Private Eyes premieres tonight on Global TV, and we had the chance to chat with stars Jason Priestley and Cindy Sampson on the set of the new PI series. Read our conversation below, and then check out Heather’s preview of the pilot before tuning in tonight at 9pm ET/PT.
Private Eyes is the first time we’ve had a male/female PI duo on Canadian TV, with Toronto playing Toronto. Was that part of the appeal of this series?
Cindy Sampson: Streetcars, CN tower, and all.
Jason Priestley: Yes it was. The series of books that the show is based on are set here in Toronto so we knew we were going to shoot the show here in Toronto. We made the decision early on to not base the show anywhere else and shoot Toronto for Toronto. Toronto is a beautiful, international, multicultural city and a very vibrant, exciting city. Why not show off this city for the awesome city that it is? A lot of other shows come here and try to masquerade this city as other cities but we thought it was a great opportunity to show this city off and not have to try to pretend that it’s somewhere else. And not have to shoot around the CN tower because it’s big.
Cindy: It’s really big.
That’s a difficult one to get rid of.
Cindy: And we get to use locations for the locations they are too. Signage stays the same, the streets we’re shooting on are the same, everything is as it is.
Jason: Let the streetcars roll by and be in the shots. Go to the St. Lawrence Market and go to Kensington Market and do all the cool things that Toronto has and show them off.
Cindy: The islands. People don’t even know the islands exist.
It’s like another world out there too.
Jason: It really is.
Cindy: It’s great! People see Toronto Island, but they don’t see that part of Toronto Island we were shooting in.
Jason: The neighbourhoods out there with all the little hobbit houses, it’s kind of cool.
Can you tell us a bit about the dynamic between your characters — the seasoned PI and the former hockey pro?
Cindy: I am the seasoned PI.
Jason: And Matt Shade was a professional hockey player. The level of professional hockey player he was is in some levels of dispute, but he was an instigator. He was one of those guys who would trip the other players around the ice until they lost their cool. He had a certain level of success in the game because he was one of those guys who was really good at getting under the other player’s skin and anticipating their moves and knowing what they were going to do. He has a certain level of notoriety, certainly in Toronto where hockey is everything.
Cindy: It’s religion.
Jason: If he went to Los Angeles he’d probably be able to walk the streets and no one would give him a second look.
Cindy: But everyone knows who he is in Toronto.
Jason: Which he uses to his advantage, but sometimes it’s a disadvantage as well. When we come into the show, his hockey career is over and he’s looking for what that second act of his life is going to look like. When professional athletes come to the end of their career, they have to find how they’re going to reinvent themselves. What are they going to do for the next 50 years of their lives now that they don’t have sports anymore. He finds his way to Angie Everett through a whole list of circumstances and he decides, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this. Maybe I’ll become a private eye.”
Cindy: Which is infuriating for Angie Everett, because here goes this “flash in the pan, I think I can do anything, Mr. Superstar” thinking he can do my job. Angie’s dad was a cop. She grew up in this whole system, and then they became private investigators and ran the company together. She lived it her entire life and resents the flashy, self-assured, handsome man that walks into her life.
So Angie has the knowledge and Shade has the charisma that makes people want to talk?
Cindy: He opens Angie’s eyes to different ways of approaching old problems.
Shade is also father to a teen daughter.
Jason: Shade has a family, a teenage daughter, and an ex-wife. When we come into the show, he has just taken over primary custody of his daughter.
Cindy: His blind daughter.
Jason: He’s getting used to that whole dynamic.
Cindy: Far cry from Call Me Fitz to this show, huh?
Jason: Yeah, a little different.
No ring-a-ding-dings here.
Jason: No ring-a-ding-ding.
Cindy: Jules would not be fed. She’d be left, abandoned.
She’d have her first martini at 3 months.
Jason: Oh you saw that last season, when we left the baby on top of the car? That was fun. Shade’s a slightly more responsible parent that Fitz was.
Shade has his father and daughter but Angie’s on her own. Do they become like a family to Angie?
Jason: Little bit.
Cindy: Angie basically comes home to her apartment, which is basically upstairs of her office and Everett Investigations, alone all the time. Maybe a glass of wine. That also humanizes Matt Shade, the fact that he has a dad and a daughter that he takes care of. Angie has a soft spot for all of that, seeing him interact with his family and being part of the family.
Jason: It also gives the show a familial centre. There’s the case of the week. There’s murder and intrigue and comedy, but then we also have the heart at the centre of the show, which is the family.
Cindy: The grounding element of it all.
Jason: It’s very important to have that.
Can you tease any of the cases that you’ll tackle in the first season?
Cindy: Speed dating, hockey, novelists.
Jason: Hockey’s the pilot. That’s our way into this world. And there’s the hip hop storyline here in Toronto.
Cindy: With cool guest stars.
Jason: In the hockey episode we had Doug Gilmour. In the hip hop episode we had Kardinal Offishall.
Cindy: In the author episode we have Thomas King, who’s won a couple of Governor General awards.
Jason: It’s been fun to tap into the cultural resources the city has to offer.
Cindy: The people of Toronto.
I’m really looking forward to seeing a female character have the upper hand and mentor a male character.
Cindy: I am the boss, for the record, but we learn a lot from each other. We compliment each other well.
Jason: It’s an interesting dynamic, and a dynamic we’re seeing a lot more in the workplace these days and something that I think should be reflected in television. It’s an important dynamic that’s being explored in society and so it should be explored on television as well.
Cindy: We joke about it in the show, but it is true. Angie’s self sufficient, running her own agency, successful, and fun. Sometimes when you’re the woman in charge, you sacrifice the nurturing, the loving, the funny side. I feel like that’s how women are portrayed a lot of the time, but Angie’s everything. This is really representative of how a woman wants to be seen in real life beyond screen. I’m proud of playing that side of it all.
Would you say your roles are physically taxing at all, or stunt-heavy?
Jason: Not too bad.
Cindy: Mild concussion.
Jason: We only had to shut down production for four days so it’s fine.
Cindy: Five days.
Jason: It’s not dangerous at all on this show.
Cindy: I punch people a lot.
Jason: Macing, punching, knifing.
Cindy: I mace, I punch, I knife.
Are there any special skills you had to learn to play these roles?
Cindy: Patience. I’m joking.
Jason: But that was really just to deal with —
Cindy: — with you. That’s what I meant, I thought that was implied. I have to deal with Jason 17 hours a day (laughs).
Does a relationship develop between Angie and Shade’s daughter, Juliet?
Cindy: I bail her out in an upcoming episode, and we have a good relationship. Her mother’s not present in her life, and I’ve come in as this boss lady, which I think is a good role model for a young woman to have. Her dad works for a woman, and that’s kind of awesome. There’s a bit of admiration there, I believe. As much as there might be fighting and tension between Shade and Angie, there’s definitely a mutual respect and I think they care about each other after a bit.
Does Shade’s family coddle him, or do they keep his ego in check?
Jason: No, they don’t coddle me.
Cindy: Absolutely not.
Jason: There’s no coddling on this show at all. Nobody coddles anyone.
Cindy: There’s none of that.
Jason: Nobody gets out unscathed on this show. The barbs fly fast and furious.
Cindy: Calling you out on your shit on a daily basis. No room for Shade ego.
Jason: Nope, nope.
Cindy: We slice that down every time we see him.
Jason: Oh god, it’s exhausting working on this show.
Cindy: It’s really fun.
Photo Courtesy of Global TV