Erin Karpluk breaks new ground in ‘Wellness’
Erin Karpluk is trying something new with Wellness.
The Being Erica and Holly Hobbie star plays Carrie, the ruthless owner of a trendy but dysfunctional wellness clinic, in the trailer for the Vancouver-shot series. The trailer hit the ’net earlier this month, and while Carrie is reminiscent of comedic roles that Karpluk has rocked in the past, what’s different with this particular project is that it’s her first as a producer.
And if you’re like me and you want to see more of Karpluk working it on camera while getting ’er done as a producer, you’ve got to make the fine folks at the Independent Production Fund (otherwise known as the IPF) sit up and take notice.
The IPF has kick-started some of the most engaging web series of the last five years, including Paranormal Solutions Inc., White Ninja, Parked, and Riftworld Chronicles (starring Karpluk and Tahmoh Penikett), and the funding journey begins with a trailer.
Series creators need to meet a long list of criteria in order to make it past the trailer stage and one step closer to the big prize – full series funding – and one of the major considerations at this point in the calendar is web traffic.
So if you’re intrigued by Wellness, you’ve got to watch the trailer – and if you want it to have a shot at being made, you’ve got to hit that share button.
Wellness was written, directed, and conceived of by Jonathan Williams, the creative force behind Riftworld Chronicles. (You can read my 2015 Westender article about Riftworld Chronicles – featuring an interview with Penikett – here).
Karpluk jumped at the chance to collaborate with Williams again because “whatever he writes, it tends to just fall out of my mouth, and we really jive well together in that half-hour comedy-land,” she says on the phone from Los Angeles.
There’s also the fact that Karpluk is a diehard Goop stan (“I love that Gwyneth Paltrow took the piss out of herself on Saturday Night Live,” she says, referring to Paltrow’s March 10 surprise ‘Weekend Update’ appearance as a Goop manager named Fifer James), and that Wellness positions itself as Goop meets The Office – and this is exactly the kind of comedy that Karpluk wants to put out into the world.
“There’s so much doom and gloom right now, and [Wellness] is the kind of thing that I’m just gravitating towards,” says Karpluk. As Carrie, “I love being sarcastic, and hopefully she’ll make people laugh. That’s my jam: people who eff up and fall on their face a lot. If this were The Office, Carrie would be the Steve Carrell character.”
Karpluk and co. filmed the trailer in February 2019 – and it was, at times, challenging.
First off, it snowed – which never happens in Vancouver. Cast and crew had to adapt to Snowmaggedon.
Right before the shoot, they lost the actor who’d been cast to play the colonic patient, and so Karpluk called upon her childhood friend to take on that particular role. This friend?
“He’s my buddy, Marty,” says Karpluk. “He’s not an actor. He’s never acted a day in his life. His parents were my godparents. Having this big, hockey playing Alberta dude waddling around on set” – waddling, because of the poorly administered colonic – “was very funny.”
There’s that word again: funny. Karpluk utters it a half-dozen times while talking about filming the Wellness trailer. While the material is hella funny, the characters aren’t supposed to know that.
“When you’re doing that kind of comedy, you really have to believe it,” says Karpluk. “There’s a grounded, very rooted seriousness, even though the subject matter is ridiculous, in order to sell the humour. You really have to believe in what it is that you’re saying. In the testimonial part [of the trailer], Viv [Leacock] speaks about Carrie, saying, ‘I wasn’t sure if my part would fit into her hole, but Carrie, she found a way… She made her hole bigger’ – and I’m not going to lie to you, I was having a little bit of a snooze in the other room when Viv was doing this, and the crew laughing is what woke me up, and they kept laughing take after take, and it was just Viv’s character being so serious in that, and not realizing how it sounds.”
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency fans will recognize Leacock as Gripps, a member of the Rowdy 3. In Wellness, Leacock plays a truth-telling sports kinesiologist who states in the trailer that he “is not trained to offer people anal hydrotherapy of any kind.”
“Viv Leacock, he’s incredible,” raves Karpluk. “I’ve not worked with him for over a decade, and he’s very much the first guy that popped into our minds. Not only is he brilliant, and it’s hard to find such strong comedic actors, but he’s so lovely as a person to work with.”
Karpluk has similarly enthusiastic words about co-star Diana Bang (The Interview). “I’d never met Diana before, but the three of us just got on like a house on fire and had so much fun,” says Karpluk. “I’m looking forward to hopefully many more shenanigans with that group.”
As for being a producer, “there are ups and downs to the whole process, and it’s very, very satisfying,” says Karpluk. “It’s nice to be more hands-on and I’ve learned a lot about servicing a show. I did the wardrobe for it. I went out and bought all the uniforms and got the logos. I did craft services. I shuttled people around.”
Karpluk shares in the producing duties with Williamson, as well as with Marc Stephenson and Leah Mallen of Vancouver-based production company All In Pictures.
Want more Wellness? “Right now it’s all about views, likes, and shares,” says Karpluk. “YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. If you like it, share it. Let’s get ’er done.”