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.
CBC and NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios, today announced new original drama series LADY DICKS (10×60, Cameron Pictures), starring Meredith MacNeill (Baroness von Sketch Show) and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is The New Black).
Co-created by Tassie Cameron (Mary Kills People, Ten Days in the Valley, Rookie Blue, The Robber Bride) and Sherry White (Little Dog, Frontier, Ten Days in the Valley, Rookie Blue), LADY DICKS is a fun and honest portrayal of two radically different female detectives in their early 40s. Critically-acclaimed director, Holly Dale (Batwoman, Mary Kills People) will direct the premiere episode. The series is currently in pre-production and will begin shooting in Ontario this spring.
The action-packed series follows Guns and Gangs detective, Samantha (MacNeill) and Narcotics detective, Kelly (Moore), who by day are true action heroes in their own particular way: skilled, tough, determined, and ruthless. But by night, they’re both grappling with loneliness, dysfunctional families, screwed-up love lives, and a sense that their professional ambitions may not be totally in line with their personal needs. Their friendship could help to balance each other out, if only they didn’t drive one another utterly insane.
A CBC Original Series, LADY DICKS is produced by Cameron Pictures in association with CBC and NBCUniversal International Studios. The series is created by Sherry White and Tassie Cameron, who also serve as Co-Showrunners. Sherry White, Tassie Cameron, Amy Cameron and Alex Patrick are Executive Producers.
Omnifilm Entertainment has secured the rights to the #1 Canadian and international bestseller, THE BIRTH HOUSE (Penguin Random House Canada)—authored by Ami McKay and inspired by the real-life Scots Bay midwife heroine, Esther Rebecca Steele. Creative team Sherry White (Maudie, Little Dog, Ten Days in the Valley, Frontier) and Kerri MacDonald(Frontier, Little Dog, Republic of Doyle) are on board to develop the television series adaptation.
An arresting portrait of the struggles that women have faced for control of their own bodies, THE BIRTH HOUSE is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter in five generations of Rares. As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of a rural Nova Scotia community through infertility, difficult labours, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom of the old ways that have been entrusted to her. Filled with compelling historic events and surprising detail—childbirth in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion; unconventional relief efforts during the Spanish Flu epidemic in Boston; shared activism between the women’s suffrage movements in Canada, the US and the UK—THE BIRTH HOUSE is an unforgettable tale of women banding together to defend their traditions and create change in a world dominated by the politics of men.
Ami McKay is the author of three internationally bestselling novels—THE BIRTH HOUSE, The Virgin Cure and The Witches of New York, as well as the recent yuletide novella, Half Spent Was the Night. She began her writing career as a freelance journalist, writing and producing radio documentaries for programs such as CBC Radio’s Maritime Magazine, This Morning, OutFront, and The Sunday Edition, as well as NPR’s Soundprint in the United States.
This project is being pitched to potential buyers in the coming weeks.
Life for Tommy “Little Dog” Ross isn’t getting any easier. In fact, it’s looking a lot tougher for him in Season 2. And, honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. That makes it all the more rewarding when he punches his way—literally or figuratively—out of a bad situation.
Returning for Season 2 this Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on CBC, Little Dog picks up moments after the Season 1 finale. Tommy “Little Dog” Ross (Joel Thomas Hynes) was on the run after winning his rematch with Rico “Havoc” St. George (Dwain Murphy). Why? Because that went against Tucker’s (Mary Walsh) wishes. The win also messed up Lowly’s (Stephen Oates) bet against his own brother. The result? Sylvia (Ger Ryan) lost her house.
When we catch up with Tommy, he’s in a bad way. Battered and bruised physically from the showdown with Rico and hurting emotionally thanks to his family turning against him, Tommy pedals into the night and seeks shelter in an old shack. Freezing and frustrated, he lashes out at a bird fluttering overhead and kills it. Shaken, Tommy adopts the now empty bird nest and its egg contents as his own. Finally, this is something he can control and care for and not even a bad canned spam will stop Tommy from mothering the eggs.
Show creator, executive producer Hynes and showrunner, executive producer Sherry White have created something truly special in Little Dog in general and Tommy more specifically. Hynes brings an incredible amount of hurt, longing and vulnerability to Tommy. It’s truly special. Amid the maelstrom of life in the Ross clan, he’s the sensitive centre, a guy who wants to be loved and cared for but gets dumped on at every turn. It doesn’t appear as though things will be getting any easier for Tommy. By the end of Thursday’s return, Tommy is introduced to the child he had with Pamela (Julia Chan), opening a new door for Tommy to stumble through: fatherhood.