The Rookie Blue actor is known for multiple highly acclaimed roles, including a four-season stint as troubled teen Ephram Brown on Everwood and as Mel Gibson’s son in The Patriot. He also has an entrepreneurial side, co-founding the interactive content-creation tech company Qwiki, and is an accomplished producer and photographer.
Smith was also seen this month co-presenting the Canadian Cinema Editors 2012 (CCE) Awards on May 17 at the Capitol Event Theatre, alongside other notable names in Canadian television and movies, including TV and film critic Richard Crouse and Degrassi’s Jordan Todosey.
But this summer, as season three of his acclaimed series Rookie Blue returns to air, there’s only one thing he wants to accomplish: “I’m trying to teach myself how to cook. Because, I figure, I’m 28; it’s about damn time!”
He’s starting small; breakfast for him is “just a bunch of eggs, cheese, meat, and veggies on toast. For me it’s a big step though.”
Culinary capers aside, Smith has a lot of which to be proud. Rookie Blue, a police show set in the world of five young new police academy graduates, is growing in popularity and does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. At the onset of the show’s third season, Cadence had the privilege of speaking to Greg Smith, who plays the cocky yet good-hearted officer Dov Epstein on the acclaimed series.
First things first, season three of Rookie Blue is about to kick off. How does it feel?
It feels good, although we’re always a little bit nervous before the first episode because we’ve been off the air for a few months. So we just want to make sure everybody knows that we’re back, and nervous to see the numbers of course.
Nice. You’re really no rookie to audiences because you’ve been acting since you were a kid basically, right? But how does it feel being involved with something like Rookie Blue, given that a lot of shows sometimes don’t even make it past their pilot episodes, let alone get to season three?
Yeah, it’s awesome. Rookie Blue is one of my favourite jobs I’ve ever had, that I’ve ever worked on. And it all comes down, at the end of the day, to just the people you work with and the experience of making the show. We just have a great time, and we all love each other and are incredibly supportive. Everybody gets along really well, and you can’t really ask for much more than that. I’m really proud of the show we make as well, so it’s a dream gig.
I know that on Twitter you mentioned that you directed one of the episodes this season. What was that like?
I did. It was incredible. It was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I finally got the opportunity. The most work, the most stressful, hardest thing I’ve ever done; but I absolutely loved it, and I’m very proud. The episode turned out really good, and I hope I get the chance to do it more in the future.
So, you got to work with William Shatner this season. Tell me about that.
He was awesome—talk about someone who’s no rookie. He’s a pro; he’s been doing this longer than most of us have been alive. But it goes to show you could be doing this forever and even he was nervous on his first day. Because every time you start a new job, it’s like starting from scratch. So it was a really cool moment for all of us. It was a pleasure to watch such a pro at work.
So going back to the show itself, on the last season Andy and Sam finally, finally hooked up! But your character (Dov) and Gail—there still seems to be this love/hate relationship going on. So are you able to give us a sneak preview about what viewers can expect from your two characters?
Well, something happens to Dov this year that throws everything in his life off-course. Nothing you could imagine could prepare you for where Dov goes this season. Certainly not what anyone else, including myself, thought.
Oh wow. Really, eh? Are any of you involved in the creation of the story, like the writing in any part?
No, that’s all the writers.
So they’re throwing you curveballs as well as the audience, right?
Yes, right, exactly.
So, you’re from Toronto originally. What’s it like getting to shoot a long-term project like this in the city?
It’s awesome. I love it here. I was born here, but I didn’t really grow up here. I only lived here for a couple of years. But I came here a lot over the years to shoot different movies and stuff, and it’s always just felt more like home than anywhere else. So I’m really happy to get a chance to sort of live here. I’m here now, and I spend a lot of my downtime here now as well. Because I just love it so much.
I notice you’re very much in tune with social media—you’ve got Twitter, you’ve got Instagram all out there. So what’s it like for an actor who has been around for quite a few years like you’ve been, interacting on that personal level with your fans?
Hmm. That’s interesting, because I did a show called Everwood, and it finished maybe two years before I started Rookie Blue. But in those two years between Everwood and Rookie Blue, it was like the rise of social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. And it’s really changed the dynamic of working on a television show. Because you just made a show in a vacuum and it went out into the universe, and you very rarely heard from fans. If you did, it would be like one or two people you’d see on the street. But it wasn’t in any volume, and it wasn’t in real time. Now, as the show is being watched, there’s this feedback loop, and you’re seeing what people like, what they don’t like, and what resonates with people. So it changed the dynamic, I think, a little bit between the writers and the actors and the fans, where you can hear [the fans] now.
You mentioned that this is probably your favourite project to date. Going between TV and feature films, what would you say is the biggest difference?
Well, with a feature film, you have more time to shoot it. But you want to tell the entire story of that character in this one-hour-and-a-half or two-hour movie, so you want to play a whole arc. With TV you have a lot less time to shoot it, but you want to stretch your character’s arc out over several years. So I would say that’s a big difference.
So I guess with TV you do get to explore the characters a little bit more—I won’t say “nuancedly,” because even with films you can still show that nuance—but it’s just one time, and then it’s done. Whereas with TV, the audience can build a relationship with a character over seasons and over years.
Yeah, as a [TV] actor, you don’t want to play every beat as soon as you can; you gotta hold stuff back on a TV show.
That would make sense; otherwise it would be done in half a season, give or take.
You’ve worked with a lot of big names in the industry; right now, William Shatner, and you’ve worked with Mel Gibson. Is there anybody you have on your list as a dream collaborator?
You know, there are certain directors, like the Coen brothers, or something like that. But in terms of actors, not really, because you just kind of take it as it comes. But there are certainly some directors that I’d love a chance to work with.
Given that you’ve started inching towards that direction—pun intended—do you see yourself becoming a director at some point, like, more focused on that than the acting?
[Laughs at bad joke.] No, not more focused on that than the acting, but it’s something I’d like to do and continue to explore in addition to the acting.
You also do photography, if I’m not mistaken. Is that more of a hobby or . . . ?
Yeah, more of a hobby. It was actually something I started picking up so I could understand camera angles and lighting and composition better; and it was all part of my desire to direct someday.
Do you think that you would completely deviate and become a photographer, kind of pull an “Anton Corbijn” or something?
Just drop everything and travel and take pictures? You know, it’s nice to dream about, but I don’t think that will actually happen! [Laughs] My other dream job, if I hadn’t become an actor, would be to shoot forNational Geographic or The New Yorker or something like that. But I really love what I do, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.
You never know, they might see this article and be like, “Let’s call up Greg Smith.” So what do you do on your downtime? Now that you’re done shooting season three, you probably have a bit of time. Are you working on any projects, or just kind of taking it easy?
I travel a lot. I try to do one or two trips every hiatus. So this year I went to South Africa for a month, and then I go back to Los Angeles, and you know, take meetings, get different film opportunities. And also, this year I want to learn new things. So, different things. Trying to be productive but at the same time relaxed, because during the year, it’s very, very stressful and [I don’t get] enough sleep. [I] catch up with friends, because when we’re shooting—at least for me—I kind of drop off the face of the map and don’t call anybody back for six months. And then I go and repent.
At least you have the biggest excuse: I was working! You can turn on the TV and see!
Viewers can see for themselves how all Greg Smith’s hard work is paying off by tuning in to Global tonight for the season three premiere of Rookie Blue.
Join the social media conversation using the hashtag #RB, #RookieBlue or following Greg Smith on Twitter: @gregorythesmith