In the upcoming CTV original series, The Spencer Sisters, Lea Thompson and Stacey Farber star as an estranged mother-daughter duo who become partners in a private detective agency. Thompson is Victoria Spencer, an internationally acclaimed, best-selling mystery novelist, and Farber is Darby, a strong-willed former police officer. The lighthearted crime procedural — created by Alan McCullough (Private Eyes, Rookie Blue) and executive produced/showrun by McCullough and Jenn Engels (Sort Of) — brings this unlikely par together despite their very different personalities, sensibilities, and complicated family history.
Ahead of the series premiere, I chatted with Lea Thompson and Stacey Farber about The Spencer Sisters, their characters, and why you’re going to be rooting for this pair of crimefighters who keep getting mistaken for sisters.
Catch a preview of The Spencer Sisters tonight, January 29, 2023, at 10pm ET/7pm PT on CTV ahead of its premiere on Friday, February 10 at 9pm ET/PT. You can also watch it on CTV.ca and the CTV app.
What was it about the roles of Darby and Victoria Spencer that really stood out to both of you?
Stacey: The pilot was so funny while [also] having the traditional detective, procedural crime thing going on. And [for me], playing a cop but also having all the comedic beats of her life falling apart in the first half of the first episode. I thought it would be really fun to play that and go through all of those scenes leading up to the big moment where she returns home to her mom’s house.
Lea: I read a lot of scripts, and usually the parts for women my age are really, really boring and annoying. And if they’re good, they go to someone with an Academy Award or an Emmy, which I have neither — yet. So when I read this part, I thought it was so much fun. It’s kind of an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters that I’ve played. I feel like it’s also channelling my mother, who was really fabulous and overly honest. She liked to look beautiful and wear makeup and nails and jewelry. She’s gone now, so it’s fun for me to channel her. And I always love a mother-daughter story.
They have a strained relationship but within the first two episodes, we see Victoria and Darby find some common ground. What can you share about how their relationship and partnership grow throughout the first season?
Lea: There are a lot of ups and downs.
Stacey: As there are in most mother-daughter relationships. It’s not something that gets wrapped up nicely and put away. There are recurring, deep-rooted issues from the past.
Lea: There is a big reveal at the end about the past, a secret that Victoria didn’t want to tell Darby. It’s like two steps forward, one step back like most relationships are, especially one as close as a mother and her only daughter. It’s a very intense relationship. What’s interesting about this story for me [are the questions], “Can you go home? Can you work with your mother? Can you see each other as equal adults?”
Stacey: Because all the stuff that’s causing tension is from the past and childhood stuff, which is common. But we’re both adults, and we have to put our heads together to solve these crimes. It’s fun watching us figure out how to do that.
Lea: And using our different strengths.
Victoria’s outside-of-the-box thinking and Darby’s ability to look at the full picture are what make them an effective crime-solving duo although nearly everyone around them underestimates their skills. Do they continue to use people doubting them to their advantage?
Lea: I think we do. And that’s typical for women, sadly. People tend to doubt our intelligence and unfortunately, that’s the case a lot [of the time]. Victoria can seem really flighty, and Darby looks so young and petite that you don’t know that she could kick ass.
Stacey: Darby is definitely the grounded one, having worked as a cop. She understands the law and knows when they’re breaking it, which we do in this show. But we also talked about the relationship between us as the mother-daughter thing, and there’s a flip where Darby is the more mature, grounding force. And Victoria is the flightier, more expressive, creative thinker.
Lea: It does flip back and forth as it does in real life.
One thing that I love when watching a TV show or film is when smart women put mediocre men in their place, and I was thrilled to see moments like that on The Spencer Sisters. Although there has been some progress in roles for women and making them more fully realized characters when you come across a moment like this in a script, do you still get a kick out of it?
Lea: Absolutely. I’ve been in Hollywood for a very long time and just even being able to play a flawed woman. Or a mother, there’s so much pressure on being the perfect mother. That’s not possible. So the fact that I get to be as flawed as I am, as honest as I want to be, and selfish, it’s delightful to me. It’s not boring, and it feels more real.
Are there any cases or specific episodes that you’re excited for viewers to see?
Lea: They let me do a little tango. That was fun.
Stacey: Oh yeah. At the vineyard. Then Darby has a love interest that’s introduced later in the season and she has some doubts about this guy, so their relationship becomes a bit of a case for her.
Lea: We have a big fight or two.
Stacey: I’m excited to see those fights.
Lea: It’s hard to fight with you. But it does take a lot of trust. It takes a lot of trust in acting to do a lot of different things. It’s an interesting experience because you’re looking into [your scene partner’s] eyes all day long and it’s a strange thing. You get to read who they are. I’ve been directing mostly for the past eight years, and I missed that experience [of acting].
Images Courtesy of CTV