Leah Gibson may not have a deep background in American television, but she’s breaking into the field in a big way as one of the stars of DirecTV’s first original series, “Rogue.” Bullz-Eye chatted with Gibson during the January 2013 Television Critics Association press tour, where we got some details about the show, including how she found her way into her character, as well as her reflection on being a part, albeit a small one, of the “Twilight” franchise.
Bullz-Eye: So how are you enjoying “Rogue”?
Leah Gibson: It’s great! I’ve never done anything on this scale before. I’m from the west coast of Canada, so I’ve lived in Vancouver for the last five or six years and worked on different TV shows…guest stars, recurrings, whatever…and had some small roles in some big features, like “Twilight” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” But being a part of this show feels very different. It’s a very wonderfully written series that’s been an absolute joy to be a part of. The characters are very in-depth, and the intricacies between their relationships are just a joy to explore from script to script. Being a part of it has felt very much like being part of a 10-hour film, in a way, and I certainly have never seen anything of the like in Vancouver while I’ve been there. So being the token “foreigner” with all these Brits… [Laughs.] It’s been a whole different vibe on set and everything than I’ve been used to!
BE: Can you talk a bit about your character, Cathy Laszlo?
LG: Yes! Cathy Laszlo is…I’m the devoted wife to a hot-headed gangster, Alec Laszlo (Joshua Sasse), who’s the eldest son of Jimmy (Marton Csokas), who’s basically a crimelord. The Laszlos in general are a very infamous crime family, and my husband is very sort of… [Hesitates.] A lot of muscle, not so much brain. He often creates a mess for others to clean up, and my character sort of represents his foundation, his support network, the thought behind his action. I come to influence him in taking advantage of certain opportunities and claiming the status that goes along with those things at what turns out to be at a very high cost to our family.
BE: How much of the character was already on the page when you came to the role, and how much were you able to bring to her? Were there any aspects that were added?
LG: That’s an interesting question. You know, I went through a handful of auditions before I was booked on this job, and initially the sides for my character were sort of…I could tell that there was more being alluded to than was on the page, and as an actor with limited knowledge of where the show is going to go, you don’t want to make any really solid choices and, y’know, sort of make the wrong decision. I heard at some point that I was no longer being considered for the role, but then I got a phone call saying they’d like me for a chemistry reading with Joshua. So I went in and met Josh, and we did our thing, and we workshopped a couple of scenes with Nick Hamm, the executive producer, and…it was only then that I started to realize where they were really going with Cathy.
And then I showed up on set and, really, to be honest, I was very much informed by the wardrobe, the hair, and the makeup. It was a total transformation for this character. I’d never physically played a role like this before, so it was kind of a joy to embrace the character in a physical sense and be informed by the wardrobe, and the specific choices about the hair and makeup. She’s decked out to the nines, long nails, long, big hair, heavy makeup. I’m, like, “Okay, I get it.” So I would step onto set and just feel a different energy. And I had a few comments from…y’know, I’d worked with some of the crew members before on various different productions in Vancouver, and they’re, like, “Oh, my God, I didn’t even recognize you!” So it’s such a joy to play something like that, and to really physically feel it that way.
BE: That’s funny that you say that about the importance of the wardrobe. I’d never really thought about how much it means to an actor’s character until I interviewed Tess Harper, who just couldn’t say enough about how much the costumer meant to her role in “Crimes of the Heart.”
LG: Yeah, y’know, it really is a collaborative medium we’re doing. I think that some actors have come prepared with a very specific perspective of what their character is, and in so doing they inform wardrobe and makeup about specific choices. For me, though, it was the opposite, and I was really happy about that. I sort of just opened my eyes, saw the look, and went, “Oh, my God, I get it now.” And the whole thing took a turn from there.
BE: What’s the structure of “Rogue” like? Is there a cliffhanger at the end of every episode, or is each episode relatively self-contained?
LG: Well, I’ll tell you that I am absolutely in love with the writing of Matthew Parkhill, our show creator. Something that’s so amazing is that in the first episode…we went ahead and filmed 10 episodes without filming a pilot, but in the first episode, immediately Grace (Thandie Newton), the undercover cop, her cover is blown. I just remember finishing reading the pilot and going, “Oh, my God, so where are they going to go next?” It’s amazing. Honestly, I feel like the writing is very satisfying, in that it delivers. It delivers to the audience, it answers your questions, and it just goes in very different directions and is very surprising. There are definitely cliffhangers, but you’re also delivered the answers to the questions you’re asking.
BE: Is the sort of series where someone can come in late and still understand what’s going on? I presume there’ll be a “previously on…” intro for each episode, but…
LG: I would honestly say that it’s the kind of thing you would want to watch episode to episode. But my understanding is that, being in the format of DirecTV, that’s possible. If you miss Episode 2, and they’re on Episode 3, you can just bounce back and watch Episode 2 first.
BE: How’s DirecTV been to work with?
LG: They’ve been wonderful. Honestly! And for me, having been so far predominantly a Canadian actor, this is my first major American show, and they’ve been just wonderful. They’ve been so incredibly behind the production, and I really feel that they believe in it. And it’s just lovely to feel so supported in any project that you work on, but they’re excited. Like, they’re genuinely excited. And we’re excited as actors, too, but we read the scripts, we’re there to do our jobs, and then whatever happens after that, we have no control over it. But at this stage of the game, they’re giddy about it, which is cool. So I just hope people respond to it!
BE: As you mentioned a moment ago, one of your past roles was in “Twilight.” How has it been to be a part of that phenomenon?
LG: Ah, yes, my little bit in “Twilight.” [Laughs.]
BE: Hey, even a little bit matters in “Twilight.”
LG: I know! I was talking about it earlier today that, y’know, “Twilight” happened to me a couple of years ago, I hadn’t done all that much yet, and I was still plugging away, but then all of a sudden I was part of this beast that was affecting every corner of the globe, and I was literally traveling all over the world to be a part of the promotional excitement of the film. It was an amazing thing. It’s just incredible to be a part of something that affects so many people in so many different cultures and that everyone responds to it.
BE: Which means you’ve got a lifetime pass to attend “Twilight” conventions as a guest.
LG: Hey, who knows? [Laughs.] But I’d like to think that there are a plethora of other actors who’d fill those spots before I would!
BE: Lastly, do you have a favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
LG: Oh, that’s an interesting question. Y’know, I’ve always been kind of an indie darling. I’ve done a lot of indie films in Vancouver, and I’ve always sort of had the mentality that wanting to work hard and prove myself through my work, speak through my work, and have that be what speaks for me as a person…that’s all I wanted to do as an actor. And so I’ve worked for free, I’ve worked for minimum wage, I’ve worked in anything that excited me, including some indies that never saw the light of day. [Laughs.] But at the time, it was a love affair. The work was, anyway. I wouldn’t say I have any regrets about anything, though. Everything happens for a reason. You try not to think about career moves all that much and just exercise integrity to your craft, really.