“Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent” announced the cast for its initial season at MIPCOM on Monday, confirming six full-time leads for the Canadian iteration of the longest-running scripted drama brand in TV history.
The all-Canadian cast includes Aden Young (“Rectify”) as Det. Sgt. Henry Graff, Kathleen Munroe (“City on Fire”) as Det. Sgt. Frankie Bateman, Karen Robinson (“Schitt’s Creek”) as Inspector Vivienne Holness, K.C. Collins (“The Cleaning Lady”) as Deputy Crown Attorney Theo Forrester, Nicola Correia-Damude (“Shadowhunters”) as Forensic Pathologist Dr. Lucy Da Silva, and Araya Mengesha (“Anne with an E”) as tech expert Mark Yohannes.
Rogers Sports & Media confirmed the series last June following a two-year development period. The show is currently halfway through production in Toronto on its 10-episode first season.
“Lark Productions and Cameron Pictures Inc. have done a terrific job in securing a cast that underscores the essence of the ‘Law & Order’ franchise which has captivated fans for decades and builds on Citytv’s investment in popular and acclaimed compelling Canadian content,” says Hayden Mindell, SVP, Television, Rogers Sports & Media.
Along with the series’ casting, the show confirmed award-winning filmmaker Holly Dale (“Law & Order SVU”) will direct the first episode along with Episode 3 and the finale. Other first-season directors include Peter Stebbings, David Wellington, Sudz Sutherland, Rachel Leiterman, Winnifred Jong, Sharon Lewis and David Straiton.
This is the first time an international iteration of “Law & Order” has been developed with entirely new characters and stories. (Other international formats have retooled original concepts in new locations and/or with new cast playing versions of the same characters.)
“It was challenging, just to deliver what audiences are so familiar with — and to follow a formula or a recipe — but then make it your own,” says Erin Haskett, executive producer and president of Lark Productions (which has a distribution and development deal with Universal International Studios).
“It’s finding the right first story to tell in a franchise this well known,” adds showrunner Tassie Cameron (“Rookie Blue”), who executive produces alongside her sister Amy Cameron (“Mary Kills People”) from their banner Cameron Pictures Inc. “You want it to be a Canadian story, feel like it’s ripped from a Canadian headline and feel like it’s highlighting Toronto. So it’s picking the right story to tell, but it’s also learning how to write these scripts.”
Over the first season, the show exclusively showcases Canadian talent, from the crew to the guest stars, and will stick to Canadian stories and locations.
“We’re incredibly proud of the cast and watching them has been a joy because most of them are super fans of ‘Law & Order’ as well. It’s interesting to work on a show where everybody, from your grips to your drivers to your cast is an expert on this brand,” Amy Cameron tells Variety.
Hours after the initial callout for casting, the producers were flooded with queries and name submissions. They estimate they saw hundreds of potential actors for each role, and hope that going forward they can bolster a variety of Canadian talent — including those from the theater world, much like the original series does in New York.
“Like the original franchise, we are able to look outside of traditional TV types and really dig into theater actors you don’t always see on your television screen,” says Tassie Cameron “It’s thrilling to write so many different kinds of characters, and cast so many talented people.”
“If you go back and watch some of those original ‘Criminal Intent’ actors like 20 years ago, it was long before their career went to a play,” adds Haskett. “It’s not necessarily someone we would recognize in a guest star, which we’ve been conscious of as well. You can’t cast the guest star that’s recognizable, because then, are you giving away the story too soon?”
In crafting the show’s look, the team assembled studio space and created the traditional “cop shop.” However, Amy Cameron adds this is a roadshow with many, many shots of the downtown Toronto core that celebrate the unique qualities of the city.
“The biggest production challenge is probably construction — Toronto is a construction zone,” she says. “So that has been one of our more exciting challenges to try and overcome.”
Another challenge was finding the balance of ripped-from-the-headlines cases that were compelling enough to retool for the series, but that didn’t dredge up traumatic experiences for those watching. Furthermore, the producers had to take which newsy potential plots had been previously covered on the U.S. series into consideration.
“We tried in the first season to stay away from some of the more sensational serial killings in our country’s history,” says Tassie Cameron. “We might do one, but you have to cover that stuff very carefully. There are lots of fascinating stories on our list, some that we decided to wait on until Season 2, if we are so lucky as to get one.”
As the series preps for a Spring 2024 debut on Citytv, it’s eyeing international buyers at this week’s MIPCOM.
“It’s a brand. [We want to] deliver stories and performances and all of the twists and turns that are expected from the ‘Law & Order’ franchise, but also feel like we are distinct within that in terms of stories and sense of place,” says Haskett.
“People will respond to what’s familiar, but celebrate what feels distinctly Canadian,” she continues. “We’ve worked on other police detective shows in the past that have sold all over the world, in many, many territories. In those cases, they didn’t necessarily have a brand or a franchise behind them. So we have high hopes there will be an audience for this around the world.”