Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill are no strangers to CBC. White’s most recent project for the network was as director, executive producer and writer for Little Dog. MacNeill, meanwhile, has just come off five seasons as co-creator, writer, producer and star of Baroness Von Sketch Show. Now the two have paired for one of the most entertaining new series on the network, Pretty Hard Cases.
Debuting Wednesday at 9 p.m. on CBC, MacNeill stars as Sam Waszowski, a guns and gangs detective—and single mom—who finds herself teamed with drug squad detective Kelly Duff, played by Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is the New Black). Together, the pair are trying to take down a neighbourhood gang dealing drugs and weapons. Co-created by White and Tassie Cameron—who previously worked together on Rookie Blue—Pretty Hard Cases is notable not only for its tone but its focus: telling the stories of two women in their 40s.
We spoke to Sherry White and Meredith MacNeill about the first season of Pretty Hard Cases.
Sherry, can you give me the background on how the show came about? Did you and Tassie Cameron keep in touch over the years and say ‘Let’s try and find something together’?
Sherry White: Tassie and I worked on Rookie Blue together and I was on that from the first season until the end. We got really close during the making of that. We moved on to do other things and there was a couple of times when people approached me with, ‘Could I take on some young writer’s cop show and try and help elevate it.’ Somebody came to Tassie and said it, and I’m like, ‘If there’s a demand for this, why don’t we do this ourselves?’ and really reflect more where we are now in our career. Rookie Blue is more about the early days of these characters and their careers.
This show is more about women who are in their 40s, who had given it all to their career and are finding themselves a little wanting for a full life. They’ve sacrificed a lot of their own personal goals in order to have their career, which is totally where Tassie and I were. We wanted to reflect our friendship and we wanted to reflect where we were in our careers and that sort of, what next? How else do we get a full life? We also wanted to have fun. We wanted it to be more in this sort of Paul Feig kind of… the ways he can celebrate women and be really raw and honest and funny about whatever situation they’re in, and I think we accomplished that with the show.
Meredith, did Sherry or Tassie come forward and say, ‘Hey, listen, we’ve got this character for you.’ How did you end up playing the role of Sam?
Meredith MacNeill: I was approached by Sherry and Tassie for the role, so I didn’t have to audition. When I was talking to Sherry about the role, I remember the absolute shock and pleasure and being completely thrilled.
How did you decide how you were going to play Sam? Did you have to learn how to rein her in a little bit?
MM: I was really fortunate to have Sherry and Tassie, who knew my work from Baroness. Actually, there was a lot of freedom on the floor. When I got the part, we talked a lot about, in terms of the physicality and the part, and the part was really on the page. I didn’t have to deviate much from that. In terms of feeling free to do whatever I wanted to bring to it, Sherry and Tassie, I would say, they were my rein-ers. Sherry directed some episodes and because she knew my work so well and we had such a great trust I’d be like, ‘I’m going to do this.’ And she’s like, ‘Great. Do it.’ In terms of reining in my physicality, Baroness and Pretty Hard Cases are such different shows, so the way it used my physicality was a bit different.
Sherry, how tightly scripted is Pretty Hard Cases?
SW: That was one of the major questions we had going into this because we knew we wanted them to find their way and all that stuff but as everyone knows, improv can get unwieldy and we didn’t want to have 65-minute episodes. We found a really good system where we mostly stuck to the text and certainly, for all the procedural stuff, there’s not a lot of improv room in that. You need just the facts, you need what that content was. In the more personal scenes, there was a lot more play and we would always allow for [Meredith] to, once we nailed it, just go. Just do something else if you wanted to play. I would say it was mostly not improvised, but definitely, enough to bring a special flavour that Meredith and Adrienne would bring themselves.
The relationship between Sam and her son is fascinating. Can you talk about how complicated this relationship is going to be as we see this first season roll out?
MM: It’s going to be extremely complicated. Sam is desperate for attention and the love and respect of her son. I’m a single mom and my daughter’s only 10 and I’m starting to feel like she would rather be with her friends. So imagine that amplified. And then Percy [Hynes White] is incredible to play opposite of. We had good chemistry as well, so we were finding a lot about the relationship as it was going. One of Sam’s big storylines for the show is her relationship with her son. It gets pretty exciting.
SW: And again, because loneliness is a theme in this show, there is nothing more lonely than being a single mother about to be an empty nester.
MM: I was so grateful because it’s been my therapy because it’s going to happen to me. I used to call Sherry and sometimes I’d just start crying at the thought of it.
Sherry, what can we expect to see in Season 1?
SW: The core of the series is Sam and Kelly building a friendship, finding a friendship despite their differences and relying on each other, and finding this common ground as they are working together. They’re dealing with the main neighbourhood gang. But then, through that, they have personal stories that develop and challenge their professional life and vice versa. It’s a lot of fun. I think every episode brings a lot of laughs and also it can get pretty sad sometimes.
Pretty Hard Cases airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of CBC.