There is something infinitely appealing about Kristin Lehman. The 41-year-old Toronto native has an air about her that makes you want to just sit quietly and listen to whatever she’s saying. Her character, Detective Angie Flynn, however, tends to do her best work while listening.
It’s a beautiful balance that seems to help guide “Motive,” which returns for its second season Wednesday, May 21, on ABC.
The Canadian-made police procedural drama takes full advantage of Lehman’s charms as it weaves its way through the picturesque cityscapes of Vancouver. And it does so via a peculiar take on the procedural format: It tells you right up front who did it — similar to classic “Columbo” — and spends the rest of the time searching for the “Why?”
Instead of the traditional ‘whodunit,’ we have a ‘whydunit,'” executive producer Rob LaBelle tells Zap2it. “It’s unique. It tends to draw people in, and then they stick around. It engages the viewer, and it’s challenging.”
But in a good way.
“Our killers are regular people,” adds LaBelle. “They’re not criminals. They’re not gangbangers or violent thugs or drug dealers. They are ordinary people who are driven by extraordinary circumstance to commit the most heinous of acts — taking the life of another human being.”
Last season in Canada, the show became the No. 1 new homegrown scripted drama. It felt different, and just as importantly, it looked different, thanks to the talents of cinematographer Mathias Herndl.
“He is a genius and a superstar along with his entire crew,” says LaBelle.
The show looks and feels like a motion picture, which is pretty astounding. But without the strong presence of Lehman, along with co-stars Louis Ferreira, Brendan Penny and Lauren Holly, the show might ring a bit hollow.
And yet, with the success of Season 1 still fresh in their minds, many people would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the producers decided to add a couple of new characters to the mix and have given the series added depth where we didn’t realize we needed any.
The main addition comes in the form of Sgt. Mark Cross (Warren Christie). He and Flynn have a past — an inconvenient truth, as it were.
“They were rookie partners out of the academy and also had a relationship,” says Lehman. “And when it ended, it ended poorly. … Suddenly they’re thrust together professionally, as he is her acting boss. What we see is the tension and the comfort of having that come back into your life. But we also see them examine some of the decisions they made as a team early in their policing careers. It’s a real joy to explore that storyline with him.”
But the truth is they are fairly toxic for each other.
“They’ve made questionable decisions,” says Lehman. “And then the fact that they’re together over the course of the season, some of the repercussions of fast and loose early police work comes back to haunt them. … The storytelling this season allows her to go a lot of places. So I hope it’s a journey the audience wants to take along with her.”
By adding Cross – and to a lesser extent, newcomer Valerie Tian as rookie officer Wendy Sung – the show has ventured into a bit more traditional territory, allowing for things to feel a bit more serial versus the purely episodic vibe from Season 1.
Producers say the storyline is purely organic.
“There is still the murder of the week, and there is a closed story. It resolves,” says LaBelle. “So there is that satisfying thing where you have some finality. But there are some more serialized elements this season. … So much of television is that way now. And frankly, that is very satisfying for the audience, the actors and the characters. They are more engaged with the character on a week-to-week basis. … Personal elements satisfy audiences.”
But the fact that producers would bring in a new character that begs for more of a serial portrayal is interesting since one of the initial draws of “Motive” was its self-contained episodic structure. Give them 60 minutes, and you’d get a beginning, middle and ending – not necessarily in that order — and you could call it a week, confident in the knowledge that you could skip an episode without the fear that you missed something integral from a previous week.
Of course, at this stage of Season 2, it appears that audiences are appreciating the new story arc.
“[Angie] has changed a little bit, but hopefully its still very enriching for the audience,” says Lehman. “But I hope at the heart of it, the vulnerable, fallible, funny, bold woman is still there.”