TheChronicleHerald.ca — What’s the difference between a lawyer and a werewolf?
If anybody can come up with a punchline to that setup, it’s Halifax-born actor Steve Lund, who previously bared his canine teeth on the Syfy/Space horror series Bitten, and now trades his full moon fever in for a law degree on CBC-TV’s upcoming revival of its late-’80s/early ‘90s hit Street Legal, premiering on March 4.
“I think I have the answer,” he says after a few seconds’ thought. “The difference is a much better wardrobe.”
The Vancouver Film School-trained actor and former Halifax Mooseheads defenceman definitely looks sharp on the streets of Toronto in the new Street Legal, but his character Adam Darling is anything but a $1,000 suit shyster.
Instead, he’s part of a team of hungry young lawyers whose boutique advocacy law firm is working on a class action suit against big pharma over a highly addictive painkiller launched without the proper testing. As it turns out, they’re taking on the same pharmaceutical company that original series star Cynthia Dale’s Olivia Novak is after, when her Bay Street law firm implodes in a bloodbath of corporate headhunting.
Looking for a new challenge, and admiring her new partners’ energy and uncorrupted idealism, she agrees to bring her skill and guile to the table, joining Adam, Lilly Rue (played by Cara Ricketts) and Mina Lee (played by Yvonne Chapman). And so launches six episodes of the kinds of courtroom machinations and personal intrigue that were Street Legal’s stock-in-trade three decades ago.
Born in 1989, Lund was still a toddler when Street Legal was at its peak during its 1987-’94 run. When he got the chance to appear on the reboot, it wasn’t a name that registered with him immediately.
“When it was first mentioned to me, I thought maybe it was about a group of freewheeling auto mechanics,” he chuckles. “But when I looked into it, I realized there was a lot of history here, and it was one of the most successful Canadian TV shows of its time.
“There’s a lot of added responsibility when it comes to rebooting a series with such notoriety like that. But I also got the sense that there would be a lot of attention paid in the proper areas to do the original justice.
“I knew there would be a lot of integrity when it came to the scripts, with the tone of the show and putting a contemporary spin on a cherished classic. It seemed everybody would undoubtedly want to do a good job with it, and that was an alluring prospect, knowing they were trying to craft something great.”
In the first two episodes available to preview, Lund’s character Adam has a lot to cope with. The young lawyers realize they might be getting in over their head with a major case against a company that has further reach and more legal clout than they can shake a brief at, but Adam has a personal reason to go after the pharmaceutical corporation.
His parents — played by veteran actors Rosemary Dunsmore and Tom McCamus, both recently seen on Orphan Black — struggle with his mother’s addiction to the new painkiller that wasn’t supposed to be harmful. His father is a man of the cloth, but even this seems to be beyond his powers of understanding. It’s up to Adam to breach the gap, and when he got the script, Lund couldn’t wait to take on the challenge.
“Everything about this project and this character jumped out at me and attracted me to it very early on, and continued to do so every single day that we worked,” he says. “I was so happy to be given all this rich material and opportunities to do all these things I hadn’t really had the chance to do before.
“I’d been bursting at the seams to do more of this sort of thing, and then to be given these incredible castmates to work opposite, the work is already done in some respects. I just gotta keep the pace up.”
The new Street Legal hits the ground running with its very first episode, as Cynthia has to switch strategies while her former partners betray her at every turn. But the show’s emotional charge comes during heartrending scenes of watching Adam cope with his mother’s painful withdrawal symptoms.
Lund says those scenes required every bit of skill that he has, but he also felt empowered by the strength of the performances by Dunsmore and McCamus, which took him places he’d never been before.
“Part of the thrill of it all is trying to engage in a good rally between those two,” he says. “The heavy emotional side of it, the family aspect, is something I really relished in. I found tremendous joy in being able to access the love and the gravity that comes along with family.
“I’m very close with my family and we’ve been through a lot together and have come out the other side a very fortified bunch. I think it really lends itself to being able to access the emotions that are needed for this type of subject matter. My character goes through the wringer throughout the series, you haven’t seen the half of it yet. And yet it was so fun to do, I had such a ball, I wish I could do that every day.”
Some of the most powerful scenes have barely any dialogue at all, and Lund credits director Sturla Gunnarsson, with whom he’d worked previously on Schitt’s Creek, with bringing years of experience to bear on getting them just right.
“I remember one of the first really emotional scenes that I had, it was in the first week of shooting, and I was pinching myself and stepping back between takes. I was thinking of the genre stuff I’d been doing and thinking, ‘Wow, this beats the hell out of sci-fi, doesn’t it,’ and wiping the tears from my eyes, getting ready for the next take.
“I was right where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do, and precisely what I set out to do and be a part of when I made the choice to become an actor.”
Lund’s on-camera career has built slowly but steadily since it began a decade ago, with enjoyable recurring characters on Haven and Schitt’s Creek alternating with major series roles on Bitten, Reign (CW’s series about Mary, Queen of Scots) and now Street Legal.
With this first round of the latter show wrapped, and his next adventure about to begin in Cape Town, South Africa on a horror film for the Syfy network, Lund appears to have no regrets about trading in his hockey stick for movie and TV scripts.
“Absolutely not,” he says with a laugh. “I was just reminiscing about being on the bus and all the travel we had to do. And the fact that you don’t really have a say in the matter. You have to play a certain schedule, even when you’re not feeling good, and the whole world of it all was something I was ready to let go of.
“And I have absolutely no regrets, I haven’t looked back and wondered about what could have been. I feel much more like myself, and like I’m doing what I was meant to do. More than I ever did playing hockey. I was fortunate to realize that early on, when I made the change, and it’s been a blast ever since.”