The life of an actor can be a rewarding — and humbling — experience. In many cases, you must go where the work is in order to make ends meet. And you never know for sure whether or not any given character you play will strike the right chord with your audience.
For Ryan Robbins, however, this is not the case. Within just a few short years, Robbins has made a name for himself as a Vancouver-based character actor that you can rely on. In addition to his time as “Ladon Radim” on Atlantis, Robbins has also juggled recurring stints on both Battlestar Galactica and Stargate alumni Amanda Tapping’s latest series, Sanctuary.
After a long wait, GateWorld caught up with Robbins this past April. In an interview that has long been overdue, Robbins discusses how he got into acting, his time on all three genre series, his preferences for the type of acting work he chooses, a charity he has just recently become involved with, and much more!
This interview runs 45 minutes, and is available in video and audio formats. It’s also transcribed below!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I am Chad Colvin. I’m joined by David Read and Darren Sumner and we’re here today visiting with Mr. Ryan Robbins. Ryan, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.
Ryan Robbins: My pleasure. [Ryan waves] [Laughter]
GW: In your favorite coffee shop.
RR: In my favorite coffee shop. I’m here all the time.
GW: Where is it? What is it?
RR:It’s called Grain City. It’s in North Vancouver on the corner of 2nd and Lonsdale. I come here all the time. I love it. It’s yummy and people come in and out all the time. You’ll hear coffee noises, “Shhh” sounds. But it’s yummy. And I bet everybody right now is like, if you haven’t had your coffee yet you’re like, “Oh God, I really want a coffee right now.”
GW: Do they have chai?
RR: M-hmm! Yeah, they have chai and they have really good tea here as well. Someone left the door open. Horrible! It’s the only problem, the door is not on a spring here.
GW: Tell us a little bit more about how you got started in the business. Was acting the first thing that you wanted to do?
RR: Yeah, you know it’s an interesting question. I kind of like this story. I’ll make it as quick as I can. When I was 12, we were going to check out the junior high we were going to go to the next year. These kids had done this sketch, this sort of play, and this one kid in particular just blew my mind, I thought he was so good. “Man! I want to do that.”
I had all these hopes and dreams and all these things that I wanted to be when I grow up; Firefighter, stuntman or whatever. And I quickly realized that for an actor, I can do all those things. I could be any number of those things. So, that’s when I really started focusing on it.
I went to a high school that had a really progressive arts program, and I had a teacher there named Drew Kimp. I would turn every scene into a joke like you do when you’re a teenager. It was just really [an] intense acting program that we were meant to take seriously and I just didn’t. I just kind of relied on whatever. “Ah, I can perform, It’ll be great.”
He literally kicked my butt in a scene. He was so angry with me for not being truthful in this scene with my scene partner, that he took over the scene from my scene partner and we actually physically were tearing at each other and …
RR: … yelling and screaming but staying within the scene. And it was so amazing, the feeling was so exhilarating and cathartic. I wanted to do this. I wanted to feel like this all the time. And that was sort of the moment.
I scrambled around doing lots of other things. I was a circus performer, I was in a band and all those things. I didn’t I know how to really be an actor, particularly in film and television. This wonderful filmmaker was a fan of my band put me in a movie and I kind of just went from there. But I truthfully started quite late. I didn’t get my first professional gig until I was about 26.
GW: That’s considered late?
RR: Well, I mean for me it was. Considering I wanted to do it when I was 12. Most people that I know even now started at young ages. At least in their teens. And part of me wishes that I had started younger, but part of me is really glad that I didn’t because I don’t think I could have handled it then. I was a bit crazy.
GW: What was the first professional gig?
RR: My very first paid gig was a TV series called Cold Squad. It was a show shot here in Vancouver and I played a character named Chimp. Yeah, Chimp. That was my first paid gig.
Getting loud in here, it’s the lunch rush. “It’s a good idea Ryan, let’s do the interview in a coffee shop.” It was my idea to do an interview in a coffee shop by the way.
GW: You’ve had quite a few other credits in the Vancouver area. You’ve had Twilight Zone and several others.
RR: Yeah, lots of stuff. I’ve been lucky, lots of stuff shooting in the area. Twilight Zone, that was a good one — Outer Limits, Jeremiah. There’s a list of really good … It’s funny. Vancouver seems to be — its like a hot bed of Sci-Fi here.
GW: Are you personally more drawn to that genre? The stuff itself? Or do you just go where …
RR: I am bit of a comic book geek, so that’s how it started for me. I loved comic books growing up and I still like comic books. I guess the genre is an offshoot of that as far as I’m concerned. I am definitely inspired by … I’ve chosen films that have that comic book, fantasy, edge.
I just love acting, man. I like the work regardless. If it’s interesting scripts, interesting stories, I’m in. I’m sold. But I do really enjoy this genre. I think I have a bigger understanding of the genre. Maybe that’s helpful.
GW: We’ll talk about Atlantis and Ladon Radim a little bit. Throughout the series we’re never really sure where his loyalties are. He double crossed the Atlantis expedition with Kolya [Robert Davi] and Cowen [Colm Meaney]. Was he ever loyal? Was he just loyal to himself? Or was he doing what he thought was best for the Genii people?
RR: I think the thing with Ladon is that he was loyal to his people. I think that it wasn’t about choosing sides. Personally, I never played him like he was trying to mess with anybody else. I always played him like his priority was his people. That he would just always do what was best for his people and whatever happened as an offshoot of that or a consequence … He wasn’t going to worry about that because he felt his people deserved more.
GW: And his sister.
RR: And his sister.
GW: One of the last time we see you on the screen was during the third season, it was in “The Return.” I think that’s the last time we saw you? It was “The Return, Part 1.”
RR: “The Return,” yes.
GW: There was kind of an alliance that he’s kind of built up with the Atlantis expedition at that point. Do you think that’s something he would have upheld? Or do you think that if it suited his own purposes, he would have ended up breaking that again down the road?
RR: I think – In my world, in my opinion – I think that he would have liked the idea of an alliance. I think he understood the potential for an alliance. What he could learn from them. I think that was one thing about Ladon that I always thought was pretty cool. Where Kolya had it all under control and he was better than, I think that with Ladon’s thing he wasn’t.
He was willing to learn. He wanted to absorb everything he could that would somehow benefit his people. And I think that he appreciated those guys for what he could learn from them.
You get guys like Ronon, we never really saw the Genii have that kind of presence and then Teyla, the kick ass female. I think those guys had a lot to offer. But just an alliance in general, I think he would have upheld it until it didn’t suit him anymore. Until he became bored of it.
GW: What are your feelings about basically the Genii storyline and Ladon, particularly about the whole story kind of being dropped after …
RR: Oh, what are my feelings about the story being dropped? It’s unfortunate. I thought there was a lot of potential there. Personally I thought it was really interesting.
GW: You didn’t think it ran its course?
RR: I didn’t think it ran its course at all. I mean Kolya came back from the dead like three times. [Laughter] Obviously it hadn’t run its course. But maybe Ladon had. Maybe Ladon wasn’t enough of a threat.
I thought he was really interesting. I just think that when it came down towards the end. They had developed all these potential enemies and I think they needed to sort of focus on one. I think the most threatening was probably the Wraith so that’s the avenue they tried to go with.
GW: I myself find personally that the characters that you don’t know if you can trust or not are the most interesting.
RR: Me too. I mean I find those interesting as well. Again, going back to comic books, I like the anti hero. I like the characters that maybe one day they’re good, maybe one day they’re bad. They kind of have their own agenda. I find that really, really fascinating.
They don’t have an allegiance to anyone. I tried to bring that to Ladon, I tried to bring that to the Genii people so that they could call on us if they needed us but then we might pop up as an enemy. But hey, it’s not personal, it’s just business. That’s kind of what I thought was interesting.
But again, they’d already developed these other potential storylines and when they knew they had to bring it to a close, I understand, you’ve got to tighten it up and draw your attention to one thing so that it doesn’t feel too scattered. Who knows what will happen? There’s talk of a movie and you never know. I still know those guys. [Laughter]
GW: Do you feel the episodes of Atlantis that you did gave Ladon enough depth in character? Are there any shades of personality that you wanted to personally put into him that you weren’t able to?
Like a haircut? [Laughter]
RR: Yeah, I’m growing it back. I like characters to have secrets. That’s why I like Henry. I think everybody’s got secrets. I like to have something to hide when I’m playing certain characters. I presented in my storytelling of Ladon some secrets that I gave him.
It would have been nice to sort of see those a little bit, hints of those a little bit here and there. I think that Ladon was looking for a queen, sort of speak. I think he was “wookin’ pur nub”. You know what I mean? [Laughter]
That would have been sort of fun to complicate things if maybe he’d fallen for someone on Atlantis. That’s sort of something that I was trying to disguise. It helps you figure out — you not know if he’s good or bad.
GW: When you’re a guest star on a show that you may come in for — for a year, once a year or something like that. How do you negotiate your situation where you have an idea for the character but you … do you ever feel that it’s … How do you negotiate the situation where “It’s not really my place to tell them where to go with this character?” I mean, “Who am I? I’m just the guy who comes in and does this, but I really want to tell them my idea for this.”
RR: It really depends. You have to sort of feel it out a little bit and see.
GW: How receptive the producers are?
RR: You start with the director. How receptive the director is. Then producers and writers. On Atlantis, they’re quite present. I was fortunate that I worked a lot with Martin Wood and he’s quite receptive.
One of the things that happened was Ladon becoming the leader. As most people know, it was supposed to be Kolya. Robert Davi wasn’t available so they rewrote it for Ladon. The intention was still written for Kolya. So when I got to work, I was talking to Martin and I was like “You know, we’ve only ever seen that guy as a scientist, I’m not sure how it translates for him to suddenly just be this ruthless leader. Is there a way to find a middle ground?”
Of course they were very receptive to that. That’s how Ladon’s version of a leader came to be. And then in the following scripts, that was more the tone. And then Ladon became the sort of ambiguous “What is this guy up to?” thing.
GW: It gave the character depth!
RR: Yeah, you got to think of it. He’s a scientist. He’s not a general or a ruthless leader. He’s not any of that. He’s out of his element, somewhat. And I liked to show that a little bit. I liked that he was a little out of his element and trying to behave as though he wasn’t.
It depends. I’ve done shows where I’ve had ideas that I thought were great and the director is like “Yeah … No, just stick to the words,” “OK it’s cool.” You just don’t know. It also depends on the tone of the show. You don’t know the tone on the show, but I did know the tone.
GW: Would you have suggested something for you character on Battlestar Galactica as opposed to Atlantis?
RR: Oh yeah.
GW: Are there certain shows where you get the vibe from the staff that they have this completely in hand and there is nothing that I can do to suggest anything? That’s off limits.
RR: On Battlestar Galactica we did talk about it. We did try certain things. They loved the idea of my character but no one … Battlestar Galactica had so many characters and so many story lines. And then, here is this new character that they really like and saw a lot of potential in. They want to keep him around so that they have the option to use him eventually. They’re just not sure where and what for.
They know they like the character. We all get along. I know all those guys, so “let’s keep me around.” Go from like resistance fighter to bartender. OK, so how much resistance fighter am I embodying in the bartender? So we made choices. He’s just grateful to have a room again. He’s grateful he’s got a job. He’s trying to get his life back on track so he can be happy. At least he’s got a fresh start now.
And then there’s the reminder of Baltar, so we did have to discuss that. For them, they have all these actors coming up to them going, “What about my character ‘this?'” All the actors are very involved and everybody cares so much about that show. All the actors want to put their input in.
For me coming in [an] episode here, episode there, I am equally as passionate about the show. I come in they’re just like — it’s either “Yeah go ahead, give that a shot” or “You know what let’s just keep this.” I wanted to be on the show more, so I’m trying to figure out ways to create something interesting.
When we did the first episode of season four, that stuff with Baltar … James [Callis] is awesome to work with. If you remember the scene when I’m telling him to go ahead and scream.
GW: Yeah, in the bathroom.
RR: He was supposed to scream. And James didn’t scream. He just didn’t feel like he would scream. So, we’re doing it and he wouldn’t scream, wouldn’t scream, wouldn’t scream. James and I work pretty similarly. We’re pretty intense, we kind of get into it. We were battered and bruised at the end of that episode but he wouldn’t scream so I screamed for him. And literally threw him to the ground
He’s like “Throw me harder, throw me harder, come on, you can do it!” I literally screamed and I was so mad because he wouldn’t scream, I screamed at him, threw him to the ground and it was “Cut!” And there was this moment and pause. He kind of looks at me with this cheeky smile and we started laughing and there was this [clapping] “Oh that was awesome.”
So there were those. And then when the girl was beating me with the handle and Michael Rymer is directing. “Not so hard, we don’t want to people to think he’s dead. He’s not dead. You’re not killing him.” It was never intended to seem like I was killed, but that scene was so intense, everybody just got caught up in it.
Everyone was sure I was dead. I was never meant to be dead. Because I was like, “Please don’t kill me, Michael. I don’t want to be dead, come on man.”
GW: I thought he was dead the first time I saw it.
RR: I was like, “Oh I don’t want to be dead, man! Please don’t kill me.” They left it kind of open. And then it was like episode 15, 14 episodes later. You get this call. “You’re back on the show.” I’m like, “I knew I wasn’t dead!”
GW: Just been in a coma for a few weeks.
RR: Yeah, and not a scratch on me when I came back. Not a mark on me.
GW: What similarities would you say Ladon Radim and your character Charlie on Battlestar share?
RR: Boy, Ladon and Charlie. I think that there was an unflinching level of commitment. I think that they were both very committed to whatever it was they were … They made a decision to do something and they were going to see it through regardless. And I think that’s something that they definitely both share. I think that there’s definite commitment, no hesitation. “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.”
GW: They both had family with troubled lives. I mean Charlie obviously his son was killed on New Caprica.
RR: Yeah, Charlie had the death of his son to deal with and Ladon had his sister almost dying. Plus you know, in my mind, if he’s got a sister that he loves dearly, I’m sure he’s got other family out there so I’m sure there was a lot at stake for him.
GW: A lot of drive.
RR: Yeah. And you know, we never talked about Charlie’s wife. His son died, so I had just always assumed that his wife didn’t make it.
GW: She died in the attack?
RR: Yeah. He probably had this really great relationship with his son. And that wasn’t hard for me because I have a daughter. So when we started shooting the first scene when it was revealed that he killed … he was blaming Jammer for the death of his son. That wasn’t too hard to imagine that. That was a heavy scene, man. Shooting that was the heaviest, darkest, weighty day I’ve ever worked. And everybody brought it. It was a really weird day when we shot that scene.
GW: Killing Jammer?
RR: Yeah, it was a weird day. And [Dominic] Zamprogna who played Jammer, he just brought it. Everybody was so bumped that they were killing Jammer. Because Dom’s such a cool cat and everybody was just so bumped they were like, “Oh my God.” Every time someone of any relative consequence to the show is killed, it was just, “Oh no.”
GW: Dee [Anastasia Dualla] was a shock. That was a total shock. And what a sweetheart that actress is.
RR: Yeah, yeah. Even Kat [Louanne Katraine].
GW: Kandyse [ McClure].
RR: Kandyse. But even when Kat got killed – Luciana [Carro]. I wasn’t there but, every time you feel like you’re not going to be on the show, it’s devastating. Every actor that I know that got killed or written out, was just so bummed.
There were tears shed. some actors. It’s a tough call. Everybody loves that show so much, even working on it. It’s just so weird that it’s over. Weird.
GW: Could you compare the working environments at all between the two series between Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica? And Sanctuary also. Was there one series that was easier to work on than another?
RR: Well, definitely Sanctuary is by far the easiest to work on. I think it’s very much a family environment, we have zero ego. I mean the people are amazing. It’s one of the rules on the show. No one’s allowed to be a diva on Sanctuary. It’s very fun and really encouraging. Everybody collaborates and participates and it’s a really great feeling.
It is like shooting an indie film you’re really passionate about. It feels like that every day, I love going to work there. When I have the 5 AM call. On most shows I’m like, “5 AM … that’s crazy.” But on Sanctuary I’m up and ready to go, “Let’s go to work.” And then also because I’ve been on this show since the Web series, I think that I’ve got a lot invested. But you know, Atlantis was always fun. “Oh you’re going to go and have a good time.” But it always felt temporary, I just never knew.
With Battlestar Galactica, I was such a huge fan of the show. It was so exciting and the thing about Battlestar Galactica, everyday was so different because there’s such huge cast and everybody is so into the show and really interested in what’s going on. We’d be shooting scenes and there’d be other cast members come by just to watch. And that rarely happens.
That’ll happen on Sanctuary from time to time. Last season when there were scenes with Christopher Heyerdahl and Peter Wingfield and Jonathon Young. Robin Dunne and I would go and sit and watch. Because for me, those guys are heavyweights. Those guys are unbelievable actors. There was scene between … A Druitt [John] and [James] Watson scene — Peter Wingfield and Christopher Heyerdahl — Robin and I were just watching and we were saying “Man, these guys are awesome, so good.”
GW: When they’re outside of their test?
RR: The particular scene was a scene in Magnus’ office.
GW: Oh, OK.
RR: And they were discussing: “I can’t believe it was you, the whole time it was you.” “Sorry about that, old friend.” You know it was just … and Jonathon Young — who is back in Season Two — is just so awesome, he’s just so good as Tesla. I just love him.
GW: I’m glad they didn’t kill him.
RR: Yeah, he’s great. We just shot some stuff yesterday, he’s awesome. Ironically I don’t know if people know this about Jonathon. He actually toured and has a play where he actually plays Nikola Tesla in this play that he’s been doing off and on for years.
He actually toured with it, won festivals with it. He has a theater company that was founded on the back of this production. This theater company’s called The Electric Company. He actually toured as Nikola Tesla, so he’s just a fountain of Tesla knowledge. He always jokes with his theater friends saying ,”Well, you think that Tesla died, he didn’t. He actually went underground and became a vampire.” [laughter]
GW: Since the Web series — the show is obviously moving to its second season now. Does it still feel like an experiment in progress? Or is it much more … [the show] found its footing?
RR: No, not this year. This year it’s definitely found its footing. I think there were lots of moments last year. There was lots of moments of discovery.
GW: Not that it hadn’t found its footing last year but, not being afraid to try something.
RR: I know exactly what you’re saying. Last year it was a lot of, “Oh, yeah. It’s not that simple because we have to do this and this.” It was never fear-based or anything, it was just never a concern but it was a lot of moments of, “Oh yeah, right we’ve got to do this.” But this year … You know what? That’s what it is. I’ve been trying to figure out what feels so good this year. The scripts are amazing, everything is good. There is a level of confidence this year because the show …
GW: It’s done well.
RR: It did very well. I think it definitely exceeded expectations and then some. Internationally it’s off the charts, it’s doing so well. In the U.S. it’s doing, I think, better than expected.
There’s this level of confidence and fun. “Yeah let’s do it.” I think there’s a willingness to take some risks. It’s action-packed this year, it’s going to be great. I love it, reading the scripts.
GW: The first season of any show is usually … there’s some potential missteps. There’s a lot of feeling your way through the new world that’s been created, the new characters that you’re inhabiting.
We go back and watch old episodes of Stargate SG1 and some of them just feel a little foreign to what the show becomes. What are your thoughts on the first season of Sanctuary? From that perspective, looking back on it now, with a year’s worth of distance. What did it accomplish creatively?
RR: I know what you’re saying. Hopefully we go a few more seasons to look back on Season One and see it. I know at the beginning of Season One it’s definitely finding your feet, finding your rhythm and making discoveries. You’re literally making discoveries about your character and your scene partner.
You’re making these new discoveries on the go. It’s right there. That’s what’s kind of cool about the first season of a show is that you can actually watch people make discoveries in a scene. There’s just something cool about that. But it does feel a little bit uncertain at times.
I think creatively we’re a lot more comfortable with the choices we make. I think as an actor, say you get a new director, historically I probably wouldn’t do that. And you can say that now, because you do have a history. Before you would go, “I’m not sure my character would do that.”
“Well, has your character ever been in this situation before? Hasn’t been with mine.” Now you can make some really informed decisions and we have some really great dialogues, really great conversations.
And again, I keep talking about Martin Wood, but he’s directing the first two episodes. He’s a shinning example of that because, you’ll have moments when you kind of want to go “Jeez.” Something does feel right here but I don’t have a solution, so I don’t want to go “Hey this doesn’t feel right,” and they’ll say “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know.”
But with Martin, he’s so intuitive, he’d be like “Doesn’t feel right does it?” You’re like “No, thank you, no. But I don’t know what to do with it.” “Alright, so let’s talk about it,” and then we’ll come up with a solution and it’s usually something really simple.
He’s incredibly bright. He did this yesterday. I can’t remember what the scene was but he was like, “Something doesn’t work. You know what? Just do this.” And it was such a simple little tweak.
It’s like “Man, I would’ve never thought of that.” I get way to heady about things. It was just so simple to him. It was just like “Just do this,” and it changed the whole tone of the scene. It was perfect, exactly what it needed. And I couldn’t think of what to do. He’s really great that way.
GW: How about the scripts on the show this year?
RR: Scripts this year are great. Scripts last year were great. But this year there’s something new, I think. Maybe it is the confidence. We’ve got a staff of writers this year. Last year it was Damian Kindler and Sam Egan having to write all the scripts. A lot of pressure on them. We’ve got some new writers this year. I feel like the scripts are maybe more action-packed, definitely a lot at stake. Stakes are very, very high this year.
GW: In terms of story or how things are done on set?
RR: In terms of story, in terms of character. Mostly in terms of story and character. I think we’ve seen the potential that the show has. So I think we just want to really exceed that potential and just really knock it out of the park for Season Two. Maybe the first season has to be played somewhat safe. But I think this year we’re just like “Man, we can see what we can do. Let’s do it. Let’s try to knock this out of the park and go crazy.”
I think we’ve got a better understanding of maybe what the fans want to see. I think what the fans want to see and what we want to portray are very much on the same page.
I’m super excited. I’ve only read the first three scripts and I read the third script in my trailer and I sent Robin Dunne a text. And I was like, “Just read the third script. Oh my God it’s awesome.” And he’s texting me back, “It’s amazing, it’s so great.” Truthfully he was in the next trailer. [Laughter] It was raining, so …
GW: Last year with Season One, you had the lead guest star on the episodes. Are they upping you in Season Two to full time?
RR: I guess you guys get the exclusive. I understand this has been quite a bone of contention with a lot of people. Me being the guest star.
GW: You show up so much, you know, why not.
RR: 12 out of 13 episodes. Not to bore you with the whole contractual thing but it wasn’t possible for them to make me a series regular last year. This year — to my knowledge — yes, I will be in the main title credits. Yes I will. There you go. Exclusive, right here. You heard it from me.
And if I’m wrong, “Boy oh boy”, I’ll be pretty upset. More upset than you. No, it’s good. It’s going to be good. This year they’ve got me. I’m in, I’m on board. I’ll be around.
GW: You just recently started some charity work?
RR: Yes. A friend of mine, an actor friend, Holly Dignard has a wonderful charity called Caleb’s Hope and I want to support her in that. We’re going to be doing a photo shoot soon.
It’s a wonderful charity helping women and children in Africa. She goes to Africa several times a year. It’s a very important charity to her. I’m happy to help out. I was doing some stuff for the Red Cross last year. I’m trying to get more involved with charities.
Charities are an interesting thing when you’re an actor, or in this business, because you don’t want to just jump in. A lot of time you want to make sure that funds are going to the right places and you’re not being misused in any way. Which is what’s great about Caleb’s Hope. I know it’s my friend. I know she started this thing. I know how hard it is to start an organization like that.
I’m really excited for her and I’m really excited to support that. For me, my focus has always been on underprivileged children. Children that need support and need to be shown options, ways out. My childhood was a tough one. So I want to be able to show kids that they can …
GW: Return the favor.
RR: Yeah. I had a couple of people in my life who showed me options and it was helpful. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. I wouldn’t be able to do that so that’s going to be a bit of a focus for me.
I started on this crazy environmental thing a couple of years ago renovating my house. I just want to participate. I just want to make sure that I’m doing my part, even if it’s on a small scale, if I’m able to. It’s one thing if you’ve got a voice and you’re able to use it, you might as well.
GW: But you want to make sure that you’re using it for something that whoever you’re working with is perfectly compatible with. You don’t want to “Well, I don’t agree with what you guys are doing there.”
RR: And that’s the big thing. It’s true, that’s a very good point. People don’t talk about that with charities. When you’re getting involved with a particular charity, for me personally I need to do a lot of research first and make sure that I agree with everything. Because if we disagree on something, if I can’t get behind you on a certain …
There’s some things that are really important to me and if I make the decision to do something, I give it everything I have. And so if I hit a wall it’s like “Woah, woah. That’s not cool.” For me it’s definitely a … “with great power come great responsibility.” [Laughter] I don’t have great power yet. But I feel like I have great responsibilities.
GW: Now that it’s quiet again, let’s continue the interview. [Laughter]
RR: By the way, that was the lunch time rush that we did the interview through. Listen, it’s almost silent.
GW: Aside from Sanctuary, anything else going on we should keep an eye out for?
RR: Between seasons I did a feature film. I went over to Toronto to shoot a feature film called Leslie my name is Evil which is going to be a crazy, crazy movie. It’s sort of an interpretation of the Manson murders. The best way to describe the film is the film is more of a statement than a biopic. Effectively, I play Charles Manson in the movie for a month and a half. Shaved my head. It grew back really curly. Go figure. I’m just glad it grew back. I was like, “Oh my God.”
GW: Superstitious there?
RR: Well, shave your head and you’re kind of confronted with your hairline you know. I was like “OK, not so bad. Not so bad.” It’s going to do the festival circuit. I’m pretty confident it’ll premiere in Toronto. That’s what it sounds like. I haven’t seen it yet. I‘m pretty excited about it. Definitely we all worked very hard on it. It was a tough place to go for a month and a half. It’s a tough place to be in that guy’s head for a month and a half. But yeah.
GW: You know what I just hate about you guys here in Vancouver. There’re so many great actors and you do so many great non-blockbuster projects. They’re so darn difficult to get a hold of without downloading illegally. It’s next to impossible to get them.
RR: Yeah, it’s true. That’s just the times. People want to see big Michael Bay blockbuster explosions with a Bruckheimer-inspired musical score that guides you emotionally through the piece.
I have this theory about a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, not that I wouldn’t do one. But my theory is — I am not even sure who he gets to compose his films — Bruckheimer movies have a very particular music composition and I think they’d be an entirely different film without the music. And you’ve got this music that literally guides you emotionally, how you’re supposed to feel. People get emotional and you’re like, “I think that’s has a lot to do with that music,” I think he realizes the importance of the score in his films.
I love those movies. I’d love to do a big action movie while I can. That would be so much fun. Those movies look like fun to make. But that’s what people want to see. You’re working 40 to 60 hour weeks, you just want to go be entertained. I get like that sometimes. I just want to be entertained. It’s cool to just watch something that just makes me forget about everything else.
As an actor, I just like to do movies that are a little more intense, I suppose, a little more interesting, more intimate, I think. I come from indie films. That’s where I started. I will always do indie films, I’ll never stop doing those films. I’ve been fortunate to be able to do certain projects, certain films that pay well.
I’ve done my bits and pieces in big Hollywood movies. That allows me to be able to go work on an indie film for little to no money which is often the case. And that’s a problem. It’s really hard to get funding for an indie film, which makes it really hard to market an indie film, which makes it really hard to see. It’s interesting now. Indie in my opinion has become more of a genre.
GW: It’s cool. It’s the in thing.
RR: It’s not a budget anymore. It used to be it’s an indie film because there’s no budget and now, you see these Indie genre films. It got the big budget but…
GW: Every major studio has their own indie film — Fox Searchlight.
Look at “Donnie Darko.” The explosion of that movie.
RR: Right. And now they’re doing “S. Darko,” they’re doing a sequel about his sister.
GW: They are?
RR: Yeah. I am not entirely sure of the budget for films like “Dan in Real Life.” I’m pretty sure it’s a decent budget. I don’t know. But, you’ve got some big stars. But they have a look, right?
I know “Juno” is truly an indie film. I know they shot that film for something like seven million dollars which is insane. It’s a beautiful film. One of my friends was a producer on it and he told me that their biggest hope was they knew Helen Page would blow up and be a big star, but they had no idea the kind of response they would get.
You do get lucky from time to time. You do get that attention from time to time. And it’s great. And now that indie is this type of genre and “Juno” had so much to do with that. How many movies come out now that just look and feel like “Juno?” When “Juno” came out, the movie was so unique. The only films that reminded me of that kind of genre were from the 80’s. “Say Anything.” the John Cusack movie. Those movies were made popular again. For that, I think it’s awesome.
GW: Is there any kind of character that you won’t play?
RR: Any kind of character that I won’t play … I don’t know, I don’t think so. I think it would really depend on the script and the message. I would be really hesitant to play certain types of characters. First thing that comes to mind is a pedophile or something. I don’t think I’d like that.
But then I think of “Little Children” and Jack Earle Haley who is unbelievable, and I’m like, “I don’t want to like this guy,” but he’s so compelling. I think if the overall script and the tone and the people involved are solid.
GW: How the character’s written.
RR: Yeah, how the character is written. I wouldn’t quickly say no. I love that challenge and I am really fortunate to be an actor who is given the luxury to play all sorts of different characters.
I aspire to be a very memorable character actor. My heroes are famous now, but maybe weren’t 10 years ago. They’ve been doing this for 20 years. Chris Cooper I think is amazing. Philip Seymore Hoffman is amazing. And then character leads. I think Viggo Mortensen is such a phenomenally gifted actor but he’s so prepared. He obviously works very, very hard and I love the work ethic of guys like that. Sean Penns Johnny Depps, these guys are just great.
RR: They’re great. They’re stars but they could easily have, without that exposure, I’m sure they would still be making movies if they were doing these small indie movies, if that’s what they were offered.
I like that. I like that kind of intensity. It’s not the healthiest way to be an actor. It’s tough on the body, it’s tough on the emotions when you want to dedicate yourself and commit yourself to a character that heavily. But it’s the only way I know how to work. It’s fulfilling.
I’m trying to find a way to actually become a werewolf.
GW: Good luck with that.
RR: Yeah, I just can’t find any real ones. You go online, Craig’s List. “werewolf.” “These stats are just so boring.” I just need someone to scratch me. Just to know what it’s like.
GW: I keep waiting to see you as a full fledge werewolf in the show but it’s so expensive to show you considering how they’ve designed you. They don’t want to design it cheap. They want to make him look impressive.
RR: It’s really interesting because we had this conversation, and when we did see the version of Henry as a werewolf in the elevator in the “Edward” episode, that was Edward’s interpretation of Henry’s beast. It’s not even what Henry looks like as a werewolf. When we do see Henry as a werewolf, it will be different still.
GW: When we do see it. It’s a little nugget there.
RR: If we do see him. [Laughter]
RR: We might see him.
GW: It would be such a letdown to never see his true form.
RR: We know that Henry has some control over his werewolfiness.
RR: Yeah, just like Lycanthropy. “Laminopathy.” We know Henry has some control over it so I think there’s going to be some elements where it will play. We’re not going to overexpose it. We’re not going to show it often. Because I think it spoils it.
Also, for a character choice I think it’s very painful for Henry to do that. I don’t think he wants to do it. I think it’s one of those things, it’s the last, last, last option.
GW: Back through the wall. Break himself out of a cell.
RR: Yeah, out of a meat locker. I was bruised after that scene. It didn’t look that tough or rough at all, but I was bouncing off those walls for hours.
GW: The pain on your face looked real. You put it on your Facebook.
RR: Oh, God. Yeah. You got a picture, that’s my Facebook picture.
GW: I was like “What is that?” And then I saw the episode. “Oh, OK.”
RR: That’s my Facebook picture. I like that picture. It’s a good picture. That was actually a fan who created that picture. Shelley Templar created that picture. I was like “I have to have it.” So she sent it to me. “Awesome.” I put it on Facebook.
“Caleb’s Hope” Charity
Interview by Chad Colvin, David Read and Darren Sumner. Transcript by Kerenza Harris.