Lauren Lee Smith – Frankie Drake Mysteries
Q: How would you describe “Frankie Drake Mysteries” to someone who has never seen the show before?
LLS: I would describe it as a ton of fun. I mean just for me, watching the show, the response I’ve been getting from people. It’s just fifty-two minutes of pure fun. We are a show that is completely female driven. We have this procedural aspect, of course, where we have a mystery every week that is usually solved. There is also a lot of character and backstory with all of the girls, as well. It’s a really nice combination of the two and I think that is what makes this show really appealing to people. Also, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There is a lot of laughs and action and adventure. I remember early on the show was pitched to me and it was one of my favorite things that I heard, as a female Indiana Jones. Immediately, I was like, “Oh, I love that!” It is. It is action adventure. These women going out there and solving these crimes and driving their motorcycles and crazy cars and throwing punches. Shimmying their way through these mysteries.
Q: What was the original breakdown of the character of Frankie Drake?
LLS: So, Frankie to me, she has a really interesting backstory. She was raised by a single father who was not exactly a law-abiding citizen. He was a bit of a grifter. When he passed away, she joined the war effort as messenger on the front lines and she traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. Then, she was recruited to become a spy and certain events transpired that led her back to Toronto where she became a Private Investigator. In an episode that is sort of dedicated to this backstory of hers, we see what led to her moving back to Toronto – deciding to call Toronto her home and deciding to open up the Drake Private Detective Agency. Frankie is just sort of this incredibly fearless, forward thinking, take no prisoners, woman who has a lust for life and a bit of an adrenaline junkie personality. She is up for every and all adventures. She is a completely sort of modern woman in the 1920s. I would even say that she is a modern woman today. To me, Frankie is sort of this iconic figure who is a little bit timeless in a sense. With her sense of adventure and her sense of forward thinking. I was talking about this with someone yesterday and they were like, “So, its 1921 and what was it like for woman during this time?” It is obvious that there were many obstacles that women had to face, but there still are. I think if you put Frankie into 2017, she would still be very ahead of her time in a sense. Well, actually in all aspects of her life, pretty much. [laughs]
Q: What is the greatest challenge and greatest reward in portraying Frankie Drake?
LLS: I would have to say the biggest challenge was navigating the motorbike. I had to get my motorcycle license before we started shooting. I was absolutely terrified to be honest. I had never been on a motorcycle before. I am by no means an adrenaline junkie. So, having to overcome that fear was a big challenge for me. I also have to say though, one of the best joys of playing this character is that she does those things and it pushes me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to do these things that I would never think to do and never willingly do on my own. I did six weeks of really intense boxing training before we started shooting. So, all of those things…they are the biggest rewards for me as an actor, getting to sort of do these things that in my day-to-day life I would never have the opportunity or the will to push myself to do, on my own accord. [laughs]
Q: In an interview for “Lie With Me,” you stated that you traveled to Toronto a month before filming started to wander the streets and get a feel for the city. What if anything did you do to prepare for this role?
LLS: For this role, we came back to Toronto quite a bit earlier. I had a lot of time to spend with the writers and creators, producers, our director and our cinematographer. I really got to have a lot of time to be a part of the process from the very, very beginning, which was really unique and really cool. I got to experience the sets being built, like Frankie’s office and I got to have some input into how it looks and what items she would have in it. I got to be a part of the wardrobe process early on and hair and makeup process early on. Also, it was really great. I don’t know who exactly started it, but we sort of had this look-book that was sort of everyone’s bible before filming and during filming. Everyone could just contribute anything they found inspiring or just interesting with regards to Frankie Drake. There were photographs and video clips. There were bits of literature and really anything that sort of spoke to someone. It would be added to this look-book. It was a wonderful tool to have throughout shooting, to be able to use these little bits and pieces of inspiration. My capacity for having prep time is very different now that I have a one and a half year-old. The luxury that I used to have to do my prep has changed dramatically. I’ve had to learn how to do things in a much more condensed way. [laughs] Having the look-book was a wonderful, wonderful tool.
Q: Quite often the setting can feel like its own character. How does this hold true for “Frankie Drake?”
LLS: I love getting to play Toronto for Toronto, it’s incredible. Also, our whole set design team did such a beautiful job! Walking onto set, you get transported into that world. It’s so easy to just drop into that mind frame and drop into that universe, that Frankie Drake universe, because you look around and every little tiny thing has been thought through. Every tiny little detail is just perfect. They did an incredible job with the cars and the set. It was just incredible. Every new set that we walked onto, we were all just “Oh my God this is AMAZING!” Then you start opening drawers and looking around. It’s like, honestly, they left no corner untouched. It was incredible the work and thought that they put into every single set.
Q: Describe “Frankie Drake Mysteries” in three words?
LLS: In three words. Umm. Fun. Fast-paced. And adventurous, I would say. [laughs] That was a tricky one. [laughs]
Q: Your character Frankie drinks scotch, whiskey and gin thus far in the series. What is Frankie’s go-to drink?
LLS: Gin. Frankie is definitely a gin girl. 100%. She makes her own. She plays around with the recipe. We’ll see a little bit of that in the coming up episodes as well. Gin is definitely her poison, her drink of choice.
Q: What is your go-to drink?
LLS: For me it’s a simple glass of red wine. That is my go-to drink.
Q: I love the interaction and chemistry between you and the actress that plays Nora, who is (as we have found out) Frankie’s mother, who she thought was dead. Are we going to see more Nora as the series progresses?
LLS: We are. Wendy Crewson is just a powerhouse performer. She is just amazing. We were so lucky to get her. Originally, I think she was only supposed to be in that one episode, but I think exactly what you said the chemistry and the interaction between the two characters was so fun that they decided to bring her back. We were all very glad she agreed to come back because she brought such a fun and interesting energy to the whole show. I adore Wendy, she’s so great!
Q: I also really love the interaction and chemistry between Frankie and Trudy. As the series progresses, will we find out how Frankie and Trudy met and came to become detectives together?
LLS: We do. We do, which is really, really great. It’s a wonderful episode. Probably one of my favorites. The partnership and the sisterhood and the kinship between the two characters is so incredible. Again, it is one of the things that made this character and this show so appealing to me. I love that they are equal partners. That they are in it together. That they 100% have each other’s backs. They have this really sort of fun working relationship together, but also we get to see a lot of personal interactions and a lot of their personal lives, between the two of them, as the show progresses. I think it’s a really, really wonderful interpretation of a female friendship between the two of them. I know that is something that Chantel [Riley] and I both felt really strongly about, maintaining and making sure we honored that, and I think that we did.
Q: I love how the series is set in the 1920s yet focuses on four empowered females who write their own ticket and follow their own set of rules. How surprised were you when you found out that this 1920s period piece was filled with so many positive, strong, heroic female characters?
LLS: It was incredible. It is such an interesting time frame – 1921. Women all across North America had just won the right to vote a year earlier. Because of women’s contributions to the war effort, women had this newfound respect among their communities. Women were allowed to dress a certain way. They had a new amount of sexual freedom. They were allowed to smoke in public. There were all these new exciting things for women happening in this time frame. Again, that is something that really spoke to me. It was such an interesting backdrop for a series in general and such an interesting time frame to tell this story. Also, something that I so appreciate and am really proud of with this show is that the writer’s chose not to sort of hark on the whole idea of “yes it is 1921, yes women are still faced with many obstacles,” but it is not in your face. It is not “oh you know we are women this is why we can do this, let me explain to you why we can do this, don’t call me the little miss.” It was just we are women, we can do this! It was very much more about our actions. Let me show you rather than let me explain why were able to do what we do and why we are just as capable as men. That was something that really, really appealed to me with this show.
Q: What has been your favorite part about filming “Frankie Drake?”
LLS: I think my favorite part of the series are the scenes that we get to film all together, with Rebecca [Liddiard], Sharron [Matthews] and Chantel and myself – all the girls. Those are the times when we look around and go, “This is so cool.” So many different types of women, all from different places, coming together. Being stars of this television series. Each bringing their own strengths and their own interesting quirks to these characters. We had so much fun together, literally. I know that you always hear that, but we generally do. We have so much fun together. It is not that often that we got to share the screen all at the same time, but when we did those moments were really, really fun. Those are my favorite moments.
Q: What if anything can you reveal or tease about what’s to come on “Frankie Drake?”
LLS: Not a lot. I will say that we will see some familiar faces as the series goes on. There are going to be people that pop up that people will definitely recognize. That is all I can say. We have some fun surprises coming up.
Q: You have portrayed characters with Mental Health issues as well as characters that deal with positive LGBTQ+ representation, you have provided such important, positive representation. Is an important societal message something that you seek out when deciding what roles you are going to take?
LLS: Thank you. I do. It is very important to me. Specifically, with “”Frankie Drake it was very interesting because I had just come off a series called “This Life” and I was looking for something that was very different from that. I really sort of, like to be able to jump into pretty different characters, as opposed to playing the same character back to back. Also, becoming a mother, especially to a daughter. It has changed my whole intention with acting. Before that, for me, my choices had always been an incredibly selfish thing. I chose roles based on whatever genuinely spoke to me and what I could get out of the acting experience – what I could get out of the character. Then, suddenly, I realized I was looking at things from my daughter’s eyes. What can I do that is positive for her to watch? What can I do, what kind of character do I want to portray that she would be proud of? Then, Frankie came along and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is the most perfect thing.” This show is the thing I am super proud of my mother watching and once my daughter is old enough she is watching. It is good quality television. So, for me, thinking about that is a huge thing. Having someone other than myself to consider. Also, just portraying strong female women is definitely important, now more than ever. That is something that I feel very strongly about and hope that I can continue doing.
Q: What do you hope the fans will take away from watching “Frankie Drake?”
LLS: I hope they have fun. I hope they will sit down and just really enjoy themselves. It is just an incredibly positive show with a lot of really great messages throughout. There is a lot of fun, action and adventure. There is a lot of female empowerment throughout as well. I hope that they have a really enjoyable hour of entertainment.
Q: You have played so many fierce, flawed, vulnerable, multi-layered women. What is it about these characters that you relate to and that resonate with you?
LLS: For me, dealing with things like their mental illness or their addiction. You know, all of those things, it is important to showcase those things. But also I really like to play characters that are outside of myself. Playing myself is really not very exciting for me. [laughs] I am not exactly an adrenaline junkie. So, for me, to be able to jump into the shoes of someone who is and to sort of have to wrap my head around what that means and who that person is, is really exciting. It is the same with any kind of flaw or also really great trait. I tend to look for traits in characters that I don’t necessarily have or don’t have a lot of – to have an excuse to delve into that world and have a little bit more knowledge about those things.
Q: I have to say, I have seen you in almost every role you have played and when I see you in all of these different roles, never once have I said, “Oh that character is just like Lara Perkins or Emma, just in a different story.” You are just so completely different and captivating and unique in each individual role that I never associate one with another.
LLS: That is the biggest compliment I can get! That is always my goal, to do exactly that. To try and delve in and just be physically very different from the last role. Look different, just have a different whole persona. Because, for me, personally, that is what acting is all about. That is sort of what is most important to me is to change with each part and not have your audience member go “oh look there is Lauren, doing what she does all the time.”
Q: What Hogwarts house do you think you would be sorted into?
LLS: Oh my gosh. Wait a minute. I am the worst with this. [laughs] We are talking Harry Potter? [laughs]
Q: There are four houses.
LLS: I would have to say Ravenclaw.
Time for some Quick-Fire Questions:
- Favorite color?
- Favorite 6 movies?
- The Never Ending Story
- Dark Crystal
- Requiem For a Dream
- The Piano Teacher
- Go-to snack?
- Go-to karaoke song?
- Eye of the Tiger
- Favorite holiday?
FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES airs MONDAYS at 9 P.M. (9:30 NT) on CBC and is available for streaming on the CBC TV APP and at CBC.CA/WATCH