Amy Price-Francis is the new hot cop on the beat. As the title character on the Canadian-made crime drama King, the sultry actress plays it tough and sexy as a homicide detective with something to prove - to her colleagues and herself.
Born in England and raised in Toronto, Price-Francis is a graduate of the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada. Following stage turns in several theatre productions, she tackled her first TV character in 1998 on the Nickelodeon series The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, which she followed with roles on Canadian programs like Twice in a Lifetime, The Associates and Tracker.
From there, Price-Francis heightened her TV profile with her memorable guest run on 24, which cast her as the deliciously evil Cara Bowden, and on A&E's The Cleaner, where she played Benjamin Bratt's supportive wife. Some viewers will also recall her as David Duchovny's short-lived paramour on the first season of Californication.
On King, however, Price-Francis takes the spotlight as Jessica King, a police veteran who has survived eight years in homicide, not to mention two marriages and multiple stab wounds. She spoke to us in Toronto last week.
How did you research the role of a homicide detective?
I did some of my own research on the character - her education, what she's gone through, that sort of thing. I also had the great opportunity to speak to a few homicide detectives, both active and retired. Hearing their stories was incredible. The things they've seen and faced, it's extraordinary. Man alive, these people deserve so much respect.
Is it a job you could see yourself doing?
There are elements of the job that do draw me, but honestly I don't think I have it in me to be a real homicide detective. I just play one on TV.
King is also on her third marriage. Occupational hazard?
For homicide detectives, not a lot of marriages are successful, unfortunately. The job is just so all-encompassing and takes so much space. As the show progresses, we'll learn more about what she's gone through personally.
Your character is also the sole female among senior macho cops. How does she handle them?
She's thick-skinned. She's strong and solid and tenacious and direct. I respect all those qualities, but she's also human, and I can relate to that, too. I can relate to her drive and passion for her work. And she's not a hero. Sometimes she does fall down, in both her work and her personal life.
Did having Clark Johnson [The Wire, The Shield]direct the first two episodes establish the show's direction?
Clark has such a wonderful style. He really helped guide me and really had a hand in the way the character came together. I can speak on behalf of all the actors that we all felt supported and had room to explore and be free. There was a wonderful vibe on set. I can't say enough great things about Clark.
Was the show's Toronto setting a perk for you?
Toronto is my home. I loved the fact that a show shot in Toronto was actually set in Toronto. The city can stand in for a lot of places, but it made it that much more special that the city got to be itself.
You've worked on so many U.S. programs in the past decade. Are you based in Toronto or Los Angeles?
I do spend a significant amount of time in L.A. I just go with the flow, but certainly Toronto is my home. I'm lucky to be able to work in both places.
Did you harbour acting ambitions as a child?
I was actually a pretty shy kid and never considered it. I wanted to be a judge or a lawyer. Acting never occurred to me.
How did you come to attend the National Theatre School?
I was a dancer in high school, so I was comfortable on stage and telling stories physically, I suppose. I was doing a high-school musical and a teacher who had become close to me suggested I audition for the National Theatre School. I had never even heard of it. Long story short, she got the papers, filled them out, paid the 50 bucks and God bless her, because I really didn't have that much direction in my life at the time.
Are you planning for a long run on King?
That would be nothing but a joy. I would really like to keep this going. Sometimes things come to an end and you're ready to say goodbye to it, but this show could go a lot of ways. We have a lot more stories to tell.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
King airs Sundays on Showcase at 9 p.m.