Staking its claim as the first Canadian police drama on network television since "Due South" went off the air nearly ten years ago, "Flashpoint" returns to the CBS schedule after a successful run this summer. While also airing on the CTV network in Canada, the series focuses on the elite tactical unit known as the Strategic Response Unit (SRU), which is closely modeled after Toronto's real-life Emergency Task Force (ETF). Series stars Hugh Dillon and Enrico Colantoni, along with executive producers Anne Marie La Traverse and Bill Mustos, spoke about being Canada-based, the show's new time slot and juggling the tactical and personal stories in each episode.
The "Flashpoint" group was quick to point out that the series, though shot and set in Canada, isn't necessarily a show solely about life in Canada. Dillon, who plays SRU team leader Ed Lane, shared, "It's not too often that we see shows set in Canada about the Canadian city. It's still a police drama with universal themes [and] what I think is unique about this show and what makes it so successful is that there's an element of responsibility with these policemen. They're not just all about storming the castle and then taking names. They really feel the consequences of their actions and I think that's what makes it so successful."
Case in point, in tonight's episode, Amy Jo Johnson's character, Jules Callaghan, makes a serious error when she momentarily leaves the side of someone she is assigned to protect. Her guilt over the incident stays with her throughout the episode. Colantoni, who plays the team's crisis negotiator Greg Parker, explained, "I think probably the most accurate thing that cops don't usually get to witness on television is the emotional element that they all possess and a lot of the cops that I've talked to are grateful for that. We're not depicting anybody as superheroes or anything. They cut, they bleed and they don't live in a grave."
As for how they balance the story elements of the series, La Traverse explained, "We always approach stories from the tactical point of view first of all and... if you've seen the show you know that we also start with a human flashpoint and follow that story throughout the episode. I think that we always try to find stories that will ultimately add very much of the personal layer to the tactical side of things so we can make the audience really feel something and that's where most of our work happens actually."
Besides the emotional impact involved that the actors bring to playing these cops, their acting job also lent itself to training with certain weapons to maintain authenticity to the series. "The only thing I'll say about the weapons training that I found unique and interesting," Dillon said, "is they have a 360-degree shooting range and nobody's ever seen it on TV or at least I've never seen it. Which means you can shoot in any direction. You're in a room and you can shoot in any direction and I found that incredible."
Colantoni added his thoughts on the teamwork he's witnessed in his research. "I think more than weapons it's the philosophy of the teamwork. I know that S.W.A.T. teams in America don't have the cohesiveness; they don't have the team mentality. They're usually cops on a beat and they get called in, they show up and they work as a S.W.A.T. [team] as opposed to ETF which work together all day long and they train together and that's what they do. They wait for calls and they go out. The unity on the team is so spectacular and that plays into the trust element and the safety element."
Both Dillon and Colantoni said they've spent time with members of the ETF and have received glowing marks from them in regards to the stories played out in the series. "Personally," Dillon revealed, "I get a lot of the real guys � the cops- calling me afterwards, kind of critiquing the show and the overwhelming response is, and I'm paraphrasing, I don't watch cop shows and I'm a cop but this show is spectacular. And these guys will point out any small little thing but they're pretty excited. The other thing is some of the real guys love the show because now their family and kids kind of get to see what they do."
When "Flashpoint" aired on Thursday and Friday nights from July to September, ratings rose throughout the nine episodes and showed a gain of over a million additional viewers by the time the final episode aired in September. When the series returns tonight, it will be sandwiched between two popular shows that have resided on CBS's Friday night schedule for some time. Mustos explained, "We have the fortune of being on a night that CBS wins handily. Their network schedule on Friday night had been really strong and while the other networks have been suffering on Friday nights with quite low ratings, CBS has really upped that trend and has performed extremely well with 'Ghost Whisperer' at 8 and 'Numb3rs' at 10." While "The Ex-List" recently failed in that middle time slot for the Eye network, Mustos isn't daunted. "We actually feel very fortunate that we're getting the chance to move into that 9 o'clock slot and take those numbers that they're doing at 8 o'clock and carry them through and tack them on to 'Numb3rs' at 10."
As for what is in store for the episodes that begin airing tonight, the producers teased, "In approaching the 2nd season we continued to look at the team and the human cost of heroism but we're also very interested in examining what happens to a team and how a team functions together... in the 4th episode (airing January 30th) something quite dramatic happens to our team that will have repercussions on the way people work together... and will really test the unity of our team, the loyalties and that was something that we were really interested in looking at this season."
There's also a sense of music in the air (literally!) with cast members Dillon and Johnson, who have each seen, respectively, their music used in episodes of the series. Dillon offered how the inclusion came to be. "I had written a song for episode eight [last summer] and I took it into Bill and Ann Marie and they've been so good to us as actors and they're so open to the whole collaborative effort... I remember being on a shoot in Commerce Court and talking to Bill and he said we liked this song, we sent it to network and they called back and they said your song is going to be in the episode. It was just amazing."
"Flashpoint" returns to the CBS schedule Friday at 9:00/8:00c.