Tricia Black on the Fun of Causing Trouble on Pretty Hard Cases

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It doesn’t seem to matter how great the work that Guns and Gangs detectives Sam Wazowski (Meredith MacNeill) and Kelly Duff (Adrienne C. Moore) is, they can’t seem to get any respect from homicide detectives Tara Swallows (Tricia Black) and Dustin Chase (Miguel Rivas). Unfortunately for Sam and Kelly, that continues in this week’s episode, “Bug Spray,” where they set off on an impromptu road trip to cottage country in a last-ditch effort to find their suspected Coyote drug kingpin.

To get some more insight into just what Swallows may have against Sam and Kelly, The TV Junkies recently spoke to Black. They shared with us how they became a part of Pretty Hard Cases, how they and Rivas interpreted the Swallows and Chase dynamic and made it their own, and what it’s like playing Sam and Kelly’s nemesis. Black also shared their reaction to being nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Guest Performance, Comedy for their role as Swallows on Pretty Hard Cases. Already a CSA winner for their work in the indie web series Band Ladies, Black has also appeared on Baroness Von Sketch and Kim’s Convenience.

The TV Junkies: First off, I want to say congratulations on your CSA nomination. It was so well-deserved and I was so happy to see your name listed. What did it feel like to hear that news?

Tricia Black: Thank you! It was pretty shocking. It was great to be in a category with Amanda Brugel and Kim Coates, who were also from the show, throw in my friend Ben Beauchemin (Kim’s Convenience), and also you have Michael Bublé (JANN)? It’s kind of crazy, but I feel really honored to be recognized for the work on Pretty Hard Cases. Swallows is a really fun character. 

TTVJ: I agree, Swallows is a great character. How did the opportunity to become a part of Pretty Hard Cases come about?
TB: It was an audition at the height of COVID and one of my first online Zoom auditions. That was odd, in a different way, because you have to get used to performing on a computer. I knew the show was going to be great and big. I read the role of Swallows and knew it was a great character, but it was the opposite of what I had been doing on stage. The audition process was great and when I got the role I found out my partner would be Miguel. I knew him from being in comedy and I had done some Baroness with Meredith before. So it was a really amazing opportunity.

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TTVJ: You mention that you had already known Miguel, and Swallows and Chase do have a very specific dynamic. How did you two work on creating that, both with each other and then with the writers?
TB: After reading the script, and in the first episode where we meet Swallows and Chase, it seemed like we were the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of homicide detectives. They think they are all that and just that they are the best. For us, we love each other and have so much care and respect for each other, that we thought we were the best to do this. It’s partially in the script, but it’s partially Miguel and I on the day finding fun stuff between the two of us. We have a great time!

TTVJ: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about Swallows’ signature “frowny face”. How did that come about? Are those just your natural skills?
TB: I think in the script it is just something like “Swallows doesn’t know who this person is.” It happens every time somebody says their name to Swallows, too. The frowny face just came out in my audition and isn’t something I ever realized I could do. I thank Pretty Hard Cases for bringing the frowny face out of me. It’s funny because I don’t even think I knew I was doing it. [laughs] It’s such a funny thing when you’re acting and you find something that you don’t even realize you did.

I also didn’t realize I did it until the show aired. I kind of knew because after the first episode I filmed, Sherry and Tassie said “the frowny face”, but I don’t know that it was a specific choice I made. It must’ve been, but in my mind, I don’t think I even knew it went down that low. It’s an ongoing joke of how to do the frowny face with the production team.

TTVJ: You brought up how Swallows never remembers anyone’s name. Do you think it’s something specific against Sam and Kelly, or are they just like that with everyone? Have you and Miguel created any kind of backstory there?
TB: Being homicide detectives, I think Swallow and Chase are very arrogant. They are so high-status and their heads are so far in the clouds that they think they are the best. I think it’s more Swallows, with Chase just along for the ride. He’s a bit of the sidekick, even though we are 100 percent partners. It’s a little rare because you’re used to seeing the man more in charge but here it’s flipped.

When it comes to Sam and Kelly, it’s just “we’re homicide detectives. What are you?” I don’t know that it’s necessarily that Swallows doesn’t know their name, it’s more that “I don’t want to and I don’t care to. These are people I’m better than and just have to deal with every once and awhile.” In terms of backstory, it’s just “we’re better than you” and that’s where it lands. If you’re the same status or higher, then I think Swallows would bring the apple to the teacher and is a bit of a brown-noser.

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TTVJ: While Swallows is a bit of a nemesis of Sam and Kelly, what’s it like getting to work opposite of Meredith and Adrienne?
TB: They are both incredible and so wonderful! What’s so lovely with that show, especially with our characters that are coming for funny stuff, is that we get to play a lot. Meredith is just one of the warmest people. We are both from the East Coast so when we get together our accents come out. [laughs] Adrienne is so wonderful to work with. She’s so talented and has so much experience in the industry. She’s also warm and funny. They are both just lovely to work with. I couldn’t ask for a better set, cast, or crew. It’s one of the best shows I’ve ever been on. Everyone is so wonderful and I love it so much.

TTVJ: Along the lines of the crew and everyone behind the scenes, what’s it’s like working on a show with the Cameron sisters and Sherry?
TB: They are incredible. Tassie, Amy, and Sherry are so welcoming when you come on set. They come and say “hi” right away and let you find the character, too. You get some places where it has to be specific, but they let us play a lot. There’s just an amazing crew and everyone has a great time.

TTVJ: With only a few episodes left to go this season, is there anything you can preview about what’s still to come this season?
TB: I will say that in the next few episodes you will get a little more Swallows and Chase. You get to see a bit of a different side of Swallows that’s interesting. When you believe that you’re such a high-status person, sometimes that can bite you in the butt a bit, and you have to ask for help from those you look down upon. You find that you might be looking up soon. There’s some fun stuff for Swallows and Chase that’s coming up.

TTVJ: Outside of Pretty Hard Cases, do you have any other projects we should keep an eye out for?
TB: Everything I filmed is coming out in late 2022. I do have a cartoon coming out in Summer 2022 called Summer Memories. I’m the lead on that and it’s super cute and fun. I’m also at Second City right now until April doing live comedy six nights a week.

Pretty Hard Cases Season 2 airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem.