Canadian born, Kavan Smith took to athletics as a young man, excelling in football and martial arts. As a teenager he and a friend began writing skits and performing them everywhere, from the city bus to the neighborhood shopping mall. After high school he began working on an Economics degree but left school after a year and a half. He later enrolled in the Performing Arts Program at Mount Royal University. After graduating he landed a lead role in the Canadian television series “Destiny Ridge” and hasn’t looked back.
Sci-fi/fantasy fans will recognize him from roles on such shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Smallville,” “The Twilight Zone” and two different “Stargate” series. He also appeared opposite Tim Robbins and Gary Sinese in Brian de Palma’s “Mission to Mars.”
Premiering this week, you can catch Smith with co-star Thandie Newton in DirecTV’s new original series “Rogue,” While relaxing at home in the Great White North, Smith took time out to speak with Media Mikes about the new show, dancing to Dick Clark and what his next project might be.
Mike Smith: Give us a quick introduction to “Rogue” and your character, Tom Travis.
Kavan Smith: “Rogue” is a visceral, raw, sexy kind of gangster cop show. Thandie Newton plays the lead…the show takes a female perspective of a usually male dominated role. I play her husband. She gets her family into trouble…there are some consequences to her actions…and she has to go out and seek justice. Her husband, Travis…my character…spends the bulk of the series trying to hold their family together. It’s a very complicated endeavor because she is doing a lot of things that he is unaware of. He has no idea of the consequences or the stakes. He doesn’t understand why she’s not “stepping up” at home. It’s very emotional. For me it’s a very redemptive character. As an actor…it’s all I’ve ever done…all I’ve ever wanted to do…I’ve had to take some jobs that maybe I didn’t want to take. So for me this role is very redemptive. It’s a great character to play.
MS: What drew you to the project?
KS: There’s a scene in the third episode….he doesn’t understand why she can’t meet him halfway on…
…Dealing with the death of their son…I’m not giving anything away, it happens in the first episode…and they have a really massive blow-out, ending in a three page monologue for my character. That was the audition piece and when I saw it…it was the meatiest thing I had seen in a long time. You could be as melodramatic as you wanted to but it played so well understated. When I read it…I have kids of my own and the idea of losing one is unimaginably painful. My kids are still young and ever since I had them the idea of anything happening…it’s so raw for me that I can channel that. So I saw this piece and I knew immediately that I could do this. Of course I had no idea at all if I would be what they wanted. When they did the call back audition it was basically a screen test. Thandie had a lot of input over who would be chosen and we were on fire! We went places with that scene that I had no idea we were going to go. When I walked out of that room I knew I wanted that job desperately.
MS: You’ve been on shows like “Blade,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Stargate,” “Outer Limits.” A lot of very genre-specific roles. Was that something you intended or just the luck of the draw?
KS: I think it’s really just the luck of the draw. Most of the work I’ve done in the states…I spend a lot of time here in Canada. My wife is Canadian. My kids were both born here. So I’ve tried to stay up here as best I can while continuing to read for roles and it just so happens that in Canada in the past…in the 1990s and early 2000s, they really catered to a sci-fi type of genre. I’ve enjoyed all the jobs that I’ve had but it really wasn’t by choice. My resume’ is a little “sci-fi heavy,” but I think that’s more about where I live then my own personal taste.
MS: In one of your early roles you played the young Dick Clark in the Annette Funicello television bio “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” Did you have the opportunity to meet Dick Clark and, if so, did he give you any advice? (NOTE: Clark, known as “America’s Oldest Teenager,” passed away almost a year ago, April 18, 2012).
KS: Wow! That’s going way back…I’m so surprised you picked that one out of the hat! (laughs). No, I didn’t get the chance to meet him but the role was a lot of fun. When I was a kid my parents were really into “American Bandstand.” My brother and I would watch it with them and, even though we had no musical training whatsoever we were convinced that we were dancers. So I certainly danced a lot to Dick Clark.
MS: Your bio states that while in college you developed a love for writing. Have you written any scripts that you’d like to produce some day?
KS: Yes, as a matter of fact. I’ve taken several steps at writing a novel. When I was a kid I got caught in that loop where you think you’re a lot smarter then you are. I wanted to write a ground breaking novel and I made several attempts at it, but they were ALL less than I expected. Screenwriting is less of an art form but I thought I would get familiar with it. I’ve always read like crazy but I never took Literature when I was at University. I started writing screenplays for myself. I’ve gotten really fantastic at writing the first 80% of a great story…and then the ending falls. Because I’m committed to “Rogue” and they own my contract and have the right to keep me on hold for quite a while, over the past year I’ve written a series. I’ve already got ten episodes done that I want to try and pitch. I’m taking my time with it. I’ve got the first five episodes completely finished and the following five basically laid out. So in the meantime while I’m waiting to hear what’s happening with “Rogue” I’m toiling away on those stories. I think there’s nothing quite like it out there right now and I’m hoping I can garner some interest. Maybe “Rogue” will open a few doors for me. So keep your fingers crossed.
MS: Last question, though you may have just answered it. Besides “Rogue” do you have anything else in the fire?
KS: Unfortunately I don’t. Contractually I can’t take anything that would establish me on another series. There were a couple of feature films scheduled to be made here that I was the first choice for but one moved production to Australia and I didn’t want to be away from my kids. The other went to Europe so same thing. I let both of those go. I’ve narrated some documentaries when I’ve had time. But in the mean time I’m waiting to hear from “Rogue” and playing Mr. Mom – which is the greatest role ever…as cheesy as that sounds. And I hope to finish up this series of my own and see if I can garner any interest in that. Being on hold buys my the freedom of time, which is very rare in this business. I’m really hoping the show gets picked up so I can afford to do this again next year. (laughs)