Ever hear of the phrase “in too deep”? That is the entire premise of the new drama series ROGUE. When undercover cop Grace Travis (Thandie Newton) gets too close to local mobster Jimmy Lazslo (Marton Csokas) all hell breaks loose. Grace’s son was shot in a seemingly unrelated drive-by, but after Jimmy’s bookkeeper ends up dead by the same bullets used to kill Grace’s son, the kaleidoscope shifts and suddenly Grace and Jimmy have a lot in common in tracking the murderous perpetrator down – particularly as he may have made off with $50 million of Jimmy’s money. Unaware of the swirling danger and how volatile his wife’s undercover identity has suddenly become is Tom Travis, a man grieving the loss of his son and yet trying to keep his family together through the tragedy for the sake of Tom and Grace’s teenage daughter. In an exclusive interview, co-star Kavan Smith talked about the challenges of portraying Tom Travis and the joy of working on such a gritty, intense show.
What drew you to such an ambitious project as ROGUE?
KAVAN: Interestingly enough, in the third episode there’s a scene where Thandie’s character Grace and I have a big argument in the back yard and that was the auditioning scene. It’s gone through a bit of a metamorphosis since then, but it was still really heavy and deep and you really had to work. It required work, and when I saw that, I just sort of fell in love with it right away. I’m a father myself. I have two kids and I sort of understood and empathized with the character. In a way I liked it because it was a bit of role-reversal in that Thandie’s character was the hero/anti-hero and the husband got to be a stay-home hero/anti-hero. So the role-reversal appealed to me. I was raised by my father so something about it resonated with me, for sure. And that scene that I did, Thandie ended up coming for my test and we did it together, and we immediately clicked. So I was drawn to it for a lot of reasons.
It’s an intense role. It’s really different than some of your recent work, so that was a surprise. It looked so tough.
KAVAN: It’s very different. The last job I had was on EUREKA and I played sort of a robot that was a cross between a puppy dog and Forrest Gump, so this is a very different role. Much, much meatier and I haven’t done one like this in a while so, for me, I came home on many a night just sort of buzzing from doing some of this heavy, interesting stuff ’cause you have to plumb so much deeper into yourself to be able to get to some of these places. That’s the main reason I got into this business so many years ago, I really wanted to push myself and see what I could do. This role certainly pushed me. Absolutely. I was so excited to get it.
How was it playing opposite Thandie Newton?
KAVAN: Interestingly enough, when I met her when we did the test she couldn’t have been less diva-esque. She couldn’t have been kinder. Couldn’t have been more giving than when we were working together. Right away when I walked out of that room, I was pretty sure I had the job ’cause we kind of connected right away. Then on the set, she’s such a joy and pleasure. She’s just so normal and really willing to kind of do anything. I mean, some of the stuff that she does over the course of the season — some actresses would not be keen on that and not only was she not afraid, or what not, she was just so keen and really quite courageous. It sort of helped kick me in the ass because she was going for it. So I had to go for it too. When the lead of a show is willing to do these things, then you kind of get kicked in the ass a little bit and hopefully you can do some neat stuff too.
So far we’ve seen your character Tom mostly on the homefront maintaining their daily lives. Does he get caught up in the action of what Grace’s double-life involves, or does he work to keep that away from them all?
KAVAN: He does get caught up in it to a degree. He never really — until we get much closer to the end — have a total grasp on just how messed up it gets. So he’s always kind of juxtaposing where his wife is and why she’s not home trying to fix this scenario with the remaining daughter. So he does a lot of stuff on the homefront, trying to hold the family together. He’s not just a hero, he’s got flaws himself and that’s going to come out in the next couple of episodes. He’s got his own issues. But in the end, he’s definitely pulled into the reality of what’s happening. I think if the show goes for a second season, I believe the family will get pulled even further into that world. That’s my understanding.
One of the things I’m dying to see is if there will be a scene between Tom and Jimmy (Marton Csokas). That would be so emotionally charged. It would be kind of crazy.
KAVAN: Then you’re going to be happy. That’s all I’m going to say. (Laughs)
Have you seen all the episodes?
KAVAN: No, as a matter of fact, I haven’t. In the beginning, they were very open with stuff. I’ve seen the first and second as far back as December or January. But since then, we’ve been cut out of the loop. I’ve seen quite a bit in ADR and little bits and pieces here and there, but I haven’t seen the other finished episodes. So Wednesday nights, I’m glued myself with my family (well, not the kids, obviously). My wife and I are really glued to watching ’cause I really want to see how it comes together. As I mentioned, I do a lot of stuff at the house with the daughter and Grace and didn’t get to work with a lot of gangster guys and the cops. Even though I had some scenes with them, I didn’t spend a lot of time with them. I didn’t see how those elements of the show came together. So when I’m watching it, I’m seeing for the first time.
The show is incredibly visual. What they are able to do cinematically for a television show is pretty astounding.
KAVAN: It really was. Kieran McGuigan, the DP — in television you have to do stuff fast, everything has to be fast — and creating cinematic art, like tableaus is really time-consuming. Very seldom do DP’s get the opportunity to do that. On this show, Kieran was basically one of the show runners. Everything was run by him and had to be checked with him and the way it shot because he was so into making art with every shot. He really wanted to say something with the lighting and there are some visuals, like right after the big fight we had in scene in episode three, Grace goes back to Ian Tracey’s character’s apartment and she just sits on the couch by herself curled up in the corner and it’s this big long, probably 10 second shot where no words are spoken. But it’s a beautiful shot. Just a beautiful image. He was like that from day-one. There was no “just light it and shoot.” It had to be psychological. It had to make sense and it had to be art. It was so cool. To be a part of that, where they really wanted art and to be at the forefront, that’s rare in television. I felt privileged to be around that.
It’s unique as you pointed out. I have rarely seen television shows that take that kind of precision with their visual look — particularly if it’s a cop drama. So as I watched it, I was like, “This is drawing me in more and more.” You get sucked into that crazy world.
KAVAN: Yeah, I think that was definitely part of the goal. To kind of suck you in visually as well as kind of stir you up emotionally. I think they really wanted to have it that way. Visually it’s so cinematic and I think that the story itself is very tragic. When you marry those things together, it can be a fairly potent recipe. So I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for right from the beginning.
As Tom’s journey continues, is he going to be fighting harder for his family and his marriage, or will he be taking a pause moment when he realizes how off-the-deep end his wife has gotten with that undercover world?
KAVAN: What we talked about with the creators is Tom and Grace were both kind of wild children in the past. When they hooked up they both were a little crazy. So I think that even though he’s pulled back and become a teacher and has really gotten into the family life, I think he is still keenly aware of where they both came from and I think he understands that streak inside her and that sort of wild-child in her, and I think that’s part of what drew him to her in the first place. I think he’s still going to be shocked by what goes on, like any human being would be shocked. But I think sometimes — I know with my own family, family comes first. The rest is just words. I mean really, at the end of the day, I think Tom is willing to go there. We don’t completely find out in this season. So I’m very curious where they take that relationship between Tom and Grace ’cause it is a really kind of interesting relationship because they were such wild kids. Now they have this family and she’s still wild and he’s still got a wild streak in him and they are facing all this stuff. I’d personally like to see them work it out, but I have no idea as to how they are going to play that.
Does this first season conclude with an arc, or does it actually leave things hanging for the next season?
KAVAN: There’s both. There’s definitely finality to it. The viewer will feel like there’s been a resolution, but there’s also a possibility for so many other directions with the way it ends. Literally the sky is the limit in where you could take this. But the viewer will definitely feel some sense of conclusion, some finality with the way this season ties up. So you won’t be completely left on a cliffhanger, with no idea with what’s happening. Some shows don’t know where they are going to end, and they are not really looking forward to a second season and not looking past the first season, and they have no idea. Then when they get a second season, they just leave it completely wide open. ROGUE is not like that. There’s definitely going to be some finality. But the possibilities, you just have to trust me, are so exciting. I can’t tell you how much I hope it gets picked up.
To see where the increasingly entangled lives of Tom and Grace lead, be sure to tune in for an all new episode of ROGUE on Wednesday, April 17th at 9:00 p.m. on DirecTV. Grace is getting in too deep and Tom may just have to follow. (Photo credit: Trevor Brady)
Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to TheTVaddict.com. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).