After three seasons as The Listener‘s paramedic with a psychic secret, Toby (Craig Olejnik) learns what it really means to be a fish out of water in Wednesday’s season four opener: a Torontonian in Vancouver.
In the episode, Toby and Michelle (Lauren Lee Smith) are sent to the IIB’s west coast branch to help prevent a bomb threat in the city, “probably because of their 100% solve rate” Olejnik joked.
The actors aren’t out of place in the city, though – the Vancouver shoot was something of a homecoming for both. Olejnik has lived in Vancouver and is an investor in local bar/art studio Raw Canvas, while Smith is a native Vancouverite and still has family here.
Additional British Columbia content includes guest stars Jewel Staite — as Toby’s ex-girlfriend who holds the key to the case — and Justin Chatwin.
The rest of season four will take place, as usual, in Toronto, though much of the season is being shot on location in Hamilton at least partially for tax credit reasons. Olejnik says that gives the show a grittier feel and allows for less office, more action.
For Michelle, that action translates to taking down suspects with her bare hands. For Toby, well …
“Toby is a little looser this year because he’s getting some action – he’s in a relationship,” joked Olejnik. “It’s chilled him out a little bit. He’s dusted off the cobwebs and everything still works. That lends itself to his life being in more balance. He has a job, he has a girlfriend besides Oz.”
As Smith explained, “everyone is fully aware of what Toby does in the IIB so it frees us up to focus on each case as opposed to the B storyline we’ve had to do in previous seasons, explaining how we know what we know.”
“I think he’s so comfortable that he forgets that he does something differently than anyone else,” said Olejnik, who sees the upside in his character’s freedom and a downside to the lowered caution. “It’s become so much of who he is and he’s so much a part of their team that he’s just as normal as anyone else.”
Toby’s developing comfort with his powers has mirrored Olejnik’s own developing comfort with the character. “I’m definitely getting more comfortable being a lead on a TV show and I think that translates to my ability to inhabit the character better. When I was first starting out on the show it was overwhelming because you never knew what was around the next corner.”
“A week ago I got to a new place with the character that I’d never gotten to before, a new sense of his voice and a sense of ease. It’s very hard to describe, very intangible, but it was like going home.”
Smith, who joined the cast in season two, feels that “every season lets you be a bit bolder and take more risks and come into it with a bit more ease.”
The show itself has evolved away from its psychic paramedic roots to become more of a police procedural. With Toby’s secret weapon and that resulting 100% solve rate, the tension of each episode has to come from something other than will they or won’t they solve the case.
Smith points to the more complex cases as Toby’s secret has become less of a secret and therefore less of a plot point. Olejnik adds that people watch for the characters, who over time are further developed separately and in their relationships with each other.
Neither actor sees much of a will they or won’t they tension in the friendship between Toby and Michelle, either, believing there is no romantic future for the two.
“I think it’s nice that the writers haven’t gone there,” said Smith. “It’s so rare that they don’t.”
The Listener season four premieres Wednesday, May 29 on CTV.