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Rick Howland Interview — Episode 71

October 30, 2014 by Drinks at The Dal

Trick in Let the Dark Times Roll

Rick Howland gives us some insight into the Blood King, including his relationships with Bo, Kenzi, Dyson, and others, his feelings about the Light and Dark divide, as well as how sneaky he thinks Trick actually is. He also gives great behind the scenes tidbits about his audition process, learning to fight with a bo staff, and more. He also talks a bit about his music career and what’s next for him after Lost Girl ends.

The following is a detailed summary rather than an exact transcript of the interview.

How did you come to be involved in Lost Girl? How did you hear about the project? What about Trick attracted you to the role?

I first heard about the show through the regular channels — through my agent — and I got an audition, and I went to the audition. Well, first I got the breakdown and the sides, which are like the lines that you have to say for the audition, and the breakdown is the description of the characters and usually a short synopsis of the plot, of what the show is about. Which, I knew a fair amount about mythology and things like that, but I know a lot more now. Like, I knew what a succubus was before that, and things like that, so it wasn’t completely foreign to me, but I did a little bit of research on it.

My friend, Jordan Prentice, who was in In Bruges and many other big movies and stuff, he and I both went out for Trick, and he even read the breakdown and said, “Wow, this sounds like you.” And I was like, “Cool. That’s what I think, too. So, best of luck to you, but I’m going to do my best to get this.”

What was your audition process like? Do you remember what scenes you auditioned with?

Vaguely. There was a couple of scenes with The Morrigan that didn’t really exist. A lot of shows, when they’re first coming out, the scenes that you get aren’t exactly from any script, because they don’t want them leaked around the world. So you get old drafts or some version of them — but whatever works for the auditioners to get a good vibe from the actors of whether they can play the character, identify with the character, connect to it or whatever.

I think I did a first audition and two callbacks. But, yeah, there were scenes with The Morrigan. It was very similar to the scene in that first episode, where Trick meets up with The Ash and The Morrigan. It’s just after Bo has beat the people she has to fight to decide whether she’s Light or Dark, and then I meet with them in the dark underbelly of the arena and warn them about how they should proceed. But there was a really great scene that was never part of the show, opposite The Morrigan, where Trick really expresses his power to her, as if he was the Blood King. And I think that’s what they wanted, they wanted to see some sort of power position that you could hold your own against someone else. It would have been really fun to play that against Emmanuelle.

But you generally have a reader and Wanda — the producer who organizes the production as it goes — she was in there, Jay Firestone, and John Fawcett, the director of the first episode. I did my audition with them and then I came back. It was with Lisa Parasyn, a casting director in Toronto who’s cast some pretty big stuff, and she’s an amazing person. It might have just been with her and one or two other people at first. They take a look at everybody and then when they’re like “okay, we’ve narrowed it down to a certain group of people,” they bring you in with more people in the room.

I did my auditions, and I flew to South Africa, and I heard that I got the part while I was away. Then came back and shot the first episode in February of 2009. But it’s always been very interesting… A couple of times, Jay Firestone has said to me that he fought for me. The broadcaster had a different idea of who Trick was, and Jay fought for me and he wanted me. He felt I was the best person for the role, and I thank him for that. As I’ve said on many occasions, it’s the best part-time job I’ve ever had.

@MaigrayBell asked what were your first scenes with each of the actors on the show and what were your first impressions of them?

Oh, everyone’s fantastic. I mean, they all bring something to their characters. All of the characters bring a different element to Trick — especially as we went along. When we first started, it wasn’t necessarily exactly clear what my relationship was to Bo, but there was clearly an importance that came along with her arriving at The Dal. So, that was our first scene — my first scene with Anna — was meeting her when Dyson introduces us. I always love the scenes with Kris playing Dyson and that kind of “the king and his knight” — I always thought of Arthur and the Roundtable and Sir Gallahad. But, the dynamic that Anna brings to the role is, you know, there’s that sweetness of her, which is Anna, too. And you can’t help but soften to that. And almost kind of like a fatherly figure to Hale, but more in a mentor kind of way. It sort of became that way with Bo, as well.

But, for working with them as actors to actors, it was just great and exciting and so supportive of each other. High fives at the end of scenes or “hey, great scene! That was really great. That was a great take.” Really just positive feedback to each other and, if anybody was struggling with anything, as an actor — which, I did on many occasions with my lines and the words I had to say — and they were all very supportive, as well. So, it’s great. It’s been a fantastic experience all the way through.

Had you worked with any of the other actors on the show before?

None of the leads. I had worked with several of the people who came on and played roles. I don’t know if you remember Sean Cullen, who played one of the Clan Fin Arvin. He’s a comedian from around town, and I’d worked with him many years ago when I was doing sketch comedy with my troupe, The Four Strombones. Paulino Nunes, who played the ringleader of the circus in the first episode of Season 2 — he and I had done comedy together for well over a decade. Sadly, we didn’t have any scenes together.

Martin Julien, who played the rat character and I laser-beamed his eyes… I worked with him on a Young People’s Theatre show, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I played Mr. Tumnus, and he played the wolf sheriff. So, our roles kind of reversed this time around, where I got to torture him, whereas before he got to torture me. I actually made a joke to him about that at one point. “Hey! I get to get back at you this time for all those nasty things you did to poor little Mr. Tumnus. Him and his poor little pan flute. You should have seen the pants I wore. I wore these, like, goat fuzzy blue pants, with a tail and a mask. That was a really fun show.

I’ve done a fair amount of kind of creature-y character things like that. That was one thing that I really liked about Trick. One of my questions during the auditions was, “So, what are you doing to the look of these characters?” And they’re like, “Oh, no. You’re human. You’d look like you look.” I’m like, “Awesome. I don’t have to wear pointy ears.”

Trick does most of the Fae explanations, which you have mentioned can be difficult, but Lauren explains some of the Fae stuff too and has a lot of medical lingo. Would you switch difficult dialogue with Zoie Palmer?

No. [Laughs] The short answer: no. And, man, she handled that so well. I mean, those are some big, ten dollar words. I had to deal with the concepts of the characters and what those words meant and, fortunately, the writers did their research and they were really great with coming forward with “This character is a Moragh — that particular character feeds off the aggression of the other person, so it makes it an evil thing to try to combat because it just feeds off your anger.” Those kinds of concepts, you want those in your head when you’re saying even the name “Moragh,” you know? So the audience feels it.

@mpleaf asked, There were some pretty awesome gadgets & weapons in Trick’s possession – what’s one you’d keep? I really liked the invitation machine in “Fae-ge Against the Machine.”

Yeah! That was really neat. It was funny because there was a guy tucked underneath doing all the cues for when things rotate and happen and the smoke coming out of the little cup that I drop the stuff in. That was a very cool machine to work with, and that was a fun scene for Deb Odell and I to play. That whole scene was a lot of fun. That was an entire day, maybe even a day and a half, of her and I in that room doing those scenes.

I would’ve loved to have kept the steampunk leather monocle that I wore in season 2, when I was taking the little pieces of paper out of the rat’s mouth. But it hurt like heck. It had rivets that were through the leather to hold the eyepiece. It was from World War II, I think, so it was an actual thing that somebody had worn as a device, as far as I know. I just couldn’t imagine wearing it for eight hours a day or anything like that.

I loved all of Trick’s stuff in his lair. I loved his old telephone. The vault door was really cool. The set decorators, and the designers, and the props designers — everybody brought their A-game to our show. Lisa Wright, who does the props, and Victoria Klein the prop master as well, but Lisa was the one who built a lot of them. She was on set with me working with them.

Then there was the Fae book, the one that had all the information about the Fae that I occasionally show Bo or whomever. It was actually a furniture book. In certain pages, there were just furniture instructions, so there were pages that you couldn’t turn to. In the heart of that book, there were all of the important pages, and they would be added to as we went along and for whatever we needed and to reference a Fae character or a weapon or a certain tool. I loved having that. Even if there was something in the script that said “Trick reads this from his book,” it would be in the book. Because I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with somebody while you’re reading, and then not say what you’re reading but what you’re thinking — it’s very difficult. It was really nice to have those little tidbits of dialogue that were actually things that I was supposed to be reading, actually written in the book. Lisa did a great job. I mean, we shed a tear and a hug goodbye at the end of all of this, because she was really great and I think she would say the same about me. She gave me a couple of coins — that will remain in my possession forever — that are Fae coins that she gives to certain characters. They’re very precious to me.

As a viewer, I gotta say that I find Trick to be sneaky and not entirely trustworthy at times. But what’s your perspective on Trick? On a scale of 1 to 10, how sneaky and manipulative do you think Trick is?

He’s been everything, right? He’s been around for two thousand years. He’s been a king, and if you read through history, any person who’s been in that kind of power, at some point has to make decisions that aren’t necessarily favorable to everybody involved. Oftentimes, it’s the choice to save the many over the few, or you have to sacrifice something in order to make something else work. That’s the way he’s had to deal with things. So, it’s not so much sneaky as it is omission. It’s what people need to know. There’s a lot of water under his bridge and, in order to keep himself safe, and the people around him, he needs to guard some of the older truths.

Sally, @weareunaligned, asked was “Trick” an intentional moniker intended to convey moral ambiguity?

I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the writers. All I know is he’s a multifaceted guy, and that’s what made him so fun to play. You often hear actors talk about how they got tired of playing a certain character, and I could’ve played Trick for many more years. I think I would’ve been happy. I mean, there were so many more layers to even still discover about him.

We saw this Machiavellian dictator side of Trick in “Destiny’s Child.” Do you think he has truly changed or did he just stuff that part of himself down into his subconscious using magic?

Yeah, well, that’s what it was all about. That’s why he went to the Luduan to try to find the truth, because he’d even hidden it from himself. Which is why his nose starts to bleed and things like that, because he’s actually trying to force the memories out of himself.

How does Trick feel about the Light/Dark divide? He seems to regret it somewhat, but he’ll also defend his actions at times.

There were a lot of hurdles thrown up by the writers for Trick to deal with in terms of questioning what he had done in the past, how he dealt with his family, and his whole life. And so, absolutely. I think if you ask any ruler, or any leader, about the decisions that they had to make to maintain a peace or to create a peace, there are regrets. I don’t think at any time in the world that any individual has ever had all of the information. There’s always going to be something you don’t know the exact truth about. There’s got to be some sort of leap of faith for anyone who’s ruling. If that leap is slightly misinformed, then you might not make it to the next ledge.

How do you think Trick feels about his decision to turn Aife over to the Dark?

Well, he’s torn. He was always torn by it. It’s not something that he necessarily wanted to do but, in order to maintain a larger peace, that’s what he did.

When we see the confrontation between Trick and Aife in the beginning of Season 4, do you think that was the first time they’d seen each other since that happened?

Uhhhhh, no. I don’t know. No, I don’t think so. Trick always keeps tabs on everything. You know, Kenzi says to him at one point, “You’re all ears.” Or he says to Kenzi, “I’m all ears.” It always makes me think of that Star Trek moment when Spock dies, and Spock is on the inside of that thing, Kirk’s on the outside, and he’s like, “Spock! Spock! Come out! Come out!” And he says, “No. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the few.” I kind of carried that around with Trick.

When we got that confrontation between Trick and Aife at the beginning of Season 4, I was like, “Yes! Finally!” But then we didn’t actually see how it turned out, and I was thinking, “NOOO!” I know you can’t reveal anything about Season 5, but I do hope we see more from Trick and Aife.

Hmmm. [chuckle] Mmhm.

Why do you think Trick waited so long to tell Bo that he was her grandfather?

Fear. I think just fear of losing her. You know? He didn’t blurt it out right away, and it would lead to more questions and Bo asks a lot of questions. I think she was the hardest one for Trick to keep things from. You see it in a lot of scenes with Dyson, him coming to Trick and saying, “Well, I want to tell her about this” or “I didn’t tell her about that.” And Trick says, “Well, how do you think she would feel if she knew that?” It’s kind of along those lines. You can’t protect someone if you don’t have them in your fold.

Trick got to show off his physical fighting skills in Season 4. How was it training with the staff for the fight scenes in “La Fae Époque” and “Dark Horse”?

When I was a kid, I’d talked my father into a VCR, and I got a Chuck Norris movie where he fought with a pole and was whipping it around. And I was like, “That’s cool!” So I recorded those scenes and played them back really slowly, and then took a broom handle. For about a year, my mother would always be looking for her broom and only find the brush part. She’s like, “Where’s my broom handle?” And I’d be in the backyard whipping it around. I watched Chuck Norris’s hands as much as I could, and I taught myself how to work with a staff.

While we were shooting in Season 2, I said to the writers and stunt guys that I would love to have a private moment with Trick where he is cleaning up in The Dal by himself and he unscrews the broom handle, and starts doing something fancy with it around the room. Dyson or Bo walks in and see him, and you get an allusion to something he had done in the past.

The idea started to sink in, and I pushed for it again in Season 3. During that season, I met up with the stunt guys, and they introduced me to a guy who regularly does stunts for the show who is incredible with a quarter staff. They corrected my childhood technique, and they put together a routine for me. I went away and practiced it. When I showed them, they were rather impressed. They videotaped me to show to the producers, and they got on board.

For “La Fae Époque,” I rehearsed two or three times with the stunt guys and Casey Hudecki, who has stunted for Bo, and another guy Mike — they’re recently married, which is sweet. I got to beat up her now-husband. And we really rehearsed the takedown in that first bit, and I had a whole flourish at the end. I had a longer flourish for the end because, you know, I’m making my moment here, man. And the director came up to me a said, You know how in Westerns it’s more cool when the guy whips out his gun, flicks it once and shoots the guy instead of doing all that crazy whipping the gun around? And I said, I hear what you’re saying. I’ll cut my flourish down a little bit. But I’m keeping my flourish.

There’s one part that I figured out how to do. I just figured it out from practicing, where I just spin the staff all the way around my body. I was proud of myself for figuring it out, so I wanted to get it in there.

For “Dark Horse,” that end sequence was pretty exciting, but quite scary personally. To wade into the crowd of a hundred people beating the poo out of each other, and you got Rachel and Kris beating up on people, and I come running in and we have dialogue we have to say while these guys are coming at me. It wasn’t as rehearsed. It was like you’ve got your weapon, you know how to work your weapon, so we’re going to send three guys at you, then you’ll beat off five or six guys. And I’m like, I don’t get a week’s rehearsal? We’re going now?

I swung at one guy, and usually there’s quite a bit of distance between us, but ping! I clipped the edge of his World War II helmet that he was wearing. You can’t stop because the cameras are rolling, but afterward I asked if he was alright. The stunt guy was like, “No! That was awesome! Did you hear the sound it made?”

Hats off to all our stuntpeople. They’ll throw themselves into anything. It was quite incredible.

It feels like Trick’s relationship with Kenzi has shifted recently. In Season 4, Kenzi was stealing from him, and Trick puts her in her place as a human in the Fae world in “Destiny’s Child.” Where do you see Trick and Kenzi’s relationship now?

I think you’ve nailed it on the head. It’s tiny betrayals, right? Tiny breaks of their agreements. She charmed himself into his heart. Because Bo says very early on that she will protect Kenzi, then Trick will protect her too.

And Ksenia is such a talented actor. We loved working together. We’d come in ready to go, and when they’d say we were done, we’re like, No! We don’t want to be done yet! We’ll mess up so that it will take longer! It was always such a pleasure to work with Ksenia from the beginning.

One of my favorite episodes to work on was “The Mourning After,” with the Lightning Bird, who Kenzi can see but Trick can’t. I got to play some comic beats there. All those scenes were such fun to play.

In those Season 4 moments when she does start to steal from Trick, it wasn’t hard to allow those feelings of betrayal. To be like, You’re hurting me. Because our bond as actor is so strong, it’s easy to play those harder moments. Like saving her from the foot soup with that tea made of the antler of the female unicorn.

Which, by the way, there is only one male unicorn ever in existence at one time. And then there are the female unicorns, which are another name. They all have curlicue horns, and that was the horn.

So the props people find the horn, and gets some garlic root, and attaches it to the horn, so I shred garlic root into the cup. The tea is made from garlic root, which isn’t outside the realm of possibility at all. I liked how our worlds blended in that moment behind the scenes in a way.

We haven’t seen a lot of interaction between Trick and Lauren, but he has been critical of her as a human in the Fae world. What is your take on their relationship and his opinion of her?

There was a really great scene — it was very brief — where she is checking my hand after I cut myself to write in my blood. They were very rare but special moment.

There’s that divide where Trick represents the magic and Lauren represents the science. And she’s always trying to make the magic fit into the science. Trick was always about, You got to just drop the science for a minute and believe. I think that was their conflict in the heart of their relationship. But I think ultimately, he knew that she cared about Bo, and that was good enough for him because she is part of the team.

We finally got to see the origin of Trick’s relationship with Dyson this past season. How do you think it progressed between then and the beginning of the series?

He was his soldier, his knight. As we know, wolves are most comfortable in packs. They swear allegiance to a king, and that’s where they get their force to doing things and upholding their loyalties. I don’t think Dyson’s loyalty ever went away. There were those moments where we were drinking scotch in The Dal and checking in with each other. I think that’s what the knight/king relationship boiled down to in the modern era. Check-ins with how it’s going. Dyson has always had Trick’s back, and Trick also has been very loyal to Dyson. I think their relationship changed as time changed, as it had to, as Trick stepped down from being a king to a bartender.

Kris Holden-Ried mentioned that the two of you had a ritual when you were filming scenes together. Would you mind telling us about that?

There were quite a few things. He did his growl, which I started to do too. There was a lot of shared drinking moments between Dyson and Trick, that’s part of the nature of their relationship.

I auditioned for a commercial years ago, and they paired me with this guy. And as we discussing the scene, he said that he thought we needed a thing that we did at the end, a gesture that we’ve always done together. I thought that was good idea, so we did it in the audition and we booked the commercial together. The first thing the writers said to me at our fitting, he said that they watched hours of actors doing the commercial but when we came in it was like watching a feature film. And I thought, Wow. Thanks. And I think it was because of the moment we created with the gesture. It created so much backstory in one beat of a 15 or 30 second commercial.

The first time Dyson and Trick had to swear to keep something secret, I remembered that commercial. And I said to Kris that we had to have a gesture that is like our warrior, call to arms kind of gesture. I said to Kris why don’t we cross arms like it’s our arms coming together. And we’ve done it since. It’s become a thing. It’s the one tiny gesture that creates a history between two people. At a comic con in England, I did a photo with a fan who wanted to pose with the cross arms that Trick and Dyson did. I thought right on! It actually resonated.

Ksenia told us to ask you how to be as wonderful and amazing as you are.

She should just look in the mirror. We really had a wonderful time working together. The scenes with Kenzi were very special.

I have a lot of really special moments with all of the actors. Like when I had to dress down Hale while he was the acting Ash. I think you draw on relationship when you need to bring a duality of “I’m really mad at you and I really want you to learn from this, but I want you to learn because I care so damn much about you.” Instead of, “I’m just mad at you because you screwed up, and you’re a doofus.” There’s a difference. When Hale was the acting Ash, Trick really wanted Hale to do well. Hale always had a troubled like with his own family. That’s what I like about our show, is that all of the characters are misfits and outcasts in a way.

@vayvae asked if we are going see another love interest for Trick in the upcoming season? We don’t think you can tell us that, but we are curious what you think about Trick’s love life. How do you feel about how it’s gone? How would you like it to end?

I love the Trick and Stella stuff. It’s another element, another side of Trick that we get to see. The flashback stuff with his wife, it’s always so lovely and warm. Even when The Garuda is showing Trick the flashbacks where his wife ended up dying, they were so heavy and tumultuous, but it was special.

I didn’t have the opportunity to read with Alisen Down, who played Isabeau, and Deborah Odell who played Stella, but we were able to create that chemistry and that energy together that gave those scene such loveliness. They were blast. It’s great that Trick has a love life.

Kris’s friend Jessica wants to know how your improv background informs your performance, especially since your character isn’t especially comedic.

Improv makes you good at listening, and half of our battle of being convincing is listening and to really hear the other characters. Improv really helps actors learn how to listen. You can’t just be thinking what’s my next line and how am I going to play it? It allows you to free yourself. You know your script and your words. You let the other actor hit you with what they’re doing with their character and respond. You can set your whole performance before you go into a room with another actor or director. But you can make it very difficult for yourself if the director has a different vision than you do or the actor wants to play something with a slightly different feel.

Improv isn’t always comedy. 99.2% of the time it is. But you can certainly use those skills in drama as well.

The other part of improvisation is dealing with props and dealing with space. When you’re improvising, you don’t have a table or a TV screen and a remote in your hand, or a book, or a sword, or a lawnmower. If you can mime something well enough, then the audience sees. And if the audience can see it, then half your work is done. When you’re actually dealing with real props, it doesn’t overwhelm you if you have it in your head how those things work spatially.

You’re a musician as well. You recently released an EP, called Hold My Hand. And @MzJenah had a question about a couple of the songs: Your songs “Voodoo” & “She’s a Goddess” have a very supernatural vibe. Has being on Lost Girl influenced your music?”

What’s funny is that I wrote both of those well before the show. “Voodoo” — there are lines in that song are directly thematic for the show. I think my openness to those kind of energies and writing those songs conjuring the role of Trick toward me.

The song “Voodoo,” many years ago I was part of a songwriter’s night at the Cameron House in Toronto. The theme was magic, so I wrote “Voodoo” for the theme of magic. I was really happy how that song came out because the majority of songs that I’ve written I’ll sit down and start playing chord progressions. I’ll often start with A minor — one of the saddest chords. Starting with a chord progression and playing it over and over again, and being in some kind of emotional state and telling a story from that place. But that particular song came from a challenge of a theme. There’s another song, “Carry On,” which I wrote three weeks before Good Cop, Bad Cop, and I broke my arm. I couldn’t really play my guitar, but I had lyrics rattling around in my head while I was praying for my arm to heal. I wrote down all the lyrics, and then later on when I could play the guitar I put those lyrics to music.

What genre do you think your music fits into?

Not just one genre. If you hear my genre, it’s kind of alt or alt-rock. If you hear me play with my guitar it’s more folk. But I’ve been influenced by punk, grunge, rock ‘n’ roll, ’70s rock, Neil Young, who might be a genre unto his own. I’ve been influenced by everything I’ve ever heard, I think, and that’s a lot of everything. From gospel and classical to R&B and James Brown. It’s all filtered in. But I would say folk-rock.

To wrap up, @smellycat1304 asked if you have any projects to come?

There’s things coming that I can’t really talk about yet. I’m not stopping acting, that’s for sure, so there will be. I’m working that angle, and I’m playing my tunes, and putting out YouTube videos with a friend of mine, Sunday Muse who does cartoon voices. She’s on Total Drama Island. She plays Previous and I play Jake, and we’re twelve-year-olds sitting in the back of a car talking. We talk about themes and idea. Precious has her own way of doing things, very strong and determined and angry way. Jake has his own way. We have a lot of fun making those character come alive.

Keep an eye on RickHowland.ca for what’s coming up for me.

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3 comments »

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  1. Aaron says:

    I would love to see the unaired Trick-Evony scene Rick mentioned in the beginning.

    I disagree with Rick on the 4.01 meeting; I think it was the first time since Trick turned Aife over that they were face to face. I can believe he was keeping tabs on her and she was doing the same with him through the years, but I don’t think they ever were face to face again until that moment. Otherwise they would have killed each other long before the show started ad we saw the two characters; but maybe that’s just me.

    I love you all asked that question though. I think the Trick-Aife relationship is really interesting and I would watch a prequel movie or show with those two in it; and Alisen Down of course because who doesn’t want to know more about Isabeau?

    Good questions; nice interview.

  2. Great interview. Nice to hear Rick telling about things from his perspective. He doesn’t get enough attention.

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