Carol Hay and Michelle Ricci dish on CBC’s Frankie Drake

To say we were excited to hear about CBC’s newest drama, Frankie Drake, would be an understatement. An original series about a spirited woman working outside of the law in the 1920s as Toronto’s first detective? We were in. Add to that This Life‘s Lauren Lee Smith in the lead role and Murdoch Mysteries‘ writers-producers Carol Hay and Michelle Ricci the creators of it all? Giddy is more like it.

In fact, we were so jazzed to hear about Frankie Drake, we got Hay and Ricci on the phone to talk about the project, which will be in production this summer in and around Toronto.

Congratulations on Frankie Drake. Has it been hard keeping this under wraps?
Both: Yes!

I’m sad you’ve left Murdoch Mysteries but I’m excited about this series. Tell me how the idea came about.
Carol Hay: Back in Season 5 [of Murdoch Mysteries], Michelle and I shared an office and we would be developing Murdoch stories and would say to each other, ‘Well if we ever had a female detective show, we could do that story.’ It was sort of a running joke between us. Two years later we thought, ‘Why don’t we actually do this?’ When it came to our first development pitch, we realized we wanted to jump forward in time. We loved the idea of the 1920s, which was really the first time in modern history where women could live on their own and not go straight from their parents’ house to their husband’s house. We thought this was a fantastic era for the idea of a female detective agency.

It was a bubble of time between two wars and, really, only 10 years between the end of the First World War and The Great Depression. There was this bubble in time when there was this huge optimism and a sense of relief that the war was over. We thought there was this great time for women.

Michelle, can you talk about the female angle?
Michelle Ricci: It’s an opportunity for us to tell a historical story from the female perspective and show what it was like for a woman to live in that time, and a female professional to operate in that time. That gives us the opportunity to go into some different worlds and story angles and really show a new perspective of a historical detective in a fun, mystery-driven adventure tone in a time of great upheaval. There was an immigration ban in 1923 of the Chinese in Canada … there are parallels we can draw in a new, fresh perspective and we’re really excited about it.

Frankie Drake star Lauren Lee Smith

When this news came out, I was reminded of the Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Have you heard of that show?
MR: Actually, we came up with our show before that show. I want that on the record. Our original pitch was a year before that show came out. That’s how long it’s been. We’re aware of that show and have seen it. We think our show is very different. It’s set in the 1920s and that’s about the only similarity and Canada has very different issues from Australia. And our main character is a very different woman.

What is the tone of Frankie Drake?
CH: Murdoch Mysteries is very much about a policeman working to solve cases. Frankie Drake is a detective, so she can do things completely differently. There is a slightly more irreverent tone. It’s certainly not going to be heavy and dark; it’s going to be fun because that’s more of our style and the show we want to write. It’s got more adventure, and because she can work outside of the law Frankie might find herself on the other side of a jail cell a lot more than William Murdoch. She’ll have a different relationship … in a way the police are the antagonists. We’re still developing our stories and aren’t sure how all that will play out.

MR: Irreverent is a good word. And the key thing for her is her moral code, and that will resonate with the audience. That doesn’t mean it aligns with the law. It’s girls getting into trouble and the fun of them trying to get out of it.

Talk about the casting of Lauren Lee Smith. I can picture her in the role already.
MR: We haven’t worked with her a lot so far. We’re really still at early script stage but we’re really looking forward to getting into that. She really loves the scripts and we love her enthusiasm.

CH: The casting of Frankie’s partner, Trudy, will be next.

Frankie Drake will be on CBC’s primetime schedule this fall. What do you think of Frankie Drake based on what we’ve been told? Comment below!

Image courtesy of CBC.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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