Tassie Cameron Talks Pretty Hard Cases Casting and Naming + “Dealz” Preview

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

Wednesday night on Pretty Hard Cases, Sam and Duff are working separate cases for a hot minute until Sam reaches out to Duff for an assist on an undercover operation and their tag-team approach is exactly what’s needed when they find themselves breaking an even bigger case. Separately, Tiggy makes a play for the family business, and takes the “family” aspect of it to heart, dispatching Jackie to get acquainted with Sam’s son Elliot, and since she’s Katie Douglas, he doesn’t stand a chance.

Pretty Hard Cases

The episode also includes a fun callback to Rookie Blue with guest star Matt Murray, who we last saw being hella creepy on Season 1 of Snowpiercer, and Nicholas Campbell pops in to play a dollar store owner who knows more than he’s letting on about what’s up at his shop. It’s a fun hour that plays into Sam and Duff’s vibe as they do and don’t necessarily like each other while also peeling back the curtain a bit, for each other and us, on their histories. And we find out that their boss has more pressing priorities than the job.

When I spoke to the series co-creator Tassie Cameron (part one of that is here, ICYMI), we also chatted about casting, working through the pandemic, and rethinking the original title.

Cameron says getting her leads was a dream come true. “Our casting was miraculous. Meredith MacNeil was a hero of mine. We kept saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we found somebody like Meredith MacNeil and then same with Adrienne … it’d be amazing if we could get somebody like Adrienne C. Moore to play Duff.’ So those were our two prototypes for who we would want to cast and it was unbelievable that we got them,” she recalls.

“And then once they got in the room together for the first chemistry read, Sherry [White] and I just looked at each other and … it’s undeniable the chemistry between them. They are very, very important collaborators on this show with us, not just as performers, but as storytellers and authentic women in the world. We play to their strengths. We incorporate their notes and their thoughts. There’s improv. It’s just a joy.”

Pretty Hard Cases

The series also includes the aforementioned Douglas, who was so great in Mary Kills People. “We really wrote that with Katie in mind. She’s such a magical performer and Percy White is Sam’s son. That character was kind of created with Percy in mind. Karen Robinson won an award for us for Mary Kills People. And she’s in there as a recurring.”

“Then there were some people that I hadn’t worked with before, like Dean McDermott and Al Mukadam. I hadn’t worked with them and they came in and blew us away. Often Sherry and I will sort of say, ‘We’d love to write a part for XYZed’ that we’ve worked with on other shows and we’ll tailor make it to them.”

While the show has a procedural aspect that will continue, we’ll also still have Tiggy and Jackie in the mix. “That’s a continuing thread throughout the whole season. We check in with those characters and develop that story every episode,” she says. “Sometimes the primary case will be different, but it’s always percolating as a serialized element.”

Pretty Hard Cases

Similar to the experience of the Coroner team, Cameron and her writers were in development when the pandemic shut everything down, sending the writers home to break the rest of the season. “We started our writer’s room in January. We left on March 13th, Friday the 13th, to go home for the weekend, and never came back,” she explains.

“And so we did it virtually and [each writer did] a lot of independent work, because being on Zoom all day long is just exhausting. And it’s hard. So we weren’t interested in trying to do a ten-to-five Zoom. We’d kind of dip in and out for a couple hours. And then people would go and work on their own things.”

“And Sherry and I did do some backyard hangouts around a fireplace and six feet apart and worked with each other. But it was all virtual. And then on set was really tricky, too, because of everything. I wasn’t allowed on set for a long time because I was working in post and didn’t want to mingle. So I had to stay off set for most of the time and it was very, very challenging.”

Pretty Hard Cases

Once in production, the show’s social media feeds shared behind the scenes photos of the new normal of shooting around pandemic protocols, and Cameron credits her sister, Amy, who’s her partner in Cameron Pictures, with driving that. “She loves social media. She believes in it and we’re very transparent. It’s just sort of who we are [to say], ‘Let’s talk about the problems. Let’s talk about the challenges. Let’s make jokes. Let’s have fun,’” she says.

“It’s very much my sister. I think we were all so grateful to be working, that once we could work, we were very grateful to be there. Amy’s had a great time. She’s done these COVID comics and [all the posts]. We’ve formed quite a close bond with the other producers that have been working during the pandemic up here and sent everybody wine at Christmas saying, ‘We made it,’ you know?””

Pretty Hard Cases will have a ten-episode first season, a little longer than Mary Kills People’s six and a little shorter than Rookie Blue’s 13. “I really like ten episodes. I find sometimes when you have 13, there’s always one or two that you feel get the short shrift, or they’re not quite as [strong]. That said, if CBC wanted to give us a 13, I’d do 13 happily,” she points out.

“Right now we’re taking it a season at a time. Sherry and I are brainstorming about the second season and actors we want to work with and where these characters, these friendships are going to go. We have a great team of writers who’ve been putting ideas together for us, case ideas, and research and [we’re starting] with the writing room.”

Pretty Hard Cases

When the series was announced, and through pre-production and much of production, the series was called Lady Dicks, and toward the end of filming, the name changed to Pretty Hard Cases. Cameron says the switch occurred when they took another look at where we were in the zeitgeist. “We’d called it Lady Dicks almost as a joke for ourselves to remind us to stay light, to keep the tone in our mind. And I think that we are guilty of being old, I guess, because when we think of “dicks,” I do think of detectives. That was where our minds were at,” she shares.

“And then we started to think about this year. I mean, everybody was thinking so hard about so many things, especially in representation, identity, points of view. And we started to look at the name and think, ‘You know, is this an inclusive name? Is this an alienating name? Is this potentially hurtful name and to the trans community?’”

“We talked to a trans crew member and a ton of trans educators and most of them were amused by the name [and] we started to wonder if we could do better, and come up with a name that has no potential for harm [and Pretty Hard Cases was born].”

Pretty Hard Cases airs Wednesdays at 9 pm (9:30 NT)  on CBC and CBC Gem. Here’s a sneak peek. [Update: The entire first season is available in the US on September 10th, streaming free on IMDb TV.]


Photos and Video Courtesy of CBC

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