Calgary-born, Cochrane-raised Rohan Campbell puts stamp on iconic role in YTV's The Hardy Boys

Article content

When Rohan Campbell was growing up in Alberta, the Hardy Boys were his go-to “cabin books.”

The earliest version of the sleuthing brothers usually had them solving mysteries of the non-violent and non-lethal variety. The books have proven to be wholesome distractions for generations of young boys dating back to the late 1920s. For a youthful Campbell, they were reliable entertainment when stuck in cabins not yet equipped with internet.

“If you went to Canmore and you were snowed in, you would always end up reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew or something like that,” says Campbell, 23. “I knew the books really well. I knew Frank really well.”

That would be Frank Hardy, the eldest of the two Hardy boys and also the first starring role for the Calgary-born, Cochrane-raised actor. The series comes from Disney’s Hulu subscription service but will begin airing in Canada on YTV on March 5. So viewers may wonder what sort of tone this modern reboot will take. After all, formerly wholesome characters such as Nancy Drew and Archie Andrews and his gang have been drastically re-imagined for a new generation, placing them in the decidedly raunchier world of violence and sex in Nancy Drew and Riverdale. On the other hand, YTV is a network that tends to stick to G-rated fare, so it’s probably safe to assume these modern Hardy Boys won’t follow Nancy and Archie into too many dark alleys.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Turns out, the new series falls somewhere between throwback and dark reinvention.

“We wanted it to be a family show,” Campbell says. “But there’s some darkness to it so I hope it intrigues some parents as well so they can sit down and watch it with their kids.”

The Hardy boys and the gang embark on a daring mission to finally uncover the truth. From left, Callie (Keana Lyn Bastidas), Joe (Alexander Elliot), Frank (Rohan Campbell), Biff (Riley O’Donnell), Chet (Adam Swain), and Phil (Cristian Perri). Courtesy, Hulu
The Hardy boys and the gang embark on a daring mission to finally uncover the truth. From left, Callie (Keana Lyn Bastidas), Joe (Alexander Elliot), Frank (Rohan Campbell), Biff (Riley O’Donnell), Chet (Adam Swain), and Phil (Cristian Perri). Courtesy, Hulu Photo by Brendan Adam Zwellin /Hulu

These boys aren’t really all that modern, either. The show takes place in the early 1980s, not unlike the kid-centred Netflix chiller Stranger Things. Campbell’s approach to playing 16-year-old Frank Hardy was to make him a normal teen who loves baseball, video games and his mom, and is protective of his wiseacre 12-year-old brother Joe (Alexander Elliot).

“We’ve darkened it a bit and there’s some serious undertones,” Campbell says. “Whenever you put something in modern-day it’s going to be different. But the hope for me was that I wanted to make it a 1950s-actor-style version of Frank where he feels vintage in a way. So the people who have read the original books can hold onto that and not be thrust into a 2020 version of the franchise, which shows like Riverdale, Sabrina and Nancy Drew do. They did a more modern approach. For us, I think Frank will stay true to the books, although (the series) separates itself from the books in its own way.”

Still, the Hardys do find themselves with some deep, dark despair when the series begins. Their world is turned upside down after a family tragedy sends the brothers and their somewhat distant detective father, Fenton (James Tupper), from the big city to a small town called Bridgeport. It soon becomes apparent that the aforementioned family tragedy may not have been accidental. The first two episodes of the series involve Frank, Joe and Fenton all stubbornly and separately investigating a caper that involves a nautical disaster, a creepily tall killer, a mounting body count and a mysterious treasure pulled from the sea.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Frank (Rohan Campbell), right, and Joe Hardy (Alexander Elliot) move to the small town of Bridgeport for the summer and set out to uncover the truth behind a recent family tragedy.  Courtesy, Brooke Palmer, Hulu
Frank (Rohan Campbell), right, and Joe Hardy (Alexander Elliot) move to the small town of Bridgeport for the summer and set out to uncover the truth behind a recent family tragedy.  Courtesy, Brooke Palmer, Hulu Photo by Brooke Palmer /Hulu

This is just the latest small-screen iteration for the boys over the years. These characters have been featured in everything from a faithful 1950s version to a short-lived, late-1960s Saturday morning cartoon that recast them as members of a bubblegum rock band a la the Partridge Family. The newest version, filmed in Toronto and other parts of Ontario in 2019, will not feature Frank and Joe chasing a new mystery each week. Season 1 will follow one mystery, albeit a complicated one that will have the Hardys enlisting a group of new Bridgeport pals to help them out. The show boasts an impressive ensemble cast that includes Tupper, last seen in Big Little Lies and A Million Little Things; Young Drunk Punk veteran Atticus Mitchell; and Linda Thorson, the Toronto-born actress best known for succeeding Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in The Avengers in the late 1960s.

Born in Calgary to British expat parents, Campbell enrolled in acting class at the urging of his film-buff mother at a young age while growing up in Cochrane. Initially, it was just meant to be a fun thing to do. Campbell had no plans of making it his career. But after some small roles in Alberta-based productions such as The Right Kind of Wrong, Mayerthorpe and Klondike, he moved to Vancouver at the age of 17. He soon landed guest-starring and recurring roles in series such as Disney’s Mech-X4, The 100 and iZombie, but this is his first time anchoring a series as one of the main characters.

Campbell’s earnest, all-American look makes him easily believable as an all-American teen even if he is seven years older than his character. What’s it like channelling your inner-teen?

“It’s interesting,” he says with a laugh. “It’s the poutiness of being a teenager. I forgot what that was like. There were times when I’m doing the show and I’d say ‘Man, he’s such a brat.’ They’d say ‘Yeah, he’s 16.’ ”

The Hardy Boys begins Friday, March 5 on YTV.

News Near Sault Ste. Marie

This Week in Flyers