Tag Archives: Chantel Riley

Frankie Drake Mysteries: Lauren Lee Smith reflects on Frankie’s evolution

Anyone who watches television knows the evolution of a series is ongoing. Writers give characters tweaks as they get to know the actors involved. Story arcs change. A secondary character can grow because of on-screen chemistry. In the case of Frankie Drake Mysteries, two showrunners in two years and actress Lauren Lee Smith’s changing look has made the series somewhat uneven.

Now, the program feels as though it truly has found its stride with Peter Mitchell as showrunner, gorgeous opening credits and Frankie’s blonde hair. Throw in the genuine chemistry between Frankie (Smith), Trudy (Chantel Riley), Mary (Rebecca Liddiard) and Flo (Sharron Matthews), and Frankie is revving on all cylinders.

We spoke to Lauren Lee Smith about all of that and more.

Congratulations on Season 3.
Lauren Lee Smith: Thank you. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. I feel like it’s like a whirlwind. I can’t believe where we’re premiering Season 3. It feels like yesterday that we were premiering Season 1. It’s been a quick, a quick three years.

And with that has come change. There’s, there’s Frankie’s hair, the opening credits, and then behind the scenes with Peter Mitchell as the showrunner. What was your reaction to, to having him be named as the showrunner for Season 3?
LLS: Well, we are very fortunate to have Pete come on board. He’s the man, he knows what he’s doing better than anyone in this country. And, and to have him come on board, especially last-minute, we were super fortunate and lucky to have someone of his calibre come on and, and help helm the show.

Does the blonde hair stay through the third season?
LLS: It does. And I think we’ve nailed Frankie’s look. In Season 1 they sort of had this image that someone found and it was with this red hair. Very cool. And we tried it. I’m not naturally a redhead. Maintaining red hair was extremely difficult, especially keeping the style. That made it very difficult for everyone. It was very time consuming for everyone. My hair started to fall out.

So Season 2 we’re like, ‘OK, maybe we’ll try a wig.’ Right. That again added about an hour and a half to my day each day, and you’re already dealing with it a 14-hour day. That’s a lot of extra time to add to a day. And also, we were very limited in terms of how I could move with it, and if you’d be able to see it. It was one of those things where everyone’s like, ‘You know, you’re naturally a blonde. We’d love you as a blonde.’ Why didn’t that, why wasn’t that ever sort of…

Three women stand in a morgue.It sort of goes with the original idea that we had of this character anyway, which is a little bit more of a tomboy, a little bit more ahead of her time, a little bit more androgynous and ready to take on action and not be so girly girl. We tried a few different styles. We, we did a bunch of hair makeup tests and, and then everyone just sort of agreed, wait a minute, I think this is sort of the Frankie, that we all, we all envisioned her to be in the first place.

In the first episode, Frankie is in London. How long did you film there?
LLS: We did two full days in the UK and we took advantage of those two days. They were full days. We were all over the city. It was incredible. It was surreal to shoot at The Savoy. That alone was, I think worth it. We can shoot a lot here in Toronto and the outskirts of Toronto, but I think actually being in London and not having to sort of use green screen and, and, and have those actual locations, just it makes the episodes so, so much bigger.

As a fan of Foyle’s War, when Honeysuckle Weeks’ name jumped out, I was pretty excited. 
LLS: I was so stoked to be getting to work with her. I think she’s incredible. And then I met her on the first day I was just like, ‘Oh my god. Okay. This is amazing.’ She’s so down to earth and so lovely and so talented and such a fun energy to work off of. We had an absolute blast and she got to come over to Toronto for a week and shoot here with us.

This group of women, they’re just so tight now. They get along so well. The show just oozes fun.
LLS: We’re not faking the friendship. We actually are all really tight and we’re all really close and we hang out outside of work and we adore each other and we’re all so different. It’s a natural chemistry that we have in the scenes and the times that we do get to all be there together. You can’t really fake that stuff.

Can you give me a little bit of a teaser into some of the storylines or maybe a major story arc this season?
LLS: We have a really exciting story arc coming up early on in the season where we delve into Frankie’s personal life and she’s thrown for a loop yet again by some personal stuff that she had no idea about and perhaps a new person in her life that she was not aware of. So that’s pretty cool and very, very different. And it’s definitely something that when I read I was like, ‘What? OK, where are we going with this?’ So that’s really exciting. And then we, you know, there’s lots of really fun stuff. Again, we have Wendy Crewson, who plays Nora. There are lots of really interesting beats with that. We have some, we have a few familiar faces who, who will pop up again who we haven’t seen maybe since Season 1, which was really fun.

And again, it’s always interesting incorporating actual people into our show and we definitely do that in Season 3.

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Preview: Frankie Drake Mysteries returns with a change in tone in Season 2

There are changes afoot in Season 2 of Frankie Drake Mysteries both behind and in front of the camera. As its production company, Shaftesbury, and CBC announced earlier this year, James Hurst took over showrunning duties from Cal Coons. Co-creator Michelle Ricci, meanwhile, has moved on pen Hallmark’s Hallie Dean Mystery movies starring Kellie Martin.

Fans will notice changes in front of the camera. As Hurst told me recently, a shift in tone has taken place for the series’ sophomore season. Serious themes will still be addressed, he says, but there will be less heavy storytelling.

Here’s what the CBC has released as an official synopsis for “The Old Switcheroo,” written by co-creator Carol Hay and directed by Ruba Nadda:

In the Season 2 premiere, Frankie (Lauren Lee Smith) learns that her mother Nora (Wendy Crewson) has joined the board of the Royal Ontario Museum, promising to bring an influx of treasures to the museum’s fledgling antiquities collection. Frankie and Trudy (Chantel Riley) investigate a break-in but find nothing’s been stolen. Meanwhile, Flo (Sharron Matthews) and Mary (Rebecca Liddiard) are embroiled in a mystery of their own after discovering a body in the morgue has been intentionally misidentified. 

And here are more observations from me after watching a screener.

Is Nora going legit?
After a lifetime on one side of the law, can Nora exist on the other? It would seem that’s her goal. Though, her promise to bring more treasures to the ROM had me wondering how she’d get them while staying above board. Speaking of the ROM, it’s a stunning backdrop in Monday’s return.

An X Company star drops by
Yes, I still miss Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern’s excellent Second World War drama terribly. The hurt was tempered a bit by getting to see Lara Jean Chorostecki back on my screen. She portrays Marian Hartley, a woman whose past is tied to Frankie’s. As with Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake often drops historical references into its fictional tales. Tonight we hear about Howard Carter and Hiram Bingham III. Learn a little more about them here and here.

Flo and Mary take on their own case
These characters are great together. They’re both quirky and unintentionally funny, a winning combination in my book. Seeing Mary struggle to say a certain French dish and the pair teaming to identify the body in the morgue is a real treat. See if you agree.

An adversary for Frankie is unearthed
I’ve been waiting for someone to seriously challenge Frankie since Episode 1 of Season 1. It arrives Monday in the form of Dark Matter‘s Anthony Lemke. He plays Detective Greyson, a veteran cop who gets under everyone’s skin. Also? Slasher‘s Steve Byers drops in to play Hiram Bingham III.

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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