Caroline Dhavernas' last show on TV, the cult favorite Wonderfalls, was killed after just 13 episodes. So, it's not surprising that she wasn't exactly eager to go back to series television.
"It was really too bad because it was such a different and quirky show and the fans loved it," Dhavernas says of the Bryan Fuller-produced series that followed a philosophy graduate working in a gift shop where the wax figurines urge her to help people in need.
Is Off the Map more than Grey's Anatomy in the jungle?
Six years of bit parts in Canadian films and guest roles on crime procedurals passed. Then, while on a beach in Bali, she read the script for Off the Map, a near-surefire hit from the team behind Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. The show was a medical drama set in the South American jungle.
"[Going to Bali] was the first time that I had traveled on my own, for a whole month," she says. "That's also one of the reasons why Off the Map appealed to me, because I was on the beach surrounded by coconuts and sand and ocean. I was reading something that took place exactly in that setting and was like, 'I could do more of this.'"
Not that she wasn't cautious about getting too attached to another TV series: "I haven't been doing much for TV because the 'signing your life away business' always scares me," Dhavernas says. "I knew that I really had to love a project to want to get involved for potentially five years of my life."
Executive produced by Jenna Bans, Betsy Beers and Shonda Rhimes and shot in Hawaii, Off the Map follows three American doctors who venture to South America to work at a clinic with less than hospitable surroundings and a lack of resources. Her character, Lily, signs up for the trip following the death of her fiancé.
Her character's big move is something that the actress could relate to. "It's a fascinating comparison to make because you leave your life — I live in Montreal — you leave everything you know behind to go live in Hawaii, just like they've made the choice. It's a sacrifice to make."
Check out photos of Off the Map
Of course, working on the beach has its perks. "My drive to work in the morning — because I live on the North Shore of Hawaii right now — is pineapple fields and ocean. I don't even have to drive to a studio because our studio is the clinic in the middle of Hawaii.
"I get to surf when I want to, I get to go to the beach for 10 minutes if I have time before going to set," she says.
Nice work if you can get it, right? Even Dhavernas can't believe her good fortune. "One day, we were shooting on a beautiful beach, there was no one around, probably one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and we were paid to play a soccer match with young kids," she says. "I was like, 'This is crazy, this is my job.'"
Off the Map airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on ABC.