Stanley Raymond Kowalski is a fictional character in the television series Due South. He is a Detective in the Chicago Police Department. He was brought into the show in the third season to replace the original character of Ray Vecchio when the actor who played him (David Marciano) chose not to return to the show after the extended hiatus between seasons two and three.
Kowalski prefers to be known as Ray. He is affectionately referred to by fans of the show as "RayK" to distinguish him from the first Ray, who is referred to as "RayV." The storyline in the opening episode of Season Three, Burning Down The House, is that Vecchio has been recruited by the FBI for an undercover mission with the mafia in Las Vegas. In order to maintain Vecchio’s cover, Kowalski has to assume his identity at the Chicago PD, including continuing his friendship with Fraser.
Kowalski was portrayed by Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie.
Ray’s parents are Damian and Barbara Kowalski. Ray’s father named him Stanley Kowalski after the character played by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Ray had a good relationship with his father during his childhood and they enjoyed restoring old cars together, particularly a black 1967 Pontiac GTO. We learn that he has been estranged from his father for several years after his parents moved to a trailer park in Arizona. He tells Fraser how his father was disappointed that his son dropped out of college to join the Police Academy instead. In the episode Easy Money, Ray’s parents return to Chicago and Damian brings the GTO which Ray drives for the remainder of the series. Ray starts to rebuild his relationship with his father while his mother insists on ironing his shirts.
Ray met his future wife, Stella, when he was very young. She was a girl from the Gold Coast who went to a private school and despite coming from completely different backgrounds Ray had always been attracted to her. When he was thirteen they were both caught up in a bank robbery. He saved Stella by wetting himself, acting as a distraction and allowing her to run away from danger.
Ray eventually married Stella while they were both very young. They were happily married for a number of years, particularly enjoying ballroom dancing together, but then the marriage started to break down. There were a number of factors involved, but one in particular was Ray’s desire to start a family. Stella did not want children as she had built a successful career as a lawyer with the State’s Attorney’s office.
Ray’s first big case after graduating from the Academy was the murder of police detective Jake Botrelle. He was the officer who discovered the body and he unwittingly contaminated evidence at the scene of the crime. The victim’s wife, Beth Botrelle, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. In the episode The Ladies Man, we learn how the case has haunted Ray throughout his career and when Beth Botrelle was due to be executed after eight years on Death Row, Ray enlists Fraser’s help to prove her innocence. They eventually discover that Jake Botrelle had committed suicide after becoming involved in criminal activity with a fellow officer, Inspector Sam Franklin. Ray was devastated to learn that Franklin, who he greatly respected, was involved in the crime and the subsequent cover up.
Ray has three citations for bravery. In December 1988 he was shot while rescuing a kidnapped boy, in December 1990 he saved four people during an armed robbery by three gunmen in a jewellery store and in September 1993 he recaptured three escaped murderers. Ray is very modest about his citations and is obviously quite uncomfortable when Fraser talks about them.
Ray accepted the undercover role as Ray Vecchio as a way of forgetting the past and starting a new life. He struggles to accept his marriage is over and spends several months following Stella around, effectively stalking her, even though he finds it painful to see her with other men. He often suggests that they get back together, but Stella is always quick to cut him down and frequently makes disparaging remarks in front of his friends and colleagues. Ray puts on a brave face and tries to pretend he is not upset by her comments, but he obviously is.
Ray is a complex character, with many sides to his personality. He is a tough cop and his aggressive style of interrogation, balanced with Fraser’s calmer temperament, usually leads to results. Ray is not afraid to leap into dangerous situations if it means saving lives and bringing criminals to justice. He also has a sensitive side which he tries to keep hidden, but he is not often able to disguise his feelings. He keeps his love of ballroom dancing from his colleagues as he doesn’t feel it fits with his image. Ray’s anger boils over easily and he expresses this by, for example, punching a wall. He often threatens to “kick a suspect in the head”, although we never actually see him doing this. If he is sad, or overwhelmed, he is not afraid to cry and although he prefers not to do this in public, he trusts Fraser enough to cry in front of him after the events of The Ladies Man.
Ray has a short temper and is easily frustrated by people and situations. Fraser’s pedantic tendencies particularly annoy him. For example, Ray often gets his words muddled and Fraser can’t help but correct him. Usually he takes it in good humour and responds with a witty or sarcastic reply. However, at the start of the episode Mountie on the Bounty, Part 1 Ray loses his temper with Fraser and punches him in the face which almost results in the end of their friendship.
Ray can be very insecure and lacks self-confidence. His insecurity is particularly evident when the real Ray Vecchio returns to Chicago and Ray assumes Fraser will no longer want to be his friend now that his original friend is back. Of course this is not true and Fraser considers both Rays his best friends. The breakdown of his marriage to Stella affected Ray deeply and he struggles with bouts of self-doubt and loneliness. His friendship with Fraser was not something he expected, but they quickly form a strong bond with Ray telling Fraser that he loves him “like a brother.” Ray’s emotional openness is in stark contrast to Fraser’s uptight nature, but in many episodes we see how they are able to help each other with emotional situations because of this. For example, Ray draws on Fraser’s strength at the end of The Ladies Man, whereas in return he is able to support Fraser as the Mountie deals with the sadness and loneliness he feels at the end of Bounty Hunter.
Ray has a Champion spark plug tattoo on his right arm. He loves sport and supports the Chicago Bulls basketball team. He has also been a boxing coach. With 20/45 vision, Ray needs to wear glasses to fire his gun accurately, but he chooses not to wear them very often otherwise, although with his glasses on he is an excellent shot. Ray’s favourite pizza topping is pineapple. He calls Inspector Thatcher by the derogatory nickname of The Ice Queen, much to Fraser’s disdain. He had a pet dog when he was younger, but it was run over by a car and now he has a pet turtle. Ray loves to sweeten his coffee with candies – possibly Smarties, although there is some debate over this and we never see the brand name in the show. He may, or may not, have been abducted by aliens when he was ten years old. He talks about this when he is accidentally hypnotised by Fraser in the episode Seeing is Believing. He could not swim until Fraser taught him how in the episode Mountie on the Bounty.
In the penultimate episode, Hunting Season, Ray is deeply attracted to Fraser’s newly discovered half-sister, Maggie MacKenzie. Although Maggie returns to Canada, we are left with the impression that there could be more to this relationship. Fraser appears to approve and is happy to look away when requested by Ray so he can say goodbye to Maggie with a kiss.
In the final episode, Call of the Wild, we see Fraser and Ray facing death together and Ray decides that if he survives he wants to get away from his old life and have a real adventure. At the end of the episode Ray and Fraser set off on an expedition across the Canadian wilderness to find the hand of Sir John Franklin.
Stanley Raymond Kowalski appears in all Season 3 and 4 episodes.