Canadian star Jason Priestley has been a pretty constant staple on TV over the last few years, though you might not know it. Starring in such series as Call Me Fitz and Raising Expectations, Priestley has been content to be a part of smaller, more obscure productions.
Now he’s stepping into primetime in procedural comedy Private Eyes, starring alongside fellow Canuck Cindy Sampson (Supernatural). Based on book The Code, the 10-episode procedural drama, filmed entirely in Toronto, follows ex-professional hockey player Matt Shade (Priestley), who irrevocably changes his life when he decides to team up with fierce P.I. Angie Everett (Sampson) to form an unlikely investigative powerhouse.
“Shade,” as he’s more commonly known, sees working with Angie as an opportunity to redeem himself from his checkered past. On the ice, he learned how to hustle, read people and anticipate their moves. Working with Angie, Shade discovers a fantastic rush of adrenaline, and realizes that he’s found a new home where his skills still matter.
Meanwhile, Angie takes over her father’s agency after his death and strives to keep his legacy alive. Angie may find Shade naïve in the way that he sees the world, but his passion and heart bring something special to her one-woman business.
Global News visited the Toronto set of Private Eyes during production and sat down with Priestley, Sampson and the rest of the cast to discover more about the show. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s kind of like The Odd Couple.
OK, so it’s not exactly like The Odd Couple, since it features a man and a woman, but in terms of dichotomous personalities, Angie and Shade certainly fit the bill. Both characters are headstrong, and she shows him the ropes of how to become a private investigator. Together, they struggle with their new partnership.
The chemistry between Priestley and Sampson is apparent right from the moment we arrived on set. They are constantly joking, making fun of one another, and straying way off-topic. In fact, it’s hard to corral them; but one indisputable fact is the pair is having a ball shooting the show.
“Why do people keep saying we have this chemistry?” jokes Sampson as she smiles at Priestley.
“I know, we just keep f**king around!” laughs Priestley. “I don’t know, she and I just come to work everyday and enjoy ourselves. The reality is we’re here 80 hours a week, and we have the same sense of humour. We also have the same outlook on this show.”
“We’re trying to enjoy every minute, and we get along very well,” agrees Sampson. “Everybody working around us is having a great time, too. It’s a nice environment to be in.”
“The Angie character is the world’s most cheerful cynic,” laughs co-showrunner Alan McCullough. “She believes that people are as they are, and not in evolution, personal growth or change. Enter a guy who’s desperately trying to prove that he can change, and there you have the show.”
It’s not afraid to showcase Toronto.
The powers-that-be behind the show tried their best to integrate the various neighbourhoods of Toronto, to showcase the vibrancy that exists in the city. In each episode, Private Eyes seeks to depict a different place, from Toronto Island to the racetrack to the club district.
“We’re shooting Toronto, for Toronto, which is great,” says Priestley. “It’s a very international, multicultural and vibrant city. So why not celebrate it?”
“Streetcars everywhere,” quips Sampson. “CN Tower. We’re celebrating Toronto and all its glory.”
“I think there’s a revitalization of Toronto going on internationally,” says McCullough. “I don’t think it’s the same city it was 25 years ago. Maybe they still think of Canada being backwards, but Toronto has managed to carve out its own niche as being a cool place.”
It’s good for all ages.
Private Eyes isn’t all about the central couple, however; Shade has a daughter, Jules (Jordyn Negri), who suffers from macular degeneration, and a father, Don (Barry Flatman), who muddy the waters and make things more complicated. They have plotlines too, and viewers who don’t necessarily identify with Angie and Shade can look to the peripheral cast for more.
Jules may be legally blind, but she’s also going through the typical things a teenager goes through: romance, school, the usual. Kids and teens may find themselves tuning in to watch her stories unfold.
Don is a solid working-class guy, proud of his family and home, and pleased with Shade’s new acquaintance and colleague. Don feels like Angie is going to whip him into shape, for the better. Flatman, a veteran of the Canadian screen (51 years in the business!), can’t recall the last time he enjoyed himself this much on set.
The guests are an amazing slice of Canadiana.
Aside from the hockey aspect — Priestley, as a good Canadian boy, played the sport in his youth — there are many Canadian guest stars that people outside our borders may not recognize.
Music artists Kardinal Offishall and King Reign, along with hockey legend Doug Gilmour and professional poker player Daniel Negreanu, make guest appearances, among others who shall remain anonymous.
“Again, we’re trying to get a good flavour of the city,” says Priestley. “What better way than showcasing some of Canada’s talent?”
It’s not like those other procedurals on TV.
Private Eyes is definitely lighter than your standard procedural fare. You won’t be curling into the fetal position after watching, but you might just laugh. Comedy runs through the show like a fine thread, and even Shade and Angie’s first meeting goes in a direction you wouldn’t expect.
“When we first meet, I punch a child,” laughs Sampson. “No, I really do.”
“She’s punched a couple of children during the course of this show,” says Priestley. “OK, so they’re 18. Not that young.”
“This is fun, this is going to be fun,” says co-showrunner Shelley Eriksen. “We’re not redoing The Leftovers. This isn’t The Sopranos. We are making a fun, private detective show. I’ve enjoyed those in my life, so I wanted to make my own. I loved Moonlighting and I love Castle, and the fun aspect is paramount in what we tried to make.”
‘Private Eyes’ premieres Thursday, May 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global TV. You can watch a clip of the show in the video, above.