The Toronto-area building could be any industrial business, given its outward appearance.
On the inside, though, the first floor houses an ultramodern police station … even if it’s only for dramatic purposes.
The site is the production base of “Rookie Blue,” the Canadian-made series that launches its third ABC season Thursday, May 24. Though the new round opens with a big-name guest star — Montreal native William Shatner as a drunken driver with an inherent dislike of the police — the focus of the show remains on the young cops who certainly know more when they began the job but still have a lot to learn.
Surely that’s true for Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym), who ended the second season suspended from the force. The reason: her decision to pursue a long-percolating romance with Sam Swarek (Ben Bass), her former training officer, which ended up endangering his life during an undercover assignment and brought him a forced leave of absence as well.
“Andy is not allowed to see Sam, so even though they had plans to get together, she left town,” Peregrym tells Zap2it on the set of the Entertainment One-produced show. “He gets back to the job sooner than she does, because he has seniority, so the season opens with her somewhere else.
“Then she comes back thinking, ‘I’m going to get my job back, I’m going to get my guy back’ — but he’s genuinely upset, because he didn’t think that after everything they’d been through, it was really necessary that she left. Meanwhile, she thinks she made the right decision. I guess the theme of this season is, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ “
That’s echoed by “Rookie Blue” co-creator and executive producer Tassie Cameron, who says, “Finally, Andy McNally gets everything she wants, and what’s that going to look like? It’s not just Andy, but all the rookies, who want to be real cops.
“I wouldn’t say we’re trying to explore that in a darker way, but in a very realistic way. It’s not the first day on the job anymore, so this is what it means to be a cop with all the sad, heartbreaking things that can happen.”
Personal plights also impact fellow rookies Dov Epstein (Gregory Smith), Gail Peck
(Charlotte Sullivan) and Chris Diaz (Travis Milne); they’re joined this season by a new peer, Nick Collins (Peter Mooney), an ex-soldier who has a past with Gail. And the challenges are somewhat different for Traci Nash (Enuka Okuma), who becomes a plainclothes detective.
Previously seen as piano prodigy Ephram on “Everwood,” Smith turns director on “Rookie Blue” with a story that will air toward the end of the third season. He’d been allowed to guide scenes occasionally in preparation for handling an entire episode, and he says it’s “a dream come true on a lot of levels: getting a chance to direct at my age, and to do it in an environment that’s so supportive, since I’m working with some of my best friends in the world now.
“But with that comes a double edge,” Smith notes. “I’m terrified of letting everybody down. Sometimes a director comes in, and it doesn’t work out, and it’s kind of tough for a week and a half; then it’s like, ‘OK, well, you’re not going to see him again.’ If I screw this up, I’m still here, and I’ll be living with it for a long time. It may be a dream come true, but it’s also a high-stakes situation.”
Mentioned but previously unseen, Andy’s estranged mother also factors into the new “Rookie Blue” season, triggering Sam’s protective instincts to the couple’s possible detriment. Peregrym says Andy “doesn’t want him doing that all the time. She’s actually OK with what she does, but he can’t shut off the training-officer mode. Now he cares about her so much, it’s a little bit suffocating.”
Of course, Sam isn’t thinking that way, which his portrayer understands … as he does the so-called ” ‘Moonlighting’ curse.” Bass reflects, “Sometimes when you have two characters you really want to see get together, and they finally do, a kind of tension can go out of the dynamic of their relationship. I think the writers wanted to find a way to keep that sort of electricity there, and I think they’ve managed to do that.
“When they’re at work, Andy and Sam never cross the line,” Bass adds, “and I think that helps. We want to see them cross that line, but at the same time, we don’t.”
Sullivan and Milne have to play something similar, given the shifting status of Gail and Chris’ out-of-uniform link. “This new rookie, Nick, sets up a block between them,” says Sullivan, “and they become kind of separate.”
Milne concurs the members of the show’s creative team are “doing their best to throw everything in Chris and Gail’s path, and what a tough situation for people while they’re on the job. Eventually, Nick and Chris are going to be at each other’s throats, and it’s going to be very interesting.”
As “Rookie Blue” proceeds, Cameron — a veteran of another Canada-based police drama that’s had U.S. exposure, “Flashpoint” — admits it’s “very challenging” to make the characters more experienced in their work while still keeping them relative novices.
“Our consultants have all said they consider officers rookies for the first five years or so,” she reports. “When you think about it, it’s still been only two years doing one of the most dangerous, complicated, sometimes morally gray jobs there is. We’re just trying to be as real as possible while keeping the optimism and the freshness.”