INTERVIEW: The Bridge cop show is real deal

The Bridge cop show is real deal
By: Glen Schaefer
Date: February 27, 2010
Interviewees: Aaron Douglas, Ona Grauer and Frank Cassini 
Source: The Province


Series about police officer’s life on the mean streets of Toronto set to air 

A scene in the first episode of the new Toronto-set TV drama The Bridge (9 p.m. Friday, CTV) has a group of police officers emptying their guns into a fleeing pickup truck, after which one of them jokes blackly with investigators probing the shooting. 

“Americans love that,” says Vancouver actor Aaron Douglas, who stars in the show as that scene’s joker, a uniformed cop and police union leader named Frank Leo. “I’ve shown the pilot to friends, a couple of cops, and they think that’s just the best scene in the show.” 

The Bridge is inspired by the life of ex-policeman and former Toronto police union leader Craig Bromell, who is one of the show’s producers. Douglas, who was previously one of the regulars on the Vancouver-shot series Battlestar Galactica, spent time with Bromell before filming to soak up a street-level policeman’s point of view. 

“Bad guys are bad guys — if you’re going to act like a dirt bag, expect to be treated like a dirt bag,” says Douglas. “In life, I have no problem with that.” 

Another scene in the two-hour series premiere deals with amateur video footage of a fatal police beating on a suburban street. 

The premiere was filmed in the summer of 2008, clearly evoking memories of the real-life 2007 video footage of Robert Dziekanski’s death at Vancouver’s airport. 

“Absolutely,” says Douglas. “I think that’s what art is supposed to do, evoke emotion and get a dialogue happening. We certainly did that on Battlestar and I think we’re doing it on this show. A few people can see both sides of the fence, but the show is very polarizing, a lot of it. It’s going to be interesting to see the reactions, because these are events that happen every day to police officers around the world,” he adds. 

Douglas’ fictional union leader isn’t played as a straight-up good guy, nor are his police colleagues, with a busy story that includes a rogue cop robbing drug dealers and another disturbed officer who shoots his wife. 

“It makes it so much more interesting when people are on both sides of the line,” says Douglas. “That’s exactly what this guy is . . . It’s a really interesting character, he is a womanizer and sometimes he drinks too much, a bit of a hard-ass but his humanity shows through.” 

The show, which filmed the rest of its 13 episodes over four months last year, features two other Vancouver faces in lead roles. Ona Grauer, who plays a union lawyer romantically involved with Douglas’ character, was part of the ensemble on the much-missed Vancouver-shot crime drama Intelligence. Frank Cassini, playing a well-connected police sergeant in the new show, has been a familiar face in Vancouver-shot TV and film going back to the The X-Files. 

Also on the producing-writing team is Toronto’s Alan Di Fiore, who was a writer-producer on Da Vinci’s Inquest in Vancouver. 

The Bridge is also set to air in July on the U.S. CBS network. 

Grauer says the cast and crew on The Bridge’s Toronto sets talked about the pioneering 1980s U.S. drama Hill Street Blues, in terms of stories, conspiracies and characters in the moral grey area. 

“That was one of the shows that was mentioned on set a few times,” Grauer says. “Some of the scripts I couldn’t turn the page — ‘Oh my God, what’s waiting for me?’ It’s what goes on behind it at the job.” 

The show’s title refers to a Toronto bridge that links a well-to-do neighbourhood with a poor district. Cassini, who grew up in Toronto before making his career in Vancouver, says the many exterior scenes brought back childhood memories for him. 

“It was a special summer shooting that pilot, and the rest of the series going back to areas where I grew up, in little Italy and the Annex,” says Cassini, who left Toronto nearly 30 years ago. 

His character, nicknamed the Rabbi, does a bit of the Hill Street Blues thing of briefing the troops, but as well is a facilitator, bringing competing parties together in the story’s various subplots. 

“He’s the go-to guy, maybe a little bit of an advice guy,” says Cassini, who has been based in Vancouver since the 1990s after leaving Toronto in the early 1980s to work in New York and L.A. 

CTV has been giving the new show a heavy promotional push during the Olympics. Cast and crew will know in a few weeks whether they’re heading back to Toronto this summer for a second season.