Lauren Lee Smith dishes on second season of ‘Frankie Drake Mysteries’
There’s a new foe in town on Frankie Drake Mysteries, and series lead Lauren Lee Smith says her character is ready to play.
The Vancouver actress portrays Frankie Drake, a gin-swilling, jodhpur-wearing, motorcycle-riding, patriarchy-smashing private investigator who solves mysteries with her squad of similarly scrappy women in 1920s Toronto.
When Frankie Drake Mysteries returns to CBC Television for its second season on September 24, Frankie will face a new irritant in the form of Detective Tom Greyson (Dark Matter’s Anthony Lemke), a veteran cop who’s been hired to manage the precinct where Frankie’s friend Mary (Rebecca Liddiard) works as a morality officer.
“He comes in to oversee all of the crimes that are happening in Toronto, and of course he wants to interfere with Frankie constantly,” says Smith in a recent phone interview. “Their relationship is volatile and they don’t see eye to eye, ever. He definitely creates a huge challenge and huge barriers for her in season two. She has to constantly figure out how to get around him and outsmart him.”
“She does not feel intimidated by this man, at least not outwardly,” adds Smith. “I’m sure inside there’s a little bit of her that is going, ‘Oh dear, how am I going to finagle my way out of this one?’ He’s Frankie’s biggest hurdle in season two, absolutely.”
Heading into the first season of Frankie Drake Mysteries, Smith – who previously played hot mess Maggie Lawson on CBC’s This Life – learned how to ride a motorcycle just like her on-screen alter ego. For this new season, as the writers delved deeper into Frankie’s past as a polyglot and globe-trotting adventurer, Smith was regularly asked to venture further into unknown territory.
“There were these little things that popped up every episode that gave me a glimpse of what Frankie can do. ‘Oh, can you say this line in Arabic? Can you do this line in Russian? We’re going to hire a choreographer to teach you how to do a Viennese waltz in one hour.’” Smith chuckles. “I didn’t know she spoke French or that she could do the Viennese waltz. I didn’t know she could sucker punch someone. Meanwhile, I’m like, ‘Ah, oh, okay… How do I learn Mandarin?’ The answer is: phonetically.”
In the season premiere – “The Old Switcheroo,” which airs Monday at 9pm on CBC – Frankie learns that her mother Nora (Wendy Crewson) has joined the board of the Royal Ontario Museum, promising to bring an influx of treasures to the museum’s fledgling antiquities collection. The surprises keep coming when Frankie learns the source of Nora’s first acquisition is Marian Hartley (Lara Jean Chorostecki), an old rival from Frankie’s time in Cairo. Frankie and fellow investigator Trudy (Chantel Riley) investigate a break-in but find nothing’s been stolen. Meanwhile, morgue attendant Flo (Sharron Matthews) and morality officer Mary (Liddiard) find themselves embroiled in a mystery of their own after discovering a body in the morgue has been intentionally misidentified.
Viewers will witness more collaboration amongst the four core women this season, says Smith. “We see the women this year really come together in a way that we didn’t quite see as much last year, which I think is really cool and beautiful,” says Smith, noting that Flo and Mary in particular will be drawn further into the sleuthing. “The friendship and the kinship between the four women – and how much they rely on each other – is the number one theme throughout season two.”
That number one theme is accompanied by laughter and love and all manner of thrills, says Smith. “We see a lot of action-adventure,” she says. “We see a lot of fun, we see a little bit of heartbreak and heartache for each of us to a certain degree, and you see the girls kicking back and having fun with each other and feeling a sense of freedom in getting to do what they do in that time and age.”
Just like they did in Frankie Drake Mysteries’ initial run, real-life historical personages will pop up over the course of the season. Watch for fashion icon Coco Chanel, mob boss bootlegger Bessie Starkman, and civil rights activist Marcus Garvey to interact with Frankie and her squad.
Despite the nearly hundred years between Frankie’s era and the present day, Smith sees a multitude of parallels between then and now, some of which are downright disturbing.
“It’s crazy that we’re still having to talk about certain things, like equal pay and equality, in 2018,” says Smith. “Luckily we have outlets where we can speak up and people are feeling more and more comfortable and confident speaking out and taking a stand, whereas I think in 1921, that wasn’t really the norm. It was way more daunting and way more challenging for women to be able to do that then. But it’s bonkers that now, nearly one hundred years later, so many of these things are still going on.”
Smith is proud that Frankie Drake Mysteries serves as an inspiration for 21st century women – including her two-year-old-daughter, Tula, who visited her on set during her five months in Toronto.
“Right before we finished shooting season two, we did a cast and crew screening in the studio, and I brought Tula to watch the first five minutes, and she sat there with her jaw dropped, her eyes as big as saucers, and she just kept looking at the screen and looking at me, and looking back at the screen and looking at me, and whispering, ‘Mommy Frankie Drake,’ ‘Mommy Frankie Drake,’ and it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever experienced,” says Smith. “And she hasn’t stopped talking about it. ‘Mommy rides a motorcycle.’ ‘Mommy red wig.’”
Frankie Drake Mysteries airs Mondays at 9pm on CBC Television.