Close-up: An Interview With Romaine Waite

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with actor Romaine Waite to chat about season three of Frankie Drake Mysteries, working with Chantel Riley, his acting path, and much more.

Q: ‘Frankie Drake Mysteries’ has returned to CBC for its third season. What can fans expect from this season? 

A: The whole gang is back, bigger and better. The third season sees Frankie face a family secret while episodes bring her and the Drake Private Detectives team into the world of British aristocrats, illegal boxing, the supernatural, and political fundraisers.

The first episode has Agatha Christie helping Frankie to solve a disappearance case. However, there is one small thing that I am strangely excited about. For season three, Frankie Drake has an awesome new intro. I guess I’m a sucker for good typography. 

Q: What is Bill Peters up to this season? Is he still at Trudy Clarke’s beckon call? 

A: He’s definitely getting deeper into the world of private investigation. From the acting perspective, I’ve tried to give Bill a little more confidence. Of course he still makes himself available for Trudy. I don’t think it’s only to move the story forward. I believe that’s something a guy like that would do, he’s reliable. I don’t he’d have a job at City Records, if he wasn’t; and let’s be honest, do you really think he can say no to Trudy. 

Q: We have seen the fun relationship between Trudy and Bill on the show. What is it like working with Chantel Riley? 

A: Where do I begin. The first thing that comes to mind is professional. Since we met, back in season one, Chantel has always been focused on bringing the best of herself to Trudy Clark. While at the same time leaving room for fun and improvising. I couldn’t ask for a better scene partner.

On another note, she has a very motivating energy. In between scenes we’re usually having conversation about how to push ourselves further in our artistry and careers. 

Q: The show takes us back to 1920s Toronto. Is there a moment in history or a historical figure you’d love to help bring back to life on-screen? 

A: It’s funny you should ask this question, because there is someone. It was a random visit to the bookstore, where I came across the Raymond Arsenault written biography of Arthur Ashe. To be honest I didn’t know about him prior to this chance encounter.

However, when I took the time to research and dive into this man’s life, I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t known about him and his accomplishments sooner. Fast forward to June 2019, I put together a short trailer taking on the role of this tennis legend.

Needless to say, his story has made an impression on me, in more ways than one. To be granted the opportunity to express this on film, would be an immeasurable honor. Just give me some time to improve my sliced back hand. 

Q: Can you pinpoint a moment when you realised that acting was the path you wanted to take in life? 

A: Of course, I remember like it was yesterday. It was a small indie film. At the time a close friend of my mine had an uncle who was into writing plays. One year he decided to make a film. He put out a casting call that made its way to my inbox.

During this time I wasn’t actively pursuing a career. I had taken drama in high school and done a few plays, but acting as a career had never crossed my mind. Needless to say, I went for the audition simply because I had done drama/theatre before and a film was something new for me. Little did I know this would be the catalyst for my journey.

Moral of the story, always be open to new experiences. You never know where they’ll lead. 

Q: You were born in Jamaican and grew up in Canada. How have you found your experience in the Canadian entertainment industry? Do you feel as though there are opportunities and a variety of roles for people of colour in the industry? 

A: First of all, big up Jamaica. Regarding the Canadian entertainment industry, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been awarded the same opportunities as every other actor. At no point in my journey have I felt like I haven’t been given a chance.

On the other hand, I think our industry has room to grow. I haven’t seen a variety of leading roles specifically for minorities. For one reason or another, there has only been a hand full of Canadian projects that have focused exclusively on these narratives. The only ones I can think of are Da Kink In My Hair, Little Mosque on the Prairie, The Book of Negroes, and one from way back the day called Lord Have Mercy, which featured a diverse cast, that included a young Russell Peters.

With that being said, we have seen a significant increase in representation on Canadian screens in the past few years with Kim’s Convenience leading the way. Many prominent shows have also had people of colour in significant roles like Olunike Adeliyi in Flashpoint, Lyriq Bent in Rookie Blue, and of course Chantel Riley in Frankie Drake. With that being said, I strongly believe we’re headed in the right direction. 

Q: You’ve been on some really big sets over the years, including ‘Shadowhunters’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. How did you find those experiences and being on shows with such incredibly passionate fandoms? 

A: The real beauty of acting is being able to experience various worlds and circumstances. Having the opportunity to go from, a fantasy vampire underworld, to the far corners of the galaxy; isn’t something one would experience in real life. Even if they did, I don’t think we’d believe them.

Regarding fans, well, that’s always important. Without passionate fans, I’m sure these shows wouldn’t have seen the same type of success. In addition, when you know people are watching everything single detail, I believe it encourages everyone on the production to put in a little extra effort. 

Q: You will be starring as Winston Sams in the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film series ‘Crossword Mysteries: Proposing Murder’ and ‘Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver’ this October. Can you reveal anything about your role yet? 

A: The series follows Logan (Brennan Elliot) and Tess (Lacey Chabert) as they try to solve murders with traditional and non-traditional methods.

I join the series for the second and third installment as Detective Winston Sams. He’s a rookie detective, and eager to prove himself to his partner Logan O’Conner (Brennan). In the script this character is really sharp. He’s focused on finding inconsistent elements in each case and making them available to his partner for further investigation.

I was given the freedom to bring Winston to life in my own way. Which involved understanding all the unique tactics forensic investigators use to solve crimes. The series is grounded and somewhat gritty, different from what you might expect from Hallmark. So far it has been a fun experience playing this character.

Also having the opportunity to watch Brennan and Lacey work has been motivating. We filmed in North Bay over the summer. 

Q: What is next for you? 

A: It’s not out until early 2020, but I will be in the LIFETIME channel biopic about the prominent American gospel group The Clark Sisters. I’ll be playing the husband of one of the sisters

. In case people aren’t aware, I’ll give you a small idea of who they are. They have a catalogue of hits, they’ve won multiple Grammys and worked with numerous artists across varied genres; Including artists like Missy Elliot and Snoop Dogg. Mostly recently, you can hear them sampled on the Jay-Z hit Family Feud.

The film is executive produced by Queen Latifah, Mary J Blidge, and Missy Elliot. Directed by the lovely Cristine Swanson. 

Q: Any more upcoming projects or ambitions to share? 

A: I recently completed a short film that I wrote and directed. This was my first time wearing those creative hats — I’m very excited to share it.

We’ve started the process of submitting to festivals. It could show up in film festival near you. The film is called 36 Hammond Drive. It’s about a detective (no it wasn’t inspired by Winston, although that would be cool) that faces a tough decision. Either expose his true intentions, or fight to the death for the woman he loves.

Title image by Jack Phillips

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