodland, a George Reeves biopic that starred Ben Affleck, and HBO's World War II limited series The Pacific. She recently spent three years as a forensic psychiatrist in NBC's Hannibal.

But when fans approach her, she says, they mostly want to talk about Wonderfalls. The Bryan Fuller–produced series — which starred Dhavernas as a sardonic college grad who hears messages from inanimate objects — was canceled in 2004 by Fox after only four episodes (all 13 episodes subsequently aired elsewhere).

"People loved it with a passion and were so torn when they saw it go away," she says. The bittersweet experience led to an epiphany: "TV is wonderful work and you get to meet great people, but I learned you can give it your all and still never know what's going to happen to a show."

That's why Dhavernas savors her time on the Toronto set of Mary Kills People, which premiered on Canada's Global network. "I love playing a character that's so complex and nuanced and doesn't spend all her time talking about men," she says. "We're all hoping for a season three, that's for sure."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, issue No. 5, 2018