Published On: Sat, Oct 6th, 2018

“I’m in friggin’ charge now”: Kim Coates talks about City TV’s Bad Blood Season 2

“I’m in friggin’ charge now.”

Kim Coates is sitting across from me at a Toronto restaurant dressed in a hit man-worthy black suit and shirt. And he doesn’t seem to be kidding.

Few actors can summon that kind of menace, levied with a sense of grace that emanates from the craggy-faced Saskatoon native. It also pretty much sums of the theme of Season 2 of Bad Blood, the City TV Montreal Mafia series that he stars in as mobster Declan Gardiner.

“There are no more rules. This is our story now,” says Coates. “I’ve gone completely lone wolf.”

Based on the book Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizutto’s Last War by Antonio Nicaso and Toronto Star investigative reporter Peter Edwards, the first season depicted mostly true events of the Montreal mob. This season is totally off book — and it seems to have had the effect of liberating Coates.

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“There is no more book. We had to be very careful in the first season because it was truth-based and we had to be aware of the body count. Now there are no more rules. It’s totally fictionalized with some real elements. This is our story now.”

While the first season at times moved at a stodgy, docu-drama pace, the second season premiere (Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. on City) does feel energized.

The show picks up five years after Rizutto’s death and Declan is now the king of the Montreal drug trade. It also introduces new fictional characters, including a nice turn by Wynonna Earp’s Melanie Scrofano as the wife of a mobster, and stylish brother and sister adversaries Teresa (Anna Hopkins) and Christian Langana (Gianni Falcone), who have arrived from Italy — or perhaps straight from a Zoolander 3 casting call — to challenge Declan on his turf.

The lone wolf thing is taken to another level. Declan runs his multimillion-dollar operation by himself. He never travels with bodyguards or an entourage, and always shows up to heavily armed mob meetings solo — which further takes it away from the realism of Season 1 but makes for a more entertaining show.

“It was really about Vito and Declan in the first series and now it’s just me,” says Coates. “And it really looks at how I tackle these sharks circling to take over the Montreal underworld.”

The first season was a solid, although at times plodding, attempt to create the kind of dark, serialized Sopranos-type mythology that has eluded Canadian broadcasters. But the source material from Edwards and Nicaso was undeniably sizzling stuff. Over three decades Rizutto was accused of running a criminal empire that included cocaine distribution, fraud and gambling. While he was in the U.S. for racketeering charges many of his family members were killed in one of the bloodiest Mafia wars in Canadian history.

Thanks to Coates, other high-profile stars including Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) and Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) signed on for the first season. But after having dispatched the first family of crime,the question for Season 2 was: “How do you move forward? When I first saw the script I couldn’t put it down,” says Coates. “It really was some of the greatest writing I had ever read.”

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Coates had been offered many gangster parts since his defining role as biker gang enforcer Tig Trager in FX’s Sons of Anarchy.

Admittedly, this is yet another dark role. But Coates is perfectly willing to be typecast since he says Declan is one of the most complex characters he’s ever played.

This is saying something, since Coates has played Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway and Macbeth at the Stratford Festival. He also made a critically lauded return to the Toronto stage earlier this year as Rooster Bryon in Jerusalem.

“I want to do what’s interesting. I turned down 90 per cent of what they were offering after Sons of Anarchy. It was all about bikers and tough guys,” says Coates. “But then this came along and I couldn’t say no. This was special, to come back to Canada; to tell Canadian stories at this level is something else.”

Tony Wong is the Star’s television critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @tonydwong

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“I’m in friggin’ charge now”: Kim Coates talks about City TV’s Bad Blood Season 2