'Wong & Winchester' leads hope viewers will root for the scrappy duo in Citytv comedy

TORONTO — Grace Lynn Kung says “Wong & Winchester” is the show she always dreamt of doing.

The “Sort Of” actor says she’s been fortunate working onheavier and critically acclaimed projects, but her heart has always leaned towards comedy and drama.

“I love that our show is both serious and ridiculous,” said Kung, who is one of the leads in the upcoming prime-time Citytv series about two fumbling private detectives solving cases in Montreal. “I really love the dialogue.”

She also says the show's tone finds a balance by having gentle and caring moments between the two main characters — Marissa Wong, an unpleasant ex-cop and Sarah Winchester, a somewhat pampered young millennial keener — showcasing their dynamic while leaning into dark humour.

Kung, who plays Marissa, says what makes “Wong & Winchester” stand out from other comedies in the crowded TV landscape is the dynamic between the two title characters and what they reveal to each other over the season.

Each episode follows the unlikely duo trying to solve their clients' cases, such as a murder at a retirement home or tracking down a missing painting, which often end up being more dangerous than they first appear. The episodes were also shot in Montreal.

Kung says her character is the type of person to mask what she's feeling on the inside. She also says Marissa is unapologetic about her imperfections, such as being a hoarder. It's a type of character that Kung, who nabbed a Canadian Screen Award nomination for her role in the 2011 series "InSecurity," says she hasn't seen portrayed enough in entertainment.

“Marissa is definitely one of those people where you’re not seeing a lot of artifice and also seeing a lot of artifice,” she said. "And I get to be really messy — like, more messy Asians please."

“Wong & Winchester,” which premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, shows the evolution of the partnership between Marissa, who doesn't have a driver's licence, and Sarah, a recent university graduate hired by her uncle as Marissa's driver.

Kung likens the duo’s relationship to a court-mandated friendship.

“There’s these two folks who would never willingly find their way to one another, but who are forced to be together,” she said.

With the show airing in a prime-time slot, Kung says it adds pressure for it to be successful.

“I think there’s pressure any time you’re the Number 1 on a show,” she said. “Because I think inevitably, how the show does can’t entirely be separated from you.”

Still, she’s excited for the potential that comes with the traditionally coveted time slot,and is familiar with the spotlight this might bring, having starred for three seasons on the CBC drama “Frankie Drake Mysteries.”

“I think that’s one of the things that will make the show special,” she said.

Chris Pozzebon, executive producer and showrunner of “Wong & Winchester,” says he became attached to the story through creator Hollis Ludlow-Carroll, someone he's known for a long time. He says Ludlow-Carroll had a lighthearted take on the script and what the show would look like stylistically.

"When we got into the casting process and started seeing the characters kind of leap off the page, it just really felt like we had something special," he said.

“I think that the more time you spend with those characters, the more you’re going to want to spend time with them.”

Sofia Banzhaf, who plays Sarah Winchester, says audience engagement of the show determines theinternational sales and she hopes people connect with it over the six episodes.

“I think it has a layer of escapism and fun,” she said, noting the characters are underdogs to root for.

“They’re scrappy, they don’t have a force behind them — they are independent and they’re just trying to make ends meet.”

Banzhaf says Sarah is a bubbly person who faces each challenge with a high level of optimism and motivation, which drew her to the role.

"She just worked really hard on building resilience," she said. "And so that was really exciting to me."

She also says Marissa is a complex person in the show and she hasn’t seen a character like her before in a leading role.

“I think having an Asian-Canadian woman in a role like that is already defying some clichés,” said Banzaf, whose previous work includes a role in the 2015 film "Closet Monster."

“Maybe at first glance there are certain elements of things you’ve seen before,” she said. “But when you go deeper, they’re actually quite unique.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2023.

Christian Collington, The Canadian Press