Thursday, November 4, 2010
TO THE ACTOR WHO CAN PLAY A CHEATER, PSYCHO, AND JOSH HARTNETT'S NEMESIS ALL AT ONCE: NIKITA'S SEBASTIEN ROBERTS TELLS US HOW "GOOD OF AN ACTOR" HE REALLY IS!
“Thanks for calling. Talking to you actually made time go a lot quicker.” Static and sounds of the road cloud over my phone’s quality; Sebastien Roberts is bravely taking on a 4 hour drive to his hometown of Montreal simultaneously while answering my many interview questions (using headsets, of course! He believes in safe driving!) But, his cutting yet soothing voice still prove to be comprehensible. He pronounces every word accurately – without thee Encyclopedia dictionary arrogance or suspicions of over-rehearsal. He stammers and stops like everyone else, but builds enough rapport to carry on conversation - to tell his story so fluidly. And, boy, does he have a story... Not bad for the 37-year-old Montreal native who is now most memorable for playing the (dead?) fiancé of the character-titled, reborn Toronto-filmed CW series Nikita, boasting a cast of a bevy of stars like The O.C.’s Melinda Clarke, Young & The Restless’s Lyndsy Fonseca, and A Walk to Remember’s Shane West. Surrounded by an all-celebrity cast, Sebastien’s raw yet versatile talents stand out, circling his own spotlight. Here, Sebastien opens up about his twin sister’s death, playing tough characters – like an in-the-closet homosexual, incestuous rapist, and Josh Hartnett’s enemy – and conceiving a son with the “biggest heart” (Aww.) Check our personal Q&A here.
V.B. You were born in the great metropolitan city of Montreal, Quebec. What made you decide to relocate and pursue a career in acting?
S.R. Actually, I was born in Montreal then I grew up in Sarnia (a town located approximately 2-3 hours away from Toronto). I moved back to Montreal, when I was about 20-21, because I just had my son. Now that my son is turning 17 and so grown up, I have more time to pursue acting. I just sold my house in Montreal and got an apartment in Toronto, because I spend more time here now (to film Nikita). I go back and forth. I never dreamt of becoming an actor really early on, but I was on an improv team in Ontario that travelled and performed in a few plays in high school. I had a child so early, so I needed a job. I worked in the pipe centre/industry – plumbing, oil plants, etc. – that sort of thing. If I didn’t have my son (Jesse), I would probably be one of those struggling actors who bartended or served to pay his bills. I didn’t go to theatre school until I was 28.
V.B. You were a regular on Providence, playing character Francois Berthier. Would you say you grew with your character throughout your duration on the show? What kinds of issues and behaviour shifts did your character experience that you would like to address or advise your viewers on?
S.R. I played a Phys Ed/Nature teacher on the Providence for 3 years. I’m very grateful for this, because it was my first big role. When you’re on a show with a million viewers for 3 years, you get recognition for other opportunities. I’m used to playing sociopaths or other multi-dimensional characters, but he (Francois) was too perfect – too boring. He fell in love with one of his student’s mothers who was having a hard time with her husband. But then it became more interesting, when after 2 years, they (the writers) made my character have an affair with a man. You never actually saw the affair on the show; you only heard about it. The affair supposedly happened 10 years before that. The man I had a “fling” with told everyone, and my wife (on the show) found out.
S.R. Yes. You didn’t actually see the character being gay. It was simple, not based on a whole bunch of research. There was no confusion, bisexuality, or struggle with his character (to come out, understand his sexuality, etc.)
V.B. In 2006, you made appearances on shows like Naked Josh and G-Spot. Those seem like pretty racy shows, judging by their names :) Where do you draw your line in what you're willing to perform as an actor, and why? For example, would you consider doing (more) nude or sex scenes?
S.R. On Naked Josh, I played a handicapped character (in a wheelchair) who cheated on his girlfriend. Of course, it was hard moving in certain positions utilizing – and being in – a wheelchair. That was the first and only time I played someone handicapped. It really gave me a view of what handicapped people have to go through, day in and day out. In G-Spot, I only did one sex scene, and there I showed my chest. In Lucky Number Slevin – a movie where I acted with Josh Hartnett – I actually had sex with his girlfriend behind his back, and he found out. Of course, they cut the dialogue and not the sex scene. People tease me for that; this was actually done earlier on in my career. That’s how good of an actor I am. They cut my lines and kept my ass (laughs)! I wouldn’t do that again, unless I were the lead or it depended on the movie – not for a one-liner, especially when you’re just starting out and you’re the “pretty boy.” One of my more controversial roles called for my playing a rapist on One Way, a movie we filmed in Germany? We find out in court as a teen, I raped my sister when she was only 14. I tell people “I love playing a rapist,” because as an actor, you go down to these dark places with your character, and it’s really interesting. Of course, it seems real when you see a lot of nudity and sex – and you ask yourself, “Is she really doing this?” – but (you have to remind yourself that) it isn’t real.
V.B. Speaking of "sex," many Canadians especially consider you to be a sex symbol. What do you find "sexy"?
S.R. I’m more known in Quebec than in English-speaking parts of Canada. I’ve never seen an article where they mention me as a sex symbol. I’m not 25 anymore; I’m a Dad, and I couldn’t be more proud of my son. My son has the biggest heart; I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such a great kid. So, I’d rather be in a magazine saying that I’m a great – and hot – Dad. The sexiest thing – without a doubt – is self-confidence. That’s a cliché but it’s true – it’s the walk, the look, how someone holds their Starbucks coffee (laughs). Sexiness is seen through behavior and as actors, we study human behavior. It’s not so much how a person dresses or appears. I’ve seen models who probably have less self-confidence than girls who aren’t models (or model-types). And the smile – a smile shows your personality.
V.B. The French language is also pretty sexy. Do you speak any French or know any funny or effective pick-up lines (in French or English)?
S.R. I’m pure French-Canadian, so I speak better French than I do English, though it’s pretty equal. No pick-up lines! Pick-up lines are for people who don’t have much self-confidence. When you’re prepared, it just happens…but to have a pick-up line? How does that work? It has to be truthful, pertaining to the moment…
S.R. I play Maggie Q (Nikita)’s fiance. I’m not a regular on the show, but I was killed off right at the beginning, so you see me in flashbacks. Writers can change that very easily though, so I might not be dead? We’ll see…I’ve only done 3 episodes. They’re talking about bringing me back more and more in flashbacks though; I hope they do. Great cast – very talented – great directors, great crew. I love working there; the cast is very nice. I’ve been in and out of town since they shot the pilot, so I haven’t been able to go out with them. Hopefully, the more I’m on the show, the more I get to meet with them.
V.B. Faces in the Crowd (where you portray a stranger/lurker) and Hellraiser: Revelations will be released sometime next year. Have you acquired opportunities in those films to explore controversial or different personalities and storylines?
S.R. Faces in the Crowd is probably one of the best scripts I’ve ever read in a long time. Milla Jovanich’s character falls off a bridge and gets this condition where she cannot recognize other people’s faces – including her own – and sees different faces on the same identities everywhere she goes. I thought it was fiction at first – that there was no such condition where you cannot recognize your own face – but it’s true. There are little things that doctors recommend to help patients with this condition, like noting moles or other special features to distinguish people’s faces from anyone else’s faces and their identities. And there’s this killer. Because of her condition, she doesn’t know who the killer is. Every single scene had a different face (actor) for the killer, so every actor had one scene in the movie. It’s kind of confusing to follow. I can’t wait to see that movie. That’s why I did it. With Hellraisers – well, I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like the feeling of getting scared. In that particular film, the plot works with issues like dimensia. I can’t get into too many details.
V.B. Would you like to add in anything else? What are your dreams (acting or non-acting) for the new year or nearby future?
S.R. Well, I wanted to say this at the beginning. The reason why I graduated so late was because at the age of 26, my twin sister passed away. The goodness that came out of the tragedy gave me the strength to do it – to pursue acting. What if I never got the chance to live my dream again? I had the money, I got the proper training. I went from being a pipe fitter to an actor – and I did it.