Frankie Drake Mysteries: Chantel Riley interview

The acclaimed Canadian-Jamaican singer, songwriter and actress plays Trudy Clarke, Frankie Drake's associate at her Toronto detective agency.

Chantel Riley interview

Tell us about your character, Trudy Clarke.

Trudy is strong, smart and very talented. She's loyal and protective of Frankie, and she doesn't trust people as quickly as Frankie does. I love her boldness and that she's fearless. She thinks nothing of going into empty scary basements, that I would never dream of going into, or chasing after these crazy bad guys.

What's her relationship like with Frankie?

They are best friends. Trudy is like the perfect wing woman, confidante, associate. They have a great bond and a great friendship - they can give each other one look and know exactly what the other is thinking. And it's great because that happens with Lauren and I too. I love that we have that relationship on and off screen.

What challenges does Trudy face?

Being a woman in that time was difficult. Men didn't take them seriously, but they get to use that to their advantage. And even more so as a black woman. It's easy for Trudy to go undercover that way, she's almost unrecognised and invisible in that era, so she can flip that for her benefit.

What different undercover roles does Trudy take on?

She plays a jazz singer, a factory worker, a nurse. I got to play dress-up and go undercover - it was so much fun! I loved all the disguises, I got to play someone new every day.

The show is action-packed - what was that like to film?

These are definitely not women who don't fight back! Frankie rides a motorcycle, we've got guns and we know how to use them. We can hold our own and protect ourselves. These were dangerous times - we're dealing with prohibition, gangsters. We're definitely not going to sit back and let the men do the work - we will go in there and get our hands dirty. These are kickass women!

What was your scariest moment on set?

Trudy is a jazz singer and I had to perform in the jazz club. I've spent a few years on Broadway, which is tough, but I was so nervous! It was way more intimate, it's not like when you're on stage and there's a couple of thousand people watching you, but it's dark and you can't see them. This time it was thirty people staring right at me and all the cameras in my face. That was definitely a scary moment for me.

What do you think of the style back then?

I love it all. Our wardrobe and hair and make-up teams are so incredible and really helped me transform into Trudy. The wigs, the hats, the beautiful dresses and beaded gowns we got to play with - so much fun. Wardrobe was very kind enough to allow me to keep a pant suit I was obsessing over.

How would you sell the show to UK audiences?

Watch some badass chicks kick some butt in the 1920s!! You got booze, you got murder, you got gangsters. And everyone loves that era - the fashion, the lingo, the jazz music.