Imagine this: you’ve just created a brand-new show all about two detectives, Guns and Gangs’ rule following, straight-laced Sam and Narcotics’ Kelly Duff, who plays things a little more loose. Now it’s up to you to cast the perfect leads to bring your new action-packed series to life, with the chemistry and friendship between Sam and Kelly driving the entire thing. Who do you pick?
For Tassie Cameron and Sherry White, the creators of Pretty Hard Cases, the answer all along was to cast Meredith MacNeill (Baroness von Sketch Show) as Sam and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange is the New Black) as Kelly. Together they bring to life these true action heroes by day who are wrestling with loneliness, dysfunctional families and screwed-up love lives at night. The friendship the two women find with each other will help them balance it all out when the series premieres Wednesday, February 3 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem.
MacNeill and Moore recently spoke with The TV Junkies about the instant chemistry that they had from the moment they met, as well as why they were so eager to join Pretty Hard Cases. After both finding success with ensemble shows, the two also shared what it means for each to have a chance to lead a series. They also preview a little of what viewers can expect to see when the show takes a look inward at each of their character’s personal lives.
The TV Junkies: I was so excited when I heard you both had signed on for this show! What specifically drew each of you to this show and these roles?
Adrienne C. Moore: It was Meredith. I enjoyed the script and reading it, and I enjoyed the idea of being the lead of the show. I enjoyed the topic and it’s so timely now, but it was literally when I met Meredith that I knew I wanted to work with her every single day. When you’re working on a series you have to take that in effect, and we were with each other every single day.
Meredith MacNeill: We had our own song! We were in it together, and it’s true, I was the same. When I met Adrienne I was like, ‘Yep! Let’s go!’
TTVJ: In just watching one episode I already really love the chemistry between you two. Was that there from the start?
MM: We tell this story a lot, but we got to read together. I was supposed to wait for Adrienne upstairs, but I really wanted to go down and talk to her. Amy Cameron [executive producer] helped me sneak away to the cafe and I waited for Adrienne. I lost my mind when she sat down and we just started talking. We talked so long the producers had to come get us.
AM: We connected on who we were as people and right into our backstories. By the time we went upstairs to play it was literally that, to the point that the people from the casting office had to yell at us to keep it down.
MM: We got in trouble!
AM: We did, we got in trouble in our 40s, and we loved it! [laughs]
TTVJ: Tassie and Sherry have both had a lot of successful shows. What was it like working with them to build this project and these characters?
MM: Personally, I’ve been a big fan of the Cameron sisters and Sherry White for a long time. How could you not be? Their work is tried and true, and they have such a great reputation for being so generous and wonderful. And they are! I don’t think I’ve ever met creators that were so open to constant conversation. It was an incredible opportunity. I was surprised, shocked, and thrilled that they asked me to do it. I felt like a kid and was so thrilled. The opportunity to work with such generous souls, I just don’t know how many times you’re going to meet that.
AM: I echo all of that and just want to add that the entire process with them was very collaborative. We talked about how we all wanted to make this show. The fact that they are so generous to open the conversation to us is the greatest gift. Any artist will tell you that being able to be a part of creating the tone of a show and having your writers be so supportive of your input is a huge gift. A huge gift!
TTVJ: You’ve both been a part of some very successful shows before, but they were both shows that were very much ensemble-based. What’s it like to be out front and center leading this one?
MM: Maybe because of the way the scripts were written, or Tassie and Sherry’s energy, or the way Adrienne and I work, it still had quite an ensemble feel. I also was so terrified to think that I was leading a show, but the way the process was with the other cast members and crew made it have an ensemble feel.
AM: Yes, you have to establish that these two women are forces coming together, but it’s important to acknowledge what those forces are individually. The relationships we foster through other characters on the show help do that. I was excited to work with Karen Robinson, Dean McDermott, Tara Strong, Al Mukadam, Katie Douglas, and Percy Hynes White. There’s so much amazing talent that led to these two forces coming together, and it gave me that ensemble feel. It was such a dynamic group of people, and by the end of the season we felt that we had all worked to create this tone. My past work as part of an ensemble helped foster that belief and that narrative that it’s everyone that’s making this.
TTVJ: You mention the rest of the cast, and it’s a very talented cast for sure. I mean how can one beat Karen Robinson?
AM: Her facial expressions alone!
MM: When we had scenes with Karen we knew we got to relax. Sometimes when you’re working with that level of talent and that level of humour, with Karen I’d start to see her go, and in my mind I’d think, ‘oh yeah, that’s how you do it.’ There’s something in the second episode that happens where she corpsed us both.
TTVJ: It looks like in addition to seeing these two characters on the job, we also may start to delve into aspects of their personal lives. What do these women have going on outside of their work?
AM: Kelly’s mantra is “to serve and protect her community”. She is classic and cool. The rules evolve as they need to be for her and she’s not so structured. She’s a complicated being and has trust issues. There’re so many moments in the season where that trust is compromised and questioned with her old partner (Tony Nappo). He is under investigation for police brutality, and we start bringing in these concepts that we’re facing in today’s world with law and order. Is it really by any means necessary?
You see that personal thread unfold and as far as relationships, it’s hard when you have a high-demanding career to be in a relationship. So she keeps things casual until she realizes, ‘Do I really want this to be casual?’ She’s forced to face whether she’s ready to trust and look at her past relationships some. You see her as a cop in all her glory, but you also see what she struggles with.
MM: Wazowski is obsessed with Kelly’s love life, but so am I. One is Meredith, but two, is that my character wants love so bad in her life, but it’s all falling apart around her so she looks to Kelly. I personally was obsessed that it got to the point where if I wasn’t in the scene, I’d just show up on set behind the camera to watch Kelly’s story unfold.
AM: She literally did show up on set one time to watch a scene between myself and my love interest.
MM: I will let you know that I was there for three hours! It’s weird because I know how television works, but I was like ‘I wonder what’s going to happen next?’ I know what happens next, I’m in it and have a script, but I was still hooked. I think if the audience is even a tenth as hooked as I am then we’re set.
Sam’s emotional story revolves around her grappling with loneliness. Like Kelly, she’s top of her game and very good at her job, but because of that, her personal life has been compromised. She doesn’t have a lover, but it mostly revolves around my teenage son, played by the brilliant Percy Hynes White.
Pretty Hard Cases premieres Wednesday, February 3 at 9 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem.