Why hasn’t a television show about Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s friendship been made already? That was the question David Hoselton asked himself when he learned the American master magician/escape artist and Sherlock Holmes author were buddies in the early 20th century.
“[Writer and producer] David Titcher was the one who discovered this friendship, that there was the real relationship between these two icons who were interested in the paranormal,” Hoselton says during a press junket in Toronto. “It’s one of those ideas where you say, ‘Yes, of course, great!'” A self-professed sci-fi geek, Hoselton was eager to re-team with longtime friend David Shore (House) when Shaftesbury acquired the rights to create Houdini & Doyle.
Debuting in 2016 on Global, Fox in the U.S. and ITV in the UK, the Canadian co-production stars Stephen Mangan as Doyle, Michael Weston as Harry Houdini and London, Ont., native Rebecca Liddiard as Constable Adelaide Stratton. The 10-part one-hour drama filmed its first eight episodes in Manchester and Liverpool—the locations stood in for turn-of-the-century London—before jetting across the Atlantic to film the last two storylines in Southern Ontario.
Houdini & Doyle is as much about the friendship of the unlikely men—an uncouth American and an upper-crust gent—as it is about the crimes of the week. With Adelaide—the first-ever female constable on the Metropolitan Police Force—as their companion, the duo investigate supernatural goings-on (think ghosts, vampires and other beasts that go bump in the night) in England’s sprawling capital. Those paranormal tales drive the character interaction between two icons of society; who believes in the existence of a space alien, who refutes it … and what side of the fence does Adelaide fall on?
Hoselton admits that, despite the accuracy surrounding the friendship of these two men, history was fudged in favour of story: Houdini and Doyle didn’t meet until 1920, long after the show’s setting of 1901.
“We’re trying to stay true to the nature of the characters,” Shore says. “We take liberties with the timing of Doyle’s wife’s illness but she was sick. The big thing is creating a show that says something and is entertaining.”
Houdini & Doyle will air on Global in 2016.