While cop shows seem to have passed their prime, one of the stars of ABC's new Rookie Blue claims it will earn its place in the hearts of Americans. Gregory Smith, former child and teen actor, best known for WB's Everwood, says, "It's hard to reinvent the wheel with a cop show. But Rookie Blue has a pure emotional center that's not cynical. The characters are so well developed. It's a show with heart." Smith plays a "young Jewish hipster cop" named Dov Epstein which, he says, is a good sign since his character in the hit show Everwood was named Ephram. "Odd, interesting names are good to me," he says. When the show debuts on ABC Thursday night, legions of Gregory Smith fans will heave a sigh of relief, new Gregory Smith fans may be born and, if he is to be believed, cop shows will be back in vogue.
It's funny to hear an actor as young as Smith throw away the line, "I've been working for over 20 years." He began his career at the age of 14 months, appearing in a Tide commercial. And ever since then he's enjoyed a successful career. "I've gone through several cycles. When I was little, I was the cute kid, with missing teeth and funny one-liners," he recalls. "Then I moved on to be the young guy who wanted to be a grownup." In the films Patriot and American Outlaws, both his characters were shot to death. His next cycle involved playing "the angst-filled disenfranchised youth caught between being a teenager and a young adult." It was during this time that he was cast in Everwood. He laughs when looking back on those days (2002 - 2006) when he graced the covers of many of the magazines that appealed to teenage girls. "I may have been considered 'hot' then," he laughs, "but now people know I'm dorky and a geek."
Moving beyond Everwood to adult roles was, says Smith, "the hardest chasm to cross. You're in the adult world competing against adults. The little tricks from childhood don't work anymore." And yet Gregory Smith doesn't seem to have had any troubles easing into work in Hollywood. He's just finished several films, including psychological thriller Dream House with Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts. And of course Rookie Blue which helps him achieve his life-long goal of playing a cop.
Gregory Smith has also managed to navigate the sometimes rocky path of young actors in Hollywood, though he claims it's no big deal. "There are very few people who lead tumultuous lives there," he says in a phone call from his native Canada. "But the few who do are just lightning rods for attention. And, during the age when I was most vulnerable, I was shooting Everwood in Utah. It's hard to get in trouble in Utah."
His passions for travel and photography have also kept him focused. Once Everwood ended, Gregory traveled around the world staying in hostels and taking pictures. "It was a time that was essential to finding my place in the world," he reflects. Of the many places he visited, Morocco stands out. He says, "It's so incredibly beautiful and so alien. The vast majority of the people were incredibly kind, and it's one of the safest places I ever went." Some of his photos from that trip are posted on his nascent photography website. While the photos reflect his love of color and motion, it's also clear that he is learning to see the world from behind the lens. "I am learning to use the tool so that someday I can step behind the camera professionally," he explains.
For someone who didn't attend college, Gregory Smith is intellectually agile and has an amazing command of language. It's not so much that he uses big words as the fact that he uses rich ones. He's almost lyrical. He attributes some of that to his love of reading and his determination to overcome the lack of a degree. He communicates easily, and actively twitters (@gregorythesmith).
At the moment, most of his twittering is about Rookie Blue, a series he's clearly enthusiastic about. He wants everyone to share his enthusiasm: "You meet the characters of Rookie Blue at the moment in their lives where the ignorance of youth collides with the reality of the future. While on the surface it's a cop show, it's a universal story about the last phase of growing up and the inevitable loss of innocence. At some point we all enter the real world, often finding a harsher world than we anticipated. The show explores that journey though the POV of each of the five Rookies; the fact we are cops just amplifies the stakes," he explains.
Acting is not just a vocation for Smith, but also something he clearly loves. And, because he appears to have the ability to live in the moment, he wants us all to love Rookie Blue as much as he does. "I take projects as they come," he asserts. And yet he also indulges for a moment in a glimpse into the future. "My career will come full cycle one day when I play the father of a cute little kid missing teeth who spouts one-liners," he says. That day seems entirely possible.