Ottawa teen plays Sherlock's descendent

Tornoto Sun
Saturday, February 22, 1997

 TORONTO (CP) -- At 13, Meredith Henderson says she's ready for fame and she's no longer thinking about veterinary work as a career backup.
 
 But what if young adoring male viewers of her new TV show, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes, start writing romantic fan mail?
 
 "Hopefully NOT!" the precocious brunette says, her eyes rolling upwards.
 
 Henderson plays the great-great-grandniece of the legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes in the family-oriented series filmed in Winnipeg for YTV.
 
 Henderson concedes she and her TV character share some traits.
 
 "We love mysteries, we like Sherlock Holmes and we're both curious," she explains.
 
 "She's a tenacious little girl and I guess you could say I'm a little tenacious, yeah."
 
 Producer Kim Todd says the plan was to have an intelligent and interesting heroine on the threshold of the bigger, adult world.
 
 "Not bubbly, bouncy or cute ... none of the stereotypes given on television."
 
 Like her brainy ancestor, Shirley is also a bit of an eccentric. In the show her father is a British diplomat in an unidentified North American city and the young private-school girl seems to have a lot of time on her hands to snoop around town Nancy Drew-style, cracking cases the police can't solve.
 
 Her mother is missing in Africa and presumed dead but Todd says that's an ongoing sub-plot to be explored in future episodes.
 
 "We thought all great sleuths had to have one mystery that is their great challenge, and it was problematic giving Shirley two parents," Todd explains. "You'd wonder how she got away with what she does."
 
 Henderson says she was aware of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary character before getting the part but had not read the books or seen the films.
 
 "The movies, whenever they were on TV were always like from 12 to two so I couldn't stay up."
 
 Henderson began acting classes at the age of five in her native Ottawa. Her parents were both in theatre and she got her first major break in the TV movie Songspinner. She's also been seen on YTV's Goosebumps.
 
 Her biography quotes her as saying just in case "this acting thing" doesn't work out she had a fall-back plan to be a vet.
 
 The "back story" to Shirley Holmes, seen briefly only in the opening credits of each episode, has the young girl discovering a dusty old chest in the attic. She completes a riddle to open the box and finds it filled with Sherlock artifacts, including the famous deer-stalker hat.
 
 There's also a letter declaring whoever solved the puzzle as the one to continue the Holmes legacy. The note says in part:
 
 "My work has consumed my life and I have produced no heir to follow in my path. But I picture you, a young man of good imagination."
 
 Henderson likes the idea that the Victorian Holmes didn't foresee a female with the intelligence for the job.
 
 The Dr. Watson counterpart is Bo, who uses his street smarts to complement Shirley's instinctive talents. He's played by Toronto actor John White.
 
 Henderson will also use her summer hiatus to make a feature film called Kayla to be shot in Quebec. She'll play a down-to-earth 1920s farm girl, a far cry from Shirley.
 
 "It's going to be cool," says Henderson. "I'll be able to explore different kinds of emotions and stuff."
 
 Shirley Holmes is the first all-western co-production, a joint effort of Vancouver's Forefront Entertainment Group and Winnipeg's Credo Entertainment Corporation.