North York native Gregory Smith on his recent directorial debut and why starring on the hit show Rookie Blue is the best job he’s ever had
It was Gregory Smith’s calm temperament that got him started in the acting industry, earning him a starring role in his first commercial at just 14 months old.
“When I was about one, my parents put me in front of a camera with a bunch of strangers, and I didn’t cry. So that was my competitive edge, just that I didn’t cry. I’m not sure why,” says Smith.
Born in the Willowdale area of North York in the early 1980s, Smith and his family moved to Vancouver when he was just four years old. Out west, the future Rookie
Blue star continued to find work as a child model.
“I somehow started doing a lot of department store catalogues as a baby model. Then, someone in Vancouver turned me onto doing TV shows. I ended up going to L.A. during pilot season when I was 11, and the rest kind of just happened,” he says.
Smith has been in front of a camera for virtually his whole life. For nearly 30 years he’s found steady, meaningful work in front of and behind the camera. Smith credits his longevity in the industry to the inherent excitement of an actor’s life.
“I love the work and the adventure of it. Moving to new cities and travelling, you never have the same day twice. That and it’s what I know and what I’ve grown up doing. It’s given me a life I never could’ve imagined before.”
He has straddled both the television and film worlds, scoring roles in major films like The Patriot, opposite Mel Gibson, and
Closing the Ring, opposite Christopher Plummer, Shirley MacLaine and Neve Campbell.
Smith is also featured in an episode of every Canadian kid’s favourite ghost story show, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, but he calls his role in the 1997 live action feature Small
Soldiers “a dream come true.” Although he has loved his film work, he has found more steady success on television.
Prior to his starring role in the police drama Rookie Blue, Smith earned critical acclaim for his portrayal of teen piano prodigy Ephram Brown on the WB series
The 2002 drama follows Dr. Andrew Brown and his family, who move f rom Manhattan to Everwood, Utah, after losing their wife and mother.
Smith played Dr. Brown’s 15-year-old son, Ephram, who has a series of troubles with the change in environment.
Everwood had a cult following but was cancelled after just four seasons in 2006.
The show however remains popular to this day with its devoted fans, many of whom flocked to January’s ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, where the cast and creators took part in a panel discussion about the show, nine years after its cancellation.
“That was a very dramatic show. The writing was incredible, but it was so real and it hit so close to home. Sometimes the lines blurred between the show and real life. The biggest challenge was finding a balance,” says Smith.
For his role as Ephram Brown, Smith had to move to Utah for nearly five years.
“That was an adjustment. It wasn’t difficult, but it was a very new environment for me,” he says. Now, Smith stars as Dov Epstein on
Rookie Blue, an ABC/Global show that is entering its sixth season on May 21 and airs Thursdays at 9 p.m.
Smith has starred in the Canadian cop drama, set in and filmed in Toronto, since its inception.
The show follows a group of young officers who, in the first season, are recent police academy graduates.
Smith’s character is an energetic and cocky young cop, with a hippie upbringing and a brother who committed suicide four years prior to the show’s premiere.
“Rookie Blue is probably the best job I’ve ever had. It’s a great group of people, the most fun I’ve ever had doing something. It’s such a great team of people that work on the show: the fellow cast members to the producers, directors and writers. It felt like a family from day one, and even after six years, we miss each other in the off seasons.”
The show shoots for half the year in Toronto, in a variety of locations.
The cast and crew have been spotted filming in a number of spots around the city, from the Financial District to the Port Lands.
Smith says the potential to return to his hometown was a key point that helped sway his final decision to join the show.
“That was a huge thing for me. I had really been wanting to come back to Toronto — that was a big, exciting factor in the decision.”
With the role of Dov Epstein confirmed, Smith jumped on the opportunity to move back home and settled in the Leslieville area.
“I hang out in a lot of places in that area, especially at the East Side Social and some of the many coffee shops. I like that it feels like a small town on the edge of a big city. I’ve been there for five years now.”
Since 2012, Smith has also been dabbling in directing.
He’s helmed five episodes of Rookie Blue, three episodes of Saving Hope, a Canadian medical drama on CTV/NBC also set in Toronto, and one episode of Arrow, a CW show about a bow and arrow–wielding vigilante.
The latter directing assignment reunited Smith with Everwood creator and executive producer Greg Berlanti.
The episode Berlanti trusted Smith to direct was one of Arrow’s most important of the season, as it featured the reveal of a months-long tease.
Smith says he credits Berlanti with piquing his interest in directing and that he tried very hard to ensure he would get the episode right.
On directing as a whole, Smith simply states, “I love it and I hope to do a lot more in the future.”
For now, the multi-talented actor is focused on Rookie Blue, as the cast and crew wait to hear if they will be picked up for a seventh season on ABC and Global.
As for the future of his career, Smith says he has no preference between television and film.
“I’ll do anything that’s a cool, interesting character. Whether it’s TV, film or even a web show.”
“SOMETIMES THE LINES BLURRED BETWEEN THE SHOW AND REAL LIFE. THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WAS FINDING A BALANCE.”