What’s most striking about Gregory Smith is his understated sense of humour, his self-deprecating remarks. The 28-year-old actor, who is currently starring in the television cop show Rookie Blue, pokes fun at himself almost immediately when he describes his character Dov Epstein as a fun-loving, high-energy rookie who exaggerates his prowess with women. “Maybe that’s how [the writers] originally envisioned the character,” he says, “but then when they met me, they were like, ‘That could never happen.’ ”
Smith’s brand of humour is likewise evident while discussing backpacking, one of his favourite pastimes. The Toronto-born, Vancouver-raised actor rattles off a wide-ranging list of areas where he has travelled—South America, Central America, Eastern and Western Europe—and talks of staying in hostels before cutting himself off abruptly. “I am terrified of bedbugs,” he says. You can’t help laughing; his modesty is very likeable. And his casual attire—a lumberjack-style red checkered shirt, jeans, and flip-flops—adds to his relaxed vibe.
Smith is also very career-driven. His mother is a secondary school teacher and his father is a film director and producer. So it’s no surprise that Smith has been acting in front of the camera since he was 14 months old, when he made his debut in a Tide television commercial.
Between the ages of eight and 14, Smith worked in a number of TV series, direct-to-video movies, and some films. Then he started to land bigger film roles. He had a lead role opposite Kirsten Dunst in Small Soldiers, he starred alongside John Hurt in The Climb, and he played a supporting role in The Patriot, which featured Mel Gibson. Smith isn’t especially thrilled with his early work when he looks back now, but these roles gave him experience that helped land him the lead role of Ephram Brown in the television series Everwood. Ephram, the angst-ridden teenager, was Smith’s breakout role. After the series ended in 2006, Smith returned to film work, appearing in movies including The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, Closing the Ring, and Boot Camp.
Smith has never considered doing anything other than acting because nothing else gives him that spark. “Acting is not really a job—it’s like an addiction,” he says. When Rookie Blue came along—a character-driven show about new cops learning to navigate the job—he jumped at the opportunity to play fun-loving Dov.
In real life, Smith shares a Toronto apartment with Travis Milne, who plays Chris Diaz on Rookie Blue. Smith considers Toronto home—“the rhythm of the city really works for me”—but he divides his time between there and Los Angeles.
Although Rookie Blue is Smith’s focus at the moment, he also found time last year to film the thriller Dream House, starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, set for release at the end of September. The premise of the film sees Will Atenton, played by Craig, relocate his family from New York to a small New England town to settle into their dream house, only to discover that it was the site of a murder. Smith plays Artie, the leader of a group of wayward youths who become fascinated with the crime.
Smith was not intimidated to work with “James Bond,” but there was some intimidation working with the director of the film, Jim Sheridan. Smith describes Sheridan’s rehearsal process, which involved reading and discussing the script repeatedly and having even the supporting cast run through the lead actors’ scenes; that way, the entire cast could get at the heart of the movie. “The only goal I have as an actor is to work with as many great directors as possible,” Smith says. Sheridan, a six-time Academy Award nominee, is clearly in that camp for Smith.
Smith’s acting schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for other pursuits. Nevertheless, he co-founded the reference website Qwiki with his friend Doug Imbruce. Qwiki is a searchable platform that delivers information in a multimedia story format. The two met on the set of Everwood; while preparing for an audition, Smith asked Imbruce if there was a better way to source information than from Wikipedia.
Although Smith has a lot on the go, he comes across as surprisingly unhurried. Life is going well for him, especially with the second season of Rookie Blue now airing. “I think I’ll always try to do [acting] in some form,” he says. “I do like other stuff, but those are branches off a tree …If I were just to do one thing, it would be what I’m doing now.”
Photo by Jason O’Dell/Contour by Getty Images.