Jason Priestley reflects as his hit detective show signs off with a series finale

Private EyesGlobalSpeaking about the final season of his Canadian detective series, producer/director/star Jason Priestley feels conflicted. “Ideally we wouldn’t have stopped the show in season five,” he says. “I saw the show going on for a while longer.” Instead, the fifth season will be its last, which no one involved in the series knew at the time it was in production. “Maybe that was the best thing though, right? There weren’t all those emotions attached to the season,” Priestley muses.

While there was no nostalgia on set during the shooting of the current season, on screen, emotions run high. The fourth instalment ended with private eye Angie Everett (Cindy Sampson) getting shot—an event that causes both her and her partner Shade, played by Priestley, to ponder their personal feelings for each other. “Any time somebody has a near-death experience like that, I think that it forces them to reassess things in their lives,” says Priestley. “And it forces them to take stock of where they’re at. I think that Angie does that, eventually. It takes her some time. Angie Everett is a very hardheaded, stubborn character, so I think it takes her some time to come around to that way of thinking.”

Private EyesGlobalShade is no softie either, but nearly losing his partner shakes the gruff hockey player-turned-P.I. to his core. “Seeing Angie in that state, Shade realizes pretty quickly that he is very deeply concerned about Angie,” the actor explains. “He realizes the feelings that he has for Angie, but he also has to temper that based on the reaction he’s getting from her.”

For fans of the show who have been patiently waiting, this relationship finally seems to be going from will-they-won’t-they to why-won’t-they-already? Priestley stays mum on the romance potential of these two characters, who obviously have crackling chemistry, but admits that the evolution of their relationship is what the creative team has struggled with most throughout the series. “You want these things to progress, but you don’t want them to progress too slowly or too quickly,” he says. “One of the things that we talked a lot about this year was, ‘How do we move Shade and Angie’s relationship forward without it feeling forced or without it feeling phony?’ Whatever we did, we had to make sure it felt earned.”

Sampson and Priestley both appreciated what the stakes were if their partnership changed in a way that fans didn’t accept as authentic. “We all understood what the ramifications were, so we were all very careful about it,” says Priestley. “Everybody wanted to feel like whatever was going to happen had to feel holistic and correct and didn’t feel like it just came out of left field, driven by some false promise.”

Although centred around cases that need to be solved, the show has always anchored itself in its relationships. This season, Shade’s teenage daughter Jules (Jordyn Negri) moves into the family guest house with her boyfriend Liam (Jonny Gray). “This causes all kinds of friction at the Shade house because as everybody knows, Shade’s not the biggest fan of Liam. There’s lots of comedy there,” says Priestley, who continues to enjoy the father-daughter dynamic. “One of the big things that we all got a big kick out of on this show was the second act of Shade’s life. He’s got an ex-wife who just causes him problems all the time, he’s got a teenage daughter who causes him problems all the time, he’s got this new partner at his new job who causes him problems all the time. He’s constantly stuck between all these strong-willed, super-smart women that he’s totally outmatched by all the time. And yet, he thinks he’s got it all under control. That’s the fun of it, for all of us, and certainly for all the female writers that we have in our writers’ room.”

Private EyesGlobalWhich leads back to their shared disappointment that this road now comes to a premature end. “We all had a lot more places that we wanted to go, and things that we wanted to explore with the show,” Priestley laments. “We certainly didn’t wrap things up the way that I think you would if you knew a show was coming to an end. I’ll be very interested to see how our fans react to what in actuality is going to be our last episode.”

For Priestley, who was intimately involved with the series adapted from the G.B. Joyce novels, the experience has been a career high. “It’s been a real labour of love from minute one,” he says. “We had a great time at work, every day. Cindy and I have a great time working, and just laugh all day, every day. Everybody on our cast is supremely talented, and super-kind and very funny, and so we all had a great time at work every day. We really had a real family atmosphere at work. It was just a pleasure to go to work. I’m going to miss the show a lot, not only professionally, but personally as well. It’s been a real joy.”

Private Eyes airs Thursdays at 9:01 p.m. on Global