TORONTO - When Dwain Murphy excitedly talks about his part on the TV show "Played" — CTV's newest drama exploring the fraught lives of undercover cops — it's not hard to see the overlap in his work and his characters, or why he calls it a "perfect acting role."
"The show looks at how their jobs affect people," said Murphy, sitting on the patio of Toronto's Polson Pier in a break from shooting.
"It looks at how switching between all these characters and juggling all those moments of when they're undercover or not undercover ... trickle over to each other, and how you can see that you can lose a family from this job, and see those moments where you struggle to be a human being at the end of the day because you've seen someone shot to death and then you have to go home. It's all of that."
If it's an actor's goal to play as many different types as possible, then "Played" — billed as the first show in Canadian television to tackle the world of undercover police — is certainly an actor's dream. The characters they take on in undercover situations are even called "plays"; in effect, the show features actors playing actors.
"I mean, who can ask for a better job?" said Murphy, who is cast as magnetic right-hand man Daniel Price. "In the end, I get to play a DJ, I get to be a cop, in this episode I get to be a Brazilian drug lord — and these are all tools you can bring to create these characters that fits in the realm of the episode.
"There's no telling what characters we can play within a given episode — that's the amazing thing, you really get mini movies, not 13 episodes," he added.
"As opposed to other cop dramas that you've seen where you play one person, this series, every episode you play who you are," said Adam Butcher, who plays the hard-scrabble tough Jesse Calvert. "So sometimes you play a good guy; sometimes you pretend to be a bad guy. It's a really nice dichotomy of people you get to delve into."
In many ways, "Played" owes a debt to 2008's "Flashpoint" and 2010's "Rookie Blue," those rarest of homegrown shows whose popularity transcended Canada's borders and became popular in the U.S. Many of the same crew members, as well as producer John Calvert, are "Flashpoint" imports; creator and showrunner Greg Nelson had writing and producing credits on "Rookie Blue."
"The crew are phenomenal. Insofar of getting things done at the drop of a hat, it's like they all have telepathic minds," said Vincent Walsh, one of the show's stars who plays the reckless brooder Det. John Moreland. "With regards to the creators, they should hopefully get it right if they've done it enough times."
"'Flashpoint' was huge in the States, and I think this is going to go just as far, if not further, hopefully," added Butcher.
The cast credits CTV, which produced "Flashpoint" and will broadcast "Played," for allowing for the kind of high production values audiences are seeking.
"I feel like there's a lot of support, maybe now more than ever, for Canadian television," said Chandra West, who stars as unit chief Rebecca Ellis.
"I love that they are shooting Toronto for Toronto, and it looks amazing, and you're competing at the same level. So there is that support there because there's not a difference — it's not like you're going, 'Oh, I'm watching an American show, and now I'm watching a Canadian show.'
"You're watching a Canadian show that looks amazing and the quality is totally there, and at the end of the day that's what people want to watch, regardless of where it originated. ... I think you have to have that to be competitive."
For Murphy, the proof is in the pier, as the summer sun glints off Toronto's shimmering waterfront behind him while crowds of extras mill about.
"The beautiful thing about the Canadian market right now is that they're putting the money into the shows to make them way better," said Murphy, a veteran of Canadian TV after two seasons on "Degrassi: Junior High."
"We've come a long way in this industry over the last few years of funding shows and believing in our shows, and CTV is an amazing network for that.
"And it does gives us a leg up, when you're working on your own soil."
"Played" is set to premiere on CTV on Thursday at 10 p.m.
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