Podz on gritty, real-life roots of 19-2 cop drama

"I always found that if you're uncovering the human condition, people will connect," the Quebec director (pictured) said in Cannes of the French-Canadian cop drama now being adapted for English-speaking Canada by Bell Media.

It turns out even Quebec TV series can be a slow burn.

Montreal director Podz’ original French language version of 19-2 has been a popular hit with Radio-Canada viewers, enjoying a dominating 40-share in the Quebec market.

But it wasn’t always that way.

“The show, when we put it out there, no one liked it,” Podz, aka Daniel Grou, told Playback while in Cannes to promote the upcoming English-language adaptation for Bell Media’s Bravo channel.

“Radio-Canada and the producer didn’t like it. They thought it was too edgy and un-commercial,” Podz added.

Despite that push-back, Podz and actor Réal Bossé, who holds the main role in 19-2, stayed true to their vision of a character-driven drama that holds a mirror up to the real lives of two patrol officers.

“I always found that if you’re uncovering the human condition, people will connect. And that’s what happens in 19-2, as the cops are portrayed as human beings faced with impossible tasks,” Podz explained.

The Bravo adaptation will feature two patrol officers, Ben Chartier, played by Jared Keeso, and Nick Barron, performed by Adrian Holmes.

Nick is a veteran on Montreal’s urban police force and has just returned from a three-month leave following the traumatic shooting of his partner.

On his first day back, he is partnered with Ben, a transfer from a small town to restart his life in the big city.

Both men are good cops, yet struggle to reconcile their professional and personal lives.

Showing police officers as they are in real life, rather than as the public perceives them, whether positively or negatively, didn’t come naturally to Bossé.

That’s because the Quebec actor doesn’t like cops, and what they represent.

“When you see a cop, it’s a function and a suit,” Bossé insisted.

Through intensive discussions with police, Bossé said cops are forever making split-second decisions to avoid harm coming to them, and making constant judgements about people they confront.

But putting the humanity of the police in front of the TV viewers, warts and all, is what 19-2 is all about, said series producer Jocelyn Deschênes of Sphere Media.

“The idea is to portray the reality of these guys and how their family life is impacted,” he explained.

19-2 is executive produced by Deschênes and Carolyn Newman from Sphere Media Plus and Luc Chatelain from Echo Media.

Showrunner Bruce Smith is also a writer on the English-language version, with Jesse McKeown and Virginia Rankin as co-executive producers.