Tonight: Rookie Blue Hits Streets of T.O.

Tonight at 9 p.m., Global launches its ABC co-pro, Rookie Blue. At one time called Copper, the shot-in-Toronto police drama stars young Canucks Missy Peregrym (Heroes, Reaper), Gregory Smith (Everwood), Enuka Okuma, Travis Miline and Charlotte Sullivan as new recruits thrown into the big city world of policing. If they were real cops they’d be standing downtown in Toronto this week, looking for nutbars with crossbows.
Reviews on both sides of the border have been mixed, with some dismissing it as Grey’s Anatomy for cops, and others praising it with the same comparison.
I watched the pilot screener several weeks ago. Several Canadians are behind it, including CFC grad Tassie Cameron, who helped get Flashpoint off the ground. Ilana Frank and David Wellington are also executive producers.
I like the two main leads (above left), but the pilot script seemed re-typed from everything from Hill Street Blues to, going way back, The Rookies. There was a bit about who’s going to frisk the transvestite that seemed like a “make it sound Bochco-ish” writing assignment.
Smith has a nice, original way of throwing you off the script and Peregrym is utterly real and winning.
Not helping the series, in my estimation, is how long it sat on the shelf. A quicker turnaround would have helped it not seem like what it now is, one of four made-in-Toronto cop shows shot last summer and scheduled this summer on Canadian and U.S. networks. I’m also a little blurry-eyed from catching up with pilots from about a dozen new cop shows launching this fall. None of the people behind Rookie Blue had any control over that.
The delay, however, may be why I had a hard time selling anybody a story on this series. I attended and enjoyed an interview session with the two charming young leads three weeks ago at Global’s main offices in Toronto. At the time I was asked not to run the story for a week or so. Not a problem as it turned out. Editors on both sides of the border passed. It seemed like they had either moved on or were just not moved period.
What I liked best about Rookie Blue was talking to Smith and Peregrym in Toronto. Both are high on the series and thrilled to have spent six months last year shooting in Toronto. Smith is from the city and, as he puts it, is “probably the biggest proponent of shooting in Toronto.” He describes it as “the greatest city, the most diverse, awesome, vibrant place.”
He also enjoyed the more laid back, arms length way the show was produced. “You’re much less encumbered here,” he says. If you want to change a line on a U.S. set, he says, “it takes three calls to three networks.” Here he would run an idea past Cameron or one of the producers and be told to go with his gut. “There’s not a scene or a line that I said in this show that didn’t feel real coming out,” he says.
I thought perhaps Smith might have enjoyed a similar luxury on Everwood, which was shot in Utah, but no, he said. “The writers were all in the same room in L.A.”
Both Smith and Peregrym said they were quickly able to get what it was like to be rookies tested by the more seasoned cops. Its not unlike the life of a young actor in Hollywood, they both said.
“I thought I was possibly going to take down Jeff Bridges career,” Peregrym said. The 28-year-old Montreal native worked opposite Bridges in the 2006 feature “Stick It.” Bridges went on to win an Oscar last spring so Peregrym didn’t seem to do too much damage.
Smith says he got schooled by Mel Gibson and other veteran actors on the set of “The Patriot.” “I had to die,” he says, “and didn’t have any experience to draw on.” Gibson showed him how to die. “It was the beginning of my career, when I started to realize there was more of an art to it,” says the 26-year-old.
Smith and Peregrym said they had to quickly get up to speed as cops. There was no mini-camp or physical training but they did get instructions on how to handle their fake guns. “Finger on the barrel, never the trigger,” says Smith.
Neither got to go on a ride-a-long with Metro’s finest. “They wouldn’t let us, too much insurance,” says Peregrym. “The closest I came was a walk-a-long,” says Smith.

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