Exclusive Interview: Ian Tracey talks Rogue

April 15, 2013

No matter where the characters in Rogue stand, on the police line or on the docks with crime boss Jimmy Laszlo, all of them embrace the blurry line between life and death. It’s just how they live. But, Detective Lucas “Mitch” Mitchel is over it. A disenchanted cop, he transferred to the sleepy San Jose Police Department in the hopes of leading a somewhat normal, drama-free life. That is until Grace recruits him to help her find her son’s murderer.

Rogue writer’s assistant Ira Parker caught up with actor Ian Tracey to find out more about Mitch and what it’s like to play him.

Ira Parker: How would you describe your character?
Ian Tracey: He’s a detective who has been a cop for quite a while. He’s getting close to having put in his time and he’s had enough. Had enough of the carnage, the mayhem, death, and destruction. He missed out on a lot of family life and self-preservation has kicked in. He starts thinking about his own family, his own son, probably prompted by the death of Grace’s son. He decides to take a desk job in San Jose to be a little safer, maybe clock in a few less hours.

IP: Your character talks about losing his nerve for no good reason. Have you ever had an experience in your life when you woke up one day and everything was different?
IT: I can say that I probably have at different times. The film industry is a fickle business and you are either working really hard or maybe not at all. It’s a feast or famine environment. I’ve probably been doing this about 37 years now. Over the past five years, there have been a couple of times when I thought, “Hmmm…is the industry going to leave me by the wayside? Maybe I should make an exit first, rather than being forced out.” But then you know what happens, Ira? They keep pulling me back in. Ha ha ha.

IP: How did you prepare for your role as Mitch?
IT: Well I’ll tell you, there wasn’t a lot of prep time. I got hired fairly close to the start-date, but luckily for me, I had played a detective for about eight years on another show and I’ve played a handful of cops in other environments. So I had a lot of prep as a cop. And I think grabbing those fleeting moments with our pilot director Brian, and Thandie in rehearsals, and going to the shooting range, and just familiarizing myself a little bit with the people I’d be working with was more the focus of my prep – more than just cop protocol.

And I watched some documentaries on the Oakland area and a little bit about what was happening down there, just to get the vibe of that city. It’s good to understand what the criminal element might be like where you are if you are playing a cop. You know, it’s different if you’re in Yellowknife or Oakland.

IP: You play a cop on Rogue and you’ve played a gangster before on the TV series, Intelligence. What side do you prefer?
IT: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know if I prefer a side so much as the character himself. Playing a cop, it feels good to be on the side of righteousness and working for the greater good, protecting people and getting the bad guy. But playing a bad guy also has its freedoms as a performer. You’re not so concerned about making sure that you’re likeable. If you are a bad guy, you don’t give a crap who likes you and who doesn’t. But I really do like playing a cop. I like the investigative side of it.

After I do a show, I really find myself looking at everything in my own life. I was pegging people across the street, “Oh yeah I know they are up to something. Look at that guy, check that out.” I found myself really eye balling stuff a lot more. It made me a lot more inquisitive as a person and keened my ears and my eyes a little bit.

IP: Was that always a part of your personality, that inquisitive nature, or do you think you learned that because of your work?
IT: Once you start acting, you really start looking at people in a different way and listening and watching people’s mannerisms. I think I became inquisitive once I started really pursuing acting hard. I mean, you just start people watching everywhere, almost to a fault. People wonder why I am giving them a hard stare. And I’m not, I’m just soaking it in. But yeah, definitely playing the cop made me inquisitive on another level.

IP: What part of Mitch’s personality is most like your own?
IT: The character in the beginning was described to me as soft-spoken. I would say that I related to that. And when I say soft-spoken, I just mean my tendency is to be gentle with people. The fact that this character was written in that way, allows me to bring that forward. That kind of gentle way of dealing with people, which became more apparent once Thandie and I (Grace and Mitch) start working together. He’s a kind of gentle guy that she can go see, not only for information, but for a little bit of trust and comfort. He’s not the type of guy who is going to berate her, even though he may be gently disciplining her.

IP: Favorite scene of the season?
IT: That’s a hard question. Only because I generally don’t pick favorite stuff. Somebody asks me what my favorite song is, I draw a blank. Favorite gig I ever did, blank. I can find something in any given day. I’m probably guilty of living a little too in the moment. Sometimes last week will become a distant memory to me. So my favorite scene is the next one I’m going to do.

IP: Best / worst part about being on set?
IT: Best part? Being with creative people, sharing creative moments, sharing a few jokes, eating together. It’s the community of the set that always keeps me coming back. I love the creative process. I like what we do, I love film. Worst part about being on set? Last day. Knowing that I’m about to be out of work.

IP: Any plans coming up?
IT: There are a couple of things out in the wind. There is this show I worked on the tail end of last season. I don’t want to talk too much about it and jinx myself.

IP: Your son on the show, Billy, is played by your actual son, Keenan. Was this your first time working together? What was that experience like for you?
IT: yeah, it was the first time acting together and the experience was great. I gotta tell you, the first day I had the parental nerves wondering how it was going to go. But he’s been doing gigs the last three or four years and I keep running into people who have worked with him and who have nothing but great things to say about him. And about him as a person as much as him as an actor. It’s great.

I tried to keep him out of acting as long as I could. But a guy reaches a certain age and you don’t want to tell him what to do. I was hoping he would take a different route. I knew he was interested in the film industry – he did a year at film school. I was hoping he would slide into the camera department or writing. That’s what he originally was going to go for. He even got accepted to a film program for creative writing and I thought, “That’s my boy, cause he loved writing.” But throughout the season he was starting to audition for things and he was getting a bit more bitten by the bug and got a gig. By the end of the year he decided to take a little time off from school and pursue acting more, and to his credit it worked out for him. I know it’s a hard road, he’s seen me live it. So he knows what it’s like.

IP: Have you given him many tips?
IT: Not too many, you know? I respect him because he has wanted to do it all on his own. He didn’t want to be under my wing and I don’t help him with auditions. We didn’t read lines for this show at home. We just treated each other like a couple of professionals. He wants to be his own man and I have to respect that.

IP: Why do you think Mitch goes to such great lengths to help Grace? Was it Sam? Is it about getting his confidence back? Or do you think he’s just in love with her?
IT: The way it was described to me in the beginning was that he had trained her and mentored her. And after Sam dies, she comes around and goads him, giving him a little bit of shit in the beginning. I think that gets under his skin a little bit. And I think that there was a general fondness for her throughout. They worked together, he trained her, he knows her child, and they have hung out together. She knows his son, she knew him when he was younger. So there’s a family, a little bit of a family bond there. There’s almost a paternal protective feeling and I think once she winds him up a little bit, he starts taking a look at his own son and thinking about Grace’s loss. I think you’d have to be of a reptilian nature to not want to help her.

I don’t know, maybe I’m injecting my own thing into it, but I think there was probably a little bit of infatuation there. He’s divorced and single, feeling like shit and the place is a mess, and she’s younger than him by a decade at least. Grace is coming around and leaning on him for comfort and curling up on the couch. I don’t think he could help looking at this beautiful woman. I mean, you’d have to be a eunuch not to start getting a little bit of a snap in the shorts, as Fonzie would say. But then that would just be doggish to just take advantage of that. I don’t think he would ever cross the line.

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