There may never have been a more delicate time to launch a cop show. But Nashville native Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is the New Black) and Nova Scotian Meredith MacNeill (Baroness von Sketch Show) might be the only two women who could pull it off. They have never been ones to shy away from controversy – or challenging roles – and the two are now co‑starring in CBC’s new buddy‑cop drama, Pretty Hard Cases. The series follows two undercover detectives, narcotics agent Kelly (Moore) and “guns and gangs” detective Samantha (MacNeill), who tend to prioritize their careers over their personal lives. While their personalities couldn’t be more different (they get on each other’s nerves a lot), their friendship is essential – something most of us can relate to right now.
We caught up with the actors ahead of the premiere of their new CBC detective drama to talk about taking on hot topics, making television during a pandemic and where they’re headed next.
enRoute How would you describe your characters, Kelly and Samantha?
Meredith MacNeill Sam irons her T‑shirts and overshares. She’s divorced with a teenager and about to become an empty nester.
Adrienne C. Moore And Kelly likes to fudge the rules a bit. Sam is more in line with the law‑and‑order side of policing, while Kelly believes in serving and protecting the community. There’s a clash in personalities, but through the course of the series, we learn that our strengths and weaknesses are the other person’s strengths and weaknesses, and we find a great balance.
ER From Starsky & Hutch to Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat, the buddy‑cop story is one of Hollywood’s longest‑running genres. What helped you develop your characters?
ACM I really loved watching reality investigative shows like Forensic Files and The First 48. I have always been drawn to detective work and how investigators put the pieces together to solve a case. When this opportunity came, all my years loving these types of shows helped me in terms of understanding how an officer finds a passion for the work.
MM We also had the opportunity to talk with incredible female detectives. That was the most effective education for me when it came to playing Sam.
ER Production on Pretty Hard Cases started during a global pandemic. What has that been like?
MM We’ve been forced to reimagine how a show gets made to keep the cast and crew as safe as possible – everything from new protocols and procedures to creatively refining scenes to mitigate any risks. Covid‑19 has been a key factor in rewrites, but the goal has generally been to keep storylines the same and just shift how we execute. We limit crowd scenes and shots in tight quarters.
ACM The first few weeks were tough, but we’ve found our balance with face masks and shields, and when to take them off and put them back on. It has been interesting figuring out how to convey a romantic relationship with someone you can’t kiss or do a love scene with. I hope audiences will still feel the intimacy, vulnerability and connection between the characters.
ER How do you feel about playing a cop in the context of the events of 2020 and anti‑policing protests?
ACM I was on Orange Is the New Black for seven years where we delved right into hot topics, whether it was Black Lives Matter, the privatization of prisons or U.S. immigration policy. If anything, what was most important to me was including those narratives and not being afraid to talk about them. There are storylines in Pretty Hard Cases about police who go against the grain, are a little controversial and bend the rules. I hope that audiences will not just see these characters as cops, but as people who have the same issues that they grapple with daily about their work, friendships, love lives and family lives.
ER Both of you previously starred in wildly successful TV shows with strong female ensemble casts. What has the experience been like working with each other?
MM I was obsessed with Orange Is the New Black and the impact that it had – the writing, the performances, not shying away from hard stories that weren’t normally told on screen. It set the bar for all other shows and, in my mind, still does. Adrienne is the same: She sets the bar.
ACM Meredith is not only incredibly funny, but she can also be very deep and vulnerable. To have that spectrum of play has been great for a show that balances comedy and drama. It’s an honour to be among women who can take on characters who are unique, complex, flawed and funny, and who are talking about topics that are timely, no matter how uncomfortable they are.
ACM I was in a souvenir shop in Italy a few years ago and I found a pocket mirror with “Siena” on it. It’s just a pocket mirror, but every time I use it, I see that and remember I was there.
MM My daughter. We travel a lot together.
ACM Someone cute, single and ready to mingle!
First travel memory
ACM Going on road trips with my family in my parents’ van. We lived in Nashville and drove to Arizona, New Jersey and New York. Those are some of my earliest and fondest memories of travelling.
MM My parents taking us camping – rain or shine!
MM Mints. It’s incredible how quickly your breath turns bad when you’re in the air.
MM I need to get back east to see my people.
I’ve always wanted to travel to Africa and visit Ghana and Gabon. I recently found out my ancestors were from Gabon and Cameroon.