French Canadian actor Roy Dupuis is the male star of the USA Network series La Femme Nikita. He plays Michael, a Class 5 operative in the ultra-covert anti-terrorist organization called Section One. Michael handpicked and trained a young woman from the streets, Nikita, to become a sleek, sophisticated killing machine. Their relationship is one of a struggle for power, desire, love, and defiance.
The exquisitely handsome Dupuis gives the character of Michael great command and strength with minimal gesture. Classically trained, with vast stage experience, Dupuis is an extraordinarily gifted and confident actor. In the following interview he displays his intelligence, thoughtfulness, charm, and the physical and intellectual process he utilizes when approaching a role.
We spoke to Roy Dupuis from the production offices of La Femme Nikita in Toronto, Canada....
FF: Tell me a little bit about where you grew up and your childhood.
Roy Dupuis: Well, the scenery is mostly forests and lakes and small mountains. Itís the country -- itís north, about five hundred miles north of Montreal ...
FF: Wow ...
Roy Dupuis: ... itís a region called Abitibi. It was mostly colonized for the wood and the mines. So thereís a lot of bushwhackers and miners that are still there.
FF: So it was a fairly rural ...
Roy Dupuis: ... Around twelve thousand people. The wood was pretty close. One of my favorite hobbies was building houses in trees.
FF: Sounds beautiful.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, I had a great childhood for that. It was close to nature and close to Ė well, the real wood. We would go get Christmas trees almost in the back yard, you know.
FF: Yes, yes. And had your family been there for many generations?
Roy Dupuis: My motherís family, yeah. My grandfather and grandmother from my motherís side were from there. I think my mother was born there.
FF: And are both your parents of French descent?
Roy Dupuis: Yes.
FF: And where in France are they from? Have you traced it back that far?
Roy Dupuis: I know that from my motherís side it would be Basque. But I donít really know the name of the descendants. All I know is theyíre from the region of the Pyrenees and the mountains.
FF: And did you come from a large family?
Roy Dupuis: In my family were three children.
FF: Are you the oldest?
Roy Dupuis: No, Iím the middle guy.
FF: The middle?
Roy Dupuis: My sister was the first one, and then a year and a week after that itís me. And then the year after that my brother.
FF: Are they in the business?
Roy Dupuis: No theyíre not. No. No one in the family is.
FF: Just you.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah. Closest to the business Iím in is my mother, I guess. Sheís a piano teacher.
FF: Ah, very nice. Did your family then move? And how old were you at that point?
Roy Dupuis: We first moved because my father was a travelling salesman, and he was transferred to Kapuskasing, which is in Northern Ontario. So from Northern Quebec to Northern Ontario, which was pretty similar. Mostly colonized by French people from Quebec. And thatís pretty much where I learned my English. And that happened when I was eleven.
FF: And at that point were you beginning to be interested in the performing arts, or had that not happened for you yet?
Roy Dupuis: It never really happened. I mean it was almost an accident.
FF: And when did that accident occur?
Roy Dupuis: Okay, letís see. Itís kind of a long story. An old piano student of my motherís came to visit her, and this girl now had a boyfriend, and this guy wanted to go see a movie. And he was alone so I said, "Iíll go with you." And we went to see the movie Molière.
FF: That was shown here on PBS.
Roy Dupuis: Itís amazing.
FF: Isnít it? Itís fantastic.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah. And I saw that movie. At that time I was studying at secondary five. I was getting more into science. I liked chemistry and physics and mathematics. I liked the Ďwhysí of things. And so I saw that movie, and the day after that I dropped my physics class to go into this French theater course, just on the influence of the movie I guess, of the character of this masterpiece I just saw.
FF: Yes. And what was the allure? What was it while you were watching it? What was the thing that struck you, that you felt had to be part of it?
Roy Dupuis: The movie?
FF: With the whole, you know, atmosphere of ...
Roy Dupuis: I think itís the romantic side of it, the romantics. Romantic for me is passion, it is a will to change things or to do things differently, and to, I guess, to create. And all the family and traveling of Molière, the family work, the family he created around himself. And the adventure.
Roy Dupuis: That was there almost every day of his life.
FF: Definitely, and how he threw himself wholeheartedly -- body and soul -- into what he did.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, because thatís what he was.
Roy Dupuis: He couldnít do otherwise.
Roy Dupuis: I always had passion for things, or I used to -- I studied music for seven years when I was younger, played the cello. Actually in secondary five all my friends were mostly in the arts you know. So I just went back; that day I just dropped that course and joined them.
Roy Dupuis: And then we had to do an oral in front of the class and we hadnít prepared anything -- me and one of my best friends. And I said, "Come to my place after school and weíll see what we can do, because we have to present it tomorrow."
And he had started a biography of Molière, and he showed that to me. And I said "Oh, okay, I know what Iíll do." And I grabbed a hat of my motherís, and some moccasins and a broom, and I made a mask, and I sat him in my room and I said just stay there. And I did the scene of Le Balai de Nuit, the Night Sweeper. Know when -- in the movie when the King is there to see Molière, and he wants to play classics?
FF: Oh, yes, yes ...
Roy Dupuis: And then Madeleine Bejart tells him, "Okay, go out there and do the Balai de Nuit, the Night Sweeper." And he does that scene, the commedia dellíarte scene with the broom.
Roy Dupuis: So I did that in front of him. And he was just like wow. What was that? So I said thatís what weíll do tomorrow. Youíll start your biography of Molière, just read everything he did in his life, but then afterwards youíll say Molière was not just a writer; he was also an actor. And at that time Iíll come in the class, and Iíll do that piece.
Roy Dupuis: And then I said, wait a second. And he was a violin player, my friend. So I went to get -- my mother had a book on almost all the plays of Molière. And then, in the entracte of Le Malade Imaginaire, thereís the scene with Punchinello, who wants to sing -- wants to declare his love to a girl, but heís always being interrupted by a violin.
FF: Oh yes, I was reading about that last night.
Roy Dupuis: I learned that the same night, and we kind of put that together. After the sweeper, Iíll say, "My name is Molière, but for you Iíll be Punchinello." And then I did the other thing.
So the whole class was kind of impressed.
Roy Dupuis: And then they came to me, and they said, "We want to do a classic. We want to do Molière, at secondary five. I was sixteen years old.
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: And I said, wait a minute. I hadnít read it, actually. So I read, and I came back the next day, and said, "You guys are crazy. Itís a huge plate to put on secondary five." And finally, I made the whole play at secondary five. And even our teacher was saying, "Oh, you canít. You canít do that in secondary five. Itís too big, itís tooÖ" -- then anyway, I picked out my actors from all the schools, which I wasnít supposed to do, just pick the ones that were in class. And then, since my friend was a violin player, he was playing with a certain orchestra in Montreal; they were very good musicians. And I said, "Thatíd be good if the scene would be played with music." So at the end, we had a chamber orchestra come in from downtown Montreal.
Roy Dupuis: So -- I wasnít really going to my courses any more. I was just doing that.
Roy Dupuis: I was just going to mathematics and chemistry. But history, French and all that I was skipping almost more than half the time. And my teachers gave me passing grades because of the play ...
FF: Right ...
Roy Dupuis: ... my history teacher gave me ninety-six because of the play. And my French teacher the same thing. But I didnít have what it takes to keep studying in science. Because I hadnít done my physics class. So I started studying psychology, and during the time we were doing Le Malade Imaginaire, I met this girl who was doing Toinette, and she had decided she wanted to be an actress. She was going to present her auditions to the National Theatre School of Canada, which I didnít know existed.
And so about six months later she called me and says sheís preparing her auditions, and she asked me if I would do lines for her. So I said yes, and then we rehearsed, and two days before her audition, which was on my birthday, the twenty-first of April, she comes to my birthday and gives me as a present the questionnaire the National Theatre School sends you when you subscribe to the auditions.
And it was the questionnaire of a friend of hers who had registered for the auditions, but didnít want to go any more.
FF: I see.
Roy Dupuis: And she said you can make believe youíre him if you want.
FF: Itís almost like a Molière play.
Roy Dupuis: And I said, why not. Because I was in high school taking psychology. I didnít know what I wanted to do really.
Roy Dupuis: And I said why not. And so I went to the auditions with her. We said we were going to do our auditions together. And another lucky thing was that the guy who didnít go to the audition had the same date and same hour that she had. So they said okay, so my name was Stefan Labelle, and I was presenting my audition with her.
So we did our scenes. One of the scenes was from Le Malade Imaginaire, and another one was by a Quebec playwright. And after that we went to the desk to discuss with the people who watched you do the auditions, and another stroke of luck was that the director of the National Theatre School and another person were there -- because thereís many teams that see actors come in.
Roy Dupuis: So thereís about six groups, because thereís about two thousand auditions every year for that school, so luckily, it was a director who was actually a directress. She was a woman. And so we sat down after weíd done our scene. Now sheís looking at me and looking at the table and looking at me at a certain point. Sheís not saying anything, and she says, pointing at the table, she says thatís not you. I said "What?" And she shows me the picture of Stefan Labelle that we had forgotten that ...
FF: Oops ...
Roy Dupuis: When you apply, you send your picture.
Roy Dupuis: The guy was like Afro-haired, black, and it was a graduation picture, you know. So I just started laughing. And then Michelle, the girl I went to the auditions with, was laughing and everybody was laughing. And she started asking me some questions. Why didnít you register? And sheís starting to say you know thatís illegal. You cannot make believe youíre someone else in life.
And I said yeah, thatís okay. But anyway I was there for Michelle.
Roy Dupuis: And I said yeah, yeah. Forget about me. And she kept on asking questions. And do you like theater and do you like acting and stuff like that. And at the end she just said well, hereís a registration form. Fill that out. Put your picture on it, and come bring it back to me, and if youíre ever accepted in the school donít say anything to anybody. So thatís how it started.
FF: Oh, very interesting. And any particular teachers that you recall that were especially inspiring in this next stage?
Roy Dupuis: Almost all of them. You see, in National Theatre School, you study there for four years. And you work with six professional directors every year...
Roy Dupuis: ... which is actually -- each one of them is a school.
Roy Dupuis: So each and every one of them gave us their world there. A way of working which is very good, because actually thatís what we do when we get out. We work with different schools, different ways of ...
FF: ... doing things. And so the technique of each of these individuals varied.
Roy Dupuis: ... and at the same time weíre studying quite different styles too. Like from Brecht to Racine, to ...
FF: Wow, thatís quite an impressive training ground.
Roy Dupuis: Ö to Sam Shepherd. Yeah.
FF: And was there any particular technique that you found that you just naturally gravitated to, of any one particular instructor or director?
Roy Dupuis: No. I think Iíve Ė well, Stanislavsky is the base, and then Grotowski has some other stuff that you can use. Depending on what youíre doing. And you know ...
FF: Yes ...
Roy Dupuis: ... the more tools you have.
Roy Dupuis: So, depending on the characters youíre playing, or the style of movie, or the style of the play youíre doing, any of the tools might be useful.
FF: Right. And are there any special student improvisations or productions that stand out in memory as key to your development during that time?
Roy Dupuis: No, you see actually another thing at the National Theatre School of Canada, you get in and youíre sixteen -- eight boys, eight girls. And you go four years with the same group.
FF: Wow. Thatís pretty intense.
Roy Dupuis: It kind of becomes another family.
Roy Dupuis: So each and every one of them, yeah, were very important for me.
FF: And so thatís sixteen students out of two thousand applicants.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah.
FF: Wow. Thatís fairly competitive.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah it is. I didnít know that.
Roy Dupuis: I knew that once I was in.
FF: But were there any productions that you did during those four years that stand out?
Roy Dupuis: Well thereís something I did. Well, thatís another whole long story ...
FF: Thatís a long story ...
Roy Dupuis: Itís from an author named Armand Gatti, who was Italian in origin, but chose to write in French.
FF: The nameís familiar.
Roy Dupuis: And I think thatís because of the Second World War.
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: He was part of La Résistance.
FF: Right. Right.
Roy Dupuis: He came to France while the Italians were on the other side I guess.
Roy Dupuis: And this guy wrote a play. This guyís a giant. He wrote a play that took him like seven years to write.
Roy Dupuis: The play lasts five hours. The first part of the play is a play, and the second part is an opera.
FF: Really. And what is the title of it?
Roy Dupuis: Opera Avec Titre Long, which means opera with a long title. And the long title is actually all the names of people who were German, and not the high society in Germany ...
FF: Yes ...
Roy Dupuis: ... who were participating in La Résistance, that were taken into a prison and that were killed there. And itís their story that he unburied.
FF: Very interesting. So that was quite a production then.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah it was. It was pretty amazing.
FF: I bet.
Roy Dupuis: And itís the kind of man he is. He chose The National Theatre School to show this play for the first time.
FF: Oh thatís really amazing.
Roy Dupuis: Like nowhere almost.
Roy Dupuis: We had a another man who wrote a play once -- he stayed two months with people on death row...
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: ... and asked them if they wanted to do anything, a movie or anything, and they decided to do kind of a play. And they wrote their own monologues.
FF: How interesting.
Roy Dupuis: But yeah. I could talk to you about this man for a couple of hours.
FF: Very interesting. And so because it was part opera, part play, did you also sing your role?
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, I was part of it, yeah.
FF: And so after the four years at the school, then you decided now youíre a full-fledged actor and youíre going to set off on your career. What were some of the early decisions that you made for yourself?
Roy Dupuis: I didnít make a lot of decisions. Like I told you, I never really chose to be an actor.
Roy Dupuis: It was just there. I started working as soon as I got out in Harold and Maude, in a play. And then some Sam Shepard. Actually, I did two of his plays, professionally.
FF: Which two did you do?
Roy Dupuis: I did Fool for Love and the last one was True West.
FF: Oh -- oh great, terrific.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, it was fun.
FF: So you did mostly theater in the beginning.
Roy Dupuis: Yes.
FF: And when did you make the move over to television?
Roy Dupuis: Thatís another long story. Well, not that long. Actually, when I was in National Theatre School, we were working with this Belgian director who knew another French director in town to present something he had done. And then the Belgian director invited the French director to see what he was doing with us at the National Theatre School. And then he saw -- I remember shaking his hand. He was there for fifteen minutes of rehearsal.
So a year-and-a-half later, I got this phone call at home, and itís him. And he says, Iím calling from Paris, and I would like to offer you a role in a play that Jean Genet wrote ...
FF: Oh wow ...
Roy Dupuis: ... just before he died ten years ago. And so I said, yeah, why not. So I started kind of meeting with him. And actually we did the reading in New York. One year after the death of Jean Genet at The Alliance Francaise.
FF: Oh sure.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, thatís where I did it.
FF: Oh neat.
Roy Dupuis: He was preparing us to go to Paris to do this play, and I was about to go over there, and he came down with my contract, and he started reading the contract. And he said, no, I donít like this contract. Iíll bring it back. Iíll bring it back to Paris and send you another copy. Thereís some stuff in it that we want to change, because he thought it wasnít okay for me.
Anyway, he went back to France, and meanwhile another director was doing some auditions for a big series that was going to shoot in Quebec, and he absolutely wanted to see me. And I said, "Okay, Iíll go, but Iím going to Paris ..."
FF: Right ...
Roy Dupuis: "... in a month."
FF: What was the name of the series?
Roy Dupuis: Les Filles de Caleb.
FF: Oh yes, I read about that.
Roy Dupuis: In English it was translated as Emily.
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: And so I did the audition, and the director started to say that I was right for one of the characters, and that I should do it. And then I finally did decide to do it.
FF: Uh huh. How did you make that decision?
Roy Dupuis: Oh, it took me a month. I had friends, and asked, "What should I do?" And I finally said, "Okay, letís go with it."
FF: Itís a hard choice.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah it was.
FF: And that was quite a success for you, Emily.
Roy Dupuis: Well, imagine there would be a series in the States; since Quebec is kind of like an entire country, because weíre the only one to speak the language in North America. So itís like if it were a series in the States, you would have eighty five percent of the population of the States watching it.
Just in one day I was living in downtown Montreal, and the night after the show aired, I went out of my house and it was like wow ...
FF: That was it for your privacy, right?
Roy Dupuis: Oh yeah, that was it. That was it.
FF: So thatís pretty fast. That all happened pretty quickly for you.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, all that took -- I would say six, seven years after I was out of school.
FF: And so do you want to stay within your own Quebecois culture, or do you want to branch out into a more Hollywood type of situation? Is this a debate that goes on internally with you, or with an actor of that background?
Roy Dupuis: Letís see. Not really. I donít really put a country on a play or on a script. I read it as it is, and I read the character for what he is, and then I meet the people that Iím going to work with and see if we can work together.
Roy Dupuis: And thatís about it. But in all that, of course, I donít think it can be quite the same in English as in my mother tongue. I know most, but not all, of the subtleties.
Roy Dupuis: ... how to play with English and all its expressions. And of course for me to act in my mother tongue is -- I think I can go, depending on the character, of course, farther or deeper or -- itís closest to me, thatís for sure.
FF: Right, right.
Roy Dupuis: Itís more into me. And the character too; if the character didnít come from my place, and we speak another language, like Michael, actually.
Roy Dupuis: He comes from France; talks English.
FF: And since you speak both languages fluently, do you feel that French is a richer language in the sense of its expressiveness; like they say that Russian is a very rich language?
Roy Dupuis: Oh yeah.
FF: Compared to English?
Roy Dupuis: I donít know. Sometimes I use English expressions in French. And sometimes you guys use French expressions ...
FF: Oh very much so. Yeah.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah? And I think every language has its particularities. I just think the more languages you know, actually, I guess the more chance you have to understand who we are.
FF: Oh I agree.
Roy Dupuis: In a certain way.
FF: I agree. And so tell me how you were cast for La Femme Nikita.
Roy Dupuis: They called.
FF: And who is they?
Roy Dupuis: I think it was Joel Surnow at first. And he wanted to see me for a reading. The first one was in Toronto. So I went. And I read and I went back home. And then Joel called back. He wanted me to go down to Los Angeles in front of the network and the producer, Warner Bros., and USA, to do an audition. And at the same time to meet Peta. Because I also wanted to meet who was doing it. I wanted to know what they wanted to do with it, because I have great respect for the movie.
Roy Dupuis: I just wanted to make sure that there was proper respect for the original film. So I went down there and talked with them. And I said, "Okay, Iíll do the audition. And so I did. And -- in this kind of theater, a small theater, I guess itís built for auditions or screenings or ...
Roy Dupuis: And it was okay. I mean there was nothing special about what happened.
FF: Can you tell, or have you been able to tell in the past, when you know that not only have you nailed it, but youíve got it? Or is that too hard to decipher when you have gone to an audition?
Roy Dupuis: I never really know.
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: I try to forget about it once itís done, too.
Roy Dupuis: Just try to say, well, youíve done what you had to do. Then I try to forget about it. Of course, it always comes back, while youíre still waiting to see if it worked or not. But yeah, I try to think that if I didnít get it, it wasnít meant to be for me.
FF: And how shortly after the audition were you were offered the role?
Roy Dupuis: I think it was a couple of weeks after. Or even the week after. Wasnít that long.
FF: And how did you initially view the Michael character? And how has that changed over the last three years of the series?
Roy Dupuis: Well, you see, we only had the pilot to work with; and the pilot was very close to the movie. So in the movie Michael is Bob, or Michael in this pilot, is a trainer, is a mentor. And you see him controlling his people, but you donít imagine him going out on missions and killing people himself. So actually heís a little bit like what Madeline is today. Thatís a little bit like I viewed him at first. But for the series, we kind of added to the character that he was also an operative; that he also goes into missions, and that heís probably one of the best, or the best operative the Section has.
At first, since he hadnít killed all those people, himself, I guess he was a little bit more natural...
Roy Dupuis: ... I would say. But starting from the second episode, when I read the second episode, I saw him more as a mixture of Jean Reno, you know, the cleaner in The Professional.
FF: Oh absolutely, yes.
Roy Dupuis: ... and the trainer. So I pushed in that direction...
Roy Dupuis: ... I wanted to propose a character that was minimalist, total control. Because I thought thatís the best way to serve the Section. I wanted to build a character -- because in the Section you have two choices; you die or you live. Thatís the choice you have. You decide to do it; they want you to do it or you die. And I think Michael finds it too easy just to die. Heís a perfectionist. So he decides to live.
And since he decides to live, all heís got left is his job. So he decides to do it as best he can.
Roy Dupuis: Not out of pride; just because thatís all heís got left. And just -- thatís it. So for me to do the best job in the Section is to be completely emotionless; not showing anybody who you really are. So that they donít see any weaknesses in you. And itís also a way of being honest in front of everybody ...
FF: Yes ...
Roy Dupuis: ... in the sense that when you look at Michael, you know that youíre nothing to him.
Roy Dupuis: And thatís what you are in the Section.
FF: Thatís very interesting. As a viewer ...
Roy Dupuis: And thatís how he controls his people too.
FF: But there is a slight touch of ambivalence, donít you think, as well?
Roy Dupuis: When in front of Nikita, yeah.
Roy Dupuis: Thatís the only thing.
FF: Thatís the only ...
Roy Dupuis: The only person he cares about.
FF: But there also seems to be some sort of feeling, not necessarily positive towards Madeline and Operations -- you know, the higher authority.
Roy Dupuis: Well, that he can show to Nikita sometimes, yeah. I think the only time he said something about them was this year.
FF: Right. Right.
Roy Dupuis: If his wife died, he would kill them.
FF: Right, right.
Roy Dupuis: Yes, of course, I donít think Michael -- I donít think anybody would like to do the job they ask them to do.
FF: Right, right.
Roy Dupuis: Itís a prison, thatís for sure.
Roy Dupuis: And sometimes even worse than a prison.
FF: And what do you like to do on hiatus? Do you travel?
Roy Dupuis: This year I stayed in Quebec. I went all the way to what we call the North Coast, the coast of the St. Lawrence River, all the way until the road ends. So it was the farthest north Iíve been in my life.
FF: Oh, it must be beautiful.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah it was. Very wild and -- well actually we -- I wonít do it again, because you see all along the road there are small villages and they were expecting me.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah.
FF: Sort of like Caesar Augustus coming to the hinterlands of the Roman Empire or something.
Roy Dupuis: Everybody knew that I was going that way.
FF: Oh God. How does that word spread one wonders?
Roy Dupuis: I donít know. Theyíre small villages, so one of them saw me, so she probably has a cousin of sorts in the other village and ...
FF: Right. Everyoneís on a party line.
Roy Dupuis: We finished our trip on an island which was amazing -- an amazing island called Anticosti. Thereís a hundred and twenty thousand deer on that island.
FF: That must have been wonderful. But Roy, let's turn back to the art of the actor. Youíve demonstrated how powerfully you can create personality shifts within the context of a single character. Iím thinking of certain performances, one that was repeated last Sunday night, where you played Michael with amnesia, and the episode that opens where youíre looking at your lost son on the television screen. And you did all this without an untrue moment. It was totally real and perfect. Does that make you want to work on projects where you can show off your range?
Roy Dupuis: Well, of course. I mean -- like any actor, I would say what I would prefer to do after this series if it ends one day, or even on a hiatus, it would have to be like we call an auteur movie, or something that would be artistically important for me ...
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: ... right now. Or else Iíd like to do some documentaries ...
FF: Any particular subject matter that you feel ...?
Roy Dupuis: Oh, I have a couple of subjects that I keep for myself.
FF: Of course.
Roy Dupuis: But it mostly turns around -- I would say the word simplicity. Simple gestures that certain people make, that have I think an important, very important impact on life, on what we are, I guess.
FF: Have you ever thought of moving to Los Angeles, and doing the whole Hollywood thing out there?
Roy Dupuis: I have a manager down there.
FF: You do?
Roy Dupuis: Yeah. Well actually he came in and asked me. That was just before La Femme Nikita actually. And asked me if I needed someone to take care of me down there, to represent me. I said, "Yes, why not? You can send me some scripts that Iíll read, and if I find any interesting, why not? The more choice I have, the better it is for me, I guess. As for moving down there, I donít think I need to. I think things are getting faster and faster ...
Roy Dupuis: No, Iíve got my home, and it took me six years to find it.
Roy Dupuis: And itís kind of my life project right now. Thatís where I want to create.
FF: And how do you like New York? Have you spent much time here?
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, we usually go to New York once a year. I love it. I like the energy there. I like architecture. I just like to walk down the street and look at buildings, churches and stuff like that. I really like that.
FF: And do you find when youíre in New York, youíre pretty much left alone and not too bothered by people, or are you ...
Roy Dupuis: Well the last time I went, which was last year, it started to, but not that much. But some people started to recognize me, yeah. But it was okay. It was okay.
FF: And are there roles that you havenít played that you would love to do, or are there directors that you would want to work with that you havenít worked with yet?
Roy Dupuis: Oh, thereís a lot of directors Iíd like to work with. I could give you names, but Iíd forget some too. Well, I can name a few ...
FF: Okay, go ahead.
Roy Dupuis: Jim Jarmusch and Terry Gilliam from the American side. And many, many others.
FF: What would you feel about working with someone like Martin Scorsese?
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, Iíd love him too.
FF: And do you ...
Roy Dupuis: I hope Iíd love him; I donít know. I like what he does.
FF: Do you have any concerns that you would be offered scripts that are too similar to the role youíre playing now, or too action-oriented, or do you have any concerns of being -- I donít want to say typecast, but pigeon-holed in some way?
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, well, I thought about it before accepting Michael. It was like thereís been other propositions from American series and stuff like that before Nikita. And sometimes I just didnít like the characters; sometimes it was something else. And Michael was -- I liked the character because he could be action-oriented, but heís also very -- I think the series also -- mostly turns around psychological ...
FF: Definitely ...
Roy Dupuis: ... interplay. And thatís what Michael is, also. Heís agile, but heís also smart and wise.
Roy Dupuis: So, I think it gives a certain range. And also sometimes in this series, we can play almost a little bit different of what the character is.
Roy Dupuis: Like when I lost my memory, or when I had my son or ...
Roy Dupuis: ... just like that, so it gives a range.
FF: And how to you feel about the actor Alain Delon?
Roy Dupuis: Oh, heís good. Heís good. Heís strong. He also has a very great presence, intelligent presence, charisma.
FF: Yes, yes.
Roy Dupuis: Oh yeah.
FF: Did you ever see ...
Roy Dupuis: Actually Iíve worked with a director who directed him in theater, and he talked to me about Alain Delon because he thought I had something that he had. ...
FF: Itís funny -- thatís what I was going to say ...
Roy Dupuis: Oh my. I donít want to say that because of that, but thatís what he said about him. And he said in theater Delon had an amazing presence.
FF: The reason why I mentioned Delon is that I went to see a restored print of one of his movies called Le Samourai (recently released on VHS Ėeditor). I donít know if youíve ever seen it. Itís from 1967, and itís a French movie. And itís amazing. Itís so beautifully shot and directed, but it has virtually no dialogue. He does it like you, all through the eyes. Itís a wonderful performance -- heís basically a killer, but you get all the humanity and all the complexity without -- I donít think thereís three lines of dialogue in the whole movie. But I thought when we saw it, and I think this was, oh gosh, maybe a year ago, that if they ever remake this movie, they really should cast Roy Dupuis in Delonís role. Because Delon had the same sort of thing you have. So if you ever have a chance to see it, it is a wonderfully enjoyable ...
Roy Dupuis: I will ...
FF: ... beautiful, beautiful touches from the director.
Roy Dupuis: Do you know who directed it?
FF: Jean-Pierre Melville. And as I mentioned in my letter to you a while back, I have always believed that the greatest actors can convey the essence of the scene without needing dialogue. Which you do. What acting choices do you make every day to create a character such as Michael, and, most importantly, to convey his inner dialogue without necessarily speaking?
Roy Dupuis: I guess thatís probably one of the reasons why I was accepted at the National Theatre School of Canada. I guess thatís something I have. I probably learned to work with it with time, too. Even in National School. For me itís kind of simple, and itís complicated at the same time. Well, itís complicated to do because you just need a lot of energy. You need to just be real present and open at the same time, and at the same time closed.
Roy Dupuis: But -- I decided to take away every gesture, every natural normal gesture we usually use to give life to a character. Because I wanted economy of movement, and because he is also a martial arts expert, so he doesnít move without a reason ...
Roy Dupuis: ... and as for the non-verbal stuff, it is the eyes.
Roy Dupuis: Thatís the only door I give him...
FF: Right ...
Roy Dupuis: ...and sometimes the body. I just go every day, every scene.
FF: And do you tailor it differently from when you do something for the stage?
Roy Dupuis: Oh yeah.
FF: And how does it change?
Roy Dupuis: The space is different.
FF: So you use the space more ...
Roy Dupuis: Yeah.
FF: But the eyes...
Roy Dupuis: But like one of my theater teachers said once in a course, he said you can cry all the tears from your eyes; if youíre not in the spotlight, they wonít see it. Thatís the theater. The camera wonít come and get it. So thereís a certain technique. Thereís a technique in cinema too, but itís not the same.
Roy Dupuis: You can be way more intimate, way more nowadays even. I think the sound is better and all that.
FF: Yes, yes.
Roy Dupuis: And in theater, you can be intimate, depending on the space. In a small theatre you can.
FF: Uh huh, right.
Roy Dupuis: But in a big theater -- you know, youíve just got to crank it up.
Roy Dupuis: I did also lots of sports. That gave me a good sense of space, how to react to an object, or even another character in the space.
FF: Interesting. And what sport most of all would you say really hones that skill?
Roy Dupuis: Well I guess all sports can help. I would say at least a sport that youíre playing against someone.
Roy Dupuis: Not just alone. You need to react to someone and to some thing. Like boxing actually is a great sport for that. I did a little bit of that Ė boxing training, and I did a lot of hockey.
FF: Uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: And even swimming, even if youíre just swimming almost against yourself ...
FF: And does that also help for endurance as well ...
Roy Dupuis: Yeah, of course ...
FF: ... since itís basically a taxing job?
Roy Dupuis: I think itís a good thing that Iíve done that before. Because series are probably the toughest thing ...
FF: Oh yeah ...
Roy Dupuis: ... in our business.
FF: For sure.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah.
FF: I remember some time ago I took tai chi for several years, and I remember that many people in my class were actors. I thought that was very interesting. I think itís very good as far as your coordination and becoming graceful and sure-footed and body control. I thought it was ...
Roy Dupuis: Oh yeah.
FF: Ö interesting at the time.
Roy Dupuis: One thing that amazed me when I went to National Theatre School coordination class -- they taught us how to breathe. They taught us how to walk. They taught us how to talk. All the basics -- everything you already know.
FF: And youíre re-learning it.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah. Yeah itís interesting.
FF: It is. And do you have a preference, not in the sense of fame and fortune, but a preference in expressing the actorís art? Is it the stage? Is it television? Is it film?
Roy Dupuis: Right now I would say the stage. Because I havenít done a lot for a while and I miss it. I miss the intimacy.
FF: Intimacy, yes.
Roy Dupuis: Intimacy. The rehearsal, you know? The process of reading and trying things and allowing yourself to go overboard, and, you see, when we do a series, we always have to give a performance that is good here and now, right now.
Roy Dupuis: You donít have time to kind of try things.
Roy Dupuis: I would say almost not, sometimes, but ...
FF: And then thereís not the immediate connection with the audience as well.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah.
FF: That there is in the theatre.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah. But itís mostly -- itís mostly the rehearsal I miss.
FF: You do, uh huh.
Roy Dupuis: Yeah. Thatís another thing that Armand Gatti taught me; a line he said once that I really found very important for what an actor is, I think. And he said the act of theater is done in rehearsal. The representation is only the conclusion of the act.
Roy Dupuis: Like we make love in rehearsal, and what the audience sees is the baby.
Copyright 1999, Gina Pia Cooper