|Play It Again, Shirley|
YTV star Meredith Henderson returns to her Holmes away from home
Meredith Henderson seems to be right in her element on the Winnipeg set of her YTV young detective seies, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. And why not? The 13-year-old Ottawa actress has alread cracked this particular case once before.
Shotting the $6 million Credo Entertainment Corp. and Forefront Entertainment series is better the second time around, she says. She already knows the cast and crew, and it's easy to slip into her now-familiar character - the great-grandniece of Sherlock Holmes, whose ambition in to be the world's greatest detective.
"It's actually like I never left, like I went away for a couple of days and came back," she says, picking at a foil-wrapped sandwich which she's so far put aside to pose for publicity photos, chat with a young girl who asked for an autograph, sit for make-up and submit to a curbside interview at the Middle Gate location.
Taping the first of 13 new half-hour episodes, this is actually a light schedule for Henderson: Her co-star, 16-year-old Toronto actor John White, who plays Dr. Watson-like sidekick Bo Sawchuck to her Holmes, has a larger part in this puzzle, which involves hunting down a $500,000 fortune, stashed in the house of an elderly woman whose lawn he mows.
Flopping down on her mom Laura's lap while she waits for her call, Henderson fingers a letter that's been delivered to her on the set, turning over the graffiti-embellished purple envelope from one of her best friends in Ottawa, a girl whose name just happens to be Holmes, Jen Holmes.
There's a message printed on the back: "Will you please ask for a photograph of John and send it to me?"
Henderson laughs. Apparently, WHite is something of a teen idol among her pals.
"Lots of them have told me, 'Oh, give him my phone number,' or 'Get him to write me a letter.'"
Henderson is amused by the interest in White, as she is by her own experience with fans, some of whom "swarmed" her in Ottawa after Shirley Holmes began its run earlier this year. But the budding TV detective, who has yet to read an actual Holmes mystery or see a film based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books - "I always wanted to see some of his movies, but they were always on too late," she explains - is not distracted by red herrings like fame and fandom.
Ditto for fashion. While her sisters Beth, 16, and Beki, 15, sport, respectively, a nose ring and pierced belly button, Meredith says her career considerations keep her from following suit.
"It'd be cool, but at this point, I don't think it's something Shirley would do," she says seriously. What she would like to see Shirley do this season is expand her emotional range. She'll get to "play jealous" over Bo in an upcoming episode, but Henderson says it would also be nice if her character got mad at her sidekick for a change.
"Because everybody's always getting mad at her and she never gets mad at anyone," she say. "It's an emotion I haven't gotten to express in this role yet."
Henderson, who'll be tutored on the set until she enters grade 9 in Ottawa this October, already has an impressive acting resume, as does White. Both have appeared in episodes of YTV's Goosebumps, she did movies Songspinner and Kayla, and he's in an upcoming Jon Voight film shot in Toronto.
Series priducer Kim Todd, who's also directing this episode, says they're bright, professional, and a pleasure to work with.
"Oh, I like them very much. Working with kids is not nearly the nightmare the mythology says it is," she says.
Good thing, because Todd has to take her work home with her - a burden her daughter Andrea is happy to share. Andrea, 8, is Shirley's biggest fan and an important critic. She reads scripts and tells Todd if there's a plot point she doesn't understand, or if a mystery is too easy to solve.
Whatever they're doing, it works. The show, which now airs three times a week on YTV, is popular with kids and a parent-pleaser to boot.
"A lot of people respond to the fact that they're smart kids - and one of them is a girl," Todd says.
Whether YTV (MTN will air the show later on) will opt for a third season of Shirley Holmes is still a mystery. But, it's one Henderson and friends hope to see resolved in their favor.