[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Pretty Hard Cases delivered a nailbiter, bonkers, and completely entertaining finale that left us all warm and fuzzy about not just our dynamic duo, but also maybe also the pairings of Sam and Naz, Jackie and Elliot, and a scoche less warm but definitely fuzzy Duff and Nate. This afternoon, I chatted with series creators Tassie Cameron and Sherry White about their first season, and where they’d like to take the characters if there’s a second season, which we absolutely are all in for.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the season was the growing partnership, and eventual friendship, between Sam and Duff. “At the end of episode four, when Sam manages to rescue Kelly from out of the feather factory, and she’s getting shot at, and they have a hug at the end of that episode, that melts me every time,” shares Cameron.
“In episode seven, they’re kind of getting to know each other on that stakeout. And I think by the end, the last few frames of episode ten, you see how close these two have become.”
“In that episode, Sam [lets] her guard down. I think she’s being more heartfelt and honest about who she is and Kelly sees that, and that is a really good deepening of their friendship. We always called it a sleepover. We wanted them to just really have hours to kill with each other where they’re kind of bonding,” continues White.
“[When they meet], Kelly has her walls up. Keegan was her really good friend, but there are lies between them and there are walls up and there are pretenses. The relationship with Sam is a genuine connection that allows Kelly to get her walls down a little bit more. And for Sam, I think that them having this connection … there is something so scary about the empty nest period that Sam was about to go into with Elliot. It’s a challenging one because when your son is 17, almost 18, you don’t have the control over them that you have had over their whole life.”
“So there’s a certain amount of, ‘let go, let God,’ that you have to do there. I think that the friendship with Kelly sort of gives her the strength. We always have said we wanted their connection to make them feel less lonely in the world. There’s a genuine connection that they find at work and through their work that makes them feel less lonely. That’s what the relationships give each other.”
“On a superficial level, you’ll see in the finale, we said in the stage direction that Sam dressed a little bit Kelly-like, and Kelly’s dressed a little bit Sam-like,” adds Cameron. “We were trying to show that they had really become strong influences on each other [but] they’re not becoming the same person, and they never could, but they’re changing each other for the better.”
White took something from her personal life to heart in creating their energy, as well. “I had said to my therapist at one point, ‘How can I be so gullible and so cynical at the same time, like, what’s wrong with me?’ And she said, ‘Well, that’s the negative way of putting it. Maybe you’re just hopeful and realistic,’” she recalls.
“It suddenly went from being gullible and cynical at the same time, which seemed like two things that should not exist together, to hopeful and realistic, which seemed like the perfect match of things to be together. And we wanted Sam and Kelly, when they met each other, to sort of reflect that. One of them was cynical. The other one was a little gullible, and that together they were able to help each other be more hopeful and realistic. I think we did manage to do that without, without putting too fine a point on it.”
When Tiggy decides to seize the trafficking operation, she finds her backbone, and steps out of the shadows to run the business, and Cameron says they were purposeful in balancing out her before and after personas. “When we were designing this first season, we found this great article about female drug dealers and the ones that were successful stayed feminine, and used the strengths of being female, but also combined them with the strengths of being traditionally masculine and not frightened,” she explains.
“We were trying to design Tiggy to show both those sides. She never abandoned her feminine wiles or maternal instincts or some of the things she learned as a wife and a mother, but she’s really taking on these new worlds. And we just thought that that would be an incredibly good compliment for [Sam and Duff]. She embodies all kinds of traits that make her so successful and make her able to elude them for the season.”
“The reality, as we were creating that character [who was also] a mother, [was] getting her to this place where she realized she screwed up [and] there was no way that we could justify saying that she prioritized her children, even though she was thinking that she was all along,” explains White.
“There’s that moment in the finale when she sees her child with the grandmother and the child was being a child and is in a home that is safer for him, where she has that bittersweet kind of sad moment where she knows he’s better off there and that he’s going to be okay and that she has just let it go.”
“I think when she was going there, she just wanted to get him and run away and realizes that that’s not a good thing for him. I don’t know that we had thought when we started out that we would have to take her there with him, but it just felt like, when we were following the emotional truth of the whole situation, that’s where it got to.” Cameron adds that it was her favorite scene of Tara Strong from the season, and it left the crew in tears during filming.
As the season progressed, we saw Hamm soften a bit and rehabilitate some of his baser instincts. Cameron and White credit Dean McDermott with driving that shift. “[He] influenced that because he was a really great, nice guy and he just made this guy seem vulnerable a lot of the time, and sort of sweet and a little insecure. And it just sort of evolved and Dean made him real and then we just went with that,” shares White.
With Nathan moving over to lead the drug squad, the headcount will shuffle again. But Sam won’t be making another run at the DS slot. “If we were to have a season two, I think we would build a new character, ideally somebody who’s going to provide a little bit of antagonism for Kelly and Sam in their new partnership,” says Cameron.
“And meanwhile, we’ve got now Nathan, who will be working together with Naz and having their own kind of bromance over in the drug squad and working on lots of cases that tie in with guns and gangs so that the team is together again.”
Getting Kim Coates to come play took time, but Cameron and White were ecstatic when he said yes. “We had to convince Kim to come do it. He’s a busy guy and he’s [outside Toronto.] When we first approached him, we didn’t have scripts. So he [asked] what was different about the role,” says White. “We wrote a very passionate letter about why this would be a different kind of bad guy and that he was a feminist, or he thought he was, that he was trying to take a chance on Tiggy and he was basically trying to mentor her, but at the same time, he’s a scorpion by nature,” adds Cameron.
“We really tried to dig into the character and explain to Kim why it would be so fun to come and do it with us, which, thank God he agreed. And we built the wardrobe together. The track suits were our idea, but he went with it hard. And unfortunately I bought two of those tracksuits at the wardrobe sale, and now my boyfriend’s wearing them all the time.”
In last week’s episode, we had the counterbalance of Tiggy and Layna playing out against the Duff sisters, and Cameron and White share that they can write that dynamic all day. “Sherry is like my sister; she’s an honorary Cameron sister, basically. The very close, complicated female dynamics are really of interest to both me and to Sherry as writers, because we have such strong female relationships in our lives creatively and personally,” says Cameron.
“I think having Kelly’s vulnerabilities exposed by seeing her kind of perfect older sister, who’s also a cop, was a really interesting way of [exploring] her character without her having to spill her purse all over the place.”
“[On the] Tiggy and Layna relationship, I love where that went. I love that it goes from Tiggy dragging her around by the hand and making her do things to her owning her own power and coming clean with the cops by the end saying, ‘enough is enough.’ I would write about sisters or close friends every episode if I could.”
“It’s the kind of relationship where you feel like they’re on your team and they will call you on your bullshit in a way that nobody else can and you need people like that to help you grow. We didn’t want to leave the season without getting a little window into what Kelly’s family life was,” shares White.
While Jackie’s pursuit of Eliot was originally at Tiggy’s behest, it eventually became an actual romance, and that was always the plan. “I think our intention was always to have them fall in love and that this would be kind of Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and the Capulets, two young kids from different tribes who meet in the worst way possible with her trying to play him and him feeling played,” explains Cameron. “And still, despite the fact that one mom is a cop and one mom is a drug dealer, they find a way to connect.”
“It took Elliot out into some pretty dark places, but I think that’s fairly believable for a 17-year-old kid in love, who, when we first meet him, had just had a fight and ripped a kid off. He was sort of ripe for the picking in that way,” White points out.
Another budding pairing that we love is the one between Sam and Naz, and they love that, too. “Al [Mukadam] just has that perfect balance that he can seem a little bit awkward and insecure, and at the same time has a sort of leading male quality to him that maybe this could happen for them. And we’re feeling it by the end. It’s not going to be fast. It might be a slow burn kind of a genuine thing,” says White.
“We loved them together. We loved that his character went from finding Sam sort of bizarre to being completely entertained and charmed by her and impressed by her professionally at the end. We enjoyed building that,” explains Cameron.
Should the series return, White says they’d dive deeper into Sam and Duff’s friendship as it grows. “We will want to continue to explore the challenges around that friendship. Female friendship was a huge part of my life growing up, and a huge part of Tassie’s life growing up. And it still is, obviously. Friendship is a harder thing to maintain in any consistent, deep way as you’re an adult working, and so, how do these women keep working together and have that friendship start to be tested over and over, and how does it stay,” she explains.
“Season 1 is sort of the honeymoon of making and becoming friends, leaving arm-in-arm, and I think a Season 2 would be about digging into some of the harder stuff that you learn about your friends as you get to know them better.”
“You see their emotional baggage that has shaped them for good and for bad, the bad boyfriends and the bad dynamics with one’s mother. You get to know your friends more and that can either cause real problems if you have disagreements about how to handle that stuff, but it can also just deepen it if you get through it. So I think that’s sort of where we’re trying to focus.”
Photos courtesy of CBC.