Eric Peterson to reprise ‘Street Legal’ role — minus the ‘big hair’ this time

TORONTO — Actor Eric Peterson is ready to take on the Canadian courtroom again on “Street Legal,” only this time he’s swapping his suits and ties for robes.

CBC-TV announced Wednesday that the “Corner Gas” star will reprise his “Street Legal” role of Leon Robinovitch on an upcoming reboot of the Canadian courtroom drama. Original cast member Anthony Sherwood, who played prosecutor Dillon Beck, will also return.

On the original series, which ran from 1987 to 1994, Leon was an immigration lawyer at a Toronto firm. Now, he’s a judge.

“My virtual legal career has been astounding,” Peterson, 71, said in a phone interview.

“I was a judge on ‘This is Wonderland’ and now I’m a judge on ‘Street Legal.’ I think it comes with the age.”

Six new episodes of the popular Gemini Award-winning series are set to premiere on the public broadcaster this winter, with the story taking place 25 years after the original series.

Original cast member Cynthia Dale will reprise her role as Olivia Novak, who now works at a boutique firm after the elite one she was at disbanded.

New cast members include Cara Ricketts, Steve Lund, and Yvonne Chapman as the next generation of lawyers.

Peterson said he’s excited Canada will once again have a legal drama added to the tide of American ones to showcase how our judicial system works.

“You ask people here and they want to bang the gavel and say ‘Order, order.’ We don’t even have a gavel here,” Peterson said.

“It’s nice to have television that we’re proud of, like to watch, that is about us, specifically.”

Peterson said it will feature contemporary storylines, using the structure of one case for the whole season, with Dale “as the conduit and the continuity.”

“It’s contemporary too that the … source of expertise, of experience, is a woman,” Peterson said. “So that’s a shift that I think is long overdue, and it’s nice to see in this series too, where women are the leaders and not just the followers.”

Peterson’s character will appear in the final two episodes and will be portrayed as compassionate judge.

“He was the leftie in the firm,” Peterson said. “The picture on his office wall was Tommy Douglas. He was always fighting for the little guy, the good guy, the good cause against power and might and all that stuff.”

Peterson said when he first heard of the “Street Legal” reboot, he “was incredibly enthusiastic” about it.—

The original show took him to a new level of fame, after his starring role in the play “Billy Bishop Goes to War,” and he found himself suddenly being recognized in the streets.

“The other thing which interested me was it was Canadian,” Peterson said.

“It was being watched by over a million people every week and it continued to be. People would put aside their Friday night to watch it as if they were watching it live.”

Peterson has returned to several of the same projects over the years, including “Billy Bishop Goes to War” and “Corner Gas,” which is now an animated series featuring his voice.

“It gives me a sense that we do have our own cultural story here that goes on,” he said.

“I have a bunch of old ‘Street Legal’ hats and jackets that I’m sure will be worth a fortune on eBay or wherever you sell this stuff. I was looking at pictures of us, my God we were young, and did we ever have big hair.

“I have a hard time having the big hair this time — I’m lucky to have any hair.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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