By Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press on February 6, 2024.
Supinder Wraich says starring in CBC’s new police drama “Allegiance” feels personal on several levels.
She stars in the Surrey, B.C.-set series as a Punjabi rookie cop with Sikh roots who grapples with a flawed justice system as she fights to exonerate her politician father of treason charges.
“I am Sikh Punjabi. I know this community. I know this world. So, to portray this family on screen with a character like Sabrina – she’s tenacious, she’s powerful, and I really liked her whole vibe,” says the India-born, Toronto-raised Wraich.
On the day Sabrina graduates from the country’s top police academy, her father, played by Stephen Lobo, is arrested and charged with treason. Wraich says this hit close to home, too, because she lost her father to a heart attack two years ago.
“I really wish he was here while I was shooting this show. I just had a son, and I wish he was here for that. The idea of losing somebody in a moment when you really need them was something that really drew me into this story,” says the actress, known for playing Aqsa, the sister of a gender-expansive millennial in the CBC dramedy “Sort Of.”
Sabrina’s partner is veteran training cop Vince Brambilla, played by Enrico Colantoni of the long-running CTV cop drama “Flashpoint.”
Colantoni says “Allegiance” subverts police procedural tropes by putting the spotlight on Surrey, a city less than an hour’s drive south of Vancouver where a significant proportion of the population is Punjabi.
“”˜Flashpoint’ was the first show to feature Toronto as Toronto, but “˜Allegiance’ takes it one step further and really just puts a microscope on this part of the world, in this part of the country,” he says.
Vince is meant to show Sabrina the ropes as she enters force, but she winds up teaching him to unlearn some inherent biases, says Colantoni.
“It’s ironic that he’s been working there for 25 years but he hasn’t even picked up any Punjabi or anything,” says Colantoni.
“He doesn’t know how to relate to the neighbourhood until she comes in and gives him an eye-opening experience of, “˜Oh, here’s this police officer who’s ready to connect with her heart.’ And that infuses new life in him.'”
“Allegiance” creator Anar Ali says she wanted to tell an immigrant story from the perspective of a family that’s been in Canada for multiple generations.
“The first Sikh community that landed (in Canada) was in the 1800s, and B.C., in particular, is where it has such a long history, more so than anywhere else in the country,” says Ali, a writer on CTV medical drama “Transplant.”
“A lot of times when we see stories about immigrants, it’s often new immigrants in that struggle. But what about communities like the Sikh Canadians, who have been here for a long time? Or Chinese Canadians or Jewish Canadians? So many Canadians have been here forever and have helped build this country. That was interesting to me because it brings up new dramas around allegiance, identity, and home.”
The series reunites Colantoni with “Flashpoint” co-creators Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern, who are co-showrunners of “Allegiance.” They say approaching a cop drama looks much different three years after George Floyd’s murder sparked police brutality protests around the world.
“We’ve been approached to jump aboard police procedurals frequently because of the success of “˜Flashpoint,'” says Ellis. “The two of us had a conversation within the last few years where we asked, “˜What would we do if someone asked us to reboot “˜Flashpoint’? And I think that we couldn’t possibly write that show in this day and age.”
Morgenstern says that while “police are heroes by definition” in “Flashpoint,” the world has changed a lot since then.
“I think there’s a much more developed public awareness of the gap between what people need from the law and what people actually get from the law.”
“Allegiance” portrays a policing system that is flawed but presents Sabrina as an example of what a good cop could look like.
“We’re able to offer an aspirational view of what policing might be, while examining some of the realities of how harsh the justice system can be and the corruption that exists amongst some officers,” says Ellis.
Sabrina faces racism on the police force as charges against her father threaten to destroy her family’s legacy. Wraich says she could relate to a woman of colour having to legitimize her presence in certain spaces.
“There’s a scene where a character says to Sabrina, ‘You know, it’s a good time to be you.’ And she fires back and says, “˜I worked for everything that I got,'” she says.
“Even that doubt in your mind (is relatable) because I think comparatively, people say, “˜Well, it’s a good time to be Supinder Wraich right now.’ I don’t know that I would have been able to lead a show like this 10 years ago. I brought a lot of my own experience, in that sense, to Sabrina.”
“Allegiance” premieres Wednesday on CBC and CBC Gem.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2024.