Frankie Drake Mysteries may be set in 1920s Toronto, but its representation of female characters is far from out-dated. Frankie Drake (Lauren Lee Smith) and Trudy Clarke (Chantel Riley) are both smart, tough, ambitious, complicated women, so it comes as no surprise that the women they choose to work with are just as nuanced.
Enter Flo, played by actress and cabaret star Sharron Matthews, a morgue attendant with a no-holds-barred attitude. “She’s sassy, and she’s a bit fearless,” says Matthews to The TV Junkies when asked how she infuses her cabaret flair into the character.
In fact, it’s Matthews’ cabaret background that offered real insight into how she could relate to Flo. “I didn’t start cabaret in earnest until I was 35 years old,” says Matthews. “I already had a full theatre, TV and film career before I dedicated myself to it because I was so passionate about it. With Flo, she didn’t start going to medical school until she was in her 40s, because her husband died in the war. So I get someone later in life finding a new passion and dedicating themselves to it fully.”
The process of getting the role of Flo wasn’t easy for Matthews. When her agent approached her about the part Matthews was in New York City performing her show Girl Crush at 54 Below. When Matthews said she didn’t have time, her agent insisted she at least read the part. “Some characters you read and you go, ‘I can play that.’ Then there are some characters you read and say, ‘Oh, that’s me,’” she reveals. “I literally put my suitcase in the middle of the smallest hotel room in the world, I put a toaster container on top of it, I leaned my iPhone on it, and did a self-tape.”
She was still in New York City when the producers called back asking her to fly to Toronto to read for Flo. Determined to make it work, Matthews’ agent recorded a clip from a recent guest role she’d filmed in the series Taken and sent it to the producers. After that, the role was hers. “I think it was meant to be,” says Matthews.
As viewers, we’re still getting to know Flo, as much of her story this season has been about getting out into the world to join in on the adventure. “It felt like Frankie was drawing Flo out of the morgue and out of mourning,” says Matthews. “She decided she had another passion, but that passion also led her to being very singular and alone. Frankie is dragging her into life, she’s being pulled into more and more friendships.”
In “Out of Focus,” Flo had a chance to bond with Mary (Rebecca Liddiard), and offer some frank advice about her personal life while they searched for a missing dead body. It became a defining moment for Flo in the series. “What you learn about Flo, you see through her actions, and through the way she talks to Mary,” says Matthews. “We discovered this great comedic partnership. They’re very different, but they really fit together. I think they saw that and they wrote a little bit more in the episode for us too.”
Matthews says the chemistry between Flo and Mary was something they discovered near the end of shooting Season 1, but it’s something she hopes they can explore further if the series is renewed for a second season.
As for this week’s episode, “The Pilot”, expect to see Flo both in and out of the morgue as she helps Frankie solve a case around an attempted child kidnapping.
What would you like to see more of if Frankie Drake Mysteries gets another season? Are you a fan of Matthews’ Flo? Sound off in the comments below.
Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays 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.