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October 10, 2015

'Living in Your Car' Stars Talk White Collar Crime, Getting to Know Each Other Again

by Annette Bourdeau, posted May 5th 2010 11:28AM

Ever wonder what happens to those fallen white collar criminals when they get out of jail? 'Living in Your Car,' a new comedy from HBO Canada, follows disgraced exec Steve Unger (John Ralston) as he tries to rebuild his life after getting busted for using "creative" accounting practices.

The former business world wunderkind is in for a rude awakening, though. His wife Lori (Ingrid Kavelaars) refuses to let him move back into their mansion, where she lives with their 15-year-old daughter. When he runs out of motel money and his own parents won't even take him in, Steve finds himself living out of his luxury sedan. Don't expect him to learn any lessons on a journey towards self-discovery, though: the show's cheeky tone doesn't allow for any cheesy life lessons.

We caught up with Ralston and Kavelaars to chat about fallen execs, couch surfing and the lasting impression Ralston made on Kavelaars when they first met (...or not).

Did you do any research for your roles? Ingrid, did you read up on the wives of the Lehman Brothers or anything like that?

Oh, the wives! Actually the only research I did was watching women at the gym. It was funny. I would run in and quickly do a workout and look at their hair and makeup. I would find myself walking around Yorkville [upper-class neighborhood in Toronto]. That's the only research I did. I was all about wardrobe. I'm a girl!

No, I didn't sleep in a car! I did very little. Everything's sort of on the page, not to sound too esoteric about it.. We're dealing with a light, kind of satire-ish show here that defies categorization. Steve Unger was this wunderkind who had his MBA at 23. You operate in this world and that's just how things are done. There are certain accounting practices that aren't really suitable but that's what everyone's doing. And his intention was always to grow his company and take everyone else along for the ride, but it just didn't turn out that way. One of the funniest things about the episode is I'm just trying to convince everyone that I really didn't mean to do that on my pathetic journey to get back on top.

Acting can be a tough business. Have either of you ever had to live out of your cars?

Ingrid: No, but I've slept on a lot of couches. I remember I was supposed to stay with a girlfriend in Vancouver for two weeks and I ended up staying for six months. [Laughs] At one point she was like "Honey, I really want to move in with my boyfriend, it's time for you to move out." Bless her heart.

John: I remember I had one of those, too. Then he moved and I came back to town and said, "Oh, so you're over there now!" So I just took the subway to his new place. I had a university degree and I was actually a teacher, and I bartended for years. So I was always good at picking up substitute teaching jobs and bartending gigs.

What do you think really makes your characters tick? Do they have any redeeming qualities?

They're really not bad people. They're very honest and truthful and they don't understand why what they're doing is wrong or selfish or narcissistic. It's just how they think.

I think what's important about the show is that there's a light tone. So I think it makes it a lot easier for the audience to relate. It doesn't get weighed down. It's not a show that explores the meanness of CEOs. I remember laughing so hard reading it and then seeing it when my character has been kicked out of the house. We have a daughter who oddly enough is the only sane one in this whole world.

She's the adult in this situation... my character, on the other hand, is talking about exploring things that she had to give up to live in that house and take care of the daughter. Like figure skating. Or being a chef.

Do we ever see her actually try to pursue figure skating?

She pursues a lot of things. And a lot of people.

So what's the deal with Steve and his car? Why won't he just sell it?

John: His car is part of his identity. He's on his own and he takes this very expensive Incan statue from home to try to hock it for some cash, and ends up developing this very odd relationship with this little thing. He's in his car and he's got his little statue and it's sort of like the Three Amigos. There's order in the world again. So he desperately tries to hold on to these two possessions.

What's the dynamic like on set?

John: We shoot on location. There's no studio. We shot one day in Hamilton [Ontario] in a Portuguese neighbourhood in this little store. It was obviously the hub of the community. And there were people who were not about to not go into this store! But anyways, my point is you can't build that kind of stuff. That store had been established in that neighborhood for decades.

What did the fact that this is an HBO show mean for 'Living in Your Car'?

John: It's quality. You get some great writing. This team is wonderful. You get some top-notch acting, some great directors. There's this new phenomenon of this new kind of half-hour show.

Ingrid: You see networks doing it now, like with 'Modern Family'. It's excellent, and it's a different take on a sitcom.

Have you two ever worked together before? You seem to have a great rapport.

[Both laugh]

Ingrid: Yes we have! It's funny because someone else asked us that question, and I said "Nope," and he said, "Uh, yes we have!" It slipped my mind for a moment. I had a child... my brain is only capable of containing so much. We worked on a Movie of the Week for CTV called 'Jinnah on Crime'. And I did a series in Vancouver called 'Jeremiah' for Showtime and John had a guest spot.

We also discovered we have a mutual friend. So yes, we had sort of crossed paths before.

'Living In Your Car' premieres Friday, May 7 at 9:30 p.m. ET/MT on HBO Canada

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