All posts by A.R. Wilson

A.R. Wilson has been interviewing actors, writers and musicians for over 20 years. In addition to TV-Eh, her work has appeared in Curve, ROCKRGRL, Sound On Sight and Digital Journal. A native of Detroit, she grew up watching Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant on CBC, which led to a lifelong love of Canadian television. Her perpetual New Year's resolution is to become fluent in French.

Crystal Balint brings music and morality to The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

As all actors know, auditioning can be a heartbreaking experience. You connect with a character, feel you’re perfect for the part, knock it out of the park in the casting session … and then get told you’re not what the project is looking for.

So, it’s natural to develop coping mechanisms, especially if, like actress Crystal Balint, you’ve been working in Canadian and American television for more than 17 years.

“I tend to keep a little bit of distance from characters—even if I fall in love with them—because you just never know,” she says. “But this was one I couldn’t help but fall in love with right out of the gate.”

Balint is speaking of jazz pianist and former cryptologist Iris, one of four co-lead characters in the new mystery series The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco. “As soon as I saw the script and read the pages I was sent, I immediately felt I had a connection with Iris,” she says. “I felt this was someone I could bring justice to.”

Luckily, showrunner Michael MacLennan and the series’ other producers agreed, showing great “excitement” and “enthusiasm” for her two auditions. She was exactly what this project was looking for.

In late January, just three weeks after her first reading, Balint landed the part. “I was just thrilled,” she says. “I had been a fan of the original series, so I was really eager to see where we were going to go with this one.”

The show is a spin-off of UK series The Bletchley Circle, which ran for two seasons and focused on four former Second World War codebreakers who solved crimes in their spare time. Last Friday’s premiere episode on Citytv saw original series characters Millie (Rachael Stirling) and Jean (Julie Graham) travel to California to investigate a murder that appears similar to one that occurred in London during the war. Once in the Bay Area, the amateur—but brilliantly skilled—detectives meet up with former U.S. military members Iris and Hailey (Chanelle Peloso), who agree to help them with the case, thus, forming a new circle of sleuths.

Balint, who has previously appeared in The L-Word, Supernatural, The Good Doctor and Mech-X4, phoned from Vancouver to tell us what she loves about Iris, what it was like working with Rachael Stirling and Julie Graham, and what viewers can expect from this new iteration of The Bletchley Circle.

This spin-off features two original cast members, but also two new leads and a brand new setting. How did that play out on set? Did it feel like you were joining an established show or kicking off something brand new? 
Crystal Balint: You know, I think both Julie Graham and Rachael Stirling came in with very open minds and open hearts, and they came in with so much excitement and so much enthusiasm for what we were endeavouring to do with this spin-off. I never got the sense from either of them that there were any sort of hang-ups that they were feeling or any sort of reluctance to try any of the new directions that we were heading. They both came in really open-minded and very supportive to the vision that Michael [MacLennan] had for this particular spin-off of the show.

They, of course, in carrying that torch of The Bletchley Circle storyline for their two characters, worked very closely with Michael and made sure that they thought their storylines had been honoured from the original series. But I didn’t feel in any way that they were stifling or that they weren’t willing to also play. In fact, they were the opposite. They were really eager to explore what might happen to Jean and Millie in America, and they were really excited to do that both with Michael and with me and Chanelle Peloso, and just explore where this goes in a completely different setting. We looked to them for some guidance in some areas, but we were all sort on this fresh new ship with this show. It was really wonderful.

Your character, Iris, introduces Jean and Millie—and the audience—to the Fillmore, the neighbourhood of San Francisco where multiple murders are taking place. Did you do a lot of research into the area?
When I was invited onto the project in January, I had approximately seven weeks to prepare before we went to camera, which was late March. And I’m sort of a history nerd, which is why I was a fan of the original show, so I was really excited and really eager to start digging and learning about both the time period and the women that actually did this job and also the area in which the show takes place. Like I do with a lot of projects, if there is some kind of reference for me to glob onto, I will generally go full hog into that. I will just go as deep as I possibly can.

So I went down to San Francisco for a weekend and sort of hit the pavement and met with people in the Fillmore who were knowledgeable about the history of the [area], particularly in that time period. I also visited the area where the Presidio was and spoke with some individuals there, and I just sort of walked the streets to get an idea of the [places] and of the streets that we mention on the show. Even though, of course, they’re completely different now.

I felt it was really important for me to get a sense of just what that city felt like, because if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, it’s a very vibrant city, and that area has so much life and so much history. I spent a fair bit of time sort of rooting Iris and her family and her experience, so it gave me some foundation when I started to build who she was.

Did you do the same with the history of American codebreakers?
CB: I did, yes. There’s an excellent book written by an author named Liza Mundy called Code Girls that was released sort of serendipitously last fall. It covers in great detail the amount of input that the American female workforce put into the Second World War, once the U.S. joined the war after Pearl Harbor. And even before that, she goes into great detail about codebreaking efforts that were in place that led to this mass explosion once the U.S. entered the war. That’s something that not a lot of people knew about. We knew about Bletchley Park, of course, and that’s being featured in lots of movies and also television shows like The Bletchley Circle, but there has not been a ton of information available to us about what happened on our side of the pond, in the U.S. and Canada.

I think I got about three-quarters of the way through the book before I had to start shooting, but I tried to absorb as much as I could. Not so much the logistics of codebreaking, because I’ll be totally honest, I don’t have a mathematical mind and those who do, I bow down to. It’s an incredibly complex art form, I would say. But I did want to understand what it was like to be a woman in the 40s when it was not something that came every day, the opportunity to really save lives, in a really abstract sense but in a very important sense. And then what it was like to be snatched up out of what you’re expected to do as a woman, asked to carry this incredible task and then released and sort of forgotten about—which is really what we talk a fair bit about in both series of The Bletchley Circle.

Iris is a jazz pianist, and in real life, you’re a singer. Did that shared love of music help you better understand her character?
CB: Yes, absolutely. When I was asked to read for the project, that was another thing that really stuck out for me. It doesn’t happen often in film and TV, at least for me, that there is a crossover. Music is a big part of my life. I’ve been singing since I was quite young, and I play a couple of instruments. I’m not a pianist, but I’ve dabbled. Music, in general, is a big part of my life, so wherever I find any opportunity, it gets me a little bit jazzed up—no pun intended.

It was really lovely to incorporate those elements into breathing life into Iris because music can be very mathematical. Those who do particularly jazz, from my understanding of it—and again I don’t have formal training in it, but from my understanding of jazz and its complexities—there is a very sort of mathematical, rhythmic thing that occurs there. So just me being a fan of music and being a lover of music, it was really nice to be able to just have that be a part of who Iris was.

And we had an incredible composer working on this show. It was just so lovely to have those pieces be, not just a part of Iris’ life, but part of the world that we find these women in. Jazz is sort of like another character in this San Francisco environment. So it really did help me. I listened to a lot of music. I listened to old jazz, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday. Just every time I was in my car driving anywhere, doing any errands, walking, I was listening to jazz, and I was really trying to get that in my body.

What else really drew you to Iris?
CB: I really love Iris’ fortitude. She has a really strong sense of who she is. I wouldn’t say it was rare in that time period for a woman of her ilk, an African American woman living and working in a city like San Francisco, but there is something really grounded about that and really inspiring about that. I think one of the things I loved most about the way she was written—and the way I perceived her to be and I tried to bring to life—is that she had such a strong moral core because she knows exactly who she is, and she’s not willing to budge on that. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have moments of doubt, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t sort of struggle with things, but at the end of the day, I think Iris sleeps well. Because she knows in every day, she ‘s done her best.

That’s why when we meet Iris in that first episode, it really throws her off her game, because she knows what she should do, but then there’s this life that she’s put together, and she knows in her heart of hearts what is required of her and what’s necessary and what her instincts are telling her to do. But she struggles, like all of us, like every person.

I love her love of her family. I mean that’s always an appealing quality when you find characters like that. I call her a lioness. She fights for her family, and through the course of the series, you start to find that she incorporates these other women into that, and realizes that that’s also a part of who she is.

What do you think viewers will most enjoy about this version of the show?
CB: I think what people will enjoy most about this show is that it’s a fun kind of romp. I mean, there’s some serious stuff that we tackle, to be sure. We cover a whole range of serious issues that were taking place in the 50s. You know, the civil rights movement hasn’t quite started yet, but things have happened, and women’s rights are beginning, and gay rights are starting to become a thing, and there is stuff going on with the Cold War—but nothing has quite blossomed yet.

So, what’s lovely about that is that we got this opportunity to play in this environment where there are serious things, but there’s also some life to it. There is life, there is colour. It’s different from the first series, where Britain’s a very different time after the war. There were rations. But there’s just a different energy in San Francisco. So, I think what viewers will really love that this is California in the 50s in this hotbed of change, and it’s colourful and it’s fun and amidst all of this, there’s some great humour. And at the core of it, these fantastic relationships with these women that just grab you. It makes you think about the relationships in your own life. Do I stand up for what I believe in? Do I fight for my people? There’s something lovely about that.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Omnifilm Entertainment

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Preview: The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

When ITV’s The Bletchley Circle premiered in the UK in 2012, it was a clever spin on a British specialty: the period whodunit.

Instead of Sherlock or Father Brown or Detective Foyle outsmarting murderers and villains, we had four female cryptographers who used to work at Bletchley Park. Feeling bored and boxed in by their post-Second World War lives, the women dusted off their code-breaking skills to outwit a London serial killer. Along the way, they also had to outplay many of the men around them—including homicide detectives and their own husbands—who were prevented by secrecy laws from knowing what they did during the war and wanted them to simply go back to who and what they were before the bombs started falling.

Many of those qualities are still present in the new eight-episode, four-mystery spinoff series, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, which premieres on Friday, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv. However, a change of location and some intriguing new characters shake it up enough to make it feel fresh and worthwhile. Set in 1956, three years after the original series ended, sleuthing codebreakers Millie (Rachael Stirling) and Jean (Julie Graham) set off for the Bay Area to investigate a death that has shocking similarities to the murder of a young Bletchley Park colleague in 1942. Once there, they meet up with former American servicemembers Iris (Crystal Balint) and Hailey (Chanelle Peloso) and convince them to help track down who’s responsible for the killings.

Like the women in the original series, Iris and Hailey have struggled to find satisfaction in the post-war era. Jazz pianist and former codebreaker Iris now works in obscurity as a research assistant at Berkeley, while former weapons designer Hailey is desperate to find a new outlet for her mechanical genius. In learning about their lives, viewers also get a look at some of the social issues percolating in 1950s San Francisco. For instance, the first episode, “Presidio”— written by former Bitten executive producer Daegan Fryklind—gives viewers a taste of the historic Fillmore District, an area known both for its bustling jazz scene and for being targeted by various gentrification efforts. In an early scene, Iris’ son sets off to protest a plan to drive African Americans from the neighbourhood, and later, Iris’ former Presidio colleague laments that her Japenese American family was also driven out of the area.

Iris, in particular, breathes new life into the codebreaker conceit of the show, giving viewers a peek into the little-known history of black women in the Signal Intelligence Service. On that front, Calgary-native Balint gives a strong performance as a woman who has much to lose by going along with a couple of Brits who show up in her jazz club one night. Meanwhile, Vancouver-born Peloso is irresistibly plucky as eager go-getter Hailey. And what more can you say about Stirling and Graham? They were great in the first series and they’re great here. Graham is particularly good in a London-set scene where she learns her age and gender mitigate her smarts in the eyes of a young Foreign Service Office agent.

Speaking of London—and of San Francisco, for that matter—this series wasn’t produced in either location. It was filmed in Vancouver. However, there are enough shots of trolleys and Victorian houses to give it a convincing Northern California feel. There’s also a splash more colour and light in the production design when compared to its UK predecessor, highlighting both the change in climate and the contrasting post-war conditions of bomb-riddled London and unscathed San Fransisco.

As for the wisdom of transplanting a British show into an American setting and then shooting it in Canada, showrunner and executive producer Michael MacLennan points out that Canadians are “uniquely qualified” to act as translators of British and American sensibilities. And based on the screeners, he appears to be right. Produced by Omnifilm Entertainment in association with BritBox and World Productions, who made the original, the series retains its British pedigree while shining a light on some infrequently explored—and still painfully relevant—American stories. And it offers up some solid mysteries and compelling female camaraderie along the way.

The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on Citytv.

Images courtesy of Omnifilm

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The Detail’s David Cubitt on Kyle’s “burning” feelings for Stevie

Over the first five episodes of CTV detective series The Detail, Detective Kyle Price (David Cubitt) has had his eye on two people: former girlfriend Stevie (Angela Griffin) and long-time murder suspect Alvin Flowers (Hume Baugh).

Though Kyle loves one and hates the other, he is focused on both because he feels they each got away. Stevie left him without explanation to marry her husband Jono (Matthew Edison), and Flowers eluded arrest for a series of brutal murders—a situation that drove Stevie’s dad, Kyle’s mentor, to take his own life.

Both of these situations come to a head in Sunday’s new episode, “When One Door Closes,” when the body of a woman thought to be Flowers’ latest victim washes up on a local beach. To get us ready for the big episode, veteran actor David Cubitt (Van Helsing, Bates Motel, Medium) joined us by phone to give us some insight into his character and preview where Kyle and Stevie’s relationship may be headed.

How did you become involved with The Detail?
David Cubitt: I had been a fan of the original British show, Scott & Bailey. I loved it. And then I heard that CTV was casting for a show inspired by it, and I was really excited about that. But in the original show, really all the interesting characters were women. All the primary characters were female. But in the Canadian version—I think being sort of the apologists that we are in Canada—we wouldn’t fully do that. So, I had the good fortune of getting one of the male parts that they beefed up a little bit for the Canadian version. And Kyle is a really interesting character, so it’s worked out well.

Was there something about Kyle that you particularly related to or were drawn to right off the bat?
First of all, the show deals with the personal lives of the characters in a way that a lot of procedurals don’t, so that was interesting in and of itself. But Kyle himself has an interesting history that goes back to working with Stevie’s father and a case that was very devastating for the father and for Kyle, who left homicide altogether because of it. And he also has a romantic past with Stevie, and his coming back to her place of work at this homicide division is very complicated.

Kyle and Stevie’s relationship is definitely complex, and he still seems to be pining for her. Is he ever going to be able to move on?
He alludes to the fact that part of the reason he came back was to resolve that flame that’s still sort of burning in him for her. So even though she’s married, he seems to be willing to confront his feelings from the past and to figure out what that is.

As you mentioned, Kyle is also haunted by the Alvin Flowers case. He’s been watching the guy even though he’s been told to stay away from him. Why is that case eating at him so much?
Because he was a serial killer and strung the police along, and they just were never able to pin him down and figure out who it was. And it drove Stevie’s father to suicide, and he was very close with Kyle, so that just wrecked Kyle’s life there for a while. So now when this Brooke Dodson case shows up, with a similar M.O. to the murder scenes from the Alvin Flowers case of the past, it brings all the history back to him.

And all that comes up again in this Sunday’s new episode. What can you hint about that?
I can say that there’s a nice twist at the end as well as going further into Kyle and Stevie’s romantic situation. We go a little deeper there and learn a little bit more about that relationship.

What else can viewers expect in the second half of the season?
We go very deeply into Jack’s [Shenae Grimes-Beech] personal life, which is an absolute mess, a total disaster. And I think it’s really refreshing television to see a cop who has such a complicated personal life holding it together at work and falling apart at home.

What do you look for in an acting role? What piques your interest the most?
Personal storyline mostly. So many roles, especially in a lot of the stuff that I do, are purely procedural where you’re basically just moving the plot along. So, as soon as there’s a serious interest in a personal storyline, then there’s actually something to do as an actor.

TV revivals are everywhere right now. Looking back at all the series you’ve worked on, what one would you most like to see brought back?
I did this really fantastic pilot in New York—well, it probably wasn’t a fantastic pilot because it never got picked up—called Mysteries of 71st Street. It was a Woody Allen-ish quirky couple solving crime kind of inadvertently, and it was really fun. And I also did a show in London called The American Embassy, and that was fantastic, with shooting in London and the political intrigue. Those are two good ones.

The Detail airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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The Detail’s Wendy Crewson on “mysterious” Fiona and the show’s “unapologetically female-focused” approach

Wendy Crewson knows a thing or two about the entertainment industry. Over a four-decade career, the widely-respected actress has appeared in over 130 TV shows and films in both Canada and the U.S., including recent credits Saving Hope, Room and Kodachrome. So when she says the industry is undergoing a major transformation in the way it treats women—both onscreen and behind the scenes—you can believe it’s true.

“I think it’s been a very telling time for women,” she says. “It’s a real sea change.”

And Crewson is proud that her latest project, CTV’s new detective series The Detail, is part of that wave. The series explores the complicated personal and professional lives of three female homicide detectives at Toronto’s Metropolitan Police Service. The Hamilton, Ont., native plays Staff Inspector Fiona Currie, the formidable—and somewhat secretive—boss of crime-solving duo Jack Cooper (Shenae Grimes-Beech) and Stevie Hall (Angela Griffin).

“To have a show like this, where the women, without fanfare, just happen to be the focus of the series makes it very different than most shows,” she says. “It’s not a token female in a male environment, it’s all women with men in the secondary roles, which you never ever see.”

She believes that dynamic offers something new—and necessary—to audiences.

“People really want to see this on their screens now,” she explains.

To prepare us for this Sunday’s new episode, “The Long Walk,” Crewson joined us by phone to tell more about The Detail, give the scoop on what’s coming up for Fiona and talk about the importance of onscreen representation.

We recently spoke with The Detail’s co-showrunners, Ley Lukins and Adam Pettle, and they said they always had you in mind to play Fiona. At what point did this role come on your radar?
Wendy Crewson: Well, I must say that years ago, just after we started Saving Hope, Ilana Frank, our executive producer, who has done a lot of female-led series with Rookie Blue, Saving Hope, and now The Detail, came to me talking about this idea that she had. She said, ‘Doesn’t this sound great?’ and I said, ‘It sounds fantastic. Count me in.’ So I did know that it was on the radar, but a million things can happen between someone being interested in you and the project actually coming to fruition and you actually being offered a role. It can go sideways in a lot of different ways, and I’m so glad that it didn’t, and I’m so glad that we managed to actually get it on the air.

Could you tell us a little bit about makes Fiona tick?
She’s a career professional in a paramilitary organization, so she’s spent a lot of time in a male-dominated world, making her way to the top, which as we know now, is so difficult to do in those male-dominated industries. She really, like Ginger Rogers, had to dance backwards in heels to make it happen. And you don’t have to be tougher than the guys, you just have to be smarter than the guys. I think she’s always taken that professionalism to a different level, and it’s made her into a great leader. And she really wants to make sure, most importantly, that she mentors other females to take those leadership positions. Which is why she is so concerned with and tight with the two younger detectives.

I think the fact that Fiona, Stevie and Jack are all at different stages in their lives and careers is one of the best things about the show. It gives viewers an opportunity to see a wide-ranging mosaic of women’s lives that isn’t available on many shows. Was that something that really appealed to you?
Of course, it’s a great feeling. As we say, representation matters. You can’t be what you can’t see. So until women start seeing themselves in these leadership positions, it’s hard to imagine what that might be like. To have a show like this, where the women, without fanfare, just happen to be the focus of the series makes it very different than most shows. It’s not a token female in a male environment, it’s all women and with men in the secondary roles, which you never ever see. I mean, how many years have I played the girlfriend, or wife, or the sidekick, or secretary to a man’s story? But we are unapologetically female-focused. From Ilana Frank, our executive producer, through Ley Lukins, our showrunner and writer, through several female directors that we’ve had on the show. It’s really been a remarkable experience, and I think the audience is hungry for female-led dramas. Women want to see themselves reflected back in these positions, and they like to see their lives and all the flawed messiness of it, and the compromise of family and work and how difficult it is to support your family and get ahead in your career. People really want to see this on their screens now. I think it’s been a very telling time for women. It’s a real sea change.

Ley and Adam also mentioned that you thought it was important for Fiona to hold back many of the personal details about her life in the early part of the series. Why was that?
I think, like the leaders in any kind of industry, Fiona keeps her cards pretty close to her chest. I think she feels she’s had to do this, in a way, to protect herself in an industry that is ready to sabotage her at every turn. And I think she’s found that the less people in her job know about her and about her life, the better. I think we’ll begin to see more and more, but I like the idea of keeping her out of the fray of what the other two women were going through—the boyfriends, the children, the husband, the affair. That’s all stuff that happens truly in your white-hot years. We get tidbits about things that are happening in her life, but I like keeping her a little mysterious and rolling it out a bit slowly. In the end, it’s more surprising when we start finding out things about her.

Are we going to learn more before the end of the season?
Yes. We start to learn a little more. Of course, she’s divorced. Her ex-husband is with the police force. He’s her superior, which makes things very difficult at work. We see her as boss now, and she’s formidable, but when he comes in, we see all the ways women can be diminished and belittled in a workplace through their superior. So we start to understand her and the way she has to manoeuvre her relationship with her ex-husband and her daughter and how women protect men after divorce because they are the father of their children because they don’t want to disappoint their children. [We also see] the ways in which some men do not always step up in the ways that they need to after divorce, and the way that women cover up for them. And I found that very interesting.

A pathologist, Rita Moretti (Elizabeth Whitmere), hit on Fiona earlier in the season. Does she appear again?
She does! I like the idea of questioning your sexuality at a certain point in your life and seeing, as you change through the years, how challenging the recognition of something like that is in somebody’s life. And I loved the idea that we are looking at that in Fiona, who is very buttoned down, who is not really open to personal change, and looking at how that might affect her life.

You are a vocal advocate of Canadian television. How do you think the industry is faring right now?
I think the domestic industry is still struggling, and I think that as we look to the new methods of broadcasting—as in over the top through Netflix and various organizations like that—I think the government and the CRTC struggle to find the right balance for supporting domestic industry. I mean, Netflix is a broadcaster, no doubt about it, and of course they should be contributing to our domestic industry the same way CTV does and Global and other private networks. It needs to contribute.

You know, we live beside this huge producer of cultural content, and it’s always important to leave some space for our own stories. I mean, this is a communication of storytelling that joins us as a nation, and it needs to be protected. And I will always be a big advocate of that. And as the idea of supporting our industries sort of wanes in popularity, I think it’s very important to keep that voice loud that these stories are meaningful.

And speaking of Canadian TV, you also play Nora on CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries. Are you going to be back for Season 2? 
Yes, I am in Season 2 of Frankie Drake, and I can’t wait!

The Detail airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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The Detail: Co-showrunners Ley Lukins and Adam Pettle on producing the first season and breaking free from Scott & Bailey

Showrunning a TV series is a huge job. In fact, it’s so big that it sometimes requires the help of a friend to pull it off. That was the case for Ley Lukins and Adam Pettle, who acted as co-showrunners during the first season of CTV’s new detective series, The Detail.

“It’s amazing to have a buddy in that job because it’s the job of two people at least,” says Pettle. “But it’s also got to be with someone you not only get along with but whose artistic and creative taste and sensibility are like yours.”

Luckily, that’s just the kind of working relationship Lukins and Pettle have. The pair first hit it off several years ago in the Rookie Blue writers’ room. Then, when Pettle was showrunning Saving Hope, he made sure to hire Lukins because “she’s one of the most phenomenal writers I’ve ever worked with.” So when CTV gave Lukins the green light to put The Detail—an adaptation of Sally Wainwright’s U.K. hit, Scott & Bailey starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharpinto productionit seemed natural to have her co-run the series with Pettle.

“Adam has a lot of experience,” says Lukins. “He’s run other shows, so he was sort of a great teacher for me. This is the first time I’ve ever co-showrun a TV series, so it was a wonderful experience for me to be paired with somebody who I already had a working relationship with and who I already implicitly trusted.”

The Detail, which focuses on the professional and personal lives of three female homicide detectives, is approaching mid-season and picking up steam. Last week, Jack (Shenae Grimes-Beech) confided in Stevie (Angela Griffin) that she’s pregnant with ex-boyfriend Marc’s (Ben Bass) baby, while Stevie and Kyle (David Cubitt) dug into an old, unsolved case. Meanwhile, Fiona (Wendy Crewson) bet on Jack’s interrogation skills to keep a serial killer behind bars and her professional reputation intact.

Ahead of Sunday’s new episode, “Secret Liars,” Lukins and Pettle joined us by phone to discuss the development process for the series, how they worked to distinguish it from Scott & Bailey, and what’s coming up next for the show’s characters.

Ley, you worked for around two years developing The Detail. How did you first become involved with the show?
Ley Lukins: Ilana Frank, one of the executive producers on the project, optioned the rights for the British format, Scott & Bailey. She had been developing it herself previously, so she sort of came to me and needed to secure a writer on it and asked if I would be interested in developing it with her. And I said I absolutely would. I watched the British series and thought it was fantastic, and then we sort of went from there.

Adam was brought in as a co-showrunner after the series was ordered. Did that lead to any changes in the show’s direction? 
LL: We sort of talked through and mapped out where we thought Season 1 could go. Initially, there were two episodes written, and the pilot remained the pilot, and the other episode we moved down the line and instead did an original for Episode 2 to kind of start planting that we were going to be diverging from the original adaptation.

Adam Pettle: Because I have showrunning experience and it was Ley’s show, I feel like I kind of brought different things to the party. I never wanted to take ownership or control and make it into my voice or my thing because Ley had worked for two years in development on it, and it was so obviously her thing. And the whole idea was for me to do a year and then for Ley to run the show on her own.

So Ley would be the sole showrunner for a hypothetical Season 2?
AP: That would be the arrangement, yes. But hopefully, I’ll write on it.

Ley, what was the biggest showrunning lesson you learned during Season 1 that you would bring forward into Season 2?
Honestly, the most valuable thing I learned was that it all comes down to trust. Despite how many balls there are in the air at any given time, everything will get done at the end of the day. You need to trust yourself, trust the team, and most importantly, trust the process.

Is the development process different when a series is an adaptation, as opposed to an original concept?
LL: It’s different in the sense that you already have a sort of roadmap of what the series is and what it looks like. And it’s unique in the sense that, a lot of the time, people will adapt things that are in different languages, and this was already in English, so that was a bit of a challenge. Instead of just taking it from a foreign language and putting it into English, it was sort of more gearing it toward a North American audience.

And, obviously, it comes with the characters. Scott & Bailey have five seasons or five series as they say in Britain, so it basically came down to kind of preserving all the things that everyone loved about the seriesbecause the original series is so phenomenalthen slowly sort of diverting from that and making it into its own thing. The pilot is very similar to the pilot in the original, and then slowly we moved the series in a different direction. We changed up elements of the characters. We added more diversity to the show because that was something that we wanted to do. And we also changed the serialized case. We have lots of original episodes as well.

AP: There are definitely challenges. I think the first one is that we all loved the original show, so there’s, not an intimidation factor, but you don’t want to f**k it up, and you don’t want to write something that everyone thinks is god-awful. And, on the other hand, we wanted to make it our own thing and wanted to make a new original show for Bell [Media]. So we had this great magnum, this great raw material in the original scripts. We were told we could use as much or as little of it as we wanted to, which is amazing. But I think the process is separating yourself from the original material enough so you can create your own thing. And that takes some time.

Let’s talk a bit about the casting. What was it about Shenae Grimes-Beech, Angela Griffin, and Wendy Crewson that made you say, ‘They’re the ones’?
AP: Well, Shenae just is [Jack]. Shenae is a badass. Shenae is super smart. She has an edge but also an amazing sense of humour, and she’s so quick on her feet and also, I think, has lived. I think there’s a lot of actors who would shy away from someone being hungover, someone sleeping in their car for an episode, and Shenae just gets it and loves going there. She’s just an amazing fit, I think she’s brilliant.

And Angela is just a powerhouse actor. The audition search, the net was cast far and wide, and obviously, it’s a big show for Bell, and they didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. I remember seeing Angela’s audition tape from the U.K., and she lights up onscreen.

LL: Ilana Frank is amazingly skilled at casting. She has sort of a preternatural ability for it. And I think the minute Shenae’s tape came in, she knew she wanted Shenae. We were all very excited about Shenae’s audition and felt that she just had something about her that felt very true to who Jack’s character is.

And Wendy was someone who we kind of always had in mind, even in the development process for Fiona. Because she worked with us on Saving Hope and she’s such a force of nature and she’s such a wonderful, amazing actress. It just didn’t seem that anyone else could do that part.

And Angela, there was just this unbelievable competence and warmth about her audition. Stevie is a character that kind of has to be very hard and very soft at the same time. She’s a bit of an iron fist in a velvet glove, and it can very hard to find that balance in people, and Angela had that perfect sort of balance of those two things that really spoke to us when we saw her audition.

The Detail is focused on Jack and Stevie’s relationship, but Fiona is almost a third lead character. Did that present any challenges in the writers’ room?
AP: It’s a balance. The relationship between Jack and Stevie, that potential loss of their relationship and friendship and love affair is kind of what created the spine of the show, so all the stories kind of branched off of that. And then Fiona, Wendy is such an amazing actor who could be the lead of any series, so it was just a matter of fitting that third part of the triangle into the stories. But because she’s their boss, and they’re not all really on the same tier, there’s a power dynamic inherent in their relationship, she fits into the story.

As far as the personal stuff goes, that was more challenging to know what we were going to reveal. In [Scott & Bailey], Jillwho’s our Fiona characterreally in Series 2 and 3, we learn way more about her. But Wendy Crewson really felt that she didn’t want too much personal stuff about Fiona early on because she feels that she wouldn’t reveal it. And being the boss, you’re going to have to play your cards a little closer to your chest. So, the personal stuff was more of a challenge.

But it’s always that balancing act in any room. I love the fact that it’s three women that we were talking about because so often on cop shows it’s skewed the other way. It was such a refreshing dialogue in the writers’ room.

Some of the criminal cases reflect what’s going on in the characters’ personal lives. How did this impact the way you chose cases for the show?
LL: Some cases very fully reflect things that are going on in the characters’ lives. We did try to sprinkle in some cases that maybe weren’t as deeply linked, just so it didn’t become too redundant or too predictable. And we didn’t want it to ever dictate a case too much, in the sense that we were only telling this case to get this character point across. Because wanting to match those two things every time, it can feel inauthentic.

Our writers in the writers’ room also came in with personal experiences or cases that they wanted to investigate because they either had first-hand knowledge or it was research that they had encountered that they felt they could tell a really great story. And so there were times that the mystery of the case trumped character. It was sort of a mixture of the two.

When we spoke to Shenae Grimes-Beech and Angela Griffin, they told us that they loved how much Jack and Stevie supported each other. Was that a theme you were purposely trying to drive home?
LL: Yes, I think that was something both Adam and I were adamant about right out of the gate. We said the primary love story of this show is between these women, and it’s their relationship. It’s not dissimilar to the original, and we wanted to make sure that we preserved that element of it, and when people tuned in, they were going to see women supportive of each other’s successes, who advocated for each other and who always had each other’s backs. Because that’s the way women are.

Can you give us any hints about what to expect in the next few episodes?
AP: The baby being Marc’s comes back into play. And then Stevie and Jono’s relationship is to be tested with the reemergence of Kyle Price.

LL: There’s a very exciting court episode coming up, which I think is a very important episode, and I think it deals with a very important issue that’s in the news a lot. We will get the answers to some of the questions that have been planted earlier in the season. It’s getting good!

And do you already have storylines in mind for Season 2? 
LL: We have lots of ideas for Season 2. I think we left Season 1 off in a really good place that gives lots of opportunities for stories in Season 2. So I’m excited.

AP: There’s definitely a Season 2 that’s well-formed already. So hopefully, we get the chance.

The Detail airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

 

 

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