Any Haligonian watching the CBC legal drama Diggstown will instantly find the setting familiar, and for good reason. The show is filmed right here in Halifax Regional Municipality.
Diggstown, which recently released its second season, centres around Marcie Diggs: a hotshot corporate lawyer who begins working in a Halifax legal aid clinic while grappling with the suicide of her beloved aunt.
A truly Nova Scotian production
The show’s creator and writer Floyd Kane is no stranger to Nova Scotia. He grew up in East Preston and attended law school at Dalhousie University.
“I thought it would be really cool to write a show about the lawyers who deal with people who don’t have lots of money and who are extremely vulnerable to the weight of the system,” Kane says.
A lifelong writer, Kane has used Diggstown to combine his passion for law and storytelling. The show started out as an idea he had about an east coast cop show with a Black female lead. Then, a friend of his in the film industry approached him with the opportunity to create a legal show. After speaking with some friends from law school who had worked as legal aid lawyers, Kane decided to set his story in a legal aid office in downtown Halifax.
Each episode tackles a different set of cases the legal aid team has to work on, often reflecting events in their own personal lives. Kane draws inspiration from real-life legal cases and strives to represent several Halifax communities and histories.
“I’m trying to be as inclusive as possible. I always want, on some level, for you to find the humanity in everybody, even if they’re terrible,” he says. “And so, the struggle for me is wanting to give everybody a moment to shine. It’s tough. It’s a really hard show to put together.”
Last year, the show made history for having the first Black Canadian female as lead character in a drama series. Kane says that although representation is improving in the film industry, there is still a need to see more lead actors of colour in Canadian television.
“Personally, I think it’s fantastic that CBC is allowing us to make a show with a fully realized Black female at the front of it,” Kane says. “She’s not number two, she’s number one on the call sheet.”
Vinessa Antione, the actress who plays Marcie Diggs, says that it has been her favorite role in her career. Previously, Antoine has held roles in several well-known TV shows, including Being Erica and General Hospital.
“This role has allowed me to do multiple things at once,” Antoine says. “The hope as an artist or an actor is to be able to show range of your work, but also be able to tackle certain issues within the work and hold up a mirror to society and have people look at themselves. This is a possibility that Marcie Diggs is able to give me.”
Stacey Farber stars alongside Antoine, playing a legal aid lawyer named Pam MacLean. Before Diggstown, Farber appeared in Degrassi, Schitt’s Creek and Grace and Frankie, among other shows.
“What I think Floyd wanted to explore in season two was a little more emotional depth with the characters,” Farber says when asked what to expect from the show’s latest season. “I think he succeeded in writing storylines that provide viewers with that. I think we get to see their home lives more, certainly with Pam, and you learn a bit more about personal relationships. We’ve established the characters and set up their world in season one, so with season two, we can start to go deeper and hopefully be entertained by more personal stories.”
Farber says she enjoys playing Pam, who “despite coming from wealth, always defends the underdog.”
The cast spent the summer of 2019 in Nova Scotia filming their second season. One of the opening credit scenes shows Antoine running into the water at Martinique Beach, a surfboard tucked under her arm. She says the surfing scenes were the most difficult for her, especially as filming ran later into the summer.
“The first scene where I’m surfing, it was actually the last day and I had a fever of 102,” Antoine says. “It was the very last day of shooting. Everybody had gone back home. It was really cold, but it’s funny that that’s the first scene you see because it’s super happy.”
Both Antoine and Farber said they thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the province.
“Halifax is a really beautiful place to live and I hope everyone feels grateful to be there. I certainly felt grateful to be there,” Farber says.
Antoine says filming the first season of Diggstown was her “first taste of Nova Scotia.”
“It’s beautiful. Now, granted, I was there in the summer,” she says with a laugh.