Q&A with the newest star of 'The Listener,' Lauren Lee Smith
Following a shocking death, a new cop appears on the beat needing a little psychic help.
That new cop is actress and Vancouver native Lauren Lee Smith, who plays the new character Sergeant Michelle McCluskey, a member of the elite Integrated Investigative Bureau.
The actress steps into the new role following the departure of actress Lisa Marcos, and the off-screen death of her character Detective Charlie Marks. Charlie had become close with paramedic Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik), who aided in her cases by using his secret psychic ability.
Michelle quickly finds herself in the company of Toby, after she looks through Charlie’s files and his name repeatedly pops up. It isn’t long before Michelle figures out Toby’s secret.
Smith has appeared in a number of films, including “Art School Confidential,” “The Last Kiss” and her critically acclaimed lead role in “Lie With Me,” and is fresh off a stint as Riley Adams on the ninth season of “CSI.”
Routinely punctuated by Smith’s infectious laughter, CTV.ca talked to the actress about her new role on the series, the research she did with female members of the real-life IIB, and why she’s afraid of psychics.
CTV.ca: Good morning Lauren! Tell me, how has it been going so far with “The Listener?”
Smith: It’s been good; it’s been sort of a whirlwind to be honest. It’s always a bit strange when you join a show in the second season. The first few episodes were figuring out the dynamic of my character, and how I fit in, where this character is going. Suddenly four episodes are done and you’re in it! Now we’re at episode 11 and I’m wondering, “What happened here?”
CTV.ca: What has it been like meeting these new cast members?
Smith: It’s been great. I really think the tone of the show has been different this year. They’ve brought on four new characters, so I feel like in a way it’s a whole new show. It was a much easier transition than I anticipated it being, and everyone was very welcoming with letting the newbies in.
CTV.ca: You play a tough-as-nails cop character, but anyone who has met you in person like I have knows you’ve very sweet and warm and bubbly… so how does that transition into character work for you?
Smith: It’s interesting. I actually prefer getting into roles that are the polar opposite of me, that’s w hy I’ve done so many dark and dreary things. Getting to play a character like Michelle is a real treat! More and more now it’s coming up. It’s been rare for me to find these characters on television that are strong, powerful, independent, ass-kicking chicks! But I certainly haven’t had a chance to delve into that yet. Now I get to go into work and boss all the boys around, it’s great!
CTV.ca: And you work a lot with Rainbow Sun Francks, correct?
Smith: A good chunk of it is with Rainbow, and we’ve become really fast friends. He’s my bud.
CTV.ca: Did you ever watch him when he was on “Stargate” or “MuchMusic”?
Smith: I did. I remember him from “MuchMusic” with the big, giant hair! That was very cool, back in the day. I also knew him from some of Clement Virgo’s films.
CTV.ca: Is Clement Virgo coming back to direct more episodes of “The Listener” this season?
Smith: Yeah, he’s done six, and he’s coming back for the second-to-last episode.
CTV.ca: What is it like to work with him again?
Smith: It was really cool; we’ve both been looking for an opportunity to get to work together again. That was also something that was appealing to me, coming onto the show, was the fact I’d get to work with him again. It’s been great.
CTV.ca: You did “Lie With Me” together, correct? That’s a great movie.
Smith: Thank you! You’re one of the first guys to say that actually! I get that a lot from girls, but most guys are like, “It’s okay.” I appreciate hearing that from a dude.
CTV.ca: So what has been the big challenge for you doing the show, what’s the biggest obstacle?
Smith: For me, it’s been finding the balance. It’s one thing to be this “tough chick,” but you also have to be likeable. An audience doesn’t want to see this snarky, bitchy girl episode after episode. You have to find those moments where you can see where she is coming from, and find the lightness in her as well. Finding that balance, making sure it’s there.
CTV.ca: The show is interesting, in that it’s very grounded in reality -- except for the whole telepath thing. Is that a strange thing to work around?
Smith: A lot of people have been saying that it’s “sci-fi,” but the reality is, there are people out there who claim to be psychics, and can read people’s minds and stuff like that. So I’m kind of scared of all of that stuff to be honest, but there are believers out there that claim it’s a real thing. And other than that, there’s no real sci-fi aspect to it. I don’t get the connection. It’s a guy who can read people’s minds and he helps the cops out with that. When I was doing research beforehand, it’s definitely something they use. They pull out whatever they can, it’s a matter of solidifying the facts and how they got that information.
CTV.ca: What kind of research did you do?
Smith: Before I started, they found this woman outside of Toronto who basically works in one of the units that we’re somewhat portraying called the IIB. It’s this small group of the best of the best, and I got to sit down and speak with her for quite a long time, and she brought in the female parts of this unit so I could get the female perspective, because I was interested in hearing from her, what it is on television, in regards to all these cop shows -- what it is that bothers her. I got to speak with her quite in-depth, which was really interesting. All of the girls had to say that what bothers them the most is that when girls try to act like dudes. I found that interesting, because in fact they don’t and they try to use their femininity and their power and persuasion, or their intelligence or they even use their sexuality! And you don’t see these girls trying to be one of the guys.
CTV.ca: And did you just say you’re afraid of psychics?
Smith: I don’t know, maybe afraid is too strong of a word. When we started shooting, a few of the cast members met with this woman, to get a sense of what it’s like to sit down with a woman who could tell you what you are thinking and what’s going on, and I chose not to! I don’t know… I’m always afraid that they’re going to tell me something terrible and I don’t want to hear it. I prefer to live in my own little bubble of my own reality.
CTV.ca: So you think it is real then?
Smith: I just don’t want to know. I don’t know if I believe… I don’t know. I’m not sure. I’m not really willing to explore it!
Tyrone Warner has been with CTV.ca since 2005, covering news, entertainment and everything related to CTV. When he’s away from the computer, you can find him writing, recording and performing his own music, running his own record label and dabbling in photography, painting and creative collage. Follow him now on Twitter!