Agent Secrets (Roy Dupuis Interview)
TV Guide (February 1999)
Roy Dupuis - La Femme Nikita's Michael.
OK, what's the deal between Michael and Nikita? Roy Dupuis isn't saying. And in all honesty, fans of La Femme Nikita (Sundays, 10 pm/ET, USA) probably wouldn't want to know. It is, after all, a spy show, and unanswered questions are part of the fun. We caught up with the actor on the show's Toronto set.
You keep learning new things about Michael with every new episode. Have you found out anything that has made you change your mind about him?
No, the way I play him he's essentially the same. He's a martial-arts expert, so that gives him a certain economy of movement. And the economy of expression follows logically from that. But, yes, his mission has changed him more than he thought it would.
Michael has probably lost everybody he knows. He knows that he could be asked to kill anybody at any time, even somebody very close to him. This guy has killed a lot of people, and seen a lot of killing.
Do you have a martial-arts background?
No, but I enjoy lots of sports — hockey, swimming, badminton and a little boxing. I like boxing.
Are you in the dark about long story arcs?
Yeah, and I like it that way. I prefer to concentrate on just one show at a time.
La Femme Nikita can be such an intense show. Is there ever any levity on the set?
Oh, sure. It depends on the day. Sometimes it's very tense, but there's very often humor on the set. It helps keep you going. These are fun characters to play. You never know if they're saying the truth, and there's a lot of nonverbal stuff to play. Playing Michael is a lot of concentrating, choosing every word and every movement carefully.
What kind of fan mail do you get?
It's nice. I get some touching, very intelligent, well-written stuff. This one lady writes to me and tells me, well, everything. She said she chose me, and she doesn't know why. But she says she felt she could open up to me and tell me about herself. And she writes real well.
Do you live in Toronto full-time now?
I go home [to Quebec] on the weekends. I have a country house, which is my real hobby. The house, the land — that's my planet. I have an 1840s house, and I've restored it myself. This year I built a cedar porch with a round patio. Not octagonal — round. That's not easy.
I like to travel, too. I'm very curious about other cultures, and I'd particularly like to visit Nepal. But my home is my home.
Peta Wilson Interview
Viia Beaumanis, Flare (March 1999)
Grind. We're sitting in a trailer on the side of a country road at 9 a.m. without heat or running water during the worst snowstorm in Canadian history. Peta Wilson, 28, is attempting to wear two pairs of black jeans over three pairs of what she calls "silks" or, more endearingly, "underlegs," by which she means "long johns." She is trying to figure out how many pairs of socks she can wear at the same time and still get her boots on. Thankfully, someone from wardrobe arrives with Hot Shots, little warmers we gratefully stuff in our boots, pockets, gloves - wherever they will fit. Miss Wilson - who grew up in the sunshine of her native Australia and New Zealand before spending most of her 20s in balmy California - is not thrilled. She's shooting two brief exterior scenes for CTV's Nikita - a process that will eventually take close to five hours, requiring her to stand outside in the snow. Such is the glamorous life of a TV star. I discover that the catering truck has hot apple cider and I hide inside. It's five in the afternoon by the time we make the hour-long trek back to the city, where Peta will go directly to the studio and loop dialogue. Her driver drops her off at home later that evening; she eats, unwinds for an hour or two and goes to sleep. Tomorrow, she'll get up and do it all over again. In between, she'll squeeze in appointments with her naturopath (Dr. Shirley Zabol), esthetician (Jan Nyland) and acupuncturist (Dr. Ping-Ping) and she'll work out (with trainer Al Greene), practice yoga (with masseuse/healer Vieslav Krystyan) and appear on The Dini Petty Show. Her day off is booked to shoot photographs for this article. She spent the series' hiatus shooting Mercy, a film directed by her boyfriend of eight years, Damian Harris. They must have been happy to see each other.
Yield. It took Peta six weeks to say "yes" to Nikita: "I had different notions about how the part should be played and I was worried that, creatively, I'd lose control of the character. I saw her as a hard-core street kid who turns into Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crown Affair. It's a big step - a lead female action hero. I mean, I'm innately sexual, but it was never my intention for Nikita to be characterized by that. I'm contracted to do a job. I work hard, learn and try to make it the best it can be." She knows she is lucky to have a job as an actor but, also, that any role she accepts in the future will be because she wants to take that journey. "My break came and I had no money. My acting teacher said, ‘You should take this; you'll gain experience.' All I knew was theatre. It was a great place for me to train for film. It made me a dot on the map." The sold income of a TV series also affords her the freedom to be selective. "I've had a lot offered to me lately, but it always comes down to the writer and the director." She loves comedy. She did lots of it in theatre school. She would love to do a comedy. And she is funny. She loves Mae West. And didn't Miss West have a certain enigmatic candour.
Motion. One thing you notice right away about Miss Wilson is that she's moving. Always moving. If she's doing one thing, she's doing 10. And thinking of 10 more. Words and ideas tumble out of her. She's just wrapped a film. She's shooting a TV series. She's opening an accessories company - with her best friend and business partner, Jasper Sceats - called Psycht (because she is), which will support her new film production company, Sweet Lips. She's planning a home on a sweet stretch of Australian beach and buying furniture in Bali. One day, she'll open a performing arts school for disadvantaged kids. She jus t flew halfway around the world to spend New Year's in Bali. She's rush, rush, rushing through life with an energy that is palpable and contagious, exhausting and exhilarating. A fusillade blonde. A real pistol. The kind of woman you'd remember meeting.
Wild. This is the word that comes up repeatedly with Miss Wilson. When I mention to people that I'm doing this story, they say, "I hear she's wild." I will hear this over and over again. And ti's true - she is. But it's more than wildness. Peta's just more. A tree-climbing tomboy with a pet crocodile who grew into a glamorous beauty, her allure is contained in that dichotomy. The raw unpredictability of a wild child permeating the glossy sophistication of the woman she's become, becoming. Because it never stops with Peta. There's always growth, dreams, purpose. More. What will be. She will internalize her experiences and she will be richer for them. She stands out. She is obvious. She is provocative and uncompromising and she seems tougher than she is. She has run into society's better ideas and dismissed them. Because she has her own better ideas. She has taken all that fire and drive and charisma and pushed herself to the next level. Even if she had to tear a hole in the next level to get there. Because that's where she's going. Where she's always been going. And she will be stronger for getting there. For having the will to arrive. For having asserted her singularity. And for winning. "She always won at everything," her mother says.
Spirit. I speak to Peta's mother, Karlene, in Australia, "She's been working the room since she was two," she tells me. She'd lip-sync to Toto songs. She'd pretend she was Liza Minnelli. When Peta was eight, Karlene took her to a hotel for a Christmas party. The band didn't show up. Peta showed up though. Showed up and jumped on stage. Singing and dancing, showing off her new tap moves. She got an encore. They didn't have a TV, so Peta would gorge on American television at her grandparents' in Australia and act out episodes of I Dreamed of Jeannie in her hot-pink harem pantsuit for the native kids she grew up with as an army brat in Papua, New Guinea. They went out at sunrise and came home at sundown. They spent their days on the river banks. They went sailing. They went to the beach. They showed her how to climb palm trees. And things she would find hard to describe. Inside things. Spiritual things. Sense of self. Sense of centre. Imagination. "It was very Enid Blyton The Famous Five. We didn't have money or all the luxuries. We just had make-believe. But we had a really wonderful life there. My brother and I hung out with the native kids. We were like natives. I spoke mostly pigeon [broken[ English until we moved [from New Guinea] back to Australia when I was nine." Sometimes a lady, Aka, from the village looked after Peta and her little brother, Rob, feeding them snakes, owls - all sorts of exotic cuisine. One day, her mother found Peta eating an dead owl. "I just thought, ‘Oh, I've had that. Aka gave me that. Yummy, I'm hungry.' My mother was horrified. She thought I was a savage." Her father, an army corporal, would leave for six weeks at a time, returning with emus and koalas. "We had great pets. Once it was a baby croc about two feet long we kept in the swimming pool, which was actually a water tank cut in half. One night, it escaped. Our neighbour had a beautiful pool that he never let us swim in. One morning, we heard him screaming and there he was with it attached to his finger." So that was the end of the crocodile.
Perception. Army brats move around a lot, become chameleons as they refine the sly, subtle ruses essential for continually adapting. "I'd go to schools in these little outback towns. Some had five classes in one room. I'd only be there for six months at a time, so I had to make friends quickly. The first few days, I'd just watch whatever they were really good at - sports, swimming - then, I'd venture in and get really good at it. That's how I'd fit in. Or I'd be the foot, the class clown, cheeky with the teacher. I entertained. I learned to act early out of necessity." When Peta was 12, her parents split up. They didn't speak about it much at the time. "I went to live with my mother and my brother went with my father. It was hard. After a while, I stayed with my grandparents because I needed the stability." It wasn't until years later that she made amends with her parents and let go and stopped carrying their baggage into her relationships. "Up to that point, any boyfriend I had lasted three weeks."
Flux. She finished high school, she travelled, she modelled. She went to Italy and she fell in love. Only when she had to go home, she neglected to say goodbye. One day, she opened the door to find he'd followed her to the other side of the world. Only she knew it was over. She sent him away. Then, as lovely young things must do now and again, she fell for a musician. They can be rather exciting. But they usually drink and do a few other things, too much. She thought about acting. She was 19. She packed for L.A. " I didn't know anyone. I had $11,000. I bought a 1958 Thunderbird and, basically, lived out of it." She went to drama school. She did theatre. She played make-believe again. And What If. She watched Natalie Wood in This Property is Condemned and West Side Story and she thought, "There's an amazing actress." She loved Lauren Bacall. She loved Gena Rowlands. She loved Marlene Dietrich.
Chemistry. When she was 21, she met Damian Harris at a party in L.A. It was all very groovy and scene-y and Hollywood. Lots of rock stars, familiar faces. He lit her cigarette and they talked for a while. She told him she was a clog dancer from Amsterdam. She used to do that in L.A. - make up stories. "Because everyone asks you what you do. They come to that very quickly. One week, Daddy was a sheep farmer wanting to invest in movies. Then, I was a technical whiz for a software company. I used different accents. Or pretended I couldn't speak at all." Damian' marriage had broken up. He had a daughter. He was 13 years older. "I was not about to be somebody's Band-Aid and I was not interested in someone who was divorced with a child. For god's sake, no thank you. But I felt safe with him and we became friends." On his birthday, she went to his house wit ha sunflower and a poem. She did a little clog dance for her that a cross between the Charleston and Tina Turner. Then, she ran off to meet friends. Damian still thought she was a clog dancer. One night, she asked him to describe his ideal woman and she listen while he recited the qualities of his ex-wife. "Why don't you go get her?" She wanted to know. He answered by throwing her on to the bar and giving her a huge kiss. She was enthralled. After eight years, she is still enthralled. "I live with a poet. I call him ‘the dark prince.' He's a beautiful man. Sexy, refined, very intelligent. I never stop learning with him. It's quite fiery. We're a mystery to one another. And we always will be. I love his lips and his eyes and the way it feels when I put my hear on his chest. It's a great thing knowing that he loves me. I love him."
Mercy. This is a dark film. There are lesbians. There is pain. Spankings even and worse. There is Ellen Barkin - heroine of coll girls everywhere - once again, exploring the dark side. For Miss Wilson, this is not a quiet big-screen debut. "I've had an association with this film, every character for years. It's incredibly beautiful and surreal. It's not Basic Instinct. It's a thriller, but it's also something else. It's a story. It's very sexy, but sexy's almost the wrong world. Damian's a wonderful artist. If I had been any less the actress he needed, there's no way he would have put me in this part. His own creative cisions is far too important to him. He knew I was ready. It felt good that he believe in me."
Truth. She is overwhelming. She possesses a feline quality, though it is more a lionlike quality. She is unbridled. She is a force of nature. She sees ghosts. She dreams about water . She paints fish. She reads about myths and history. She has a past. She knows what she wants. She likes Cristal. She collects fabulous cars. She can fix them herself. She is curious. She is not her glacial alter image. If she were not an actor, she would have been a journalist who studied different cultures. She loves adventure. She loves the outdoors. She loves candles. She loves Bali. Those who love her see a pure heart and a guileless generosity. She is interest in the Truth. Finding it. Telling it. She is a Scorpio. She loves to dance.
La Femme Nikita
Natasha Brandstatter, Ape Culture (1999)
Proving that sex, violence, and beautiful people are, indeed, enough to make a successful TV show
Some of you may have heard of the recent "cult" sensation, "La Femme Nikita," which airs on the USA Network and stars the peroxide-stickly figure of Peta Wilson in the title role of Nikita. Before I begin this deposition, let me say that I have watched this series with absolute dedication since the pilot episode, and will continue to do so. However, just because I am strangely addicted to the repressive lives of the main characters, it does not necessarily follow that I should consider the show to be high on that high-reaching (God knows) tower of television dramas.
For those who don't know, Nikita was a runaway living on the streets, smoking cigarettes, and wearing uncoordinated outfits until she stumbled upon a murder-in-progress. The killer shoved the knife in her hands and ran off. Then who should come along but some anonymous people in blue uniforms and before you know it, Nikita is being injected with a threatening liquid in a cold, dark room. This might be the end of Nikita's odyssey, if it weren't for . . .
Michael (Roy Dupuis). The sexy-but distant spyboy of Nikita's future affections, as we are to see as the show wears on. He (I imagine, in my own sappy, romantically-fogged brain) took one look at Nikita and decided to recruit her for Section One, also known as The Section, "the most covert anti-terrorist group on the planet. Their ends are just, but their means are ruthless. . ." etc., etc. To the outside world, Nikita is just a serial number on a plaque in the prison graveyard. To the thousands of terrorists and mischief-makers abroad, she is La Femme Nikita, ready to kick ass and defend her right to do so! At least as soon as she completes her two-year training stint to become an operative.
That is, if she completes it. Operations (Eugene Robert Glazer), Section's head honcho, has his doubts. Michael, however, placates him. Other relationships soon emerge. "Section is your family now," says Madeline (Alberta Watson), the psychotic overseer of tortures and other pleasantries. Playing the happy-go-lucky, too-much-LSD-in-the-sixties uncle is Walter (Don Franks), who also manages the weapons everyone plays with. Finally, there is Birkoff (Matthew Ferguson), cute computer genius, but unfortunately girls only distract him from his real love, which is breaking into security systems and so forth. At least, that's the case in the first few episodes (hint, hint.)
Nikita hates Section because she doesn't like to kill people. Also, she wants to have sex with Michael but he cruelly ignores her for several episodes, until he finally starts coming around, only to treat her coldly again by the end of the episode and start the process all over again. So far, the viewers have discovered that Michael really does love Nikita, but Operations wants him to stay far, far away from her. Nikita, of course, does not know this. She is kept in the dark most of the time and acts surprisingly naive when faced with the ruthless methods of The Section.
The show's production is quite interesting. Having been rescued from the slums of Fashion City, Nikita now wears only the most hip sportswear and sunglasses. Ditto for Michael, though his wardrobe usually consists of black or smoky-black suits. The most incongruous part of this fashion-plate cast is Nikita's hair. In one episode, after obviously having some trouble with her bangs, she wears them sprayed straight up from her forehead. In other episodes her hair is limp and scraggly.
Sets are often minimalistic and dark. Lately, in the second season, we have been seeing more interesting set designs. For instance, in one terrorist's liar, we see mysterious tanks stuffed with naked bald people. The reason for or meaning behind these tanks is apparently irrelevant or beyond the creative abilities of the writers, since they are never explained.
Speaking of the writing, I would have to say it is best to ignore it. The show often follows the Rodenberry Formula to Deal with Extras, which is to kill them. This is a predictable outcome for almost every new character that appears on LFN. Lately, the show's writers have been demonstrating to us, through their own blundering, when not to include a subplot. Michael's sentences tend to be very simple: two or three words at the most (he doesn't talk much.) And despite the fact that the show is named after her, Nikita often merely reacts to what is happening around her. The writers don't really use her or shape her character.
Ah, well. Despite all this, I still return to Nikitaland every Sunday night. Why, you might ask? Is it boredom? A sadistic love of bad television? A voyeristic craving for sex and violence? No, no, none of these apply. The reason I watch Nikita is simply that if I don't watch the show, I start to suffer La Femme Nikita withdrawls!
That's right; my name is Natasha and I am a LFN addict.
And I do not suffer alone. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people who go through the same thing I do every off-season. Analysis suggests that the USA Network has been possibly flashing subliminal messages during the show to boost ratings. If this is the case, I recommend that they continue to do so.
There is an emotional attachment that one appears to develop for the predicament of the characters over time. LFN is a guilty pleasure, in some ways, but it also has the power to occasionaly draw one into Nikita's exact situation. One forms an emotional attachment with the character, so that one day, while washing dishes or brushing one's teeth, one may catch oneself thinking, "Will Nikita and Michael ever get together?" Or, "That Madeline chick is so crazy." Then one might shake oneself and admonish, "Oh, stop; it's only a TV show." And it is only a TV show; but it's the most oddly addicting TV I've ever seen. Definitely not made for network television, or the general public, I predict that LFN will be the first cable series to join the ranks of the classic "cult" series, right in between The Twilight Zone and The Avengers.
Sex, violence, and beautiful people with deadly weapons . . . what more could one ask for?
Love and Death
Stef McDonald, TV Guide (March 1999)
It's back to business -- meaning espionage and assassinations -- this week for the romantically tortured twosome on La Femme Nikita (USA, March 8, 10 P.M./ET). Though Michael (Roy Dupuis) and Nikita (Peta Wilson) finally spent a passion-filled night together -- after she fled the secret government agency known only as Section One -- she has since returned to the spy game, and the passion has cooled.
"A line that's been said millions of times comes to mind: You can't live with or
without," says Dupuis, the French-Canadian actor who plays the emotionally
stunted operative. "In a certain way, Michael is like a knight. The only meaning he has found is doing his job as a knight to serve his king. You have to think of him as not being a real human anymore."
But Michael is not entirely unaffected by human emotions. Which is why Dupuis, 34, won't rule out the possibility of the two getting together again. "The desire is there; it's like a volcano with a big cork in it," he says. "But I don't think I want it to happen. Playing those impossible moments is more interesting than just doing love scenes.
USA Targets Nikita For Another Season
Zap2It (29 April 1999)
The one-hour USA original series, La Femme Nikita, has been picked up for a fourth season, announced President of Programming and Marketing Stephen Chao at a sales presentation today. The 22 new episodes will begin airing in early 2000.
"La Femme Nikita is clearly one of cable's most successful and original shows, which is why we're proud to announce it'll be back for another season," said Chao.
The series stars beautiful Peta Wilson as Nikita, who is sentenced to life in
prison for a crime that she didn't commit. To escape cell walls, she agrees to work as an elite operative for a ruthless government organization called Section One.
The members of Section One are played by an international cast including Roy Dupuis, Alberta Watson, Don Francks, Matthew Ferguson and Eugene Robert Glazer.
La Femme Nikita premiered in January 1997.
With Nikita, The Earth Moved
Brendan Kelly, Montreal Gazette (1 May 1999)
The guy who might well be Quebec's best-known actor internationally is decked out like any other would-be Plateau hipster.
Roy Dupuis is sporting tight-fitting plaid pants with frayed ends that look like they come straight off the rack from one of those boutiques in Mont Royal Ave. E., a lumberjack shirt with several buttons strategically undone, his trademark cross hanging from his neck and scruffy mountain boots. Though the outfit doesn't really work, it practically defines the off-kilter fashion sense of the neighbourhood's bistro culture.
But there is one small detail that sets Dupuis apart -- something not unlike old-fashioned charisma. With his striking greenish-blue eyes, carefully unkempt hair and brooding presence, it's not hard to understand why he is the quintessential thinking person's sex symbol in Quebec. In other words, a good-looking actor fans can secretly salivate over while watching his hit TV series Nikita and still feel good about themselves the morning after.
Dupuis's agent regularly receives letters from all over -- everywhere from Latin America to Russia -- with Nikita devotees extolling Dupuis's qualities both as a thespian and a serious hunk. Janet Layne from Vidalia, Ga., recently E-mailed The Gazette to sing his praises.
"Yes, I'll admit he's a hunk - grin," she wrote, "but I also have to say I don't believe I've ever run across another actor -- anywhere -- who has been blessed with such a natural, God-given talent."
In a lengthy chat at his agent's office this week, Dupuis said he's still impressed by the volume of mail he receives, and he enjoys the fact that many of the fans write about what life's like in their own countries.
Nikita, an edgy action series co-starring Dupuis and Australian pinup Peta Wilson, is produced in Toronto by Canadian company Fireworks Entertainment and it airs in more than 50 countries around the world.
In Canada, it's on CTV, airing locally on CFCF-12 Saturdays at 10 p.m.
The series has turned both Wilson and Dupuis into cult figures south of the border, thanks to its successful run on the cable USA Networks, where it goes under the title La Femme Nikita. (The series is based on director Luc Besson's stylish French film La Femme Nikita, released in 1990.)
Wilson and Dupuis play agents in the employ of Section One, an elite, ultra-violent anti-terrorist group. Nikita, played by Wilson, was wrongly accused of murder and is forced to become a secret operative. Her mentor is the mysterious agent Michael (Dupuis). It's a clandestine universe with virtually no ethical rules, and it's that less-than-mainstream edge that attracted Dupuis to the project in the first place.
The series doesn't shy away from playing up the sex appeal of its two stars, and steamy footage of their mostly naked bodies was showcased on entertainment-news shows across the continent last season when Nikita and Michael finally consummated their relationship.
Dupuis rather improbably insists he had no idea the sex scene generated so much interest. Being a sex symbol is not exactly anything new for him anyway. He was transformed overnight into one of Quebec's hottest celebrities with the success in 1989 of the Radio-Canada series Les Filles de Caleb.
"For me, I went through that shock with Les Filles de Caleb 10 years ago," Dupuis said.
"There were something like 4 million people in Quebec watching that show and, from one day to the next, I walked out of my house on Carre St. Louis and everyone was pointing at me. It was really tough. You feel a bit like you're on stage at all times.
"For my work, I like to sit there and watch people. It helps inspire me and give me ideas. But I'd be sitting there and everyone would be looking at me. It was the opposite of what I used to do. It was like losing a key tool that I needed for my work."
Dupuis actually has a lower profile in Montreal now that he has become a familiar face to TV fans from Moscow to Mexico City. Since 1996, he has spent nearly nine months a year shooting Nikita in Toronto. It's grueling work, with the cast often clocking in 12-to-18-hour days. By the time he heads home to his 1840s farmhouse just outside Montreal for his summer break, he's usually too exhausted to contemplate moonlighting in Quebec features or TV productions. The last time he was seen in a Quebec TV show was in 1995, in the medical drama Urgence.
It's a far cry from the first half of the decade, when Dupuis was one of French Canada's top TV stars.
He first won over Quebec audiences with his lead role in Les Filles de Caleb and its sequel, Blanche, then proved to be just as hot in the long-running newsroom drama Scoop. At the same time, he maintained a big-screen career en franais, appearing in Qeubecois films like the acclaimed Being at Home With Claude, considered by many to be his finest role to date.
He is one of a handful of prominent francophone actors here to regularly work both sides of the linguistic fence, beginning with the Montreal-shot sci-fi film Screamers and continuing with the made-for-CBS mniseries Million Dollar Babies. It helped that the Abitibi-born Dupuis spent a few years as a kid in Kapuskasing, Ont., giving him a head start in the language game.
He says working in English was not part of some grand master plan. It was more about looking for new opportunities.
"They don't make tons of films in French here, and there are tons of actors in Quebec," he said. "I wanted to open the door to the rest of the world."
Dupuis claims he's never had a career plan. He even fell into acting by chance. He was studying science when a friend of his decided not to audition for the National Theatre School. As a lark, Dupuis replaced his pal at the audition and immediately jumped the waiting list and made it into the prestigious Montreal school.
He describes the decision to drop his Quebec projects and devote himself to Nikita as a similar sort of split-second judgement call.
But now he's beginning to miss his Quebec film and TV roots. He played hockey legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard in a docudrama to air next season on Radio-Canada and he wants to do more French-language material.
Though he's constantly fielding offers from Hollywood studios -- including proposed movie projects with writer-director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) and Mel Gibson -- what he'd really love to do is star in an indie, home-grown Quebec flick. And spend more time at home.
"I'd like to an auteur film. I want to prove that auteur film-making still exists. But what's really difficult is being away from home for eight months a year. That's tough. It makes all your relationships with people you love more complicated."
Roy Dupuis Interview
Francois Hamely, Le Lundi (22 May 1999)
Roy Dupuis is making a comeback to French TV as Michael, the male lead in (La Femme) Nikita, now airing on the TVA network.
Wednesday, April 14th, Toronto : the weather is fair, the sky is blue... and the Lundi team awaits Roy Dupuis, aka Michael, secret agent and mentor to Nikita, the main character in the series filmed in the Queen City. The actors greets us abord a brand new black chauffered Lincoln, courtesy of the production staff. Our encounter lasted 3 hours and took place in the car, in the makeup room, in Dupuis' trailer and on the set. Dupuis was in a great mood, relaxed and talkative.
Nikita, now in its 3rd season, has made him an international star. The series is broadcast in more than 50 countries, and websites devoted to Dupuis abound. None of this has gone to his head, though. Dupuis—who turned 36 on april 21st—is a disarmingly simple man. He recently came through a personal crisis that transformed him radically.
LL: Roy, how do you relax after work?
RD: I don't have time for much. When I get to my appartment, I have to learn the lines for the next day. Then I go to sleep, and they pick me up around 5:30 or 6:00 the next morning.
LL: Don't you have an hour or two to yourself?
RD: When we film, there's a lot of time to relax between scenes. We work 14 to 18 hours a day, 5 days a week, 8 and 1/2 months per year—so we have to take things one day at a time—one scene at a time, even—or you can get discouraged. To make things worse, I'm away from Québec all that time. My private life suffers from that.
LL: Have you gotten used to life in Toronto?
RD: Not really. I only work in this city. All I got used to is commuting between my appartment and the airport. Every friday, I fly back home to spend the week-end in Québec. All I care about, these days, is my house, my land, and traveling. I don't go out anymore. I'm through with nightlife. I've tried all I could try. Now, I prefer staying home, having a good dinner with my best friends. I still go to restaurants, though. In Toronto, I go to small restaurants in chinatown—close to my appartment.
LL: Are you a good cook? Do you have specialties?
RD: A bit of everything, thai, french, american... at least once a year, I make a "méchoui" [Translator's note: an outdoor meal of charcoal-broiled meat, usually pork, lamb, sometimes more exotic meat.]. My house, built on a 54 acre land, is the perfect place for that.
LL: Is your house located on a field, on in the forest?
RD: In the middle of many fields, surrounded by an old fence made of rock piles. The forest is behind the house. I have 30 acres of woodland, and 24 acres of field....
LL: You say you're through with nightlife. Was there a precise moment in your life when you decided to change your lifestyle?
RD: In 1996, I bought my house, and I signed a 5 year contract to work on Nikita. I changed my lifestyle a year before that. In 1995, I took a sabbatical year. I traveled across Canada and the States on a motorcycle. Then I came back home to get my girlfriend, and we went to France and Italy together. (silence). That year, I realized that we're responsible for our own actions. I guess I knew that already, in a way, but I truly understood the meaning of it that year. Buying my own house reinforced that sentiment. In the city, I was too well known. I am rather shy, and I couldn't get used to feeling constantly observed. Today, in my house, I feel comfortable. I feel free.
LL: Are you still uncomfortable with all the attention you're getting?
RD: Yes, it bothers me. When people stare at you all the time, it can be become very tiresome.
LL: But you seem much less shy than you used to be.
RD: Yes. I would say that I know what I want, and I know what I don't want. That's very clear, now! I know what I want, but on a short term. I don't worry too much about the future.
LL: What is it that you don't want?
RD: Ah, that's a little too personal.
LL: Then, what do you want, on the short term?
RD: Simple things. Working on my house. Theatre. Documentaries.
LL: Where are you from?
RD: Abitibi. My father was a traveling salesman. When I was 10, he was transferred to northern Ontario, where we lived for three years. Then my parents divorced, and I ended up in Laval. (silence). That's probably why it's so important for me to find "roots". I don't want to make a sweeping generalisation, but I think too many people today don't have a sense of "belonging". They don't have "roots". Buying my house has "grounded" me!
LL: Could you say you lived a "thirtysomething" crisis?
RD: Yes. One thing for sure, there was no adolescence crisis for me. I think I put it off until my thirties!
LL: So, were you an angel in your teens?
RD: No, but things were good then. I was in my teens when I discovered Montréal, and the pleasures and freedom of urban life. Until I was 11, I grew up in Abitibi. And at age 14, I arrived to the big city! It was extraordinary! It may seem ridiculous, but the thing that impressed me the most was the fact that with 20 cents, you could commute from one end of the city to the other. The bus and the subway were so cool! I used Montréal's transport system to discover the city.
LL: So Montréal became a big toy for you?
RD: Yes. I played with it until there was nothing else for me to discover!
LL: And the world appeared so much bigger than in Abitibi...
RD: Exactly. This was a new form of freedom. In a small town, everybody knows each other. You have to be careful sometimes about the things you do. That's not a bad thing, mind you. But in a big city, the people you meet on the street disappear behind you and you likely never see them again. You can do anything, say anything, you can play, you can lie, you can tell the truth. That's a form of freedom. But I lost that freedom when I became famous after Emilie. Today, I go back to the country, to find that same freedom.
LL: All in all, do you think you've always been a smalltown boy?
RD: When I was a kid, my favorite activity was building treehouses. So yes, I guess I am coming back to my old passions!
LL: You say you're shy. Do you get along better with trees than with people?
RD: (silence). Am I really shy? Well, I am shy in front of a stranger who knows me in advance because I'm an actor. It may not be timidity as much as... annoyance. It's frustrating not to be able to meet new people that know nothing about me. The encounters are always biased. (silence). Since Emilie made me famous, I haven't made new real friends. I kept my old friends from the days before. Sure, I make new friends at work, but they are not many.
LL: Are you faithful to your friends?
RD: (silence). I think I'm honest. I have to follow my conscience, otherwise I feel very uncomfortable. Even when I'm in Toronto, my friends know that they can call me up the phone whenever they want. That's clear.
LL: Was your personal crisis caused by an excess of freedom?
RD: (silence). I don't really know. I loved the time I spent in Montréal. I experimented a lot. Anything mysterious, anything underground, I would have to try.
LL: Anything out of the ordinary...
RD: All the things you can't see. All the things you can't name. That can be
dangerous, but I always trusted myself.
LL: You always felt strong enough to avoid losing yourself in all that?
RD: Yes. But at some point, I woke up, I made choices, and I met the right people. I changed my lifestyle.
LL: Who are the "right" people?
RD: Girlfriends. Friends. People in the business.
LL: Did you get to the point where you told yourself "there must be more to life than this"?
RD: I wanted to move on. For a while, I was very attracted to the underground. I was a rebel, of sorts. (silence). I still am, but I live it differently.
LL: Retreating to the country can be seen as a revolutionnary statement...
RD: Maybe. Mostly, I just think life is about today. Period. Whatever comes next is not important.
LL: Has anything else changed in your life?
RD: It's funny, but I always thought I would die at age 33. Must have something to do with catholicism... anyway, that's sorta what happened. Part of me died at age 33. Sometimes, when I realize I'm not a teenager anymore, it hurts. I stil have flashbacks of all the crazy things I did when I was a kid!
LL: One final question. How's your relationship with your family?
RD: Good. We haven't seen much since I started Nikita, but I feel closer to them than ever before. I understood the importance of family. That's why my house is so important to me.
When Nikita ceases production (but that may be far in the future), Roy wants to get back to making movies, and try making documentaries.
But for the moment, Roy simply looks forward to June 15—the end of season 3. Because he can't wait to finish his front porch!