Sharron Matthews and Thom Allison Preview Frankie Drake Mysteries “Life is a Cabaret”

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

One of my great joys and privileges in blogging about TV over the last decade has been getting to chat and spend time with the creative talent who bring the shows we love to life, and I spent a lot of time with the Killjoys crew.  Thom Allison is exactly as delightful as you would expect him to be, and this afternoon, I chatted with him about his guest appearance Monday on the next episode of Frankie Drake Mysteries. Co-written by his longtime BFF, series star Sharron Matthews, “Life is a Cabaret” is a Flo-tastic trip into the 1920s LGBTQ underground club scene. I was thrilled to have Matthews on the line with Allison to get the skinny on the super fun episode

The pair have been inseparable for decades, since Matthews found herself in Winnipeg to do a play and Allison stepped in for an unavailable performer. She was 20 and he was 17. They were mad for each other immediately and have paired up ever since in cabaret and stage performances, and even hosted the 2019 CATFCAD Awards, but this is the first time they’ve co-starred onscreen. Matthews had the idea for the episode, and once she got the greenlight, she started writing with Allison in mind.

2019 CAFTCAD Awads

“I knew coming into the fourth season that I really, really wanted to stretch myself and I’ve been writing for my own shows for years. And I was also writing on a show called Mary and Flo on the Go, which is an animated version of me and Rebecca Liddiard, who plays Mary Shaw, solving crimes with female Canadian historical figures from the 1920s,” she explains.

For the episode, Matthews was paired with Keri Ferencz. “She’s been on our writing team since season one. They’re all fantastic writers, but right from the beginning, she really got my character. Every time I read [her scripts], I was like, ‘Oh, this is me. This is me.’ And [I asked her] to write with me … teaching me, in a way, to be a screenwriter. And all of the writers in the writers room [helped],” she recalls.

“We were talking about ideas and I had an idea, and Peter Mitchell, our showrunner, said, ‘Why don’t we play to your strengths? Why don’t we get an LGBT theme over the episode, which is something we haven’t really done yet? Why don’t we finally have you sing after four years of not?’ And I was so excited about it.”

“I just remember when Keri and I started working on the outline, I started to freak out about how am I going to write this? And all I could think was, ‘We have to make the lead character a drag queen.’ We talked about this, as Keri knows Thom, as well. And I know what Thom will say [in the script] … I know what the girls will say as well in my head, but there was just something about bringing Thom into my very first project this way that made it so much easier and peaceful to write. Then once I knew we were doing it, we were actually going to be together in my first episode, it just made sense.”

“We’ve been waiting for years to be able to [do this]. And it was just so amazing to finally be in exactly the same spot in our careers. And this is feasible. I told Pete Mitchell about him after we’d written it. And he was like, ‘Done,’ and they hired Thom the next day.”

In the episode, Allison plays Roger LeBlanc, who’s accused of murder, and the ladies step in to help find the real killer. As Killjoys fans will recall, Pree had no shortage of fabulous outfits, and the costume and makeup crew here do Allison justice in the episode, giving him a fantastic assortment of suits, dresses, wigs, makeup, and jewels, which he slays. all. day.  He and Matthews say hiring him five weeks ahead of production gave the creative team a lot of runway to plan his look.

“There’s a lot dictated by the period, of course, because in the 1920s they were very limited in terms of what they were using for makeup. So we were playing within that realm. The makeup artist was amazing. Once she started applying makeup to my face, [she realized] she could ply tons of it on and it would look natural. She was able to play and go bigger within the bounds of the world and made it personal. Cindy Lou Tache [who did the] wigs knew of me and how I would respond,” he recalls.

“They were coming to me with pictures and [asking how] Thom would feel about [hair, makeup, and costumes] and I offered to give them his phone number. And it was also beautiful because we’re such a family. They wanted to make sure that I was happy as well. Cindy Lou asked how he felt about a blonde wig, and I said. ‘Oh God. I have never met a person who looks better in a blonde wig or blonde hair than Thom.’ All of it was a pretty lengthy discussion and a pretty lengthy plan,” Matthews adds.

“It was really interesting because of all the research they did. Back then, if you weren’t on stage as a drag performer, most, or a great deal, I don’t want to speak to all because I only know what I saw on the Internet, but a great deal of the people … it was a cross dressing kind of look. There wasn’t a lot of makeup, or maybe the people who were making themselves up weren’t willing to go to stores where they could buy the makeup.”

Frankie Drake Mysteries

“So it’s amazing to see Thom on stage looking the way he does, and then seeing in the audience that there are a few gentlemen in sequined dresses with full beards. Everyone looks a little bit rough, which is accurate for the time period.”

One fun wink for the fans finds Allison onscreen with Patrick Garrow, who’s been recurring on Frankie Drake this season, and with whom he worked closely in the final season of Killjoys. “I had run into the fight director, who was also one of our fight directors on Killjoys, and she said. ‘Patrick is doing the fight with you,’” he shares.

“And I just felt such glee because of course the whole end of the fifth season was me and him and Kelly [McCormack] basically in rooms together, laughing our heads off. It was so sweet to see him again in a totally different context, but just as grumpy, Like nothing’s changed and everything is wonderfully the same.”

“I only got to do a couple of scenes with him in the season because he was mostly with Rebecca. But [he put] a lot of thought into everything that we did, which for me, as someone who’s on set every, to see someone coming on and having that amount of care for what you’re doing is really great,” Matthews says.

While Allison and Matthews get to belt out a duet together, their favorite moment was a quiet scene in a jail cell. “I got to watch Thom, who I’ve known since we were 17 and I’ve watched him evolve as an entertainer and an actor and a performer. And I got this amazing chance to just sit there and watch. I just sat there, and looked up at Thom, whose eyes were lit like diamonds. I don’t know how it happened. I told Craig Wright, our DOP, that my eyes never looked like that,” she laughs.

“They were shooting him through the bars. And there was like a 45-minute conversation about lighting his eyes. When you have a light like Thom come to a set, you can’t help but celebrate it. And he was highly celebrated. I was just watching him thinking, ‘My God, we have grown up.’ He was just so spectacular in the scene. It’s like acting with your actual partner in life. It was easy.”

“I remember actually getting teary. We had that moment,” adds Allison. “I also thought it was appropriate, in our first scene together, this monumental moment in a show that Sharron wrote with a part for me in it, that we were in jail and in evening gowns. It just seemed perfect.”

Last year, Allison was recognized by the Canadian Screen Awards for the final season of Killjoys, and with the pandemic protocols, he accepted the award from his living room. “It was the weirdest thing. I [always said], ‘I don’t need the award. I will work the nomination like a full-time job for 20 years,” he laughs.

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s so great [but] there’s a Sutherland in there. I’m not winning this.’”

“So I was so relaxed. I was having dinner. I was literally mid-bite of a pierogi when they said my name. My heart stopped. I was delighted. And I was convinced for about a week that it was a mistake, I was going to get a call saying, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. It was actually anyone but you.’” It was a lovely cherry on the sundae that was Killjoys. Our fans and people who like the show were always so wonderful and warm and it was nice to get to know everyone so to have that happen was a lovely gift.”

Next month, Allison will be guesting on Citytv’s Hudson & Rex. “It’s a very funny episode that takes place during a dog competition and I play Mark, who is the president of the association and the head judge,” he shares. “He has an outfit that is particularly striking. I actually laughed out loud, when they showed it to me, and I said. ‘Yes, absolutely. I will wear the hell out of that.’ It’s a good character.”

Frankie Drake Mysteries

Allison also directed the Stratford @ Home episodes streaming now on YouTube. Matthews has the animated series coming soon (stay tuned), and she just shot a short film that found her in a boxing ring. Next up, she’s hoping for another season of Frankie Drake Mysteries. “I would like to write with one of the other writers and, so I can keep learning and growing. I hope we get another season. Our numbers are now supposedly extremely good.”

Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and CBC Gem. Seasons 1-3 are available to stream on CBC Gem.

Photos Courtesy of Shaftesbury and CAFTCAD.

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