Interview with series’ showrunner and star, Allan Hawco
By Cheryl Minns, Senior Columnist
A daring prison escape, detectives, and double-crosses fill CBC’s new five-part crime drama series, Caught, which premiers February 26.
Adapted from Lisa Moore’s 2013 novel, Caught follows David Slaney (played by Allan Hawco) as he escapes New Brunswick’s Dorchester Penitentiary in 1978 and reconnects with his former friend and business partner, Brian Hearn (Eric Johnson). Slaney considers doing one more job with Hearn, despite the fact his friend may have been the reason he ended up in prison.
“Slaney’s life was turned upside down for a shipment of weed in 1972,” said Hawco, the series’ showrunner, writer, and star, in an interview with the Other Press. “He’s completely ruined. When you meet him now, he’s in a place where he has no other option, he has no other skill set, he has no other life but that connected to this level of crime.”
Hawco discovered the novel Caught when his previous CBC series, Republic of Doyle (2010–14), was coming to an end of its six-season run and he was searching for new inspiration.
“We were anxious to find a natural end to that show, but in a lot of ways, I was kind of burnt-out creatively,” he said. “Then I read the book and it inspired me in a way that I hadn’t been in a while. Once we secured the rights and we started to work on it, the inspiration kept getting greater. It was a fun ride from start to finish.”
During the adaptation process, Hawco took the character-driven book and turned it into a plot-driven television program that required a variety of filming locations and a genuine 1970s aesthetic.
“It was a challenge because we had a very limited budget, and we were shooting in two different continents,” he said. “We shot in Newfoundland, in Hamilton for two days, and in the Dominican Republic.
“We worked really hard not to make it a caricature,” he said of the 1970s period setting. “The characters, their backstories, what they want, and their obstacles, all those kinds of things are front and foremost. We tried not to hang too much on the time and place. We just wanted them to live in it.”
Hawco used the novel as a base for the show, with some alterations to make it fit the television medium. In order to stay faithful to the original story, Hawco kept in touch with the author, Lisa Moore, to let her know what kinds of changes were being made.
“It’s based directly and fundamentally on the characters, the premise, and the backstory of the characters,” he said. “But there are great departures. I cleared everything with Lisa first. I just wanted her blessing, even though we technically didn’t need to do that.”
One such departure is the way the thriller novel examines its characters. This can be hard to portray on plot-driven television, which doesn’t really offer an opportunity for characters to reflect introspectively.
“The book itself is extremely lyrical and beautifully written,” said Hawco. “It has a lot of internal thought, a lot of characters on their own, and you really don’t worry so much about the plot in the book as much as you do with the inner working of the character, which is difficult for television.”
Another departure is the introduction of new character KC Williams (Enuka Okuma), a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. She is seen in several uncomfortable scenes that establish the blatant sexism and racism of the 1970s. As a black woman, she has a difficult time getting respect from her male co-workers. Despite having a good track record, she still gets sent out of meetings to get coffee. Police Detective Roy Patterson (Paul Gross) is searching for Slaney and Hearn, and offers to bring Williams into his operation.
“[Moore] has seen the first two episodes,” said Hawco. “She called me right away from the space where she watched it and was extremely supportive. Then she went home and wrote a five-page email going into more detail about why she loved it.
“I really hope people enjoy it. That’s all I can hope for at the end of the day: That people feel like they’ve been taken on an interesting ride for five episodes.”
Caught airs at 9 p.m. on Mondays on CBC.