It started with a tattooed, gay hit man. Well, it started a bit before that, but Sam Adama on Caprica was when we all sat up and took notice. Since Caprica, actor Sasha Roiz has been all over the place, from Castle and House to Warehouse 13 and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Now, he’s back on television in Grimm, a police procedural set in a world in which fairy tales are real and aren’t just stories, but warnings. NBC aired the Grimm premiere amid much buzz at San Diego Comic Con this year, as well as gave Twitter followers the chance to see the pilot in advance of the premiere, and if early reviews are any indication, Grimm is shaping up to be one of the hottest genre shows premiering this fall.
Grimm is the story of Nick Burckhardt (David Giuntoli), a Portland detective who learns that he is descended from a long line of “grimms,” or those with the power to see people’s true fairy-tale natures, and eventually comes to use this power to solve crimes and generally fight evil. Roiz plays Captain Renard, a character who — like many Roiz has played — isn’t what he seems. Renard means “fox” in French, which is likely a reference to the “sly and foxy agenda” of the character.
Knowing that Roiz has expressed a preference for fantasy over sci-fi, I asked him whether this being an urban fantasy (created by Angel exec producers, David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf no less!) had something to do with his accepting the role. “Personally, as an actor, it matters very little me what genre (if any) I’m engaged in.” he says. “It’s all make-believe and requires the same process and imagination. I respond to good writing and good people. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to get both. I think the term ‘genre’ has become very gray in recent years, and we continue to see a crossover as more and more viewers are tuning into to shows that stimulate and indulge their imagination. With Grimm, it’s a lot of fun for me to be able to play within the familiar world of fairy tales. As for satisfying my inner fantasy geek, anything that would have me wielding a sword or shooting a bow would be a dream.”
Do you hear that, Game of Thrones?
His character on Caprica was a part of an already-existing franchise, so I was curious about how it felt to create a role whole cloth for an original new show. Roiz credits the writer-producers on both Caprica and Grimm with being open and collaborative. “With every episodic there’s a learning curve where writers try to find the voice of the characters by way of the actors. Many details are found along the way. On Caprica, although the franchise already existed, we were creating an entirely new world full of new characters. Being a prequel, we never felt hindered by BSG in any way, and always felt free to create and add to the already intricate world that was to come. I feel equally free with Grimm. There’s a foundation that has been created for us by David and Jim, and we are now, as actors, helping layer and texture the finer details.”
Grimm is currently filming season one on location in Portland, OR, where the show is set, and Grimm’s stars and producers have all talked about Portland as if it is another character on the show, because the city’s ambiance adds to the mysterious and fantastic nature of the show. Roiz is “Loving [it]. [It’s] a beautiful, perfectly sized, sophisticated city, with so much to offer. Second day I was here I bought a bike that I can’t stop riding all over town. It’s a big lifestyle change from LA. I love discovering new cities and having an opportunity to get away.”
This was Roiz’s second year at SDCC as he and the rest of the Grimm cast promoted the show amid the usual con craziness. When I asked if he had any advice for his costars as a con “veteran,” he says, “The cast of Grimm are all veterans and are a very warm and engaging bunch, so they were great. Comic Con is always a sensory overload, and we had a very full day. We’re the new guys and people still aren’t familiar with our show since it has yet to air. But the fans were great and very responsive to the pilot. Other than that, it was touching to have met so many Caprica fans again.”
While Roiz has worked in all mediums both in the U.S. and in Canada (he grew up in Montreal), these days, he’s been making a name for himself in television. “I enjoy working on a series and having a long stretch of time to get to know and connect with my cast and crew,” he says. “It also gives me the ability to play a character over the span of countless hours of television. I also appreciate the fact that with television, you’re invited into people’s homes and therefore there’s a more familiar relationship between the actors and the viewers.”
Any drawbacks to TV?
“The only difficulty I can think of is that we don’t have as much time to work through scenes the way films do.”
Roiz is an extremely talented actor who pops off the screen even in a television guest spot, often saving what might otherwise be so-so material (I’m lookin’ at you, CSI). Yet, if you type “Sasha Roiz shirtless” into Google, you get over 130,000 results. Between his shirtlessness and Alessandra Torresani’s Maxim photos, it felt like they were being trotted out as the “faces” of Caprica to promote the show. I asked him how that focus on the physical affects him as an actor.
“There’s always a pressure to look good and be fit. I enjoy being active, it’s part of my lifestyle. Beyond a work requirement, I’m not that interested in making shirtless appearances. I’m in my late thirties and feel that it’s time for a more distinguished approach. In this industry, I think it’s fine and sometimes beneficial to receive attention for one’s appearance. But ultimately, the focus should always remain on the work.”
Like his Grimm costar, Bitsie Tulloch, whom you might know from the web shows Quarterlife and LonelyGirl15, Roiz has taken part in projects designed for the internet — like Crazy/Sexy/Awkward, an irreverent dating comedy; or this hilarious PSA about gay bullying — as well as independent film like the upcoming sci-fi thriller, Extracted, or the short film, Neighbors. He doesn’t seem to make a distinction in terms of quality between mainstream media and stuff that’s off the beaten path. “I try to strike a balance between projects that are fulfilling for me personally and those that are beneficial for my career. Often, I’m lucky enough to have a mix of the two,” Roiz explains. “We all need to make a living and continue to foster a career, but that won’t exclude me from taking on projects that I feel are going to be enjoyable, stimulating or challenging.”
Grimm was originally set to premiere on October 21st, Roiz’s birthday, but it got moved to this week, seemingly to take advantage of everyone’s Halloween mood. Birthday celebration or no, it is likely that Roiz will be spending premiere day with his fellow castmates in Portland. “We’ve become fast friends,” he says. “And that day will be exciting for all of us.”
Grimm premieres tonight at 9PM ET on NBC.
Teresa Jusino was totally being ironic when she used a picture of Sasha Roiz shirtless as her desktop wallpaper. Really. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa,“like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.