Even after three years on the beat, rookie cops still can have a lot to learn.
That's evident right from the start of Season 4 of "Rookie Blue," the Canadian-made drama that's now a well-rated summer programming mainstay for ABC. The show resumes Thursday, May 23, with what was set up by the previous round's last scene: Officers Andy McNally and Nick Collins ( Missy Peregrym, Peter Mooney) are in the thick of the dangerous meth-related sting operation they've gone deep under cover for.
The loves they left behind, Sam Swarek and Gail Peck ( Ben Bass, Charlotte Sullivan), and other colleagues from 15 Division search for them when they suddenly fall off the radar. Dov Epstein, Traci Nash, Chris Diaz, Oliver Shaw and Sgt. Frank Best ( Gregory Smith, Enuka Okuma, Travis Milne, Matt Gordon, Lyriq Bent) also are back and in on the hunt, joined by new training officer Marlo Cruz ( Rachael Ancheril). Rookie Chloe Price ( Priscilla Faia) is another fourth-season character addition.
"It's always a tricky dance to start back with your first new episode," Tassie Cameron, a "Rookie Blue" creator and executive producer who's also the series' head writer, admits to Zap2it. "I always feel like it's a bit thankless. You have to get all the balls back up in the air and remind the audience who everybody is, but this one was fun. And we got to move it six months ahead, instead of the usual couple of months ahead, so we were able to explore our theme for the season: If you want to stay in the game, you have to be willing to adapt.
"The seasons' themes end up reflecting very much where we're at as a show," Cameron adds. "That goes from 'fake it till you make it' in Season 1 -- where [the rookies] didn't feel like they knew what they were doing -- to now, where they have to be willing to change, to stay surprising and relevant. And to stay honest. That's the most important thing."
Peregrym agrees, though she notes she's "so happy" to depict Andy immersed in impersonating someone else as "Rookie Blue" returns. "It's nice that you see us after we've already been there for a while," she says of the point she and co-star Mooney first are seen at. "To jump into the season playing that we'd been living together for six months, it was fun.
"Sam and Andy obviously got very close because they worked together. Any time you're in a crazy situation and you survive it, there's just a bond that's there ... but it's a very different dynamic between Andy and Nick, so deeply friend-based. I don't think it's anything that Andy has experienced before."
At the same time, though they've been separated for months, Andy and Sam's story continues despite a huge new wrinkle revealed by the end of the season's opening hour.
"There's just this thing with Sam and Andy that kind of happens every time," Peregrym confirms. "It'll just never go away, as much as Andy really would like it to. As much as she'd like to believe that she's OK, that will always be there for her."
"Everwood" alum Smith deems his "Rookie Blue" alter ego Dov to be OK, after the officer spent much of Season 3 recovering from fatally shooting a robbery suspect, then became involved with the dead man's sister.
"He still carries that experience with him," Smith says. "The character is so different than he was in Season 1, I have a working theory that's what keeps a show fun. The audience grows with the character, just as we all change in real life."
Indeed, Smith has added director to his resume during his "Rookie Blue" tenure. He guided an episode last year, and he was given a big assignment for Season 4: He called the shots on the first half of the season finale.
"I'm very, very happy with it," he reports of having filmed it already. "I can't say much about what happens, but last year, they made me really light as an actor in my [directing] episode. Tassie said, 'Do you want us to do that again?' And I said, 'No. Bring it on.' It was one of my heavier episodes of the year, and it was crazy, but I loved it."
Cameron knows it's a gamble to introduce new regulars into an ensemble that fans are so familiar with. The move was successful with Mooney last year, proven by how pivotally he factored into the season's end game, and she believes it's the same with the two actresses being added this time.
"They both seamlessly blended into our gang," says Cameron, "which is a top consideration. Obviously, we're looking for the best actors we can find, but we have a pretty good handle on who's going to work with our core team. It's really important that the chemistry is there. We have such an awesome cast, if we're going to add to it, we want to make sure [a newcomer] is going to be as great as everyone else."
Upon starting work on Season 4 of "Rookie Blue," Peregrym had just completed another big venture: "Cybergeddon," last fall's made-for-Internet series from "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" mentor Anthony E. Zuiker that ended up earning her a Streamy Award for best female performance (drama).
"It was great to come back to the show," Peregrym reflects. " 'Cybergeddon' was such a different project, obviously, with a different crew and just a totally different vibe. It was really nice to come back and feel like I was home. I have such a bond with all of these people. I try not to think about it, but it's going to be really sad when this thing is over. I'm just so grateful to be a part of this group. I really am."
Photo/Video credit: ABC