Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chandra West Shines In CTV's Played

"Yes, I'm glad to be back," laughs Chandra West who shines in the new Toronto made police series Played which debuts Thursday October 3 at 10 p.m on Bravo.
After all Toronto is the place where the talented West first decided to be an actress.
"I think I made my first appearance on My Secret Identity (1990)," she says on the phone. Her part was so tiny she was not billed.
And today? She's acquired so much acting smarts she headlines the cast of Played as detective sergeant Rebecca Ellis, a poised police veteran who has the experience and savvy to lead an undercover elite force within the Toronto police.
"Who wouldn't want a part like this," she says. "Challenging, demanding, I said yes immediately. Our show runner Greg Nelson created it and the executive producers Adrienne Mitchell and Janice Lundman  were people I always wanted to work with."
West says her long stint back in Toronto and her husband's work in Chicago (he is executive producer Mark Tinker) meant "We were away from each other more than together this year. But that's the business."
In this engrossing saga the members of the Covert Investigations Unit rely on their police experience to ferret out wrongdoings.
In the pilot --"which was the second episode filmed" says West--the emphasis is not on procedural but character. These cops frequently go under cover to catch their prey.
In the first episode about nabbing a drug warlord Detective John Moreland (Vincent Walsh) poses as a wealthy stock broker who desperately needs a drug supply.
Moreland is fearless but apt to get into dangerous situations. "It's Rebecca's job to reign him in so he doesn't put the lives of other staffers at risk," West says.
"She's a very cool customer," West agrees. "But she's also fine tuned to the problems of all the staff she's responsible for."
Others in the unit include detective constable Maria Cortez (played by Lisa Marcos), detective constable Daniel Price (Dwain Murphy), officer Khali Bhatt (Agam Darshi), officer Jesse Calvert (Adam Butcher).
"We'll learn more about Rebecca's character as the series evolves," promises West. "Remember she must make the big decisions based on her experiences."
West says she left Toronto for L.A. "simply because the opportunities were better at that time."
Her film breakthrough happened in 2000 when she played Val Kilmer's wife in the feature The Salton Sea.
From 2003-04 she was Mark-Paul Gosselaar's wife in the hit series NYPD Blue and she shone as Tina Blake in the HBO series John From Cincinnati.
One of the biggest stars of Played is the city of Toronto in all its glory. Toronto is usually heavily disguised to make that all important sale to U.S. TV.
But in Played street cars whizz by and various Toronto downtown locations are out in force.
West says "We shoot two days in an Etobicoke studio where a fantastic set of our unit's location is located. But five days we're all over downtown Toronto. The look of this show is fantastic."
In Episode Two a luxury prostitution ring that preys on teenaged girls is located at a pricey eatery  and hotel which are actual locations.
In those days when she was making home grown TV shows like Forever Knight there was a certain stigma to Canadian TV. But Played with its glistening photography and tight editing can compete with the best anywhere.
The hope is Played on Bravo like Orphan Black on Space can find an keep an appreciative audience and return for a second season.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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