Shirley Holmes Tackles Last Round of Mysteries

Winnipeg Free Press
TV : February 19 - 25

Author: Tony Atherton

TVDATA Features Syndicate

At the Gemini Awards in Toronto last November, Meredih Henderson spent most of the evening trying to calm her nervous mother.

Henderson, 16, was nominated for best performance in a children's program for the second year running, but she had avoided getting too excited.

She knew she couldn't win, though her mother was less convinced.

The engaging star of The Adventures of Shirley Holmes (at 9pm Sundays on YTV) thought she had a better shot at taking home a trophy when she had her first Gemini nomination. This time around, her competition included Tony-winning Broadway star Brent carver, nominated for his portrayal of a cat-turned-human in a TV movie. Henderson knew firsthand how good Carver was; he had played her father in the TV movie The Song Spinner. Carver was a shoo-in for the Gemini, she had decided.

It's a good thing she didn't put any money on it.

"When they announced my name, I was like 'Oh my God!'" Henderson said in a recent interview. " I think my heart stopped."

Kim Todd, producer of Shirley Holmes, which recently began its fourth and final season, was less suprised at ther star's success. From the age of 12, when Henderson debuted as Shirley, inquistive grandniece of master detective Sherlock Holmes, she had a lock on the character, Todd says.

"When we auditioned for that role, Meredith was the only one," she recals. "It wasn't a close call; it was Meredith, or we didn't have our Shirley Holmes."

"She had the intelligence...and she was able to carry the eccentricities of a Holmes-- single-minded, somewhat humorless at times--deep inside and just be that person."

Mind you, Henderson had a head start compared to most actresses her age. The Ottawa native comes from a family of performers. If you don't act in the Henderson clan, you sing. Henderson's parents met while working on an amateur production of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, and her father and siblings have a rising band called Tangleroot.

Although she had several professional roles before Shirley Holmes, the series changed her life, Henderson says "It's the best thing that ever happened to me. Without it, I would probably be quite a different person. It happened at an age when your character get defined in a way-- 12 is a very impressionable age-- and instead of being where all the teeny-boppers were, I was working with adults. For me, that really helped sort of shape who I am."

The series-- in which the observant young Shirley solves mysteries with the help of sidekick Bo Sawchuck (John White), and despite the efforts of nemesis Molly Hardy (Sarah Ezer)-- is seen in more than 80 countries, including the United States and Britain.

Despite its internation success, the show's producers have decided this year will be its last. The problem is that the stars have all grown up, Todd says.

"In order to continue, we would have had to turn a creative corner," Todd says. "The kids are in a new age group; we're tramping around in (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) territory now. So rather than retooling something that we really like...we thought we'd finish on a high note and move on to other projects."

If any of those other projects includes a role suitable for Henderson, Todd says she'd jump at the chance to work with the young actress again.

PICTURE of shirley: caption reads: "Meredith: perfect person to play Shirley Holmes"