May 27, 2016

Tracey Birdsall Interview

Tracey Birdsall cut her teeth on the runway before making waves for her as an actress in the land of daytime soap.

Nowadays she spends a large part of her week doing squats, throwing fake punches and acting opposite computer generated characters.

We talk to cinema’s next action heroine about Rogue Warrior : Robot Fighter.

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You’re best known for your work in TV- in particular, soaps – when did this interest in doing action and science-fiction movies begin?

Oh how I wish I could have started here! I’ve always been an action and science fiction junkie, but I never had the opportunity until the last couple of years. I think that’s one thing that’s not evident to the outside world is that we choose from the opportunities given us – we don’t decide exactly which genre we want to work in. The best thing an actor can do is hone their skills, keep working on their craft, and take various projects which lead to branding – so to speak… and gently steer it. Your physicality and your look have a lot to do with which opportunities you get also, so I’m constantly in the gym and working hard to be sure that I can keep doing this! It’s all about talent, look, skill, branding, with probably a little fate thrown in the mix. I look at all my prior projects, hard work and training as getting me to where I am today – there was no luck involved.


How much has this change of pace been encouraged or inspired by science-fiction filmmaker Neil Johnson, who directed your upcoming film Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter?

I would call it more of a melding of like minds and talents. Neil is a brilliant sci-fi filmmaker and producer, wherein I’m – I guess (according to Neil and most people I work with) one of the hardest working actresses out there – while also being a producer from time to time since the 90’s. I put a ridiculous amount of time into preparing for my roles – and then living them – which Neil had never seen to quite this length before. I’ve also never seen a filmmaker/director work as hard as he does, so it was natural that we would choose to work together. We started working together slowly while we proved ourselves to one another without really making that effort. I voiced a spaceship for him in one film, a computer in the next, and then was part of an ensemble time travel movie At the Edge of Time (currently in post production), when we finally decided to make a film where I carried the film – which is Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter – which is for both of us the most epic film we’ve ever made. Neil went all Peter Jackson on me while filming this film… reshoots and additional scenes were shot until he was happy with it. Each time we did this, I suited up and tried to outdo myself over and over – always in competition with only myself. Every time he said we were done, he would look at me a week later and say “you know if we shot just a couple of more days…” We set no end date in production of this film as we both just wanted it to be epic. I do believe, after a year of blood, sweat and tears… that we’ve accomplished just that. This was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.

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What was the first film you and Neil did together? It wasn’t this one, was it?

I voiced the Deliverance Computer in Starship: Apocalypse just over two years ago, followed by the Spaceship Computer voice in Doomsday in 2015. After that, I was Dijanne in his time travel film At the Edge of Time (still in post-production) followed by Sienna in Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter (soon to be released).


Was Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter fashioned as a starring vehicle for yourself?

I had already been cast as the female lead in Who’s Jenna…? – a comedy shot on the East Coast which just premiered on May 20th – when we decided to do Rogue Warrior. I had also been a lead in two films the year before; so I’d carried a film many times before all the way back to the late 90’s. I would just call it a natural progression by talented people who live and die for their art. It’s really quite a beautiful thing to work with people of like mind.


You obviously keep fit, but did this require you to go the extra mile?

I work out obsessively and have my whole life; however, Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter required me to bulk up a little bit and build my endurance. I remember reading the script and saying I wanted to do my own stunts and thinking “I got this.” What I failed to recognize at the time was the multiple takes hundreds of feet up the mountains. Since I hadn’t done it before, I measured it in my mind of whether I could physically do it. For some reason (probably because it was new to me), I never thought about doing each action scene sometimes ten times in a row! The most amazing part was the calories I had to consume. I literally ate everyone’s leftovers and was a calorie-burning machine. I drank tons of water and Gatorade all day and rarely peed (seriously) due to the heat and exertion. It was – quite literally – amazing! Exhausting yet amazing. I found I had no limits.


You’re surrounded by some great names. Anyone you especially enjoyed working with?

I was truly honored by some of the people who signed onto this film. William Kircher (The Hobbit Trilogy and the last cast member added) was a real highpoint. That man is a really solid actor and human being. Stephen Manley (Star Trek III) was brilliant as well – and so warm and easy to work with. Daz Crawford (Blade II) was brilliant in his embodiment of Skullcrusher which came so easily to him. Marc Hawes we tried not to hire because he was in one of our prior films, but was truly one of the few young actors whose vulnerability still outshines his ego (priceless). Tim McGrath who was cast completely against type because he’s such a solid yet quirky performer (huge kudos.) Ashley Park whom I’ve known for almost a decade – who hit the nail on the head in her performance… and then there’s Tony Gibbons (who voiced Hoagland) who outshined thousands of auditions in pure talent and skill. Really, the list goes on. I’m thrilled by every member of the cast… Livvy Stubenrauch (Frozen), Marilyn Ghiglioti (Clerks), Aaron Jacques (I Might Even Love You)… even Moose – the most adorable and well-trained dog in the world!


Did you envision Rogue Warrior being a franchise?

As Rogue Warrior unfolded, we realized that it could become a franchise. As the production unfolded with such characters and solid performances, we realized we probably weren’t done with it. As the months continued into a year and the film really came alive, something else happened simultaneously – the world craved more action/character-driven sci-fi. It’s really exciting to be in this place by coincidence where this film will be truly appreciated… and continued…


And as for your own career, are you going to stick to making action movies?

I’m going to continue to be diverse, but my heart will always be with sci-fi. I adore comedy, I adore drama, I live for sci-fi. That said, my next role will always be the most challenging role offered to me – as I adore a good challenge. It makes me a better me. 🙂

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel

I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it’s a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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