TORONTO — When Cynthia Dale starred in “Street Legal” over 20 years ago, some viewers had strong opinions about the moxie of her character, lawyer Olivia Novak.
“People thought she was a bitch and I always said, ‘No, she was just misunderstood,’” the Canadian stage and screen star recalled in an interview.
“She wasn’t a bitch. She was aggressive, absolutely, she spoke her mind, she had a voice and she made sure people heard it.”
As Dale helps reboot the Canadian courtroom drama for a winter 2019 premiere on the CBC, she feels her character will resonate with a new generation of women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds like Olivia.
“That’s really what a lot of women are doing now,” she said Thursday, after the CBC revealed the show will be in its 2018/19 lineup.
“And it’s fantastic to be a part of a show that’s going to ride that wave and be mixed up in that water where we listen to and value and honour and not judge a woman for speaking or acting or feeling that way.”
Six, one-hour episodes of “Street Legal” were among 17 new series and 36 renewed titles the public broadcaster announced for the upcoming season.
Other new titles include the limited series “Unspeakable,” which gives a dramatic depiction of Canada’s tainted blood scandal that began in the early 1980s.
Meanwhile, “Diggstown” will feature “the first black Canadian lead of an hour-long drama on broadcast television in Canada,” said creator Floyd Kane.
It will be shot in Halifax and follow a corporate lawyer who switches to a career in legal aid after her aunt commits suicide following a malicious prosecution.
Casting is underway for the protagonist, who hails from North Preston, N.S.
The grit of “Diggstown” is a contrast to the gloss of “Street Legal,” which the creators say will have the same soapy quality as the original but also dig into messy and difficult cases. It will serve as a standalone story that doesn’t require knowledge of its predecessor.
Dale, who will be executive producer, said the show will see Olivia working at a boutique firm after the elite one she was at disbands.
The popular Gemini Award-winning series originally aired from 1987 to 1994.
Other new CBC dramas include “Northern Rescue,” starring William Baldwin as a widower who moves with his three kids away from the city to take command of the local Search & Rescue service. Kathleen Robertson plays the aunt who helps them cope.
In “Coroner,” which is inspired by the M. R. Hall series of books, a recently widowed mother investigates suspicious deaths while grappling with her own clinical anxiety.
New comedies include “Cavendish,” co-created by Mark Little and Andrew Bush, founders of sketch comedy troupe Picnicface. The two star as siblings who return to their hometown on Prince Edward Island to take care of their ailing father.
New factual and arts programming on the schedule includes “From the Vaults,” which features musical performances, interviews and CBC Archive recordings to explore Canadian history and music. Amanda Parris and Tom Power will host.
Meanwhile, “High Arctic Haulers” looks at Canada’s northern communities, and “In the Making” profiles Canadian artists.
“Kim’s Convenience” star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee will host “Canada’s Smartest Person Junior,” in which 12 kids test their intelligence.
Speaking of “Kim’s Convenience,” it’s been renewed for two more seasons.
Other returning series include “Still Standing,” “Anne with an E,” “Frankie Drake Mysteries,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “Workin’ Moms” and “Baroness von Sketch Show.”
“Mr. D” is also on the schedule for what’s billed as its final season.
On Twitter Thursday, actress Jennifer Podemski questioned why there aren’t any Indigenous stories/dramas on the CBC docket.
Heather Conway, executive vice-president of CBC’s English Services, noted they “have a lot of Indigenous content,” from short documentaries to radio/podcast shows and news features.
“We support the National Screen Institute with a very sizable amount of money to train Indigenous creators every year, so it’s a real focus for us,” Conway said in an interview.
“I personally believe that reconciliation is the issue confronting Canada and the CBC has to be part of that conversation and creating a safe space for Canadians to have that conversation, and I think we do a pretty good job of that.”