Amy Price-Francis isn't gun-shy.
The actress steps up at a makeshift gun range at the south Toronto studios for her police procedural, "King," and aims dead centre at a target. The loud "bang" from her pistol is delivered without a flinch.
Shooting in heels is nothing new to Price-Francis, who worked some gunplay into a guest shot as a killer a few seasons ago on "24."
"It was a massive scene," says the 36-year-old actress, born in England but raised in Toronto.
"It was full on, well orchestrated, with two helicopters and a warehouse and me getting hit by shrapnel-y bits. You play silly games like that when you're a kid and then you get to grow up and make a living doing the same sort of thing — pretty exciting."
"King" returns for a second season Friday at 9 p.m. ET on Showcase amid high expectations. The series was one of several Showcase Canadian originals that premiered last winter, emerging as the surviving scripted drama.
Price-Francis has a knack for standing out. Cast as one of Hank Moody's mistakes on the pilot of "Californication," she made such an impression that the producers wrote her back into three first season episodes of the David Duchovny series.
"I learned a lot from working with him," says Price-Francis. "He's smart and very playful."
She quickly established herself as Jessica King, a veteran police officer who gets promoted to head of the Major Crimes Task Force. She's a standout at her job but less smart on the home front, where she's already on hubby number three.
He's also a cop (played by Gabriel Hogan). Despite their front-line careers, the two are desperate to start a family. Such inter-squad unions are not uncommon, says Price-Francis.
"A lot of cops marry cops," she said.
Added Alan Van Sprang who plays Det. Sgt. Derek Spears: "It's very incestuous — like actors."
High strung Spears had a bit of a meltdown last season, resulting in King's stint at the Major Crimes division.
"(My character is) not too thrilled with it at first," says Van Sprang.
"There's tension between her and me whether it's sexual or just work-wise. But King makes him a better officer."
The two get so past their initial resistance, in fact, that there's a hook up — and now King is pregnant.
But who is the father?
"You'll have to tune in to find out," Price-Francis says, right on cue.
Police procedurals remain popular; more than half the entire CBS prime time schedule is currently devoted to crime shows.
The idea of a woman detective crashing the old boys club of a police squad room was explored earlier this season on the American version of "Prime Suspect," with Maria Bello in the lead.
"Our show's not about that," says Van Sprang.
"The fact that she wears high heels or short skirts or puts herself together has nothing to do with office politics," adds Price-Francis. "It's just her style."
"King" also stands out because it has a lighter tone than most cop shows, with the actors encouraged to run with the dark humour on the page.
"We’re very lucky with the playground that is set up for us," says Price-Francis. "This is an actor-friendly space, we're basically able to get in there and do our thing."
Three new characters give the series more of an ensemble feel in Season Two.
Karen Robinson ("Lars and the Real Girl") is rescued from clerical hell to add some veteran savvy and a bit of a maternal touch to the Major Crimes unit. Rossif Sutherland ("ER") gives the squad a little Euro-flair. Romina D'Ugo ("Degrassi") plays a sexy new officer who pairs up with Hogan's Danny in the field.
"The characters have developed in a way that we're much more of a team," says Van Sprang. Veteran character actor Tony Nardi returns as Capt. Paul Graci.
The series is produced by Canadian veteran showrunners Bernard Zukerman and Greg Spottiswood, with seasoned directors such as Clark Johnson ("The Shield"), Holly Dale and Jerry Ciccoritti behind the camera.
Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.