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Kristin Lehman: 'Motive' Success Doesn't Surprise Me

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KRISTIN LEHMAN MOTIVE
Kristin Lehman in Season 1 of 'Motive.' | CTV

If you've already caught "Motive" on CTV, then stop reading. I kid. The unique procedural, which focuses on the why and not the whodunit, has its first season finale this week on CTV, but in case you missed some or all of the episodes, you can watch it in its entirety when it premieres on ABC next week.

CTV's extensive promotional campaign for the series clearly worked. The first season averaged 1.1 million viewers, and its renewal was basically a done deal. But "Motive"'s accomplishments weren't a surprise to series star Kristin Lehman, who knew she had a good thing going.

HuffPost Canada TV spoke with Lehman about "Motive"'s success thus far, ABC's seemingly radically different take on the show and how Flynn and Vega will never be together. Ever.

Congratulations on the Season 2 pickup and the show getting picked up by ABC. How satisfying is all this for you?
It's very satisfying. That's a great way of putting it. Thank you for putting it so succinctly. Because everyone's been saying, "How do you feel about that?" and I feel so mixed. I chose to live and stay in Canada and do a show that shoots in Canada and when I signed on, there was no "ABC bought it!" In the beginning, I was thrilled that the producers and CTV could benefit so I was pleased that their goals were met, but my goal was getting a show in Canada, which is like wishing on a star. So I really felt satisfied to begin with. This is all very exciting and I'm really pleased that a show I'm very proud of -- the craftsmanship, our crew is fantastic, and we make it here -- can compete on an international and U.S. level. But I signed on not knowing any of that was going to be part of the package, and therefore not having expectations about it.

I've caught the odd episode on CTV, but I love that I get a chance to start over and see it in its entirety this summer. The promos on ABC are ... they're very different than CTV. [Laughs]
[Laughs] ABC, they cut good trailers. It's fun, it's slick, it's awesome. But it's such a dramatic departure from the way we promoted it. And it's interesting because all the European people that follow the show that tweet to me were like, "Wait 'til they see that the show's better than the trailer." I was like, "Really? Great, good, I'm glad you think so because this seems to be a trailer that's super-slick and sexy and I hope it's because ABC is totally behind this."

It's so much lighter. It's similar to the way they make ["Motive"'s lead-in] "Rookie Blue" look, and take away a bit of that darkness.
I kind of felt that way too. But I don't know. I don't know. Because here's the thing. ABC, they cut a good trailer. I love the music. It would get me excited to watch the show. It looks really great. It's a different industry down in the States. It's a cutthroat business based on a totally different financial structure. Having been on eight kajillion pilots that sometimes made it to the air and sometimes didn't, I can tell you. That's why I chose to do a show in Canada. But I think it's exciting that they're promoting it the way they are.

And I don't really get what makes it on American television. I can only say that I think we've made a show that is really solid entertainment and if people tune in because they love these slick, sexy ABC trailers, I have to believe they will also love the show even if the trailer is a puffed-up version of the show.

To be honest, while people moan and groan about procedurals being too formulaic, I don't mind that they're all kind of cut from the same cloth. That being said, I love how unique "Motive"'s angle is, and I'm surprised no one has ever thought of it before.
In my opinion, any suspenseful show or movie that revolves around a whodunit, they want you to guess who did it. And part of the guess, you're guessing why, based on information they are showing you as to why. So, really, we're giving people what they want anyway. Within five minutes of a movie, I'm always like, "Oh, he did it." People want that, they want the satisfaction of knowing who did it, and they stick around because that's what they want to know anyway. It's not like we reinvented the wheel, I just think we reframed it for people.

And we tend to sympathize with not just the victims, but the killers too.
That's right. There are so many nuances, and it sounds kind of crazy to be talking about a show that appeals to a broad demographic in this way, but I feel like some of what is subconsciously in there is our show doesn't just talk about the archetypes of good and bad, or right and wrong. It's much more nuanced in that, whether people know it or not, their preconceived notions of what a victim and a killer are are challenged immediately in the setting that they're introduced. It's a really important angle because that's what trickles down in the way we interact with our protagonists and killers and victims. I really feel the cops are there, not to enforce the good and scold the bad, it's really about, 'Wow, I have this unfortunate task of being present with someone who made shitty decisions, and there but for the grace of God go I." That's kind of what I feel it is.

Predominantly, crimes and horrible, horrible, horrible judgment don't have to do with sociopaths. It has to do with people who are not capable of maintaining or managing their frailties. And that's what the story is really exposing and that's the other reason people feel something, which I was not expecting to feel in a network show. I was not expecting to feel the amount of pathos and sympathy that I feel for the victims and the killers. And I really do feel it. I'm a hard nut to crack when it comes to content so I'm proud of that aspect of the show.

I love the relationship between Angie and Vega: the jokes, the playful jabs. It's clear they trust and care for one another very much. Actually, all the characters seem close. That's what I kind of dig the most, how established all the relationships seem. It doesn't seem new, it really does seem like you guys have all been working together for years.
Yeah, I agree. That's one of the things ABC said when they bought us, which I was proud of. The chemistry that we all have usually takes a long time to genuinely get on other shows. Some of that is because of Louis [Ferreira] and I; the original source material was a little different than the show we have now and there was more to their relationship. I don't mean romantically -- I just mean it was much more in-depth, much more personal, just because it was more serialized and more character-based. So we work real hard at it, every single day we work together, we commit multiple times a day to keeping each other loose, and where we can add in a human level of these people having intimacy that goes beyond the page that includes them knowing they're neeeeeeever going to be romantically involved. Never. Part of the reason they're so close is because they have failures in other places in their lives and they can genuinely trust and rely on each other. Always, always, always, every single day we're looking for that. And we have it with Brendan (Penny, Det. Lucas) because it's more there in the writing with him. It's less there in the writing for us.

We also genuinely like each other which makes it so much easier to play. Louis and I, we both care about the work, neither of us are spring chickens, the stakes are high to do work that matters to us, and we check in on a regular basis to try and do that. It sounds kind of hokey but it's all true.

But you don't want things to get romantic?
Nooooo!

Not even down the road?
Nope. I feel what they have is deeper than what either of them can contribute to a romantic relationship because once you get into a romantic relationship, your projections are different. Right now, their projections are heroic with each other and that would die. That would mean their trust with each other and their closeness would die. And nobody wants to see it. [Laughs] Nobody wants to see it. They want to see other stuff.

You'll still get people clamouring, I'm sure.
I know, but they'll just have to be satisfied with what we have.

I kind of do like it though. I like that it's not going there.
Yeah. I mean, really, if what people want is to see intimacy and banter, we're going to give it to them. If they want to see bums, it's not going to happen. Ain't no "NYPD Blue" here. [Laughs] I always say that to Louis, I'm like, "Get ready to see your bum. You're going to do a full Dennis Franz." I'll be Caruso, he's Dennis Franz. I'll show my bum too.

Just not together.
[Laughs] Just not together. In the locker room, we're both wearing jock straps. That's what they'll see. They'll be so disappointed.

Do you prefer that we don't know too much about the characters' personal lives, just little hints here and there?
No, I wish we knew more.

Yeah? Me too, OK.
Everybody says that, men and women. No, I want to know more. Thankfully, we're maybe dabbling in both enough right now that we can explore a little further in the second season.

I like the balance that "Criminal Minds" has, where the odd case affects one team member more because, I don't know, they have a small kid at home, or they were abused as a child, whatever. I think viewers can benefit from getting a glimpse into their personal lives.
I totally agree. After all, that's why they're committing to a show. If someone asks you to invest time in anything, it's because they need to know who they're investing in. What's also interesting is that you see how the person's life is actually influencing the way they approach the case. Not necessarily because they have something in common, but because something shitty happened, or because they're tired and they're not getting enough sleep. Even those brief glimpses, or that they just don't have the bandwidth in their personal life to constantly show leadership in their work life, that's interesting.

I love Flynn. How she handles herself, her relationship with her son...
I think Angie's a pretty spectacular character. I love her to pieces and I learn a lot from her personally.

Yeah, she's normal. Plus, the muscle car's pretty awesome.
Yeah, it's pretty awesome. It's smelly and slow in real life.

Well, it looks smelly and slow on the show, so...
My main thing is, is if I'm going to do this, I'm not going to apologize, I'm not going to pretend to be another age, I'm not going to pretend that I don't eat, I'm not going to play a woman who doesn't accept herself, I refuse to do that. And I have to uphold certain standards of beauty because this is television, so I'm going to do it like it's part of Angie. She wears makeup because she likes it, she thinks it looks good, she feels sexy. That's just me, that's just my little part of when I go to work, how I make it through the day. I'm glad that you like her beause I think those are some of the reasons people have been responding to is because she's not afraid to show who she is as a person, all of it.

She's more of a guy's guy, but I like that that doesn't make her any less sexy.
The way I kind of play her is just that she's a doer. Not so much from a gender perspective but from an architect's perspective, the feminine is the inspiration, the masculine is the action. Louis and I kind of reverse those roles, he's thoughtful, I'm more impulsive. And that's fun to play.

The Season 1 finale of "Motive" airs Thursday, May 16 at 10 p.m. ET on CTV.

Motive debuts on ABC in a special night and time, Monday, May 20 at 10 p.m. ET before moving to its summer timeslot, Thursday, May 23 at 10 p.m. ET. The episodes will be simulcast on CTV.

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