Frankie Drake’s Lauren Lee Smith: “In Canada, We Take Care of Each Other a Little Bit More”

Lauren Lee Smith as Frankie Drake.

Lauren Lee Smith has been a staple of Canadian film and television for over a decade. Her filmography includes niche titles like Lie with Me and Art School Confidential and TV mainstays such as The Listener and The L Word. Frankie Drake Mysteries, the CBC drama that premiered last Monday, is Smith’s first solo lead and she is almost in every scene of the series.

A Murdoch Mysteries spinoff of sorts (the two shows are set 16 years apart and linked by web series), Frankie Drake Mysteries revolves around Toronto’s only female private detective in 1921. Frankie (Smith) is a woman ahead of her time, frequently underestimated, but more resourceful than the police and criminals alike. “I’m a mother to a daughter now and the importance of playing strong female characters has become even a bigger priority”, elaborates the actress.

I had the chance to talk with Lauren about the watershed moment women in the industry are experiencing, and whether she knows in advance if a show has staying power.

– While you’ve been the co-lead on a number of shows, it seems Frankie Drake Mysteries falls squarely on your shoulders. Does it feel differently?

– I think there were maybe three scenes over the course of the entire season that I was not in. Playing the title character is a new experience, a different kind of pressure I wasn’t exactly used to. But having a leadership role gave me the energy on 15-hour days to be a cheerleader for the rest of the cast and crew.

– Considering your experience in other TV shows, do you have an inkling which series are going to last?

– I wish I did. I’m usually the worst person to know these things. Every time I think “this is amazing, this is going to work” … It’s hard to tell, especially considering how the television world changes so drastically year to year. I do think Frankie Drake has a little bit of everything to appeal to a large audience, and we have a really good shot at being successful.

– You are finishing the year very strong, between Frankie Drake Mysteries and your role in The Shape of Water. How long did you work in Water?

– I shot it last summer, I was in Montreal doing This Life when I got a call telling me Guillermo del Toro had a role for me in his next film. I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. I knew nothing about the character, I had a four-month old baby in tow, but decided it had to happen. We drove six hours to Toronto, shot two nights in a row, drove back and continued shooting This Life.

– You play Michael Shannon’s character’s wife. He seems very intense.

– It was a great pleasure getting to work with him. He is such a focused actor and it was incredible to watch his process.

– Would you say you have planned your career?

– When I was in my early twenties, I had this idea of who I wanted to be as an actor and how I wanted my career to go. The moment I let that go and stop worrying so much, the opportunities I was looking for started coming in. Now it’s just about not overthinking it and trust that work will come, which is easier said than done.

– Do you have second thoughts about developing most of your career in Canada?

– Not for a second. When I was younger, there was this constant push to get to L.A. I followed that lead, I did many, many, many pilot seasons and, while I was there, I was constantly getting booked out of Canada. It was ridiculous. Right after CSI, I got Good Dog (HBO Canada) and The Listener (CTV), and I didn’t want to go back. Here is where my family and friends are, I love my country, I didn’t see the point of fighting to do work somewhere else when you are getting great work here.

– Given the recent slew of revelations coming from Hollywood, do you feel the Canadian TV and film industry operates at a different level?

– I do. We have a growing community, but definitely smaller. We are more family oriented, there is a different level of respect, we take care of each other perhaps a little bit more. You are going to see these situations no matter where in the world you are, but based on my experience, I believe in Canada we have a sense of security and safety. That’s my hope, anyway.

Frankie Drake Mysteries. CBC, Mondays at 9 pm. Season premiere is available at watch.cbc.ca.

ICYMI: CBC Covers The New Prairie Dog Subscription Thing

In case you missed it, I was interviewed on both CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Saskatoon this morning about our new crowdfundy-kickstarter thing! Those interviews have been transmogrified into a story:

The papers, produced biweekly by Hullabaloo Publishing, will still be freely available in their traditional coffee shop, pub and street box locations. But, by taking a page from the crowdfunding playbook, Whitworth is hoping to keep the printing press humming.

“Our readers who value our paper, and seem to like us from what we can tell, should have a clear and concise opportunity to support us directly,” said Whitworth.

Subscriptions start at $9.99 for every two issues. There are increasing tiers of paid support that include perks for readers wishing to contribute more.

Read the whole thing here, and, if you want, support our “weird and funny…fanatically fact-based, reality-based and entertaining-to-read” publication here.

Only Tyrants Ban Journalists From Press Conferences

U.S. politics continues spinning out of control. From The New York Times:

Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.

Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended.

Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House’s actions.

“Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. “We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.”

It’s pretty simple: Trump’s administration bars media outlets because media outlets expose their lies and self-interest. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans have been radicalized by right-wing propaganda posing as news (Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Tucker Carlson) and nonsense-spouting opportunists (Alex Jones, Ann Coulter, and, back in the day, Glenn Beck).

Politicians and leaders who attack science, journalism, women’s rights, the poor and minorities are the bad guys. Don’t be on the same team as the bad guys.

Facebook And A Weird Croissant

Once upon a time, Dog Blog (“The Official Blog Of Prairie Dog) had three-plus posts daily, which was pretty damn impressive for a volunteer blog (volunteer = “no one got paid”). Greg, Paul, Shane, Jorge and others did (and in Shane and Jorge’s case, do) a great job writing a hell of a lot of stuff. But as I’ve said before, it’s been a lot quieter in 2016 because these days most of us don’t have the time, energy or motivation to spend 15-20 hours a week writing stuff for free.

I mean, writing in public can be a fun hobby, but it’s not that much fun.* Besides, like pretty much all media outlets, we’ve laid-off half our staff in the last several years so we’re (me and the freelancers) all busier with the actual paper.

Having said that…

We’ve gotta get this thing going again, at least a little bit, because it’s just wrong to restrict our online opinions to social media.

If the world didn’t already know Facebook can be dangerous, the recent election of Donald Trump proved it. For years, Facebook has amplified the voices of profiteering bullshit purveyors and demented, sexist, racist and anti-social maniacs who support the agenda of Trump and other toxic politicians. Too often, it’s been a magic looking glass that sucks viewers in and tosses them down Internet rabbit holes of nonsense, conspiracy theories, racism, sexism, homophobia and even radicalization.

Thanks to Facebook, a lot of U.S. voters brainwashed themselves into believing a lying, self-absorbed, thin-skinned, ignorant, selfish, silver-spoon-fed millionaire would make a better president than a highly qualified woman with a lifetime of experience in politics, international affairs and public service.

It’s nuts. And it’s a problem.

That’s not to say Facebook doesn’t have value. Many users share smart, fact-based, informative articles, proving Mark Zuckerberg’s $350-plus billion rabbit hole can lead to knowledge and wisdom as well as ignorance, hatred and insanity. I’ve often found it a useful tool professionally, too. It’s a good way to reach people I want to talk to for stories. And personally, Facebook arguments have helped me fine-tune (and occasionally correct) my opinions and ideas. So I’m certainly not going to shut down my account anytime soon.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that too often, Facebook is a vector for the spread of fake news, anti-science flim-flam and outright fascist propaganda, not to mention using other people’s work to generate advertising revenue. (a rant for another day). It’s annoying, and I’m going to cut down the time I spend on Facebook as a result.

Besides, I’d rather give my free time to my (local!) business, which does pay me.

Anyhoo, all this rambling means means you can expect a minimum of a couple blog posts from me a week going forward. More, if they’re dumb jokes or pictures of animals.

Speaking of dumb things, I promised you a weird croissant. Here you go.

food-weird-croissant-1

Cheers!

Editor Steve

*Unless you’re a masochist who likes constantly being told you’re wrong** by people who didn’t read what you wrote, ignored facts you linked to, and concern-trolled the shit out of you every time you made a goddamn joke. Then hell yeah, it’s a blast.

**Though I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed Barb Saylor’s proofreading. Always. Thanks, Barb!

Blahgs, Kommints And Trololos

Back in the days (2009-2013) when Prairie Dog’s editorial staff (me) and core freelancers (including Beatty, Dechene, and LaRose for a long time there) had endless energy for a volunteer blog with three-plus posts a day, we used to talk a lot about reader comments. Yes, Prairie Dog comment threads sometimes choked-up with snark, condescension and trolling*, but they also showcased the intelligence, insight and public engagement of many Prairie Dog readers.

Somehow our comments sections avoided the worst Internet pitfalls: rampant racism, sexism, homophobia and gargantuan idiocy (see: CBC comment threads). Kudos to PD readers for that.

Even though our blog is relatively quiet these days (regular readers will have noticed it’s not even on the home page now), we still think about it, and about blogs in general, and comments.

Which is why I found this post on The Stranger’s website interesting:

Which is to say that the culture of unrestrained bigotry, hate speech, harassment, and sub-mental diarrhea graffiti that has characterized comment threads since the day they were born has succeeded in eating itself. Trolls have driven humans away, and more and more publishers are beginning to side with the writers whose work is routinely defamed and diminished by a tiny fraction of the people who read it […] I know not everyone agrees about comment threads. The Stranger made comments optional to writers last year. News folks rely on them for tips, and Dan Savage is a huge proponent of them as well. For my part, I think they are a bad idea and a worse precedent[.]

Over the years The Stranger has been a major inspiration for Prairie Dog’s editorial approach**. So when The Stranger, an unbending, long-time champion of anything-goes comment sections, makes their inclusion optional for its writers, it’s a big deal.

My professional interest aside, Sean Nelson’s post is an interesting read for anybody interested in comment culture, and how trolls ruined the Internet.

I’m all for criticism and discourse, but it’s nice to see reporters and columnists push back against the excessive ignorance, disrespect, hostility and armchair amateurism they sometimes face just for doing their jobs.

Power to ’em.

*Prairie Dog has certainly never published any blog posts containing snark or condescension, and no one who writes for this paper or its blog would EVER troll readers. Ahem.
**Other major influences: Now magazine, CBC’s The Current, plus The Guardian, The Onion, The Believer and the beloved Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert/John Oliver chimera.

The Leader-Post Is Selling Its Building

CBC reports the Leader-Post is selling the Park St. building its been in since the 1960s. This is the second big downsize for the L-P this year: in January, the paper closed its Regina print shop, sending the job to Postmedia’s StarPhoenix presses (a move that may have contributed to a print edition of the paper being completely missed).

And let’s not forget Postmedia’s massive winter layoff jamboree, where the company eliminated 90 jobs nationally (including at least 60 in Alberta).

We all want to strangle reporters, columnists and editors sometimes (believe it or not, there are times people even want to throttle lovable me!). Nevertheless, one big reason Canada can (sort of) function as a democracy is its strong traditions of a free press. We need hard-working reporters holding politicians and the powerful to account. When the places that employ these reporters are dumping their assets, it’s time to worry.

And yes, I realize the Leader-Post’s slow death spiral is partly self-inflicted by its corporate overlords — 20-plus years of maximizing profits at the cost of shrinking newsrooms and offensively stupid head-office editorials have surely contributed to many people wondering if they’d miss the L-P. The fact remains  that Regina’s only daily paper is in this much trouble does not bode well for our community.

Only crooks, idiots and corrupt fiends hiding evil secrets want newspapers to go away. I hope the L-P finds a way to hold on.

Overthinking Ghostbusters

I started tweeting about Ghostbusters yesterday and had some trouble stopping. The inspiration for the tweet rampage was the latest trailer for the reboot film. I wasn’t terribly impressed. I mean, it looks fine. That is, OK fine. Just nothing… spectacular.

Since ending my little diatribe, I’ve read that Doctor Detroit (aka, Dan Aykroyd) has seen the film and he likes it — says it has more laughs and more scares than either the original or the sequel. So there’s that. Maybe it won’t be a tremendous, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man sized flop. But after all the hating over the female-led cast and the hullabaloo over it being a reboot and not a sequel, I realized I had some feels on the issue so I tried to get them all down yesterday. And then I storified them up for you…

Another Globe & Mail Boo-Boo

20160424_140536A couple of months ago I did a post on a moderately glaring error I found in a Saturday issue of the Globe & Mail related to a music column by Giller Award-winning author Sean Michaels.

While catching up on last Saturday’s G&M I found an even bigger boo-boo in the Report on Business section in a feature on the declining economic fortunes of the so-called BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Actually, there’s two huge errors on display in the above photograph. Anyone care to point them out?  

Oink! Oink!

20160325_083647At left is an excerpt from a John Ivison column on the federal Liberal government’s budget which ran in the National Post section of Thursday’s Regina Leader-Post.

You can read the column here, but the general tone is that the government is being overly generous with its “largesse” and that the modest deficits that are forecast for the next few years risk plunging Canada into a financial abyss.

The only initiative that Ivison singles out is the new child benefit which is meant to provide support for Canadian families with young children. But in another National Post column in the same section, new spending is identified for, and I quote, “Indigenous Peoples, post-secondary education, middle and modest income families, municipal infrastructure, the recently unemployed, veterans and seniors.”

The analogy Ivison uses to characterize Canadian families in line for the child benefit speaks for itself, I guess. At the same time he (along with Jason Kenney in a tweet cited in the column) is critical of the Liberal government for not spending enough to counteract terrorism and for scaling back $3.7 billion in funding commitments for military equipment that the Conservatives had made before being turfed from office in October.

Just as we have no idea what the true state of Saskatchewan’s finances are heading into the provincial election, with former Finance Minister Ken Krawetz’s surplus of $106.8 million in the April 2015 budget having morphed into a $427 million deficit due to the ongoing resource price crash, it’s impossible to say what Canada’s books would have looked like had the Conservatives won the last election and been presented with the same challenge as the Liberals of bringing in a budget in a slumping economy — an economy they essentially created through their obsessive focus on resource extraction.

Anyway, I just thought I’d point out what PostMedia, via its columnist John Ivison, thinks of the average Canadian family.

Double Vision

20160218_192413I didn’t see a mea culpa from the Leader-Post in the Wednesday edition, but on Tuesday the Postmedia product re-ran an article in its Financial Times section that had run previously in the Saturday edition of the newspaper.

The article’s a little longer, admittedly, but the first three-quarters is pretty much word-for-word the same article — but with a different headline.

You can click the photo to enlarge.

Life

This biopic captures a seminal moment in the careers two Americans — one a photographer, the other an actor — who were unknown at the time, but later went on to bigger and better things.

The photographer was Dennis Stock, and the actor was James Dean. In 1955, they hooked up for a Life magazine shoot that took them on a road trip across the U.S.

Life screens at the RPL Theatre Friday Jan. 8 at 9 p.m. and Saturday Jan. 9/Sunday Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. Here’s a trailer:

Realizing The Virtual: A Timetraveller Experience

Skawennati dakotas_raise_weapons-8x14-300dpi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is an image from an exhibition by First Nations artist Skawennati called Realizing the Virtual: A Timetraveller Experience that opens at the Dunlop Gallery on Friday Nov. 27.

Conceived as a “website from the future” that the artist stumbled upon, the digital art project consists of nine linked episodes that function as a futuristic gaming system that features the exploits of a Mohawk bounty hunter called Ratorats “Hunter” Dearhouse.

As the word “Timetraveller” implies, Dearhouse has the ability to move through time, and through the nine episodes Skawennati revisits incidents from North America’s colonial history to offer an indigenous perspective to counter the dominant narrative of the colonizing forces.

You can find more information on the DAG website. On Friday there’s an artist talk by Skawennati at 6 p.m., and that’s followed by a reception at 7 p.m.

Tom Lukiwski: “I Did Not Call The NDP Candidate A Whore.”

I’ll assume you’re up to date on Lukiwski Video Controversy 2.0? If not,  watch the clip above. There might (or might not!!!)  be a Bad Word at 1:41.

So: according to this  CJME story, the Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan MP describes the publication of this video as “obviously an attempt to smear my reputation [with] something that I did not say.” Is Lukiwski accusing the reporter — who quit her job over the Moose Jaw Times-Herald’s current reluctance to publish the story — of attempting to smear him? Maybe she’s the one who should pursue legal counsel.

Regardless, Lukiwski has said interesting things before and judging from comments I’ve read, many Twitter and Facebook users don’t accept his explanation. What about you? What do you think? “Whore” or “horde”?

Back To The Wheatfield

20151117_114625Two years ago the Saskatchewan government created a bit of a stir when it quietly began replacing the old wheat sheaf logo with a more modern logo to represent the idea that there was more to the province than just wheat.

The government was forced to proceed cautiously because when the Saskatchewan Party tried a similar move shortly after it was elected in 2007 as part of its rebrand of the province as “new Saskatchewan”, it was forced to back down in the face of public backlash.

Today, the Leader-Post rolled out a long-awaited redesign as part of a revamp of the entire Postmedia chain — and lo-and-behold, the newspaper’s new logo (pictured above) features a vast wheatfield.

The picture perhaps doesn’t do it justice, but even when seen first-hand the logo doesn’t exactly leap off the page. As explained by editor Stephen Ripley in an accompanying editorial:

Our print edition was redesigned by Postmedia design consultant Gayle Grin, with input from Mario Garcia, the world’s leading newspaper designer. The London-based design powerhouse Winkreative crafted our brilliant new logo — an abstract representation showing fields of golden wheat against the prairie sun, bisected by a highway stretching from the horizon into the heart of the city. To me, it speaks of prosperity and possibility; of open skies and the knowledge that the journey is just as important as the destination.

If I’m reading the logo correctly, the horizon’s vanishing point is in the upper left hand corner, and as the highway widens it eventually opens up onto the main part of the Leader-Post’s front page, which symbolizes the aforementioned heart of the city. I’m also assuming that the light yellow area represents the spreading rays of the rising sun. That would seem to locate the highway on the eastern edge of the city, which means at some point Postmedia should probably find a way to incorporate a reference to the new multi-billion dollar bypass that’s being built.

Or maybe I’m just over-thinking things? Anyway, the design’s from London, so it has to be good. And as we all know, nothing says Saskatchewan like “wheat”.

Coyne, Ambrose & Edmund Burke

20151111_085123 (2)I was catching up on my reading last night after we put our 48-page Best of Regina issue to bed. It hits the streets on Thursday, but in last Saturday’s  Leader-Post I found this curious amalgam of text and image addressing the future of the Conservative Party of Canada.

On one hand, you’ve got a column by Postmedia’s Andrew Coyne that reads, in part, like a PhD thesis on the history of conservatism in western society. You can read the whole column here, but here’s an excerpt:

By “conservative,” of course, I mean “conservatively liberal,” for we are all, right or left, inheritors of the Western liberal tradition. And while there are divisions within the conservative strain of that tradition, what unites them, it seems to me, is a belief in the need to limit arbitrary power.

The Burkean might put more emphasis on the constraining wisdom of tradition, the libertarian might stress individual choice and autonomy, but what is common to both is an unwillingness to assign great or discretionary power to some over others: whether such power is concentrated in state or private hands, whether its purposes are malign or benign – perhaps especially if its purposes are benign, for people do the worst things for the best reasons.

Then to illustrate the article you’ve got what can only be described as a glamour shot of newly appointed interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose dressed in a black leather something-or-other standing against a black fabric background of some sort with dramatic lighting. I’m not sure under what circumstances the photo was taken, other than that, as the caption notes, it was at a Toronto hotel on Friday.

Anyway, it just seems like a curious juxtaposition of visual and textual messages. But I suppose in our current political/media climate anything is possible.

Ezra Levant Is An Asshole

Click this link and you’ll find a blog post on Rebel Media by noted Harper attack dog Ezra Levant castigating Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau — or “Trust Fund Boy”, as Ezra calls him — for authorizing the expenditure of $10 million to “redecorate” the prime minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive.

I have never seen the residence. But every report I have read about its current state has said it is in desperate need of significant renovations — first, to preserve its structural integrity; then to provide the people living and working there with a habitable environment (without central air, for instance, the residence is cooled in the summer by heavy window air conditioners that are destabilizing the window frames and making the house extremely drafty in winter) and finally; to provide a proper venue for the prime minister (whoever that might be) to host official national and international functions on behalf of Canada.

I’m not even going to link to any articles proving this point, because it’s just common knowledge. Except for a dick like Ezra.