Lauren Lee Smith plays the lead role in CBC’s new detective series Frankie Drake Mysteries, from the producers of Murdoch Mysteries.
The show follows a female private detective in 1920s Toronto, as she tackles cases the police can’t.
The series is filmed in Hamilton and Toronto, and was written and shot in less than a year, something Smith says is almost unheard of for TV show.
Daily Hive spoke with the Canadian actress about her on-screen projects, modern day mysteries and her experiences as a performer.
Smith tells us she was born in Vancouver but only lived here until she was five years old.
“I left very early on. My parents were like weird hippies that travelled the world and brought their children with them. They thought that part of a good education was living in different places. I learned how to pack a suitcase real quick.”
How often do you come back?
I come back quite often. I bought a house out here, in Cultus Lake. My mother lives there. In the summer everyone knows it because of the lake and the waterslides. But I love in the winter, it’s so deserted and quiet. There’s a street close to mine that’s called Sleepy Hollow Drive. There’s this pizza place called Beethoven’s Pizza, that’s been there since I was born. It’s still there and it’s amazing.
Do you spend a lot of time in Vancouver?
I do, just walking around the seawall is amazing. Even on a rainy day, I enjoy it. I feel like if you don’t embrace the rain here you’re kind of screwed. You gotta love it otherwise you’re just going to be miserable.
Filming the Frankie Drake Mysteries
What do you think of Hamilton vs. Vancouver?
I don’t have a favourite, it’s a toss up. But don’t get me wrong, Hamilton is really lovely and we met some great people, but it’s pretty rough. Almost every day that we were shooting there was police tape off. I think that if I didn’t have my 1920s costume on while I was running with a gun, people would be like, “What’s happening?!”
The show’s cast is very diverse, was that a reality in Toronto in the 20s?
We are definitely taking a bit of modern day creative licence, which I am so proud of the show for doing. Not only are the first five leads in our show female, but we’re all different colours, sizes and shapes. It’s something that was true in the 1920s and it’s something that holds true today, acceptance and acceptance of diversity. The more that we can showcase that, the better.
You’ve had to do a lot of stunts in this show, what was that like?
I had to get my motorcycle licence before we started shooting, but I am not an adrenaline junkie. The first day I came home from my lesson I was crying. My instructor told me that he wouldn’t pass me if I didn’t get my speed up. So I put on my big girls pants and I went back the next day and I went faster.
Working with Guillermo del Toro
You’re also in Guillermo del Toro’s new film The Shape of Water, playing Michael Shannon’s wife, how did that come about?
Several years ago, I met Guillermo for a different role in The Strain. Due to a scheduling conflict I had to pull out, I was so heartbroken because I thought I would never get a chance to work with him again. Five years later, I got a call, they couldn’t tell me anything about it other than that Guillermo was asking if I would come shoot for a couple days to play Michael Shannon’s wife.
What was your experience like working with Guillermo del Toro?
He reminded me that he had told me we would work together again at some point. But working with him is just an actor’s dream. He’s a brilliant director who knows exactly what he wants, but he lets you play. You just kind of have to learn to trust him. He’s very much going back to the Pan’s Labyrinth type of storytelling. It’s very much a fantasy, but at the core it’s a love story between a creature and a very peculiar young woman.
Michael Shannon plays a bit of a sadistic character in this film, what was it like playing his wife?
It was terrifying. He’s really intense, probably one of the most intense actors I have ever worked with. He seems to stay in character. Our scenes together are very volatile and very difficult to watch. I make it sound horrible, but it’s actually really exciting to work with an actor like that, you have no idea what to expect.
Becoming an actress
What made you want to pursue a career as an actress?
I decided to pursue a career as an actress when I was seven years old. I watched Labyrinth with David Bowie and that was it for me. As a kid, I saw those worlds, that make believe land and I told my mom I wanted to be an actress. So I did a bunch of theatre growing up, and when I was 17 I moved back to Vancouver and started taking classes.
What was the smartest thing you did in your career?
Coming back from the US. All actors in Vancouver are told that they need to go to LA to work. So I went down for every pilot season and every time I was down there, I kept getting work back in Canada. So I decided to just be okay with [working in Canada] and once I did, everything fell into place.
What would you recommend to someone who wants to succeed as an artist?
You have to have really thick skin. Rejection is a huge part of being any kind of artist. You have to build up that resilience, you also have to want this more than anything. Everything you do is up to someone else. It’s dependent on who hires you.
You can catch Frankie Drake Mysteries on Mondays at 9 pm on CBC, or online at cbc.ca/watch. The Shape of Water premieres December 6, 2017.