GRE­GORY

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

North York Post - - Front page - by Sachin Seth

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

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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

Ever­wood.

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.”

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