Interview on Billy Campbell about Cardinal by Toronto Sun in 2020
At 60, veteran television star Billy Campbell finally landed on the “best job” of his career. And now it’s coming to an end.
Campbell, who stars as the titular detective on CTV’s hit crime drama Cardinal, which returns for its fourth and final season Monday night, got his start 34 years ago with a recurring role on Dynasty. Since then, he has played the hero in Disney’s The Rocketeer and the bad guy opposite Jennifer Lopez (in 2002’s Enough). There have also been parts on The Killing and Helix. But playing the steely John Cardinal in the Canadian Screen Award-winning show is what sticks with him the most.
“It’s been the best role of my career and the one that I was most well-suited for.”
Adapted from Giles Blunt’s popular novels, Campbell, on the line from Norway where he lives with his wife and children, says the reason for ending the series now is simple: They’ve used up all of the storylines from Blunt’s six books.
“We’re working with Giles’ books and we’ve already cannibalized all six of them,” he says. “So nobody really wants to go off the map as far as that’s concerned. Nobody wants to go out in the wilderness without the maps that Giles’ books have provided us because bad things might begin to happen.”
So if Blunt were to bring Cardinal back to solve a new series of cases in book form, might he want to revisit the character again on TV?
“That could work. It would work for me.”
The new season features Campbell and Karine Vanasse, who plays fellow Algonquin Bay detective Lise Delorme, going up against a calculated killer in the frigid northern Ontario town.
“It’s maybe our most tense season,” Campbell says.
With the coronavirus pandemic keeping Campbell grounded in Norway for the foreseeable future, the Virginia-born actor spoke about what’s in store for Cardinal as he tackles what could be his last case.
The third season ended with Cardinal and Delorme on the couch, maybe hinting at something more between the partners.
This season, that feeling that has been unspoken between Cardinal and Delorme no longer has an obstacle — that being Cardinal’s wife. The two of them are able to really for the first time comprehend this thing that’s between them. If you’ve appreciated the growing feelings between Cardinal and Delorme so far, it’s a satisfying season. You’ll be happy with how that’s resolved.
Often it’s the villain that helps make a crime show great. What can you tell us about the antagonist you’ll be facing off against this season?
It’s a separate mystery. You can tune into this season of Cardinal not having watched any of the rest of it and I think you’d be fully intrigued and satisfied. It differs from the other seasons in that they are pursuing this case and this villain while this person is still actively doing bad things. Both Cardinal and Delorme put themselves in mortal danger in ways that they haven’t before.
Cardinal wasn’t just a hit here in Canada, but across the world. What was it like to be part of a show that really changed the game here in this country?
I think it was unlike anything I’ve seen on Canadian television. CTV really hit it out of the park and went outside their box to do this show. I hope that pushes the door open further for more content of this kind.
For couples who have never watched it, we’re all going to have a lot of time on our hands these coming weeks. Make your date-night pitch as why people should tune into Cardinal?
If you like a dark and atmospheric and exciting and tense show that will make your date put their arm around your neck and hug you close, you’ve tuned in to the right show. Plus, if you’ve never watched Cardinal, you can tune into this season and not be lost. Though I’m imagining if you do tune in for this fourth season there’s no way you’ll not want to search out the first three.
Where would you rank the fourth season?
I’d be hard-pressed to say that anything tops the first season. So for me, maybe it goes one, three, four and two. But I haven’t seen the fourth one yet, so I hope it’s right up there with one.