TORONTO — Jason Priestley is enjoying a migration northward in the TV industry.
While the Vancouver-born star once had to work south of the border to gain fame on series including Beverly Hills, 90210, he’s now able to live at least half of the year back on home soil shooting the dramedy Private Eyes, which debuts its second season tonight on Global.
Last year, he also starred in the Toronto-shot Family Channel sitcom Raising Expectation alongside Molly Ringwald.
Other Canadian-born stars who’ve also found themselves returning to shoot TV here in recent years include Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy of Schitt’s Creek and Anna Paquin of Bellevue.
“I think what happened in the TV industry a few years ago was that the TV industry left California and it moved other places, and I think that Toronto and Vancouver were big winners in that migration, Atlanta was a big winner in that migration, New York was a big winner in that migration,” said Priestley.
“But the industry has left California and people like me who work predominantly in TV, I go where the interesting work is and … it brought me here.”
Well, for the most part.
“My wife and kids are in Studio City, California. I’m based on an Air Canada flight more than anything,” he said with a laugh.
“But I love it here. And they come up here and they spend time up here with me.
“But I spend about half the year up here every year, and I have for the last five years. I just seem to split my time between Toronto and Los Angeles, which is fine, because I love this city.”
Toronto is also the setting for Private Eyes, in which Priestley and Cindy Sampson play private detectives Matt Shade and Angie Everett.
While romantic tensions abound between the two, their relationship appears destined for the friend zone this season as Matt becomes involved with a district attorney, played by Bree Williamson, and Angie becomes involved with an old flame, played by Mark Ghanime.
At the same time, Matt is dealing with custody issues involving his visually impaired teenage daughter, played by Jordyn Negri, and Angie is still mourning the death of her father.
Guest stars this season include William Shatner, fashion maven Jeanne Beker, and IndyCar Series driver James (Hinch) Hinchcliffe, who is in the première episode that’s directed by Priestley.
Each episode features many Toronto landmarks and references to the city — something several other shows (including Orphan Black and Rookie Blue) have done in recent years.
“I think that nowadays, the fact that there are shows that are no longer hiding the fact that they shoot here has to do with the fact that Toronto … is a world-class city and it’s a destination,” hesaid.
Priestley, a longtime Vancouver Canucks fan, is even a Toronto Maple Leafs supporter now — so much so, he thinks they have a good shot at the Stanley Cup.
“Give ’em a year or two. Oh yeah,” said Priestley. “Auston Matthews made a big difference on that team, and [president Brendan] Shanahan and [general manager] Lou Lamoriello and those guys — they’ve got that team tuned up now to the point where they’ll go deeper in the playoffs next year.
“And in two or three years they’ll be right there.”