Exclusive: Sarah Desjardins Talks Impulse

Sarah DesjardinsRecently YouTube released season one of its new series, Impulse, in its entirety on the YouTube Premium. The series follows Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hesson), who during a traumatic encounter with a boy at school (Tanner Stine), discovers that she has the ability to “jump,” or teleport. While dealing with the incident, she must learn how to control her newfound ability. She is helped by her mother’s boyfriend’s daughter, Jenna, played by Sarah Desjardins, and school friend Townes (Daniel Maslany).

Desjardins recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about working on the series, which can be previewed for free on YouTube.

Sarah DesjardinsHow did you first get involved with the show?

SARAH DESJARDINS: I am from Vancouver, so I got a tape request over there. I actually taped for the role of Henry, and they liked me. I remember feeling really good about the tape, but I never heard back. Then about five months later, I heard back.

So, then I went down to L.A., and I had a session with our producers, Dave [Bartis] and Gene [Klein] and everyone over there, and they really liked me, but Maddie Hasson, who plays Henry, is ridiculously talented and amazing. But luckily for me, they liked me enough that they offered me the role of Jenna. So, now I’m Jenna.

Had you read the books or seen Jumper prior to auditioning, or before you started filming?

Our show you could say is based in the Jumper universe. I saw the movie Jumper when I was younger, which Doug [Liman], who is our producer of the show, directed, and he also directed our pilot.

I haven’t read the books, but when I got the audition, I looked up Steven’s books - Steven Gould, who is the author of the series. The third book in the series is called Impulse, but the plot wasn’t similar to the plot of the show, which is why I ended up not reading it. But I believe the idea that they took, was that Impulse the book is about Cent, who is Hayden Christiansen’s character’s daughter. So, I think they took from the book the idea of having a teenager in this situation.

What’s it been like working on a YouTube show? Has that affected the way it’s made? Did you have a different experience working on this show compared to a regular series?

I have actually been getting this question a lot, and I think it’s important that everybody knows how great it is. To be fair, upon getting the job, I wasn’t sure what to expect, it being a YouTube show; it’s the first time that I have worked on one. But it was exactly like working on every other TV series that I have, even more professional.

YouTube is working really hard with their new branding of YouTube Premium, just to up their programming. And we all on Impulse feel really lucky to be involved in that.

And we had a lot of creative freedom. We get to go a lot farther in certain directions than I feel like you would if we were on other networks’ television shows. It was a great experience. They were very open; they let us do a lot of stuff, and it was very professional and legitimate.

How have people responded with the entire season being released at once? How do you think that affects the way the show is received, if it does?

I think, especially with our show, it was handy to have this bingeable strategy, because again, in being really grounded in our show, time passes very slowly. I don’t know the specifics, but I want to say the entire season takes place over like maybe a week. It’s very condensed, and I think that’s great, because when you have the bingeable property, there’re a lot of cliffhangers, but also you just really want to know what happens next, and you don’t have to wait each week. You’re also not forgetting what has just happened if you’re bingeing. You’re not waiting seven days in between, and you have to be like, “Oh yeah, what happened last week? I don’t fully remember.” It just kind of gives everyone the opportunity to be immersed in the world right away and get to know the whole story, which I think is a gift for any storyteller.

Can you talk a bit about working with Maddie?

Sarah DesjardinsMaddie Haddon is ridiculously talented and a sweetheart, and I feel so lucky to get to work with her. 

It’s funny, because our characters, Henry and Jenna, when we meet them both together, they’re kind of opposites. Jenna doesn’t really want Henry cramping her style. She’s kind of got this thing going on her own; she’s been living there since she was a little baby.

And Henry also just kind of wants to be left alone. She doesn’t see any value in trying to make friends with anyone, because her mom is always making her change towns to go to the next guy.

But when the assault happens, it brings them closer together, and the things that make them different end up being what they admire about each other.

As an example, I think Henry really aspires to love and be as giving as Jenna is, and Jenna really aspires to be as independent, confident, and sure of herself as Henry is.

I think what’s great about Maddie and Jenna’s relationship, is we feel very connected off-screen as well. It’s kind of a similar thing where our traits are different, but we really admire certain traits about each other. Those are the things that make us different. So, it makes it incredibly easy to act together and to play these characters together, because we’re already so well connected off-screen.

I just think the world of her, and also everyone on our show is so talented.

Can you talk about working with the special effects? I know a lot was digital, but it seemed like some of it was likely practical too.

For me specifically, I got to see a lot of scenes where the teleporting and effects were being shot, but there’s only a couple for me that I was directly involved in. A good example would be the bathroom, when she had her attack in episode two. I was around for that, and that was really fun.

I haven’t worked with a lot of effects before, so that was a new thing for me. And yeah, a lot of it was practical, especially in that bathroom set with the doors and the windows and the mirrors and everything being cracked. I loved it; it was really great.

Honestly, when you’re in a situation like that, in a scene like that where Jenna is not expecting anything to happen, it makes it easy to act, to be honest, because a lot of it was happening right in front of me. It was actually quite scary the first time I saw it, like the first take, because I had no idea what was going to happen. They told me of course, but I didn’t know to what extent.

But the other sequences, like the trunk and things like that, and the stuff in the water, we just had to imagine, which I thought turned out looking really cool.

It was definitely a mix of practical and special effects, but they always made it in a way that it was quite easy to act against, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I think it looked really great.

Can you talk a little bit about throughout the season how your character has changed?

Sarah DesjardinsI think the biggest trait about Jenna that we don’t even necessarily get to see in the pilot, is that when we meet her, she is big on doing whatever she needs to do to give other people what they need. She just wants to make life easy for everyone she cares about and everyone around her, but that often results in her not really thinking about herself and tending to herself and what she needs.

So, initially in the season when we start, we see her as this maybe stereotypical popular girl. Then the assault takes place, and we see Jenna for who she really is, which is a loving, compassionate, caring person.

She’s also ridiculously smart and nerdy and a bit of a science geek, which I love. I love it; I think it’s great. It’s not what you expect, but it’s very real.

And as she grows she is there for Henry - which Henry fights her on initially, because Henry is not used to this loving compassion, and she doesn’t know what to do with it. But as Henry and Jenna’s relationship evolves, Jenna becomes more comfortable with Henry and ends up confiding in Henry as well. We see that she doesn’t really know what to do for herself. She spends so much time thinking about everybody else, and Henry really encourages her to explore that.

And Jenna ends up in some situations that I don’t want to give away, but as she goes through that, she’s kind of getting an idea of who she might be, and I think she’s a little afraid. She’s also unsure; she doesn’t know. But she confides in Henry more, and we kind of see too that maybe Henry sees it’s about to happen, but by the end of the season, I think we’ve left Jenna in a place where she is ready to just be who she wants to be and be herself. And she’s going to relax; she needs to relax.

So, I’m really excited to see where that leads for Jenna if we get a season two.

Impulse obviously feels different from the movie, but it kind of feels like it could be sort of a superhero-type show, but it’s not; it has a different tone, I guess you could say. Can you talk about that, and if there is a season two, do you know what they’re planning?

What happened with Impulse, what I like about our show, is that it’s very grounded and real. In a way, yes, it’s an origin story in the sense that Henry is trying to figure out what is happening to her. We don’t even take it as being a power immediately. I like that about our show; it’s grounded in the way that if this were to happen in real life, we’re not going to assume immediately that she has a superpower. So, I really like that we dealt with it that way.

And part of what makes the show different also, is how Henry discovers she has this ability through a traumatic event. One of the athletes at school assaults her, so those two things are forever linked. Her teleportation ability is linked to this traumatic event, and she has to learn to hone it and control it.

And that’s what I like most about our show, how we’re not shying away from what happened to Henry, and that it’s kind of what drives our whole season, her overcoming her fear, facing her fear, and in turn figuring out the intricacies of her ability.

And I feel that if we keep going and we get a season two, it will evolve past that and more into the sci-fi world of these jumpers that we’ve gotten the chance to see through season one, and at the very end of the season they kind of intersect with us a little bit. I definitely think we’ll be heading more in that direction and exploring that if a season two is upon us.

Sarah DesjardinsHave you heard anything about if there is a season two coming?

I have not yet. Time will tell. We’re all very hopeful. I will say that we’re all extremely grateful. There are so many hard topics that we tackle in our show, and we did our best. We did our research, and we just wanted all of these people to feel well represented. We’re really happy to see that everyone’s enjoying it so much, and we’re getting positive feedback for tackling those topics. So, we’re hopeful.

Can you describe your character in three words?

Oh my gosh. I don’t know. Okay, I would say compassionate, giving, and determined.

Do you have any other projects coming up that you would like to talk about?

I appreciate you asking that. I don’t have anything coming up right now, but honestly, I’m just so proud with how Impulse has turned out, and I think that’s it’s going to lead to some great stuff. So, I’m really open and just excited for whatever comes next.

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