Saturday, January 26, 2008

In the News: Graham Abbey

Queen’s University graduate Graham Abbey was snagged for an interview with the Kingston Whig-Standard in light of his recent air time in The Border (2007), which also features fellow former Stratford actor Nazneen Contractor.

But this is about the Kingston connection.

"Abbey, who graduated from Queen's in 1994, plays Det.-Sgt. Gray Jackson, whom the show's bio notes is a 'womanizer, gambler and all-round cowboy, with an athlete's body and an easy, amiable smile.'

"'I'm the Action Jackson character,' chuckles Abbey, referring to the '80s film character who was big on acting macho and fistfights.

"In the most recent episode ['Bodies on the Ground', which you can watch online], Jackson was shot at and nearly blown up by terrorists on the lam in northern Quebec. The week before, he was nearly taken out by some Albanian mobsters while going undercover as a gambler at a casino on a native reserve.

"'My mother asked me if there was going to be a week when I wasn't covered in blood,' he said.

"It may seem a far cry from Stratford, where Abbey spent [ten] years playing almost all the good parts there are for young men. He also played Macbeth, a role normally reserved for older actors. He left after the 200[6] season, looking for new acting mountains to climb, specifically, the world of TV and film. However, he hasn't given up Shakespeare altogether. He is currently rehearsing Othello for a CBC-TV production.

"Abbey is nonplussed about the move to TV.

"'Acting is acting. It all has to do with listening,' he said."

In his last season at Stratford, in Coriolanus (2006), Abbey had time to discuss the change with his co-star Colm Feore, who has found success both on the stage and on the screen. Feore told him that "theatre prepares an actor for film and television".

"'Stratford is such an intimate world. You're acting on a stage with the audience almost 360 degrees around you. The greatest acting on Stratford stages, people like John Hutt and Martha Henry, made it extremely intimate. I'd heard that stage actors have to turn it down for film and TV but I haven't found it a big leap,' he said.

"'Doing Shakespeare is like a three-hour marathon because you don't stop. In TV, it's sprints because you shoot the same scene seven or eight times from different angles.'

"At least he doesn't have as many lines to memorize. Even though he had a major role in the last episode, Abbey probably didn't have much more than a page of dialogue to memorize. You don't talk much when you're dodging bullets.

"'The TV world is so quick,' he said.

"'They make changes so you're getting your lines the morning of the shoot. You have to learn that stuff instantly and on the fly.'

"And there are some things that Stratford couldn't teach him - like guns and explosions.

"'The guns were a little daunting,' he said. 'They are real and loud. Usually, you wear flesh-coloured earplugs but I'm still pretty much a novice at it and when we shot the gunfight scene I forgot to wear mine. I was in pain because I couldn't hear.

"'And in a scene where a car gets blown up, I was only 20 feet (six metres) from the explosion. I was pretty worried about that one.'

"One thing that makes The Border unique is that its characters have all been given detailed back stories.

"Abbey's character, besides being a Young Turk, was also given up for adoption when he was young and has issues with his father.

"'You don't see this a lot in TV,' he said. 'They've given us nice deep stories and backgrounds. Coming from my Shakespeare background, if there weren't deep stories that would be a lot harder for me.'"

That's it for the Stratford connection. Continue reading if you're interested in other claims Kingston has made on the successful show.

No comments: