Vancouver actress returns to the small screen in new mystery series
For a while there, actor Steph Song had the market cornered for Vancouver-themed stories in film and TV.
After a five-year break to marry and have a baby, Song is back on the small screen for another of those stories, as a police detective investigating the death of a rich man’s wayward son in the cross-cultural eight-part mystery series Blood and Water.
“They lured me back with a great concept,” Song said of the show, whose Asian and white characters speak a mixture of English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
The backstory for Song’s character has her unilingually Anglo, adopted by a white family.
“A total banana — yellow on the outside, white on the inside,” she said.
The result is a portrayal of Vancouver’s Asians that reflects the city’s diverse reality.
“I’ve got friends who are Chinese, but they’re as white as apple pie — no Cantonese, no Mandarin. They go to dim sum restaurants and wonder who’s going to order for them. That’s me,” said Song, a self-described “banana” who spent her own early years in white-bread Edmonton and Saskatoon.
“Then some of my friends are steeped in tradition, whose families came from China, Malaysia, Singapore and they’ve brought everything over ... their food and their way of life.”
Blood and Water’s mystery unfolds with the discovery of a body in Stanley Park, and segues through settings that include the Hastings drug corridor and a West Vancouver mansion.
“Stylistically it’s very dark, very moody, full of very flawed characters.”
It’s a return to familiar locations for Song, who spent the recent past in small-town Australia with her Aussie director husband and their baby girl, now three.
Raised in Canada by globe-trotting parents who ended up in Australia by her teen years, Song came back to Vancouver in 2005, with a resumé that included theatre, TV and film work in Singapore — where she was comfortable because everybody spoke English — and a short stint in Los Angeles.
“I hate that place. You don’t feel like a person, you feel like a number,” Song said of L.A.
Vancouver was another story — actually, several other stories. Within months of arriving, she had secured a lead role in the Douglas Coupland-penned feature comedy Everything’s Gone Green, about slackers in love amid a uniquely Lotus Land setting of empty glass condos, pot dealers and the digital economy.
Next was the dramatic miniseries Dragon Boys with a look at international organized crime centred on the city, and then the 2008 CBC comedy series jPod, another one from writer Coupland, about eccentric video game designers. A streak of roles in Canadian and U.S. projects followed.
“I took a big sidestep away from work to raise my daughter,” Song said. “But always with the intention to come back when she was in school.”
Last year Blood and Water’s producers offered her this latest role, having spotted her in Everything’s Gone Green. Song was recently back in Vancouver for a two-week stint promoting the new show with her daughter in tow. She was also checking out neighbourhoods and Montessori schools for a planned family move back to the city.
“I’ve also been enjoying the food; it’s all about the Chinese food here,” Song said. “Where I live in Australia, I am in meat-pie and sausage-roll land.”
Depending on how Blood and Water is received, the producers have mapped out ideas for a second season.
TV PREMIERE: Blood and Water
Where: OMNI Television
When: 10 p.m. Sundays