Jason Priestley says ‘Private Eyes’ demise came as ‘a great surprise’

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — “Private Eyes” star Jason Priestley says he’s sad his Global TV series is coming to an end, noting its demise came as “a great surprise” to the cast and crew.

It was Global that decided to wrap up the Toronto-shot private-detective drama after the fifth and final season, which started Wednesday and moves to its regular time slot next Thursday.

Troy Reeb, executive vice-president of broadcast networks at Corus Entertainment, said in a recent interview that the company chatted with producers and they all decided the Canadian show “had hit its creative arc” and “wanted the show to go out on top.”

But the Vancouver-born Priestley, who starred alongside Nova Scotia-raised Cindy Sampson as a crime-solving duo, says he thinks the Toronto-shot procedural had more life in it.

He says the cast and crew found out about the cancellation a few weeks ago, after shooting season 5 last fall and winter.

The former “Beverly Hills, 90210” star says the show was “very personal” for him, since he was one of the producers who developed it from the novel “The Code” by G.B. Joyce. He also directed some episodes.

“I’m very sad to see the show coming to an end,” Priestley said in an interview this week. “I wasn’t ready to be done with the show. I don’t think any of us were. 

“It came as a great surprise to all of us that the show was coming to an end.”

“Private Eyes” stars Priestley as Matt Shade, a former professional hockey star-turned-P.I., and Sampson as his tenacious detective partner, Angie Everett.

The characters have grown close in both their professional and personal lives throughout the series, with a romantic chemistry that prompted fans to nickname them Shangie.

Corus called the Toronto-set series a “smash hit” and “fan-favourite” throughout its run, which began in May 2016 and drew in a slew of guest stars, including venerable actor William Shatner and former professional boxing legend George Chuvalo.

The show has also sold in more than 186 territories around the world and won last year’s Golden Screen Award for Canada’s most-watched series at the Canadian Screen Awards.

“You’re always sad when a show comes to its end, especially a show like this, that I think we certainly had the opportunity to make for a few more years,” Priestley said from Nashville, Tenn., where he lives.

“We hadn’t come to the end of our storytelling cycle with this show.”

Season 5 is shorter than usual with eight episodes because of the pandemic, said Priestley. Guest stars including singer-songwriter Royal Wood, actor Enrico Colantoni and Toronto drag queen artist Lucy Flawless.

The episodes pick up after last season’s cliffhanger, in which Angie was shot. The traumatic experience has her and Matt reassessing their lives, relationships and goals.  

Priestley said he thinks “it was a great season” with “really strong episodes” and an emotional through-line.

When asked for his thoughts on how the story is ending, he said: “I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’ll be interested to hear how our fans feel about it when they see it.”

Priestley said he’ll miss “everything about this show,” from the cast to the crew, who were “like a big family.”

“And I’m going to miss the beautiful city of Toronto and coming and spending as much time there as I had the opportunity to,” added the former “Call Me Fitz” star.

Word of the show’s demise is “still pretty new and pretty fresh for everybody,” he said. “But it’s the business we work in, and this is what we do, right? That’s how it works.”

Priestley is now directing the documentary “Harold Ballard: Power Player,” about the controversial legacy of the late Toronto Maple Leafs owner. It’s set to debut on the CBC sometime next year and will precede a feature film about Ballard, which Priestley also plans to direct in Toronto next year.

He’s also set to star in and executive produce a film adaptation of Canadian author Linwood Barclay’s 2019 thriller novel “Fear the Worst,” about a divorced father searching for his missing teenage daughter.

And he said he would “absolutely” be open to revisiting the “Private Eyes” characters in some capacity, should the opportunity arise one day. 

“We all loved making the show and we were all very happy to continue making the show,” Priestley said. “But it was a decision that was made that was out of our control.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2021.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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