Tag Archives: Chantel Riley

CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries ends after four seasons

Frankie Drake Mysteries is riding off into the sunset and will not be returning for Season 5.

The news was announced via Instagram on the stars’ Instagram pages on Sunday.

“We wanted to come on and let you guys know that, before it gets out into the world, that we have not be renewed for a Season 5,” Lauren Lee Smith announced. “We are incredibly disappointed, but we felt that it was really important for us to let you guys know. We are so incredibly grateful for the four seasons that we got to do and I know we all loved making this show.”

“I will miss the laughter that we had,” Chantel Riley said. “We laughed a lot, and that’s something I’m grateful for.”

“We’ve all gone through so many different things during these last four years, and we have all been so there for each other … this whole job was such a gift,” Matthews said.

You can watch the full announcement on Instagram.

“We can confirm that Frankie Drake Mysteries will not be continuing beyond this season,” said Christina Jennings, founder, chairman and CEO of Shaftesbury and Frankie Drake Mysteries executive producer. “We would like to thank the incredible cast and crew, and the fans for all of the love and support over the past four years. We are so proud of this show and look forward to sharing the final two episodes.”

Set in 1920s Toronto, Frankie Drake Mysteries follows the city’s only female private detectives, Frankie Drake and Trudy Clarke, as they take on the cases the police don’t want to touch. In a time of change and hopefulness, their gender is their biggest advantage as they defy expectations and rebel against convention. 

Co-created by Carol Hay and Michelle Ricci, Frankie Drake Mysteries stars Lauren Lee Smith as Frankie Drake, Chantel Riley as Trudy Clarke, Rebecca Liddiard as Mary Shaw and Sharron Matthews as Flo Chakowitz.

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs in the UK, Spain, Brazil, Central and Eastern Europe, Finland, Portugal and New Zealand.

Season 4 of Frankie Drake Mysteries wraps up Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

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Frankie Drake Mysteries: Rebecca Liddiard previews Season 4 and joining the writer’s room

The arrival of Season 4 of Frankie Drake Mysteries brings changes. When viewers tune in this Monday at 9 p.m. on CBC, they’ll notice a couple of things. As the show advances further into the 1920s the wardrobe and hair sported by Frankie (Lauren Lee Smith), Trudy (Chantel Riley), Mary (Rebecca Liddiard) and Flo (Sharron Matthews) are changing to reflect that. So, too, are the characters themselves, with professional advancement for Flo and personal for Trudy, Frankie and Mary.

Changes were afoot behind the scenes on Frankie too, something I learned while speaking to Rebecca Liddiard. She joined the Frankie Drake Mysteries writer’s room in Season 4, which she and I discussed, along with upcoming storylines and the upcoming animated series Mary and Flo: On the Go!

How did COVID-19 affect the filming of Frankie Drake?
Rebecca Liddiard: I actually found, overall, it didn’t really change very much. I’m sure there was a lot more going on behind the scenes, but from our perspective, yeah, we had to wear masks, we had to check in and have our temperature checked every day. There’s a lot more hand sanitizer, but other than that, you know, it seems to me like business as usual. Every once in a while there was a moment of panic. You know, there’s a lot of people in a room or, you know, there’s a lot of, it seems like things are getting relaxed, there are people without masks on, but for the most part, everyone is trying to keep each other safe, no one wanted to get sick. So once we get settled into that, you know, we’re off to the races.

Do you know whether any storylines changed as a result of the pandemic and you filmed outdoors more often than in the studio?
RL:  I do, because I was also a part of the writing team here. I co-wrote an episode with [showrunner] Peter Mitchell, actually.

So I was privy to a few of the changes that were made. It was pretty basic things, like the number of people in the scene had to be reduced. The thinking was, if there were four people in this scene, then there can be three people. If there are three people, then there can be two people. There was a lot more dialogue between two people and the scenes got extended. We also had more recurring characters this year, which seems a bit strange. But when you think about it, it just meant that we could put these actors on hold and ask them not to do other jobs and they were coming in regularly. So we just kind of expanded that core group of people that we had trust with.

Was being part of the writing team on Frankie Drake a result of Mary and Flo: On the Go? Did Mary and Flo: On the Go come first and then the episode?
RL: I had an idea for an episode last season and I spent a couple of weeks coming up with a treatment. I went to Pete and I said, ‘I’ve got an idea, what do I do?’ He said, ‘Give me your idea.’ So I did, and they kind of sat on it for a while. That would have been like August, September, and then during this time, Mary and Flo started developing. So right when we started the writer’s room on Mary and Flo, which was early March, I had just found out that indeed I was going to be joining the writing team on Frankie. Within a week I suddenly found myself being a writer.

Has writing been something that you wanted to do and that you’ve been doing while you’ve been acting?
RL: I’ve always been a writer. Honestly, I never thought it would be something that I would do professionally. If anything I have this kind of dream of maybe getting into directing someday and I never really thought about writing. And then I had this idea for Frankie and it turned out to have some legs and everyone was really excited about it. It was like, ‘Oh, I think I can do this. I know how mysteries work. Surprise, surprise. I’ve only been doing it for four years now.’ It was a good surprise for me. I mean, it was difficult. It was a very steep learning curve, but Pete Mitchell was my co-writer and he was a great mentor and he made it pretty easy. He was very supportive and let me do my thing and solve my own problems. When I got really stuck, he jumped in and got me unstuck. It’s kind of opened up this door that I didn’t realize it was there.

Let’s get into Mary and Flo. You and Sharron co-created this. It is nine episodes of seven minutes each. Is that right?
RL: Yes.

Was it the result of the two of you just kicking around ideas while you were at craft services or just in between takes?
RL: Pretty much just what you described. I mean, on Frankie, Mary and Flo have a habit of going off and doing kind of these sort of side ventures that supplement the story, and which Sharron and I love, and over the years we’ve kind of increasingly made meals at these adventures that will go on and we just thought, ‘You know, we’re kind of joking around, but it would make a really fun cartoon. Like what if these adventures were like proper adventures?’ There’s a third co-creator named Carmen Albano. He was our prop master. He worked on props on Frankie and he came up with the first session of the first images of Mary and Flo.

We finally sat down around this time last year and we’re like, ‘Let’s talk about this what could this be?’ Carmen has created a couple of really successful children’s shows. Sharron and I had all these ideas and Carmen was the one who really helped focus them and helped give us that structure. The three of us made a really, really great team.

What can people expect when they tune in to watch Mary and Flo: On the go?
RL: Each episode, Mary and Flo go on an adventure and in Season 1, we kept it all to Canada. That doesn’t mean they can’t go to other places, we just found lots to do in Canada for this season, and they meet a historical figure. Sometimes it’s a historical figure who’s well-known—for example, we meet Lucy Maud Montgomery in one episode—and sometimes it’s historical figures that are lesser-known, but we would argue equally as important or as influential or exciting to Canadian history and they help this person solve a mystery or solve a problem. Our show is history, mystery, ancestry. So there’s a historical element. There’s always a mystery and there’s always an aspect of helping someone out of a jam and helping them go on their way to be whoever they are going to be.

Can you give me a peek into the Frankie episode you wrote?
RL: I really wanted to write an episode about Martha Graham because I have always been a Martha Graham fan and I just think as a personality, she’s very Frankie. She’s exactly the kind of woman that would fit into this world. I was reading her autobiography and she talks about having to work and perform as a dancer even when you’re really, really sick and how it’s such a difficult life. I just came up with this idea regarding the Spanish flu. So I was like, ‘That would be like a high stakes, super dramatic plot point.’ It was already in the works in the fall, so when everything happened in March …. hopefully it’s not too on the nose. I mean it is impossible to escape, but you know, hopefully, we did a nice job of kind of combining this very topical element but with some more, and deeper rooted, human aspects of the characters in Frankie and the dance world and everything else. Hopefully, it’s not too blunt.

What can you say about Mary’s journey over this fourth season?
RL: I really loved Mary’s story this season. I mean, she’s always so much fun, she is just continuing on her journey of growing up and becoming the woman that she is going to become. Not that Mary is childish in any way, but I think when we first met her in Season 1, she’s sort of naive. She thought she knew what she wanted and she thought she knew what was right and wrong. And over the last three seasons, we’ve seen that change and you seeing her worldview grow and that just continued this season. And I think a few things happened in the season that I don’t think Mary would have been able to handle in Season 1. As an actor, I’m proud of her that she’s doing these things.

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

Images courtesy of CBC.

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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.

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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.

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