Frankie Drake Mysteries now in its fourth season on CBC and CBC Gem, follows the madcap adventures of a female private detective working Toronto’s mean streets, circa 1920. Lauren Lee Smith is the brilliant and worldly Frankie. Aided by three dynamic women, played by Chantel Riley, Rebecca Liddiard and Sharron Matthews, Drake is Toronto’s top private investigator. Each woman is driven by intuition, curiosity and desire to see justice done and Frankie shines as the lynchpin to their success. This season, Frankie tackles extraordinary new cases and she has a new look! What She Said’ Anne Brodie spoke with Smith.
The beauty of the series is that each of the women is so well defined. I guess after four years, Frankie is second nature?
It’s interesting. I felt like we hit our stride in season 3, that’s when all the pieces fell into place, started to come to terms of where the characters were going where she was physically her dress, hairstyle so it made sense in Season 3. and running up to season 4, I felt really confident and good. It’s a huge luxury to do series TV and have luckily, longevity and find what works and what doesn’t.
Speaking of hair and makeup, Frankie is now a peroxide blonde, and that’s what women were doing in the twenties. You see it in films, bottle blondes. And the wardrobe! Frankie’s clothes are incredibly both of the era and timeless.
Absolutely. It’s important for me to work with the designers to create the look of the character and going into Season 3, (executive producer) Christine Jennings and costume designer Jenifur Jarvis and I worked months before shooting to find and define Frankie’s look. It’s not clear in the early seasons, and creating a character is and finding the look is important. It can change the way you look, your walk, physicality, so many things. Frankie is timeless, she has a Katharine Hepburn type vibe to her. All the clothes work, it’s pretty cool. I love the idea of taking inspiration from her travels into her clothes. It makes her different.
The modern reference and parallels are a great part of the series’ charm. In episode 2 we learn a “Prince can’t choose an actress” when one visiting Toronto from Eastern Europe does. Also, the Daybreak Girls are clearly early iterations of the Kardashians and influencers. social arbiters.
It’s so true and so relevant, The writers and showrunners have done such a great job of keeping those threads running throughout the seasons and wink at the audience, and makes us say “wait a minute!”. It gives the show a modern twist and absolutely refers to the influencers of Instagram.
Your incredible team of women earns its stripes this season, running circles around their male counterparts to solve cases, they deliver babies, constantly add to their skill sets, a powerful portrait of women.
That’s what I would say I’m most proud of, seeing women in this light, all different types of women, all positive role models for girls and young women. That makes me really proud. I was really looking for something coming to the series. When I started I was a new mom to a one-year-old daughter and was happy to know that she could sit down one day and watch the show and be proud. She’s four and a half now and she has seen snip[pets of the show and she understands that I play Frankie Drake. It means so much to create quality family entertainment. It’s so important in these times.
There were female detectives in the past, long before you’d think it was socially acceptable. Did you research any, or strictly focus on the work of the writers?
We started to research but the original creators had this character that they created, an iconic Indiana Jones type, set in the 20s. I think everything was about finding this character. She’s become the result of the writers and myself, the hair and makeup and designers, producers, and directors coming together and collaboratively figuring out her as her own person.
So you get to bring your input?
im very fortunate to have had a relationship with Shaftesbury and everyone is open and accepting of my input, if things felt wrong, and I needed to talk, everyone is so great. I’m so lucky.
I learned that there were plenty of criminal organisations in Toronto in the twenties – the Reds, bootleggers, Cosa Nostra, quite enough to keep a girl busy.
It’s fascinating to learn about it. We shot a lot of the season in Hamilton and learned that there were a lot of gangs out there as well as in Toronto, and the underground clubs. It makes the show really interesting. We shoot all the exteriors in Hamilton, Guelph and Cambridge, where there are no highrises. In Toronto, it’s harder to find locations.
Well, I do think the historic Toronto landscape drawings are fantastic, rather beautiful.
I was taken by surprise by how beautiful they are, I only see them when I watch the show!
Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 pm(9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem