Jason Priestley on his busy year, recruiting Doug Gilmour for 'Private Eyes' - InfoNews

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Jason Priestley on his busy year, recruiting Doug Gilmour for 'Private Eyes'

May 25, 2016 - 12:20 PM

Jason Priestley sounds as surprised as anyone.

"That's right," he says. "I've never played a detective before."

At 46, the Vancouver-born actor shot to fame over 25 years ago as teen Brandon Walsh on "Beverly Hills, 90210." His credits actually date back ever farther, with roles in the '80s on "21 Jump Street," "Danger Bay" and "MacGyver."

He was in Toronto this week to promote his new series, "Private Eyes," premiering Thursday on Global. Next to him at the network offices sat co-star Cindy Sampson.

Priestley plays former pro hockey player Matt Shade. He used to size people up on the ice; now he's sizing then up on the streets. Helping him learn the ropes is no-nonsense detective Angie Everett (Sampson).

The series is very Toronto,with one episode (featuring Nicholas Campbell) taking place on the Toronto Islands and another at Woodbine Racetrack.

In some ways, "Private Eyes" feels like a throwback to another era. This goes right down to the use of an old Hall & Oates hit for the theme song (covered by Canadian band Dear Rouge).

Priestley says he got a kick out of playing a detective. A car buff and former racer, he gets to spin around in that TV detective essential — a cool set of wheels. In this case, it is a 1969 Porsche 911 S.

Like "NCIS" or "Murdoch Mysteries," "Private Eyes" is a crime-of-the-week procedural. It feels a bit like "Castle" in that the main character is a fish out of water who gets to use his old skills in a new way.

Priestley says he grew up a fan of detective shows such as "Magnum, P.I." and "The Rockford Files." That genre kind of went away after "Magnum," he notes.

That might be why it took years for "Private Eyes" to become a reality. The source material is a series of "Matt Shade" detective novels by former sports writer and Sportsnet contributor Gare Joyce. Priestley and eOne optioned the first book, "The Code," in 2012.

By the time Global gave the series the green light, Priestley had also said yes to the comedy "Raising Expectations." The series, which co-stars Molly Ringwald, premiered earlier this month on Family Channel.

"That's Priestley," kids Sampson. "He never has just one show, he only does two at a time."

Both shows shot in Toronto. Priestley, who lives with his wife and two children in L.A, says he "basically didn't see them for a year."

He's directed for years, going all the way back to "Beverly Hills, 90210," but — juggling two shows — did not have time to get behind the camera on "Private Eyes." "Next year," he hopes.

Sampson, with credits ranging from "Durham County" to "Supernatural," originally went to the audition to help out a friend. Once she found out about the character, "I really wanted the role," says the 37-year-old Halifax native. "Angie is fierce and strong and witty and sarcastic."

Priestley knew she had the role at the chemistry test. "Right away," he says.

There's a lot of comedy in Sampson's background, both in sketch and standup. After performing at Montreal's Just for Laughs one year, she says she did the whole L.A. thing where she "auditioned for every four camera comedy that ever existed."

She also "ran from monsters and aliens and ate people's hearts and turned into demons for a whole bunch of years and cried a lot and now here I am. That's basically my career in one minute."

She sees "Private Eyes" as equal parts "drama and humour and romance — it's just got everything."

Thursday's premiere episode, written by Shelley Eriksen and Tassie Cameron ("Rookie Blue"), also has hockey. Shade, a player's agent before turning P.I., is working a rink when he bumps into an old on-ice adversary: former NHL great Doug Gilmour.

Priestley, who has played hockey for years in the Hollywood league formed by mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, is friends with the former Flames/Leafs captain. He called him up and asked if he would do a cameo on the new show. Now the general manager of the Kingston Frontenacs, Gilmour found room in his schedule.

Gilmour, it is remarked, does surly well.

"He does," says Priestley. "We came up with that bit on the day — that wasn't what was scripted. Doug's a great guy, we were very lucky."

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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