In case you haven’t heard yet, Frankie Drake Mysteries is landing at CBC this November. The female-led series was created by Carol Hay and Michelle Ricci, who helped to write and produce a little known Canadian series called Murdoch Mysteries, and shares the crime-solving adventures of Frankie Drake (Lauren Lee Smith) and Trudy Clarke (Chantel Riley).
The series premiere opens with a case that’s personal for Frankie. After a thief steals the pearls from a wealthy woman visiting Toronto, played by Wendy Crewson, they leave behind a particular calling card that points to Frankie as the lead suspect in the crime. She’s forced to team up with an unlikely partner to clear her name.
We’ve already shared why you should tune in to this exciting new Canadian series, but on the off chance you needed more convincing, The TV Junkies caught up with series stars Smith and Riley to talk all things Frankie Drake. They preview the series premiere, discuss why Frankie Drake Mysteries is such a unique series, and share a few hints of what viewers can expect this season.
The TV Junkies: The pilot jumps right into the story, and introduces the characters in a really fun way. What were your thoughts when you first read that script?
Lauren Lee Smith: Yeah, it’s really interesting, it’s a unique way to open a show. To—boom—delve in and give the audience so much, in a sense. Usually it’s a slow burn and the pilot leaves much to the imagination, but we’re already in it. Our agency is established, we see the partnership between Trudy and Frankie, and then we’re right into the personal stuff with Frankie’s past and her history, which is an interesting way to open a show. Hopefully people will respond to that!
On a personal level, I really love this episode. Working with Wendy Crewson was an absolute delight. She’s so much fun, and brings so much energy to the role. It’s a fun episode.
TTVJ: I love how quickly it establishes that Trudy is not a sidekick, she’s not sitting on the sidelines, she’s so intelligent and brings a lot to the partnership. Will we continue to see that through the show?
Chantel Riley: Oh, 100 per cent! It was great to read this script and to see that they made Trudy on the same level as Frankie. It’s not like one is better than the other, they’re both highly intelligent women. Especially being a black woman on television and having that role, is also very important for myself. Being able to see that character be as strong as she is and as courageous as she is was very exciting for me to be able to jump into.
LLS: I love the fact that they’ve created this show where it’s not just two women who are the pioneers of this detective agency, but we are equal partners. We’re in this together—we each have our strengths and each have our weaknesses, but it’s 100 per cent a 50/50 partnership.
CR: No competition. Just women helping each other out, which is great.
TTVJ: We also briefly meet Flo (Sharron Matthews) in this episode, who I’m hoping we’ll see more of.
LLS: You’ll see a lot of Flo, you’ll see a lot of Mary (Rebecca Liddiard), you’ll see Wendy (Grace Lynn Kung). It’s amazing. The first five leads of the show are all women, these strong, powerful women who bring their own expertise to the show, and to their characters. It’s pretty incredible.
TTVJ: There are a lot of shows that when women take the lead and try to be in the “male world” there is a lot of “women can’t do this, women can’t do that.” I find with Frankie Drake Mysteries there hasn’t been a lot of that, and just more of women taking what they have, using it to their advantage, and solving crimes in a way other people can’t.
CR: I think in this sense it’s like, “actions speaks louder than words.” You just do, you don’t really talk about it, you don’t need to. You just get the work done.
LLS: I love that Carol Hay and Michelle Ricci don’t make a point in the show to go, “hey little gal.” It’s because we’re women we can do this, it’s exactly like Chantel was saying—actions speak louder than words. We don’t need to over explain why we can do something, or why we’re as capable as the men. We just are. It’s questioned a little bit by a few of our supporting characters and guest stars, because it is the 1920s and we are female detectives, so we’ll run into some roadblocks. But it’s not a running theme on the show, and we don’t have to bang everyone over the head with, “we’re women and we can do this.” No, we’re women, so we’re just going to do it.
TTVJ: We also meet Ernest Hemingway in the pilot, who I only learned this year worked for the Toronto Star during that time period. Will we see Frankie interact with more historical figures like Hemingway?
LLS: It’s interesting. Ernest Hemingway did work for the Toronto Star before he went off the Paris, and it is fun how the writers have played with actual historical figures throughout the season. We’re going to see a few familiar faces as the season progresses, and obviously those are all spoilers that I can’t yet talk about, but it’s going to be really fun to see who pops up.
TTVJ: This first episode explores a little bit about Frankie’s past as a traveller. Will we learn more throughout the season?
LLS: We definitely get to explore that throughout the season. Frankie has a really interesting past. She grew up with her father, who was a bit of a grifter, and they chased around the country. When he passed away, Frankie went overseas and she joins the war effort, and she was a messenger on the front lines. She traveled throughout Europe, through the Middle East, and she was recruited to become a spy with a specific mission that brought her back to Toronto, which we delve into in one episode in particular. One thing leads to another and that’s the result of how the Frankie Drake Agency was formed.
TTVJ: It strikes me how Frankie Drake is a woman, especially in that time period, that we usually never really get to see on television.
LLS: In my memory, I don’t think we have. I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like this show, showcasing all of these women breaking barriers and doing it in a way that is confident. They really are such strong, independent women, and I’ve yet to see something like that, at least recently.
CR: I know there has been a few detective shows here and there, but I think ours is different because we have so many female leads, which are great. They’re different shades, different sizes, different creeds, and all that stuff. It’s great to put that in the forefront and see the different backgrounds of each individual as well.
TTVJ: How do you think this show will appeal to fans of Murdoch Mysteries?
LLS: Well, we can only hope. Murdoch Mysteries is the most successful Canadian TV show ever. They’re in Season 11, they get more viewers than anyone else, so we would be so lucky if we could get those viewers on board. Like Murdoch, Frankie Drake Mysteries has great storytelling, great characters. I think we have a little bit of something for everyone. I hope that people will stay tuned and Frankie Drake becomes as beloved as Murdoch.
Will you be watching Frankie Drake Mysteries? Sound off in the comments below.
Frankie Drake Mysteries premieres Monday, Nov. 6 at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.