If North Bay, Ont.’s tourism board is looking for a spokesperson, they should sign up Jerry O’Connell. The veteran actor of such series as The Defenders and Sliders speaks glowingly—and extensively—while discussing his next project, the Canadian original crime series Carter, debuting Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
“It’s a truly Canadian show,” O’Connell says on the line from London, England, where he’s shopping Carter worldwide for Sony Pictures Television. “I’ve worked on a lot of shows in Canada that have pretended to be San Francisco, painted out the Canadian flag and handled American money, but here they actually frame the Canadian flag and we actually use loonies and twonies. I feel like I’m a real ambassador for North Bay at this point.”
The project, created by Garry Campbell (The Kids in the Hall, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil) was filmed in the northern Ontario city—as was fellow Bell Media series Cardinal—and focuses on Harley Carter (O’Connell), an affable Canadian lad who made it big as a detective on the hottest cop show on American television. After a much-publicized meltdown, Harley has returned to his hometown of Bishop, Ont., where he reconnects with childhood friends Sam Shaw (Sydney Poitier-Heartsong) and Dave Leigh (Kristian Bruun). Sam, a veteran cop, quickly finds Harley inserting himself into her investigations while coffee truck owner Dave serves as Harley’s unofficial driver and wingman in some outrageous schemes. Unlike the dark, brooding of Cardinal, Carter is much more lighthearted, especially when Harley and Dave are bumbling their way through a plan to get information on a suspect. And, thanks for Harley’s years of playing a cop on television, he actually helps with investigations, much to Sam’s chagrin.
“I lived in L.A. for about 10 years and had a lot of Canadian friends there and I watched what it did to people,” Campbell says of the genesis of Carter. “You have enough people telling you, ‘You’re a star and everything should revolve around you,’ and you start to believe it. It changes people. I was fascinated with the idea of this Canadian boy who always had this idealized version of what Hollywood was in his head. The procedural element of the show is just gravy. I wanted to deal with a guy who gets away from his roots.”
Harley is far from his roots when viewers tune in to the debut instalment. Harley is basking in being recognized on the beach in Bishop when Sam appears and an awkward reunion follows. But when Harley’s housekeeper-turned guardian of 30 years is accused of murder (check out a photo gallery of Carter‘s cast, including Wynonna Earp‘s Varun Saranga) Harley demands he be included in the investigation. Yes, Harley is somewhat cocky, but what Campbell and his writing team of Larry Bambrick, Jenn Engels and Wil Zmak have created is someone immensely likeable. O’Connell, so long a co-star on series where he’s not the main man, steps into that role and owns it. The chemistry between he, Poiter-Heartsong and Bruun is palpable, especially in one key scene where the characters are relaxing in Muskoka chairs, sipping beer and recalling the old days.
“That was the moment, of all the moments when we kind of said, ‘Oh, we’re doing it. This thing is going to work,'” Campbell recalls. “We cast well. Those guys are amazing. And they’re just decent human beings and it shines through.”
Carter airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.