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Kathleen Robertson: Hamilton roots helped win her role in 'Murder in the First'

Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs star in "Murder in the First," airing Monday nights on Bravo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO-Bell Media

TORONTO – Canadian actress Kathleen Robertson says she was drawn to new Bravo series “Murder in the First” because it’s about the “haves and the have-nots.”

She plays tough San Francisco homicide cop Hildy Mulligan, who investigates a murder that appears to involve Internet wunderkind and billionaire Erich Blunt (Tom Felton). Robertson said she was fascinated by the show’s exploration of modern class disparities.

“San Francisco is a city that displays that better than any city in America,” she said in a phone interview. “The extreme wealth in that city and the extreme poverty is so prevalent, and that’s very much thematically something we delve into.”

“Murder in the First” also stars Taye Diggs as Mulligan’s partner, Terry English, who is dealing with his wife’s terminal illness. The pair investigate a single murder case throughout the entire 10-episode first season, a structure popularized by shows like “True Detective” and “The Killing.”

Robertson compared watching the whodunit series, which airs Monday nights on Bravo, to “reading a great book.”

“It has a very clear beginning, middle and end, and a very clear first, second and third act. It’s like watching a big, giant movie,” she said. “It was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to do this show. I love the structure, personally.”

The 40-year-old actress, known for recent roles in “Bates Model” and “Boss,” as well as her stint as Clare Arnold in “Beverly Hills, 90210,” said that at first producers were unsure she could play a blue-collar cop in “Murder in the First.”

“I said, ‘I’m from Hamilton! I can totally do blue-collar!'” she recalled with a laugh. “That’s the thing with acting. People see you do these different roles and they think they have an idea of who you are and what you’re like.”

Robertson met with producers Stephen Bochco and Eric Lodal and talked about her childhood growing up in the Ontario steel city. Once she won the role, she also took notes from her brother-in-law, who is a Hamilton police officer.

When she travelled to San Francisco to meet the city’s homicide cops, she found herself drawn to a blond officer who was sitting in a corner.

“She ended up being so similar to my character. She was a single mom, recently divorced and dating,” said Robertson. “She said, ‘It’s just so difficult. You have this little being you’re raising and trying to protect and nourish. Then you have to go to work and deal with the worst of the worst of humanity.'”

Viewers first meet Hildy in her messy home, rushing to get her daughter to school on time after sleeping in late. Her daughter cracks open a soda for breakfast as Hildy yells, “I’m going to get groceries after work!”

Robertson said she appreciates the show’s realism about what it’s like to be a working mother.

“I’m a mom as well and I am nowhere near the perfect mom. No matter what you do as a woman and a mother, you always feel like you’re failing on some level,” she said.

“If you’re being a great mom and you’re fully present with your kid, you feel like you’re not performing on the job front. If you’re really focused on the job, you feel like a bad mother because you’re not with your child. I think for women, it’s really, really difficult.”