May 17, 2013 6:06 am

‘Rookie Blue’ star Gregory Smith is calling the shots

Gregory Smith of 'Rookie Blue.'

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TORONTO — It’s no surprise, really, that Gregory Smith is directing episodes of the series he co-stars in, Rookie Blue. The Toronto-lensed cop drama returns for a fourth season May 23 on Global.

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“He’s a particular renaissance man,” says Rookie Blue executive producer and showrunner Tassie Cameron. “He’s one of those guys you discover suddenly that he’s running some tech company out of his trailer, he’s taking award-winning photographs from his travels to Africa … he’s just one of those people.”

The Toronto-born, B.C.-raised actor, who turns 30 this summer, has been around TV and film sets almost his entire life. His father Maurice produced low-budget films and his teacher mother Terrea acted in some of them. Their son Gregory was working in the biz as soon as he could barely talk, appeared in his first commercial, for Tide, at 14 months. A younger brother, Douglas Smith (Big Love) also acts.

Before he was a teen, Smith was showing up on Vancouver-based TV shows such as The Commish, The Hat Squad and Highlander.

In 2002, he landed the role opposite Treat Williams and fellow Canadian Emily VanCamp (Revenge) that has led to everything else, Ephram Brown on Everwood.

Over the years, he’s also appeared in 25 films.

So when he was given an opportunity to become the first Rookie Blue cast member to direct last season, Smith jumped at it. He watched carefully the work of several directors, particularly executive producer David Wellington, studied their techniques and gave it a shot.

“That’s basically how I learned everything as an actor,” he says during an interview in his trailer on the set. “I was just a kid and I worked with these actors and I’d ask them questions and then something would work for me and I’d try to move forward with it.”

Wellington was an obvious inspiration. “He took me under his wing and showed me the way,” says Smith, who directs his second episode towards the end of this coming season.

Another mentor was Everwood director Perry Lang. “He was an actor and became a director and now he sort of does both, so I shadowed him on an episode of Eli Stone” — a short-lived series Smith worked on in 2009.

Another Everwood director, David Petrarca — currently shooting Game of Thrones — was an influence. “I sort of check with a lot of people and just started asking questions over the years.”

Smith feels being on the other side of the camera now and then helps him communicate with other actors. “Acting is such a strange thing, it’s different for everybody,” he says. No two processes are the same, and no director understands the “idiosyncrasies of the neuroses” better than another actor.

Directing also makes one a more considerate actor, says Smith. “After being on the other side of it, when they tell you they’re ready on set — you get there faster!”

It helps, he adds, that Rookie Blue is a fairly tight-knit unit. It’s funny to hear an actor so young say something like, “in all my years I’ve never worked with a nicer group,” but Smith has a list of credits deeper than most. “Everybody’s so tight, no egos, no kind of competitiveness, it’s just like everybody’s having fun, so it was a dream come true.”

“No egos, please, what about him?” jokes cast mate Charlotte Sullivan (Gail Peck), who cracks herself up. “Greg’s a joy to work with, he knows how to get the best out of all of us.”

In order to juggle the two jobs, Smith gets his directing assignments following a break in the production schedule, in the case of this season, around Christmas. Directors need at least a week to block, schedule and prepare once a script is in place. “I’m prepping episode 11 while I’m shooting episode 10 as an actor, so my time gets spread very. very thin,” he admits. “Last year was very, very stressful but we got it done.”

A new season of Rookie Blue debuts May 23 on Global.

© 2013 The Canadian Press

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