Earlier this week, Frankie Drake Mysteries returned to CBC for its second season. We were thrilled to see Steve Byers guest in the premiere as Hiram Bingham, an archaeologist who was useful to Frankie in solving her case, so she returned the favor with an artifact he needed. I chatted with Byers earlier today about coming into the series to play with longtime friends Lauren Lee Smith and Wendy Crewson, and his roles in Shadowhunters and Goalie.
When Byers was pitched the role of Bingham, he immediately sparked to the idea of playing the adventurer. Reuniting with friends Smith, with whom he has co-starred a few times, and Crewson, with whom he co-starred in Season 1 of Slasher, was an added bonus. He also loved working with Ruba Nadda, who joins the series this year as a producer and recurring director.
“I love [Shaftesbury producer] Adam [Haight]. He had sold me on [doing the episode with his pitch of the character]. Bingham is what Indiana Jones’s real story is kind of based on. He’s a treasure hunter. When I actually read it, it wasn’t quite the way I had imagined it but it was still a lot of fun. The fact that I got to reunite with Lauren and Wendy was enough to sell me on it, too.”
“Lauren has such a great energy. Having a number one on a show who has a great energy and wants to be there and doesn’t think they’re above anyone else makes all the difference. This was a great reacquaintance. It was fun and easy. Wendy was such a riot, especially that scene of the ROM.”
“She loves to play with the lines and make them more Nora. She does a great job with it. The scene with Lauren and Wendy was great and that was the day that Adam came in to visit set so we got to have a quick little party.”
“Ruba Nadda is a gangbusters director. She’s so lovely. I think Lauren said about one of the scenes that she and Wendy did one take. It’s an absolute fact. I was there that day when it happened. Ruba is such a confident captain of the ship and it just cruised along. She had the immediate respect of the crew, and people were going home at reasonable hours.”
“It’s just inspiring when you see a woman who comes in and takes control and there’s not a raised tone and there’s no tension. She just knew what the [crew] needed and she gave it to them, and she knew what she wanted and she got it. Just clean and precise and in a nice way. That was awesome and great to see and work with. It was like that every day on set with her. I have a deep respect for her. I’d work with her again in a heartbeat.”
He especially enjoyed a moment where Nadda gave Hiram and Frankie’s first scene a more personal touch. “There’s a little piece in Hiram’s intro scene where we both speak another language, when Frankie talks about going overseas. Ruba had taught us what to say there,” he shares. She said, ‘I think you should say this in Arabic. It would be cool and you would have that little moment of knowing each other.’ I thought that was brilliant. So she taught us that.”
Shadowhunters fans fully embraced Byers earlier this year when he guest starred on the Netflix (worldwide) and Freeform (US) series as Underhill, an openly gay member of the Institute’s security team. He even inspired a few pieces in the line of gear that benefits The Trevor Project. Byers has loved engaging with the fans on Twitter and Instagram.
“When I’ve been interacting with the fandom, I want to give them some light happiness. I think the #Underpants thing is the funniest thing ever. [The Underhill gear] was for charity, so I had to indulge, but it was the most expensive underwear I ever bought in my life,” he laughs.
The series was surprisingly cancelled this spring, with more episodes already filmed and set to air. The cast, including Byers, reconvened this summer to shoot a proper finale, and he hopes the fans will be at peace with the final episodes. He’s empathetic with their grief and activism about the upcoming end of the series.
“At the end of the day, it’s one of those shows where you get a deep respect for the fandom. It’s really upsetting to hear and see people feel so much sorrow when something goes away. You have no control over it and you can’t rationalize it,” he says.
“I haven’t counted, but I think I did three more episodes. There are a couple of good little moments that I think fans will enjoy. I don’t want to spoil anything. I have a fun scene with Magnus and Harry and there are a couple of really nice moments with everybody. If the fans don’t get their reincarnation, there will be some pleasure in what they do end up with. You can’t ever close such a gaping wound. I feel for them.”
Last winter, Byers shot the feature film Goalie, written by Adriana (Little Dog) and Jane Maggs (Bellevue) and directed by Adriana. The movie is a period piece about hockey player Terry Sawchuck, and in it, Byers plays the legendary Gordie Howe. He explains that it’s a timely story about the hidden struggles that can condemn us.
“When they said at first Gordie, I felt like I wasn’t the right age group and then they explained it was a period piece, when he was just getting his recognition. It’s really Terry Sawchuck’s story. I read the script and Gordie is a secondary player in the whole situation. That was interesting because usually if Gordie is involved, it’s all about him. He’s Mr. Hockey,” he says.
“This is a dark story because Sawchuck’s life was a really dark place. It’s a very interesting and necessary story, relevant to today. We talk about people putting on a smile and hiding what is really going on. They were just beginning to become celebrities, even though they weren’t being paid like that. They were notable. People knew who they were.”
“[There’s an assumption] that they’re fine and don’t suffer like everyone else [because of their status]. We see it time and again. I think it’s a great illustration of someone who is going through tremendous pain and manages to push through it. His demise is already well-documented.”
“[Republic of Doyle‘s] Mark O’Brien does a fantastic job. Such a great, nuanced performance. Sawhcuck’s family was there and were astounded by his performance as well. Caveat to all that — wearing period skates is fucking stupid. I don’t how they did it.”
“His family was making fun of us. [When his son] first met me, he said, ‘You’re going to have get more shoulders.’ He told me that [Gordie would] pick him up by his shirt and say, ‘You’ve got to gain weight, kid,” and drop him on the ground. They told us a bunch of stories about all of them back in the day. They were just a really hard-core team.”
Byers loved working with director Adriana Maggs and credits her with running a set that had a fantastic atmosphere. “Adriana is just a sweetheart. Very similar energy to Ruba. She just knew what she wanted. She knows how to communicate She’s just a real sweet person. In my experience, I’ve never been on a set when it’s been run well when someone is yelling,” he points out.
“Time was of the essence and you had a lot of moving parts and you’ve got hockey players and ice rinks and green screens. There’s a potential to fall off the rails but that never was the case. She was always just super cool. It was an absolute pleasure.”
Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 10 pm ET on CBC. You can catch the Season 2 premiere episode with Steve Byers online at CBC and through the CBC App. Shadowhunters is on Netflix and the remaining episodes are expected in 2019. Goalie is in post-production, with no set release date yet.
Photos courtesy of CBC and Freeform.