Floyd Kane provides a fresh take in the legal drama Diggstown

Kane spent years as an entertainment lawyer before his big break: his own legal drama on the CBC

Floyd Kane provides a fresh take in the legal drama Diggstown
Floyd Kane

In the Canadian legal drama Diggstown, a Black lawyer from Nova Scotia leaves her high-powered corporate job to work for a legal aid clinic in her home province.

The CBC drama’s third season premiered in October, and its creator, executive producer and showrunner, Floyd Kane, is also a lawyer from Nova Scotia. Kane shares other similarities with his lead character, including having grown up Black in Nova Scotia and later leaving a stable legal job to pursue his passion.

“I was from a poor family. The idea of being a lawyer meant you would be able to work, you’d get a job, you would be gainfully employed and you wouldn’t be homeless,” says Kane.

Despite Kane’s practical considerations, he also had creative impulses starting from a young age. When an aunt gave him a typewriter in grade seven, he wrote a novel. He began his undergraduate degree studying commerce but quickly transferred to English, still wanting to write.

After completing that degree, Kane enrolled at Dalhousie’s law school, hoping to merge his interests and become an entertainment lawyer. Kane knew that a few Nova Scotia firms did entertainment law, but he was also aware that there were virtually no Black lawyers at these firms at the time. So, he articled at the Toronto office of Blake, Cassels and Graydon.

“I had no desire or aspiration to ever move to Toronto and article at a big law firm,” says Kane. He enjoyed his articling experience but still aspired to work in entertainment law. Kane returned to Nova Scotia to work on the political campaign of Yvonne Atwell, the first Black woman elected to the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1998.

Then, the stars aligned, and Kane joined Halifax-based Salter Street Films as in-house legal counsel from 1999 to 2003. He then became vice president of creative and business affairs at The Halifax Film Company until 2006 and DHX Media until 2010.

Kane loved his role as an entertainment lawyer, but his creative impulses still motivated him to write. He spent his days negotiating contracts and his nights writing scripts.

“The writing was easy,” says Kane. “My workday would end at 7:30 pm. At night, I would go home, have dinner, go to the gym and then write until two or three in the morning. That was the way that my life was organized.”

What Kane found challenging was being seen as a creative person while officially a lawyer.

“When you’re working for a company as a lawyer, and you’re interacting with broadcasters and other producers as a lawyer representing another company, it’s weird for them to see you coming in and pitching them as a creative person.”

In 2010, he launched his own film company, Freddie Films Inc. In that role, he produced 2015’s film Across the Line, which he also wrote. But the turning point in his career came when CBC gave Diggstown the green light.

“I don’t think anyone took me seriously as a writer in Canada until that show premiered.”

While Kane is finally doing what he aspired to do since he started writing in grade 7 with his typewriter, he also misses legal practice.

“I miss the negotiating part of being an entertainment lawyer. I love that part of the job, the problem-solving.”

However, Kane’s legal background is still helpful in how he approaches the topics covered in Diggstown. In its third season, the show tackles topics including a care worker charged with assault, a sexual assault case in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, a class-action suit against Nova Scotia’s “birth alert” policy, and the killing of an off-duty police officer in self-defence.

Kane says it was important that the show was as accurate as possible with the legal details. Many other legal dramas don’t focus on getting the details right, he says, “I think it’s important when it comes to the law that you’re hewing as close to the truth as you possibly can.”

Recently, he had to reshoot an entire sequence of Diggstown (what he calls “unlocking the show”) because it initially showed the judge sitting after an actor playing a witness was already seated.

“I said, ‘I can tell you I noticed it, and the lawyers will notice this, and we’ll look like idiots. We have to change this.’ And so that’s what we’re doing. We are unlocking the show and changing the shot to fix this mistake.”

Kane is also focused on accuracy because he sees his show as helping educate the public about current legal issues.

“We’re taking on legal issues, some of which aren’t resolved. … The courts still have not settled law on [some of these topics]. Some of the stories that we’re telling in the show are things where we’re taking opinions. We’re putting forth an opinion on how we feel … the system should work.”

However, Kane’s colleagues will often remind him that this is still fiction. “As my producing partners will always tell me, we’re not making a documentary.”

As a lawyer who grew up Black in Nova Scotia, Kane’s critique of the legal system is both an informed and new voice in Canadian television.

“Doing a legal show with a Black female lead, we’re actually highlighting a part of the world that we never see on television — I think those are the elements that made it feel fresh to [the CBC].”

Kane says it is important to focus on what you really want from a legal career, like his lead character does in the show. “If you’re working in the legal profession, and this is not your love, then figure out something else. Because the reality is that when you’re happy in your job, you’re happy at home.” 

PROFILE

Name: Floyd Kane

Current Position: Creator/Executive Producer — DIGGSTOWN

Key Dates:

1993: Graduated from Saint Mary’s University (B.A. English)

1996: Graduated from Dalhousie Law School (LL.B)

1999: Corporate Counsel, Salter Street Film Limited

2001: Legal Counsel, Alliance Atlantis, Entertainment Group

2004 – 2006: VP, Creative and Business Affairs, The Halifax Film Company

2006 – 2010: VP, Creative and Business Affairs, DHX Media

2010 – present: President, Freddie Films Inc.

Producer and writer

In addition to Diggstown, Kane’s production and writing credits include:

  • Bowling for Columbine
  • Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion
  • Poko (Cycles I And II)
  • Lexx (Cycle IV)
  • North/South
  • Shake Hands with The Devil
  • Soul
  • Continuum
  • Backstage
  • Slasher
  • Across The Line
  • Jean of the Joneses
  • Brown Girl Begins
  • Angelique’s Isle
  • The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw

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