Jane Seymour, 71, plays a Dublin sleuth in Harry Wild (Acorn TV, April 4), a detective show with an intergenerational appeal that’s apt to be catnip for grownup viewers. “I don’t think I’ve been as excited by anything since Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman!” says the five-time Emmy nominee (with one win, for Onassis: The Richest Man in the World), who also played Alan Arkin’s old flame on The Kominsky Method.
“It’s about Dr. Harriet Wild, a retired English prof who annoys her detective son (Kevin Ryan) by using her literary expertise to solve his murder cases. She’s a woman of a certain age — about my age — doing what some think a man’s job. And when she wants a man, she just takes him and then disposes him — she doesn’t need him anymore. She sort of calls all the shots.”
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Harry doesn’t aspire to detective work, but her interest is piqued when she’s staying with her son’s family. “They don’t really want her there — they’re very frosty towards her. And she’s bored to tears because they have nothing but really bad, stupid literature to read.” So she starts reading her son’s latest case history. “She realizes that the case relates to an obscure piece of literature that only someone who studied Elizabethan history would know about. So she tells him, ‘Hey, I think I solved your crime.’ And he goes, ‘Mom, you’re not allowed to touch this stuff’ — he keeps telling her to shut up.”
When Harry gets mugged by a 15-year-old (Rohan Nedd), instead of turning him in, she recruits him as her detective partner. “He’s actually not a bad guy, he just comes from completely different circumstances. He’s smart.” Also, he’s street smart, which she isn’t. “While they’re chasing murderers, she’s teaching him the classics, so he can pass his exams and go on to university. Facing the barrel of a gun about to die, she’s passing on tips on Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights.”
Seymour thinks there should be more shows about characters like Harry. “How many actresses have been given the privilege of having a series written for them, about a woman in her late 60s who’s still very sexually active, very intellectually active and physically active?” So active that Seymour fractured her kneecap in one scene, yet kept on shooting. “That was my best acting, actually.” She credits her resilience to grueling dance training in her teens, when she turned down a spot in Hungary’s National Ballet.
“Harry Wild is comedic and scary, with some very bizarre and strange murderers and crazy characters,” says Seymour. “It’s not Murder, She Wrote. Because Harry’s a lot more lively.”
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.