VANCOUVER -- They aren't just making a TV show. They're also making a statement about how, and where, they want to pursue their careers as actors.
The stars of the upcoming CTV police drama Motive, which is currently in production in Vancouver, have very definite ideas about what being part of this new Canadian series means, personally as well as professionally. On a predictably rainy Tuesday in November, Motive's producers invited TV writers from several Canadian cities to visit the show's headquarters at The Bridge Studios in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. During interviews on the show's set, its two lead cast members -- both Canadians who have had lengthy careers in the U.S. -- cited Motive's location and unapologetically Canadian attitude as major factors in their decision to sign on.
"I didn't want to be at the whim of the networks in the (United) States anymore," series star Kristin Lehman explained. "I was very content to be a journeyman actor, and to take shows or films on a project-by-project basis, because my inventory of values told me that my quality of life with my family needed to be a higher priority than whatever else came next. ... I didn't want to get back on that (U.S. network) roller-coaster of 'This is the next hot thing,' only to have them pull the plug. I had done that too many times."
Motive, which is slated to premiere on CTV early in 2013, is described by its producers as "a whydunit rather than a whodunit"; Lehman is cast in the lead role as Det. Angie Flynn, an outspoken single mom whose on-the-job investigative instincts might be described as both abrupt and nearly infallible.
Canadian actor Louis Ferreira plays Flynn's level-headed partner, Det. Oscar Vega, and TV veteran Lauren Holly -- an American-born performer who now calls Toronto home -- portrays medical examiner Dr. Betty Rogers.
Last year, at about the same time that she had begun dreaming of a solid gig in her home country, Lehman was shooting a movie in North Carolina; during her down time, she happened upon a marathon of the CTV-produced drama Flashpoint on a U.S. cable network. It was, she explained, a complete eye opener.
"I had never seen Flashpoint before," she said. "I called my husband afterward and said, 'I should be so lucky as to work in Canada on a show that looks as good as that one and goes as long as it has. I would love nothing more than that.'... I've had a lovely life in the States, and a very nice career, but I want to live here."
Lehman had taken a couple of years off from acting after the birth of her son, and was seeking to continue the positive level of work/life balance she found when she resumed her career with a part on the AMC series The Killing.
"After The Killing wrapped, I took some time off to be with my family, and then I continued all my professional obligations in Los Angeles, where I've lived and worked for a very long time. But ... I wanted to work at the highest level possible in Canada. I've had a long career, I've worked really hard and I've learned a thing or two, and I wanted the luxury of being able to work in my own country, on a show that I respect and admire, and I believed such a show could exist in Canada. And then Motive came along.
"At the moment when I had to make a decision, there was this show, and there was another show, an American project, knocking hard at my door. And instead of saying all the things I've used to make decisions in the past, I bit my tongue, held my breath and said, 'I want to do this show. I'm not going to hedge my bets.'"
Motive's unconventional format will begin each episode by showing viewers a murder and the identity of the killer; as the storyline unfolds, the audience will discover clues at the same time as the show's fictional detectives, and by the end, everyone on both sides of the screen will understand why the crime was committed.
Lehman, 40, a Toronto-born actor whose extensive U.S.-network credits also include Fox's Killer Instinct and CBS's Judging Amy and Century City, said she welcomes the challenge of playing a prime-time series' central character.
"I'm just fiercely proud of this series," she said. "I want, every day, to come in and do it justice. I feel so grateful that I get to drive 10 minutes (to work), in the country that I love, and that I have this opportunity to make art in my own country and play a great female character. There just aren't that many opportunities like this that come along.
"I feel very invested in this, so I think the stakes are higher. I want my integrity to show; I want all the training I've had to show. I want to be the best team player I can be; I want to be the most effective co-star I can be; I want to treat people with dignity and respect. Everything I've learned in my entire career, I want it to be used here."
Lehman's partner in (solving) crime is Portugese-born, Toronto-raised actor Ferreira, 45, who toiled for 25 years under the stage moniker Justin Louis before reclaiming his name and heritage after his mother's death in 2008. He said that even at this early stage in production, there's a feeling on the Motive set that this could be an important series, like Due South and Flashpoint before it, in the continuing evolution of Canada's homegrown-production industry.
"I think (Canadian TV) is better now than it's ever been," said Ferreira, whose U.S. TV credits include Stargate Universe, Hidden Hills, Public Morals and The Fighting Fitzgeralds. "You don't have to leave to do great work.... We are a smaller country, for sure, but boy, are we able to produce some wonderful stuff now. And we're doing it more and more.
"What I love is the fact that I'm back in a city I love, working with this group of people -- I worked with a lot of them on Stargate, and across the board, they're the greatest. I'm just so grateful."
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