Two years ago, Allan Hawco was working on a script for a TV series when he asked another writer — fellow Newfoundlander Adriana Maggs — to read an early draft and give an honest opinion.
"Don't take this the wrong way," said Maggs, "but it feels like a grown-up 'Doyle.'"
That was exactly the reaction Hawco was hoping for. For six seasons, he starred in, and was the driving force behind, the lighthearted CBC detective series "Republic of Doyle." The success of that series helped Hawco and his associates at Take the Shot Productions establish a production facility in St. John's, N.L.
Their latest project is "Caught," a five-episode drama premiering Monday on CBC. It is grittier, more complex and much darker than "Doyle."
The series is based on the 2013 crime novel of the same name from another talented Newfoundlander, author Lisa Moore. The novel, shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, was handed to Hawco at a studio meeting as a suggestion for his next project.
"I hadn't read it, which was weird," says the 40-year-old actor/producer, "because the author lives up the street." He read it, loved it and got in line for the rights.
Set in 1978, "Caught" tells the story of David Slaney (played by Hawco) who busts out of a New Brunswick prison and quickly hooks up with his former drug-dealing partner in crime (Eric Johnson from "Fifty Shades Freed"). Broken down RCMP detective Roy Patterson (played by Paul Gross) picks up the trail.
The cast all had praise for costume designer Michael Ground's low-key approach.
"We didn't want to make it too, 'Hey! It's the '70s!'" says Hawco. His escaped-con character pretty much sticks with the same tan leather jacket and aviators throughout the five episodes.
Gross said his rumpled detective duds were very "Popeye Doyle," a reference to such classic crime thrillers from the '70s as "The French Connection."
"The only thing missing was Gene Hackman's pork pie hat," added Gross.
As Patterson, Gross's lank, grey-ish hair and salt-and-pepper stubble pull him far from the chiseled Mountie hero he played 20-odd years ago on "Due South."
Hawco never considered anyone else for the part of Patterson.
"He's one of the world's best kept secrets," he says of his friend and mentor. "That guy is one hell of an actor."
Hawco also had high praise for Edmonton native Tori Anderson, who impressed the showrunner with her work on the short-lived CW series "No Tomorrow."
"You can't not love her when you watch her," he says, suggesting that, past the first episode, her intriguing character "is essentially the core of the whole show."
Hawco and executive story consultant John Krizanc were respectful of Moore's original novel but made some changes in adapting it to television, melding some characters and adding others.
He praised directors T.J. Scott and John Vatcher for their snappy, two-takes-and-out approach. Much of the series was shot near St. John's, with Hamilton doubling for '70s-era street scenes in Montreal and Windsor, Ont. The production shifted to the Dominican Republic for drug world storylines set in Mexico and Columbia.
The best part of doing a story set in the '70s? The music, says Hawco, plus the bonus that there are no smartphones.
"I'm so tired of every solution plot-wise being solved with a phone call."
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press