With the growing success of original series like HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and Netflix’s “House of Cards,” it was only a matter of time before other networks began to dabble and experiment with their own shows; and last night, DirecTV came out swinging with the premier of “Rogue.” The network’s first venture into developing their own original scripted series is a fast-paced thriller that explores the Bay Area’s criminal underworld.
When her cover is blown, undercover detective Grace Travis (Thandie Newton) is tormented by the possiblity that she contributed to her son’s mysterious death. In her search for the truth, Grace must strike out on her own and double as an agent for the powerful mob boss, Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas), who she belives can lead her to her son’s killer.
But the Laszlo family’s unconventional help comes with a price: Grace must first abuse her power as a cop to help Jimmy find the traitor in his midst; and with a mob family as dysfunctional as “The Sopranos,” she quickly discovers that there’s more to the Laszlo family business than meets the eye.
When Jimmy struggles to maintain control over his own family — let alone rival gangs — his son, Alec (Joshua Sasse), makes a hasty move that sends the family spiraling into conflict. With his wife, Cathy (Leah Gibson), cunningly whispering in his ear, he becomes hell-bent on proving himself capable of running the family business.
As Grace’s life is consumed by the search for her son’s killer, she struggles to be the wife and mother that her remaining family so desperately needs. Soon she finds herself in the middle of a crime war that strains her already conflicted web of loyalties to the Oakland Police Department, Jimmy, and her family.
Actors Leah Gibson and Joshua Sasse took some time to sit down and discuss the show with 303 Magazine:
303: How was the filming? The show takes place in Oakland, but you’ve been filming in Canada?
Leah Gibson: Yeah. We have finished filming the first season, so we wrapped that up in November and we filmed the entire thing in Vancouver, which is where I’m from.
303: How’s Denver been treating you then?
Joshua Sasse: We’ve had a good time in Denver.
LG: It’s been fast, we got in late last night and we leave in a few hours.
JS: Yeah, unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of the culture.
LG: We’ve almost done a three-week press tour though, so we’ve been in and out of 10,12,13 cities over the past three weeks. Yeah, so it’s been busy.
303: Can you tell me a little bit about your characters? You guys sort of play the villains in the show, so what’s that been like?
JS: It’s great. The thing is, when you’re playing a character, we can’t think too much about whether they’re good or bad, or whatever, we just have to play them as, you know, as people; as human. We tried to find the strengths and weaknesses, the loves and hates and desires, and everything, you know. So, it was… I mean, I had a lot of fun. You’ll see from the show, as Alec, I get to hang out in sports cars, you know? I have a lot of fun with the show and it was great. I get to be with this lovely lady.
LG: Yeah, it was good. My character is Alec’s wife and I just wanted to play her as a dynamic, fully-fleshed out, strong female that is devoted to her husband. They have a very passionate, fiery relationship. She’s the support system for him and sort of knows her place within this sort of strange family that she married into and their young daughter is the apple of their eye. One thing that I really love about the writing is that it’s not… there are no clearly defined boundaries around the good and the bad. It’s more just people in very raw, real, high-emotional states who are just struggling to get by and do the best they can.
303: Yeah, I like the ambiguity of Alec. He’s the son of a mob boss yet you also get to see his other side as a loving father.
LG: Yeah, and I feel that’s a good juxtaposition to the nature of the family business, right? It kind of represents the softness and the flipside of it, you know?
303: Cathy’s character reminds me of that powerful, mastermind woman pulling the strings behind the scene.
JS: Yeah, well they say behind every great man is a woman.
303: What about working with Marton Csokas. I always see him cast roles as the villain. What’s working with him like – does he just give off that evil villain vibe?
LG: Absolute darling.
JS: Marton is a very close friend of mine. He’s one of the sweetest men I know; one of the most giving, loving, trusting, kind, and genuine people I’ve ever had the fortune to meet. As you watch the series, the majority of my work is with him and it’s funny looking at a poster of him: that scowl on his face is not something that exists in real life. It’s not a facial expression that ever goes on his face. He’s an incredibly lovely man and very intelligent, hard-working, and studious. He has a real vision for his work and what he wants to achieve. I think like any artist that borders with genius, he won’t settle for anything less than perfection, so it was incredible to be able to be around him and sort of, you know, saturate some of that.
303: What about the rest of the cast?
JS: Bastards! The lot of them, bastards! No, really, we were very lucky. I have to tell you, the lot that plays our gang — the Laszlo Gang — we were so close with every single one of those guys. Me and Matthew Beard, who plays Max, we are firm friends now and we spend the majority of our time together, but every single person on that set — there was no ego, ever, at all. Which is very rare and we didn’t take if for granted.
LG: It was very tense material as well. I mean, the show is not network TV. You have to kind of step in and go to some dark places and even if the material itself isn’t dark, the emotional life perhaps is; and so the vibe on set was just very electric. When you have to go there and be very raw and vulnerable with your character portrayal, I think it sort of binds you together as a work force too.
303: Well, it absolutely projects through in the show.
LG: Thank you.
JS: Oh, I’m glad you say that. It’s something that was a great mix. It’s funny because, sometimes you get a job, and — you kind of put your feelers out there — you think, ‘Oh, God. I’m not sure about this. Like, this seems to be a bit dodgy and if it doesn’t work, I’ll know why.’ And here, everything felt like, ‘Ah, this is good. This is hopefully a good foundation for a stalwartly building.’ But in the end, of course, that’s up to the audience to decide.
303: Were you guys on a tight schedule to finish filming?
JS: Yes, the last day, the 26th of November — I think — I was doing the last scene in the show, and Thandie was doing a scene on the other side of the studio. We were both two units trying to film and we were racing to try and be the first one to finish. They were really intense scenes and we could here them like, ‘C’mon, c’mon, quick! Start again, start again! New take, new take!’ So, we were both rushing to get it and then I think Thandie’s finished first and then my scene finished last, but I don’t know why they thought they won. I was like, ‘Great, we’re the last. Fantastic!’ Because we get out and music was playing and the champagne came out. It was just, sort of, a very palpable sigh of relief that we had done it. You know, it was like, just before midnight and we had all been up since three in the morning. So we just went back to my trailer and we had our producers that came in and we just had a drink and finally let our hair down because we had done it. It’s an amazing feeling, you know? It’s a huge body of work because it’s the equivalent of a ten hour movie.
LG: Yeah, which is what it felt like while we were inside of it too. It felt very filmic even though this production is a TV show because we were going to places that you usually don’t go to in TV and it just felt very… I don’t know, it just felt like a film and seeing it on the big screen, it just had a very cinematic quality to it.
JS: Yes, that’s what really sets this show apart. It’s incredibly cinematic, more so than we ever realized. When we saw it on the big screen, I mean, we couldn’t believe it. That was the main response we got — we just had our premier in L.A. — everyone was like, ‘This a movie that you made.’ I don’t know any shows that look like it; I have not seen anything like this. The closest I’ve seen to this is “Drive” the film.
LG: Yeah, we had an amazing Director of Photography. He was just brilliant at taking what could have been a simple scene on paper and just used these camera angles and perspectives to turn it into somehting more.
JS: He transformed it. He just had a vision and we really treated his vision as much as a character as the rest of us.
LG: But he would work with us as the actors too. He would be very close and see what we were doing and he would catch the glances and subtle shifts.
JS: We have a bit like a Tim Burton-and-Johnny Depp relationship. He sort of would peek from behind the camera and give me sort of a wink or a nod and he wouldn’t need to say a word and we would just know. He’s great and he laughs all the time; and everyone took it very seriously, but we also enjoyed some laughs.
303: What else can we expect from your characters, Alec and Cathy?
JS: Well, what you’ve seen so far has set them up as very ambitious characters willing to go the extra mile. So, I think what you’re going to watch them do is go that extra mile. As far as the consequences, that’s another thing, you’ll have to watch and see, but you can let your imagination run wild. You have two people that are electric; and incredibly hungry and passionate and unpredictable. You know, just like if you corner a wounded animal, they’re going to get fierce. I think that’s what you’re going to see… but I can’t ruin it.
LG: One thing that I can say about all of the characters, I feel, from the beginning to the end of the first season is just so much change; very dynamic arcs. There are so many twists and turns, and ups and downs, and it’s very thrilling to watch because you think it’s going somehwere and it goes somewhere completely different. I just remember receiving the script week after week and just being shocked, you know, because I had no idea, going into it, what was planned. It was very shocking.
JS: Yes, the characters you are watching at the beginning are completely different from the ones you’re watching at the end. It’s just a transformation and that’s really important because everything that happens in the show is a domino effect. We’re carrying the baggage we had in episode one in episode ten.
LG: It’s a different kind of storytelling. I think people will be on the edge of their seats. I mean, I was while reading the scripts.
303: How did you get involved with Rogue?
JS: You know, when the show breakdown first came out, I think people across Hollywood and across the world just went completely apeshit for it because these are characters that don’t come around too often; and when they do, every single person wants to get in on it. I was filming a feature in the Czech Republic up in the mountains at the time and I got this email — just bits and pieces, but it appeared I had missed the boat. Then, three months later I get a call from my agent at six in the morning and she says, ‘It’s stil available. It hasn’t been taken, you’ve got to get in there.’ I had to learn an entire episode in three hours and go in and audition; and the next day I got a call from the executive producer from Canada saying I got the job. Within ten hours I had flown and left my house and moved to Canada. Then my second day there, I got a call — I was shopping for my groceries — and they said, ‘Can you come into the studio? We’ve got this girl we want you to meet. We want to do a chemistry read.’ Then, Leah walked in.
LG: Yeah, at that point, it was my fourth or fifth audition for the role. I had been living in Vancouver for the last six or seven years and working in various TV and film productions and, to me, my first audition was just another audition that came my way, but I knew it was a bit of a long shot because they don’t usually cast locally for a show of this calliber. I was a fan of Thandie Newton’s work and was really in love with the script, so I went for a handful of auditions; was told I was no longer being considered for the part and then later got a call saying, ‘They want you to come in and do a chemistry read with this actor tomorrow morning.’ I knew they were considering like four or five other girls in Montreal and Europe, so I feel lucky to have been the first person they called in; and that was that.
303: If you could pitch the show in a few words, what would it be?
JS: Scarface on coke! No, I would say it’s a modern-day Goodfellas or a modern-day Scarface. It’s about families and it’s with the gloves off. It’s hard-hitting and groundbreaking and will affect people’s psyche in different ways.
303: Leah and Joshua, thank you for your time.
“Rogue” airs on DirecTV’s Audience Network channel on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET.