Updated: Nov 20, 2018
In CBC's Season 2 premiere of Frankie Drake Mysteries (Lauren Lee Smith) 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. Marian’s claiming to have excavated a stunning Incan urn in Machu Picchu, but Frankie smells a rat. Frankie and Trudy (Chantel Riley) investigate a break-in but find nothing’s been stolen. Meanwhile, Flo (Sharron Matthews) and Mary (Rebecca Liddiard) are embroiled in a mystery of their own after discovering a body in the morgue has been intentionally misidentified. They’re determined to figure out who the body really is,but without a photo or fingerprints, they don’t have much to go on.
Interview with Lauren Lee Smith
from CBC's Frankie and Drake Mysteries
by Blaine Schlechter
Vancouver born actress and multiple Leo Award winner Lauren Lee Smith broke onto the scene at the age of 19 with a role in the Sylvester Stallone movie, Get Carter. 18 years later, with numerous film and television credits that include CSI, Mutant X, The Shape of Water and This Life, Lauren now finds herself starring as the lead character in the hit CBC drama, Frankie Drake Mysteries. With the season two premiere just around the corner, I had the chance to chat with Lauren about acting, her daughter and what fans can expect in the new season.
Frankie Drake, it airs on CBC and CBC is a place where shows tend to become a part of Canadian folklore – from Beachcombers to Heartland – how does it feel to be a part of the CBC family?
I mean it feels pretty good, I got to say, I mean my fingers are crossed right now , I’m knocking on wood, I’m doing it all, it feels amazing and hopefully, there’s a spot for Frankie Drake Mysteries among those incredible shows that you just mentioned.
You play the lead character of Frankie, what attracted you to this character?
There were so many things that attracted me to this character. I try to look for something very different from the last thing I’ve just done, so there was that element for sure, and then when I read the script I was just blown away by this female in the 1920’s who was, kick ass, bad ass, rides a motorcycle, creates her own private detective agency. She does not follow the rules by any means, all during the 1920’s when women are just supposed to know their place and keep quiet and follow the rules, so to me there was that element of wow, what a cool, exciting female character to get to portray. And I’ve recently become a mother to a daughter and I just thought, you know, this was such an incredible opportunity to create a character and be a part of a show that I would be proud to show my daughter one day, to let her sort of see mommy do something that is not sad, or crazy or whatever.
Do you still refer to your daughter as the Boss Lady?
My daughter is 100% the Boss Lady, even more so now that she’s two and it’s bossy times non-stop.
I could imagine! You’ve challenged yourself with some of your roles in the past; you’ve taken on some pretty difficult roles, was this something that you set out to do or did it just kind of happen that way?
I think to a certain degree it’s something that I set out to do. I always find it more interesting to challenge myself and to sort of go outside myself as opposed to playing just me. I think that early on in my career I sort of got pigeonholed as like the girl next door just based on how I look and I made a point, pretty soon afterward, to go outside myself and change up the way I look, I have to not allow people or producers or directors or whoever it is to ever see me as just one type of person. So I definitely put a lot of thought and care into making sure that I was choosing roles and doing roles that were hard, difficult and challenged me and were different from who I am.
And Frankie Drake kind of hits all of those…she is kind of the girl next door but kind of the opposite to so it’s perfect.
Exactly. I mean I had to get my motorcycle licence, man that scared the crap out of me, I’m not gonna lie!
Do you ride now in your off days or socially?
I do not…nope I definitely do not (laughs). It is just simply a character trait; let’s just put it that way. It’s just something Frankie does; Lauren does not in her real life.
Ep. 202 "Last Dance" Frankie (Lauren Lee Smith) joins the dance marathon at the Palais Royale. "
Photo by Stephen Scott .
Powerful females in the entertainment industry have kind of been in the spotlight lately, this series was created by females and it features a strong cast of females, what does it mean to you to be a part of that?
It means everything to be a part of this. I‘ve been doing this for 20 years now and this is the first chance that I’ve had to work…actually, that’s not true, I did work on the L Word several years ago, which was a female driven cast and created by female producers and writers, but that was 12 years ago so it’s been a long time and it means a lot to finally be doing this and not having to make it a huge deal, if that makes sense. It just is what it is. It’s created by females, we have predominately female directors and it’s a predominately female cast, and its ok, it doesn’t make up who we are, it’s not why we’re doing what we’re doing it just happens to be that way and I think with any of these things that’s what it needs to be. It needs to be so ok that it doesn’t need to be talked about; do you know what I mean?
That makes perfect sense, and I agree. It shouldn’t be the focus; it should just be the norm.
Exactly. That’s what I so appreciate about the show. It’s something I’m fiercely proud of, of course, but I’m also fiercely proud that the show stands on its own two feet because it’s a great show, not just because it’s a bunch of women behind the scenes.
That’s a perfect way to say that. As a Canadian actress you’ve gone down to the States , you’ve done some Canadian work, do you think it’s still necessary to go to the US to be successful or is there enough opportunities now in Canada to feel like your successful?
You know, that’s a really good question. I guess it depends really on how you measure your success. For me, I measure my success by the fact that I’ve been a working actor for 20 years and to have success I haven’t had to take on another job and I’ve gotten to work with incredible people, with incredible directors, writers, actors, producers and most of that has been in Canada. To me, I feel incredibly fortunate and to me, that’s how I measure success. I think that some people still measure success by how many people know your name or how well you’re doing in the States or abroad, and that’s ok to, it’s just sort of where you put your priorities and success.
How you define it.
I think a lot of young actors especially feel the need that they have to go down to the States because they’re told that. I can’t tell you how many times it happened to me for so many years and it’s happened to so many of my friends. You go down to the States, you spend so much money getting your green card or your visa and setting up a life there and not having health care or anything like that, you come back to Canada to work continually. That’s for me when I kind of went, wait a minute…what am I doing, this is silly. I want to be close to my family and I keep getting jobs in Canada and I’m proud to be Canadian and we’re creating very good content here, so I’m good.
Frankie Drake is set in the 1920’s. Period pieces can be fun to film but they can be tricky, what’s it like filming a show set in the 1920’s?
I love it. I think it’s really great, it does part of the work for me (laughs) because you get transported to this world the minute you walk on these sets and everything is different. The minute I go into hair and makeup, the character is getting created and sort of assembled around you with the wardrobe and the hair and the makeup and the sets and the old cars and motorcycles. It instantly transports you to a different time and you walk different, you sit different, you talk different…everything just sort of happens in a much more natural way. In that sense it’s really fun getting to shoot a period piece, definitely. The only challenges have been the damn cars…the cars are terrible (laughs).
I would think the motorbike too would be a bit tricky to drive, no?
All of the vehicles on our show add an extra hour or two to whatever scene involves a vehicle of any kind (laughs).
The props and the scenery becomes almost a character in the show, it’s fun seeing the crimes being solved using 1920’s technology.
It’s pretty cool all of the little spy tools that we get to use and the spy camera and a lot of times we’re not using or throwing around guns, most of the time it’s your good old fashioned knuckles.
Before we part ways, season 2 of Frankie Drake premieres on CBC Sep 24th. What can fans expect, what does Frankie get up to in the second season?
I think fans can expect sort of a more heightened version of last year. The team has really come together a little bit more in season 2. The friendship, the partnerships, the working relationship between the four female characters is much stronger this year. There’s a lot of action, a lot of adventure, a lot of fun, a lot of mystery and I like to say, we’re like the female Indiana Jones, which I think is such a fun way to put our show and that’s what the audience can expect.
That’s a great way to describe it. As a fan we look forward to following along and seeing what happens. Thank you so much Lauren for your time.
Thank you. Of course, it’s my pleasure. It was lovely chatting with you.
Lauren Lee Smith was first discovered in her native Vancouver when she was cast as a series regular on the hit Showtime series The L Word. Lauren seamlessly transitioned to films by co-starring in Terry Zwigoff’s film Art School Confidential for Sony Classics, opposite Max Minghella. From there Lauren Lee co-starred as Casey Affleck’s partner in The Last Kiss, directed by Tony Goldwyn.
Most notably, Lauren went on to receive critical praise and attention from her lead performance as an outwardly sexually spirited woman in the independent film Lie with Me. Lauren next went on to star in three back to back studio films; the MGM feature Pathology, the Warner Brothers/Bryan Singer produced feature Trick ‘r Treat opposite Anna Paquin, and Helen opposite Ashley Judd, which premiered at Sundance in 2010.
Lauren worked alongside Laurence Fishburne on the hugely successful CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and was the lead on the Canadian crime series The Listener for which she was nominated for Best Performance by a Lead Actress at the 2011 Gemini Awards for her brilliant work. In 2009 Lauren signed on to the Terry Miles’s directed feature A Night For Dying Tigers alongside Jennifer Beals. In 2012 she teamed up with Terry Miles again, this time not only starring in but producing the feature Cinemanovels. In 2015, she starred in Jeremy Lalonde’s much talked about comedy, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town.
Currently starring as Frankie Drake, a private eye with a mysterious past, in CBC’s FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES, Lauren recently co-starred opposite Michael Shannon in the 2018 Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, The Shape of Water from acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro. In 2017, Lauren was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Maggie Lawson in CBC’s This Life.