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Interview with Ian Tracey

I remember auditioning for the part of Becky for the
series Huckleberry Finn and Friends when I was eleven. Ian
got the part as Huck Finn and, well,  I didn't. His face would
be familiar to anyone who's seen Time Cop, Stakeout, Free
Willy III or even just one of the 44 episodes of Sweating
Bullets he guest starred in, as well as 21 Jump Street, Mom
P.I., Highlander ... the list of MOW's, features and TV series
goes on and on. 

With a resume loaded with all this experience, it's a wonder
that he's managed to stay so low key. It was lunch time for cast
and crew when I visited the set of Rupert's Land to interview
the elusive Vancouver actor. Hair dishevelled, and dried blood
caked under his nose, I'd obviously awoken Ian from a nap --
or something -- when he greeted me at his door. I knew that it
was probably fake blood, being in the midst of make believe so
I thought I'd play it cool and not say anything, (surely he would
bring it up)... 

Maria Verdicchio: You've been around for a long time, yet
I've really never read anything about you, which I find quite
shocking, because it seems to me that we should be helping
our own actors and promoting the Canadian film industry.
Tell me how you got started? 

Ian Tracey: When I was 10 there was a notice going around at
my school asking for boys to audition at the CBC, for Leo and
Me. I didn't get the part, but they kept me on file and I got
called for other auditions after that, and eventually landed a
part in the movie The Keeper with Christopher Lee. 

MV: Back then there was only the CBC to audition for. 

Ian: Yeah, the CBC and the odd independent movie like The
Keeper, but mostly the CBC and commercials, which I did a
couple of but didn't care for them much. At 12 I worked on a
movie called Dreamspeaker directed by Claude Jutra. It was a
West Coast native spiritual story about a disturbed boy who
broke out of reform school and was attended to by a Shaman.
After having worked with Claude I really understood acting
because he took alot of time with me and taught me things that
even later on during training I didn't learn and those things
really stuck with me. I guess what he taught me was method and
how to really be real and think about what you're doing, not
just remembering lines but how to get emotions out of yourself. 

MV: Well there weren't many acting teachers in
Vancouver at that time either. 

Ian: No there weren't. I never actually took classes until later
on in grade eleven and twelve in highschool. I hadn't had any
training at all except for on-the-job, which is probably the best
kind of training, but I learned how to explore the classics in
highschool, and Shakespeare, but after high school I didn't
continue to train at all, I was working. Although I was serious
about acting, I didn't think seriously about training because I
was told I was on the right track. And, as you said, there
weren't alot of training facilities around at that time, and I
didn't really know anyone who was into training and it was like
"oh, you're an actor". I was already acting. Then in my late
teens, my friends were all doing "normal" things, and I thought
that maybe I was going to grow up in a bit of a fantasy world,
you know, going to work as an "actor", and making huge coin
as a kid, well at that time it wasn't big money, but to anybody
else it was, so I thought I'd drop out of it a little bit and get a
real job. So I did my time in restaurants as bus boys and
waiters and in muffler shops, gas stations. 

MV: Wait a minutc, it usually doesn't work that way... 

Ian: No, I actually did it on purpose to get a taste of real life. It
was neat because the first restaurant job I went for, on the
application it asked "what have you done before" and I put in a
couple of acting gigs, and where it asked "how much you made
per hour" I put in $350 a day. The manager, when he read the
application, just laughed thinking I was being funny and hired
me because of my sense of humor. 

I went through a couple of years where I didn't do much acting,
then I wanted to get out of the restaurant business so I got into
lighting (on film sets). I got some of the best acting lessons of
my life just being on set and working with alot of high calibre
professional actors. As a lamp operater, you set up the lights,
then hide in the corner and watch the actors. I learnt alot about
the technical aspect of acting that way. 

MV: So how was it getting back into acting after that? 

Ian: It was fine, it gave me a new sense of ease. Working as a
crew member on a set there's no pressure that everybody's
looking at you, or waiting for the right take to happen. It was
this whole new sense of what the "team" was up to. So when I
got back into acting I had a whole new comfort zone. The crew
is your first audience, and there are times where you have a
couple of days of work out of a month long shoot and you come
in kind of nervous because you don't know anybody and you
wonder if they're liking it. But after being a crew member I
could easily suss out whether it was working, or I got beyond
caring, because I knew what they were up to. It gave me a good
sense of how to behave, like a good person, and not become a
primadonna which can happen to alot of child actors. 

MV: Do have the desire to be in Hollywood? 

Ian: No, but when I was growing up that was always in my
mind that when I got older I'd make the pilgrimage to L.A., but
when that time came, I was into lighting and had planted a few
more roots, so I put it off. Then I did Stakeout in 1988 which
was really good for me, because it got me alot of publicity. It
would have been a good time to go down so I made a brief
journey, because some casting directors and agents had asked
if I'd come down, and spent about a week going around meeting
them. Some of them were wanting to sign me if I stayed, but at
that time I really didn't want to stay because things were going
on for me here. I wasn't ready to move. I kind of thought that
although I had been an actor for a long time, I wasn't really
ready to enter the "big time," to get into the big swirl of things. 

MV: That takes alot of courage because most actors here
are dying to get to L.A. 

Ian: I felt that inside, somehow, I wasn't ready to go. I don't
know what it takes to make yourself think that you're ready. I
think I'm ready now because I've had a chance to do the calibre
of work here that guys in L.A. scramble to do. They scramble
for lead parts in episodics and supporting roles in films and I
was able to get that up here without the masses of competiton
that there is down there. 

MV: But, do you want to go now? 

Ian: I think it's an inevitibility. In the back of my mind I've
always wanted to go. I've wanted to have a shot at lead parts
from the root of the jobs' existence, before they get their leads
then come here to fill up the Canadian quota, handing out their
supporting roles they're obligated to give away to Canadians. 

MV: Do you think Rupert's Land will give you that chance?

Ian: I'm hoping that more than it doing anything for me in the
States, it will help me here. There aren't tons of independent
Canadian features that I've had a chance to get into, but the
independent market has really been blossoming here and I've
done a couple over the last few years but not lead roles. I can
get leads in American episodics, but I haven't cracked the
independent scene here so I'm hoping this will open up that
door for me. As well, I think Rupert's Land has a European
feel to it and it will do well at the American and Canadian
festivals and that will bring me more to the forefront as a lead
actor in film rather than all the TV I've been doing in the past
decade. 

... Tracey reaches up and feels the caked blood on his face.
"Oh, I was in a fight scene before lunch and I forgot to wipe off
the blood," He apologizes and goes back to his thoughts. 

The actor is starring in the new TV series Da Vinci's Inquest
which will air in the fall. And watch out for Rupert's Land
also scheduled for a fall release.