As a student at Crofton House and Little Flower Academy, Vancouver native Stefanie von Pfetten never imagined she’d find herself in the back of a Toronto police cruiser. Or that her early fascination with psychology would lead to her wandering the wards of a Los Angeles psych unit.
It’s all in preparation for her star turn in Cracked, CBC’s newest drama, debuting this fall.
Von Pfetten plays forensic psychiatrist Dr. Daniella Ridley, who is paired up with Aidan Black, an unstable cop (David Sutcliffe of Gilmour Girls, Private Practice), and tasked with solving complex psychological crimes.
The concept comes courtesy of former Toronto SWAT team officer Calum de Hartog, and Tracey Forbes (Flashpoint, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and promises to be “a very human show,” according to von Pfetten.
“It really gets into the personal lives of the main characters, Aidan and Daniella,” says the actress. “My theories are voodoo to him, so it’s combative, in a healthy way. What goes on with them remains to be seen.”
Aidan has had a psychotic break and the story of his recovery runs parallel to the challenge of solving difficult cases. “It’s dark because we’re dealing with mental illness, and we definitely don’t want to stigmatize, or criminalize it,” says von Pfetten.
When she shot the pilot, the actress was coached by a psychiatrist and listened to real 911 calls. This month von Pfetten is going on ride-alongs with the Toronto Police, and working side-by-side with a forensic psychiatrist to better prepare for the role.
But it won’t all be serious. “There’s a lot of humour in there, too. Homicide detectives have to have a sense of humour when they’re seeing fatalities every day… There are ramifications to doing this job, and Tracey’s done a great job adding humour to the writing.”
Von Pfetten is looking forward to the cross-country drive from Vancouver to her new place in Toronto with her “amazing, patient and wonderful” husband and two dogs. Dogs are her other passion: von Pfetten’s twitter profile (stefanievon) describes her as an “actress, humanitarian, dog-rescuer, art-lover.” With the housing crisis going on in L.A., and many people giving up family pets, the actress decided to start a group that takes animals from death row and places them in foster homes. Von Pfetten and her husband have fostered over 26 dogs, retraining them and preparing them for permanent adoption.
Von Pfetten is best known for her role as Cpt. Marcia Case on TV’s Battlestar Galactica, but has worked steadily in TV movies, series (The L Word, NCIS) and feature films (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, 40 Days and 40 Nights). Playing a series lead is new for the actress. “To be with a character day in and day out for half a year and watch that character evolve, to try to interpret what the writer has written... I know it’s going to be challenging. That’s what I’m walking into.”
Von Pfetten initially resisted the pull toward acting. Her more traditional parents pushed for a university education; Von Pfetten studied art history in Vienna, got an internship at Sotheby’s, and studied for three years. “[But I] couldn’t get acting out of my head.”
After acting for 14 years and telling her parents not to worry, von Pfetten feels that with her leading role in Cracked, all her hared work has paid off.
“A couple of times I wondered if I should just stop,” she admits. “But now I can say, ‘I told you so!’”