ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - For three seasons, Krystin Pellerin has been the good cop to Allan Hawco’s bad-boy ex-cop on the “Republic of Doyle.”
Hawco, the very hands-on writer, producer and star of “Doyle,” wanted to give the blond, blue-eyed actress a chance to show a darker side on the fourth season of the CBC detective drama.
“She’s an incredible actor, man,” said Hawco. “I just love the simplicity with which she approaches things, with such truthfulness and honesty.”
As with Hawco’s character, Jake Doyle, fans may have been wondering where Pellerin’s Const. Leslie Bennett had disappeared to when they tuned back into the series, now airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
It wasn't until last week’s second episode of the season when Bennett was discovered, decidedly out of uniform and deep undercover, in what appears to be a crack den. Sunday’s third episode will shed more light on her dangerous assignment.
“It was so liberating,” said Pellerin, who came in on a day off for an interview as the cast and crew gathered to shoot scenes at a deactivated St. John’s school house. On this late November day, production on the fourth season was nearing an end.
This is a much darker side of Leslie that hasn't been seen before, she said.
“I didn't want it to end. I never had a chance to play anything like that before. It’s like being given a brand-new character to play.”
The 29-year-old actress said she met with real life undercover cops, addicts and addiction counsellors in doing research for the gritty story line. They told her that things can get “really tangle-y” trying to go undercover in St. John's. “Everybody knows everybody,” she was told. “It’s a small town.”
One the Newfoundland native, who grew up in St. John’s, knows well.
The wardrobe department helped her get tarted up with “short shorts” and other trashy fashion choices for the role.
“I'm all Value Village,” she said, referring to the secondhand thrift store chain. Her hair was teased and extended into some sort of nightmarish Christina Aguilera 'do.
“I felt like a bit of a canvas,” she said of the transformation. “The scripts and the makeup and everything — it all felt like a collaborative effort.”
Pellerin has played to extremes before. Last spring, during her hiatus from the series, she performed in two plays at Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre: the intense Eugene O'Neill drama “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and the screwball comedy “You Can't Take it With You.”
“That’s the best workout you can have as an actor,” Pellerin noted.
The National Theatre School grad appeared opposite Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the second season of “The Tudors” before landing the role of Const. Bennett in “Republic of Doyle.” Her film credits include “Warriors of Terra” with Edward Furlong and “Killing Zelda Sparks” with Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”).
Hawco, as always, was notoriously tight-lipped about upcoming plot details.
“I don't know how much I should be telling you,” he said, preferring to talk more about the actress. “She’s so open when she takes on a role like that. It’s a big challenge. I know some undercover cops, and I tell you, I would never be able to do what they do. It’s a life-or-death stake, and Pellerin goes undercover.”
Pellerin is just glad to have a steady gig on a popular Canadian series.
The fourth season seems to be a transformative one for several cast members. “People in the cast and crew are getting married and having children,” she said.
Just after the onset of the new year, co-star Mark O'Brien, who plays misfit P.I. Des Courtney, married “Murdoch Mysteries” actress Georgina Reilly.
“It seems to be a time of growth,” remarked Pellerin.
So a shakeup for her own character came at the right time, she said. “It feels like a great thing to be doing at this time in my life as a woman, to be able to act in your own skin that way, to be uninhibited.”
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.