TORONTO – A co-creator of the new CBC-TV crime drama “Shoot the Messenger” insists it’s not a story about Rob Ford.
But Sudz Sutherland does admit he was inspired by the saga of the late former Toronto mayor as he helped craft the series, which stars Elyse Levesque as a newspaper reporter caught up in a web of gangs, murder, sex, drugs and politics in Toronto.
“It’s not the Rob Ford story but … we were all inspired by that and I thought that unmasked a lot of what was going on behind the scenes of the city,” said Sutherland, who created the show with his wife Jennifer Holness.
“We thought, ‘Hmm, that’s really interesting,’ so we wanted to actually explore these relationships between people who are super rich and political people with political power and people who are business leaders but have these skeletons in their closet.”
Debuting Monday, the serialized show follows Levesque’s character Daisy as she witnesses and then investigates the murder of a young Somali man.
Lyriq Bent plays the lead homicide detective, who is also Daisy’s secret lover.
“A huge influence for me was Claire Danes of ‘Homeland.’ That was a big inspiration for finding this person,” said Levesque, who hails from Regina.
“But other than that I didn’t base it on any actual living human being.”
Co-stars include Alex Kingston as Daisy’s editor, Lucas Bryant as her co-worker, Hannah Anderson as her sister, and Ari Cohen as the attorney general.
Guest stars include Barenaked Ladies lead singer Ed Robertson and former NBA stars Jamaal Magloire and Rick Fox.
“We’ve got the attorney general and we’ve got a group of young Somali men, so we took the barest piece of the Rob Ford stuff and that inspired us,” said Sutherland.
“Then we also took a young reporter — nothing to do with the Rob Ford story — but we took somebody who actually witnessed a crime. So that was something that was really interesting to us, the fact that Daisy witnessed a crime and what would that be like if a reporter kind of becomes the story?”
Sutherland, who is also a director on the show, said he and Holness wanted “Shoot the Messenger” to have the same characteristics of a Netflix or HBO series.
“We wanted to bring that to the CBC, that highly serialized, really great, fun, guilty-pleasure-type show, things like ‘Scandal.'”
He and Holness spoke with Toronto cops and reporters “to actually get into the underpinnings of what’s going on in the city,” he said.
“We really learned so much about how people really get down in the world, because there’s a facade of how we think people behave, but really how people behave behind closed doors is really, really interesting. So that’s the story we wanted to tell.”