At first, Lauren Holly needed a reason to add Motive to her list of things to do. She didn’t need to prove herself. A working actor for most of her adult life, Holly’s list of acting credits began with a pair of appearances in the seminal 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues and seasons of Picket Fences for her creative mentor and spiritual guide David E. Kelley, as well as film roles in Dumb and Dumber, Sabrina and Any Given Sunday.
Holly, in a phone interview from her Toronto home, admits she hesitated when she first heard about Motive. Working on the show would mean weekly commutes to Vancouver, where Motive is filmed, and leaving her three young sons in Toronto.
“It’s a big commitment, doing a show,” she said. “I think I flew 140,000 miles during this past season.”
She liked the way her character, medical examiner Dr. Betty Rogers, was written, though. There was something fresh and unique, Holly believed, about a TV medical examiner who doesn’t always side with power and authority, who trusts her own instincts over reason.
“There were more things about it that were negative, to be honest,” Holly said. “I don’t mean to sound snobby about it, but I was worried that it was a Canadian production for Canada. I had seen a lot of those shows here, and it was obvious that that’s what they were.
“I could never really understand that, because the actors here and the crews are every bit as talented as anywhere else. It’s just that the shows themselves were not as good. I wanted to know who else was going to be involved.”
Then she learned Kristin Lehman had been cast in the lead role as Det. Angie Flynn, Motive’s primary driving force and character-of-conscience. Holly knew Lehman from her chameleon-like performance in The Killing.
“The timing couldn’t have been better, because I had just watched both seasons of The Killing. She’s very believable in whatever she’s in. I’ve seen her in other things, where she’s very different. There’s something intriguing there. I thought it was interesting that she was going to play this part, because it’s so different from her role in The Killing.”
Holly decided Motive would be worth taking a flyer on after all.
Weeks later, just as Motive was preparing to make its Canadian TV debut after the Super Bowl on CTV, Holly, along with her crew and fellow Motive cast members, learned that ABC had decided to air the homegrown TV drama throughout the summer, back-to-back with fourth-year Toronto import Rookie Blue. They learned this on a typically dark, rainy January day in Vancouver, but it was as if a shining klieg light had suddenly been switched on.
“Jazzed,” is how Holly describes her reaction, even as Lehman and her fellow actors and crew members embraced and high-fived each other.
Motive made its U.S. debut on May 20 and is now airing twice a week — Sundays and Thursdays — on ABC. It will take a brief break as ABC broadcasts the NBA finals, but will return once the basketball title is decided.
CTV, for its part, is repeating Motive in sync with its U.S. dates. Regardless of how Motive plays on the U.S. network, its future is assured: CTV has already committed to a second season.
“I could tell from the very first episode that there are a lot of things going on with this show,” Holly said. “What they’ve managed to do so well is establish a situation where you know who the killer is, but most of the time you can’t figure out how everything is connected in the end. And when you do find out, there’s usually some other twist to it. It’s constantly keeping you on your toes.”
Motive’s summer run on ABC is a welcome surprise, but it won’t make or break the series, Holly insists. CTV’s early commitment to a second season could prove more valuable in the long run.
“I think the show’s going to get better now that it’s confident. When it gets that footing, when it gets that confidence, then it starts to take more chances. I noticed in the later episodes, it was getting more and more interesting. It was revealing more and more about each of our different characters. So I’m really looking forward to Season 2.
“I’m hopeful it’s a big hit for ABC, of course. Good things happen to actors when they’re visible. That’s true for all of us. I’m lucky, though, because we’ll be going back for another season regardless. We’re fortunate that we’re not all dependent on how it does in the United States.”
Holly has not taken out Canadian citizenship, but she has permanent residence. It was a no-brainer, she says. She was raised in Upstate New York. She’s learned to respect and appreciate life in southern Ontario.
“I have three little boys, and I didn’t really want to continue to raise them in Los Angeles. I grew up in Upstate New York, between Rochester and Syracuse. It’s very much in my DNA. The weather, the landscape, everything. And my family is close by.
“It took me a little while to establish myself here, but I’ve been busy ever since.”
The weekly commutes to Vancouver, and Vancouver weather in January, can take some getting used to, but Holly is working on that as well.
“When we started shooting in Vancouver, it was beautiful,” Holly recalled, with a rueful laugh. “Absolutely gorgeous. We had that for a month and a half. And then all of a sudden, what I knew of Vancouver came back.”
Filming on Motive’s second season will be underway by Labour Day.
“August, I think,” Holly said. “So I think we’re going to start with some beautiful weather again.”