Set Visit: 'King' Breaks the Cop Show Mold
by Bryan Cairns, posted Apr 15th 2011 3:05PM
Canada's new cop drama 'King' should be serious business. Following the exploits of Toronto's Major Crimes Task Force, the series focuses on police officer Jessica King ('24's Amy Price-Francis) who, due to a public meltdown by Detective Derek Spears ('The Tudors'' Alan Van Sprang), has been promoted to head investigator of the group.
With cases involving the mafia and pedophiles, the hard-hitting 'King' is by no means a comedy in any sense of the word, but you wouldn't know it from behind the scenes. On location in Toronto, lead actors Price-Francis and Van Sprang couldn't resist continually busting each other's chops -- and co-star Gabriel Hogan ('Heartland') helps out, too.
"He's so generous with setting me straight, just telling me I shouldn't do it that way," jokes Price-Francis about her scenes.
"When I first got the job, they said 'Listen, you have to be number one on the show!' cracks Van Sprang. "I said 'Absolutely not! I don't want an exclusive driver or to be number one.' I think it has helped Amy and given her a lot more confidence."
"He's a giver!" she laughs.
Naturally, keeping a straight face during the interview was the real challenge, yet somehow, AOL TV managed to wrangle eight things you need to know about 'King' out of them.
Breaking the Mold
Ask the actors which cop show they have fond memories of and you'll get a wide spectrum of answers: 'CHIPS,' 'Miami Vice,' and 'The Wire.' With 'King,' the producers are hoping to stand out from past series and the current crop of procedurals by marrying two elements together.
"King is a character-driven drama," offers Van Sprang. "It's not a comedy, but because it's so humanistic, there are a lot of funny moments in it. All of the characters are so fallible through disagreements and the chemistry that they have. We are always breaking each other's balls. It's how the victims, the suspects, or the case itself affects us. It's how we deal with it, how we take it home, or talk about it with each other. We do have our office, the paper, the big boards up and the puzzle in front of us, but it's through our humor, interaction, whether we are friends or not, that gives us a clearer vision. With other shows, it's more about how the cops or unit itself affects the guest star. This is definitely more of a cop-driven show with their family lives. That's what we've been focusing on the most, is how we can make this very human and organic."
Meet the Gang
Being a cop is tough enough and with King taking over, there's plenty of tension to go around. What makes the characters so interesting are all the deeper layers and cracks in their armor.
"Jessica's not a perfect person," notes Price-Francis. "She's not a hero. She's very good at her job. It runs in her blood. She's so driven. In work, there's a certain formula Jessica can follow and she's lacking that in her personal life. She's not as sure-footed."
As for having a woman in charge, 'Jessica doesn't take on anyone else's issue with it," continues Price-Francis. "She is who she is. She says what she means and enjoys being a woman. She really couldn't give a rat's ass. That's not to say she isn't a sensitive and sometimes vulnerable soul. In fact, often wearing skirts and high heels, which she's a big fan of, she uses that to her advantage because it does throw people off. Nobody dresses like her in the office."
Watching her back is colleague Derek Spears.
"He is driven by trust, he's driven by family, and by kids," says Van Sprang. "That's his core. He believes so much in that so he surrounds himself with people he trusts. He used to head up the MCTF, the Major Crimes Task Force, and he's been ousted because he's been having some emotional problems via drinking. He's instinctual and not by the book to say the least. And when Jess King comes in, takes over the task force, he's basically put in the passenger seat. He is not relieved of duty, but asked to work with her, so she's taken over his office which he doesn't love. She doesn't like him around, but Jess has taken over this team, which is family. Slowly from case to case, they are figuring each other out."
On Jessica's home front is husband Danny, an officer with the guns and gangs unit himself.
"Danny is loyal almost to a fault, which is playing out in this episode," explains Hogan. "He loves being a cop and is fiercely loyal to his cop family. He married a cop, for better or for worse. He's essentially a really good guy. He has secrets and flaws that come out, but who doesn't? He's protective and loves his family."
Buffy. Xena. Sydney Bristow. With those characters paving the road for strong willful female roles, Price-Francis is thrilled Jessica King is following in their footsteps.
"It's awesome, especially approaching a particular age. It's definitely grown over the last 10 years. There's a lot more of it on television. The people making these shows finally realized that 'Oh, someone is going to watch a chick in a leading position.' People are interested in seeing those dynamics. She's a straight shooter. In an earlier episode, one of the team refers to her as having brass balls, which I enjoy. That's a fair estimation."
"Chick cop," quips Van Sprang. "That would be an interesting show."
A Wicked Chemistry
Obviously, someone needs to bottle the energy between Price-Francis and Van Sprang. That kind of connection simply can't be scripted, so when it works, those 'Moonlighting' or 'Cheers' moments occur.
"It was pretty easy," agrees Van Sprang about developing that spark. "When you're always insulting them and you are laughing so much ... it's not just Amy and myself. It's the entire cast and crew that helps. Through Amy and I having that chemistry, it really saved us a lot of time and energy in getting some of the more complicated scenes down. We are dealing with complicated issues but because it is our job and we deal with it day-to-day, we can make light of the situation in the office without it looking like we're making fun of it.
Authenticity: It's the Real Thing, Baby
When it comes to the police, networks continually receive flack from viewers for not getting the details right. To ensure accuracy and a high degree of realism, the cast shadowed and researched with the professionals.
"Yes, we were very lucky to have a bit of cop school," says Price-Francis. "It was very brief, but very informative. We were taken through the steps of a homicide investigation from the crime scene down. We had a bit of gun drawing and clearing-a-room lessons. I have the utmost respect for the people who really do this."
"The things they see and experience ... the smells, the environment. It really was extraordinary and helpful to talk to this particular gentleman. It really was invaluable hearing about his experiences and about certain partners of his that didn't make it. Especially in homicide, there's a short shelf life. Some people don't make it very long, and there's a real reason for that. To even do it in the beginning, you have to be a specific type of person."
Hogan adds, "It's a funny thing to me because when I was a kid, you never would have guessed that I would know a lot of cops. Now, I play hockey with a lot of them which leads to drinking beer with them. They are really cool about talking about things. They are the first ones who want you to get it right, especially the technical facts."
'King' already boasts an impressive cast, and some of the best executive producers in the business, with Greg Spottiswood and Gemini Award-winning Bernard Zuckerman. The icing on the cake was nabbing director Clark Johnson.
"Clark Johnson helmed the first two episodes," reveals Hogan. "He's done 'The Wire,' 'NYPD Blue,' 'Homicide: Life on the Street,' 'The Shield,' and 'S.W.A.T.' And when you are doing these series, it's the first few episodes that really set the tone, where everybody finds their feet and goes 'Oh, so this is what we're doing!' Having him kick it off was honestly great."
Through the Looking Glass
Sitting in a childcare center, there's hustle and bustle, but not much filming going on. Apparently, all the action is happening down the street, so Hogan teased what we were missing out on.
"This is heading towards the end of the season," he reveals. "Danny is getting into a little trouble and there's a little confrontation between him and his partner. We drive up and discuss the goings-on of what we've been up to. It's hard to tell what this is really about without blowing the whole episode."
Location, Location, Location!
Too often, Toronto stands in for New York, Boston, Los Angeles, or some exotic spot. Not this time. 'King' actually takes place in Canada's largest city.
"It's fantastic!" agrees Hogan. "'Flashpoint' does it well, and this is a Clark Johnson line, but 'In shows like this, the city really becomes a character.' Toronto is a fascinating city! There's the population density, and the multiculturalism is insane."
'King' premieres on Sunday, April 17, at 9PM ET/PT on Showcase.