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The Journal Gazette

  • Ovation Lauren Lee Smith stars in “Frankie Drake Mysteries,” which debuts Saturday on Ovation.

Monday, June 10, 2019 1:00 am

Canadian drama set to make American debut

George Dickie | Zap2it

A stylish drama series that drew critical kudos in its native Canada comes south of the border to make its U.S. debut this week on Ovation.

In “Frankie Drake Mysteries,” premiering Saturday on the cable network, Lauren Lee Smith (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Normal”) stars as the title character, the head of the female-only Drake Private Detectives with her partner, Trudy Clarke (Chantel Riley, “Wynonna Earp”), in 1920s Toronto. Together, this duo use their gender to their advantage as they defy convention and flaunt the law to investigate cases that either police won't touch or that clients can't take to the authorities at all.

The atmospheric series, which premiered in Canada in 2017, was filmed in Toronto and takes advantage of many of the city's vintage exteriors that remain from the 1920s. But much of its storyline springs from the very modern-day theme of women in a male-dominated profession, as Smith explained to a recent gathering of journalists in Pasadena, California.

“It's sort of the basis of our story, in a sense,” the Vancouver native says. “You know, it's these women who, in the early, you know, 1920s are sort of going against all odds and opening up the very first female private detective agency, and doing things that, you know, the women at that time weren't necessarily doing, like working and riding motorcycles, and solving cases and crimes, and shooting guns.”

And toward that end, Smith notes some of the vintage equipment of the time that was used in the making of the series wasn't necessarily cooperative.

“I think the bane of my existence for Season 1 was trying to operate the cars and the motorcycle that we often drove,” Smith says. “It lit on fire at one point. It's when you're supposed to be going forward it would reverse. I think our entire blooper reel is just me screaming and swearing at various vehicles that I had to drive.”

But conversely, she says, the vintage clothing was very instrumental in getting her into character.

“I always say it sort of takes bits of the work out of it for us, in a sense ...,” she says. “It sort of immediately puts you in a different head space and a different zone, which I think is a really cool thing about doing a period piece.”