Captain Jean Renard of “Grimm,” played by Sasha Roiz, is easily the most mysterious character on the NBC show. A royal heir, a Wesen (half-Zauberbiest) and a police captain, he, like the show’s hero Det. Nick Burkhardt (David Guintoli), has his feet planted firmly in both worlds.
The same can be said for Roiz. The actor, a Canada native, has, like many of the cast, adapted to life in Portland, Ore., where the series films about nine months out of the year. He’s devoted a lot of his time recently to helping with a charity called the Grimmster Fund for a local children’s hospital. The endowment, which assists families in financial need, is holding a gala (sold out) and an auction that features authentic drawings and props used in the show, and even includes a limited amount of “Grimm” shoes made by Nike especially for the fundraiser.
Hero Complex caught up with Roiz to talk about his interpretation of Renard, the show this season and Portland.
Hero Complex: Captain Renard and Nick Burkhardt, despite being natural enemies, seem to have gotten into a good, edge-of-your-seat partnership.
Sasha Roiz: I think it’s always going to be a tenuous relationship. They’ve developed a certain amount of trust over the years, and Nick has more reason to trust me. He knows I’ve done things like reveal myself to him, give him the key, save his life several times … we’ve definitely done enough to build on that level of trust. But at the end of the day, he’s always going to have some reservations with me, and rightfully so. Renard is someone who is capable, has a lot at stake and will probably do anything he needs to do to achieve certain goals. Renard will always do what’s best in his interests.
HC: So, with Renard being both a royal Wesen and a police captain, does that affect the way you play him?
SR: I think probably the royalty overrides the police captain. Certainly in his personality and his impression of who he is and where he belongs. I think Renard is someone who has had a very tragic upbringing and has been ostracized from his family as being son of the king and he’s part Wesen. I think his ambition has always been to reclaim a certain amount of status and what was lost — things he thinks were taken from him. There’s definitely a chip on his shoulder, and he’s always on a mission to reestablish and elevate himself from his current situation.
HC: The latest development in the show is that Sgt. Wu (Reggie Lee) is being let into the gang. How wide can you go with the Wesen reality, and was Wu’s acceptance of the news surprising?
SR: I think Jim and David (Kouf and Greenwalt, the show runners) are really good at that slow burn. There’s a feeling in that you’re just waiting for another member to be brought into the fold and made aware of what’s going on and the world around them. Wu’s been a long time coming, and it’s good that we have another member that we can rely on and trust, and it changes the dynamic of the precinct and even the comaraderie of the characters. When we had Trubel (Jacqueline Toboni), it changed things up. And then there’s Adalind (Claire Coffee) and her wanting to join the gang, or not, depending on which side of the fence she’s on.
HC: Speaking of the gang … we’ve talked about it a bit, but Renard seems to be hiding something. And fans, or at least I, can’t really pinpoint what that is!
SR: [Laughs] Well, I think the writers just do a great job of writing for me, and I’m trying to walk this tightrope in where I don’t give much away. He’s a character that is always thinking on many levels at the same time. Most of the characters are pretty straightforward. What they say is what they think and what they feel, and that’s why they’re trustworthy, lovable characters. They don’t have an agenda. Renard is thinking about a lot of things at one time, and it’s really just a chess game for him. He’s got huge responsibilities as a police captain and as a royal. He’s dealing with police issues and municipal politics and world domination and Wesen rings and all of these. I think that’s why you’re constantly seeing the wheels turning and not knowing what he’s thinking. And I think it’s great! It’s great to keep the audience guessing.
HC: The “Grimm” crew interacts with that audience a lot by being active on social media. How has that changed your role as an actor?
SR: It doesn’t change my role as an actor, but it’s changed my role as a member of the community. We’re in a different time now where we have more interaction with our fans, and with other actors and people on the production side as well. You get to meet and have some interaction with just about anyone you want these days. It’s very interesting and it makes things seem a lot more personal, and the lines can get a little blurry in that you really don’t know one another. It’s a very misleading kind of connection. But it’s a wonderful way to get the word out about the show and the things that you’re working on.
HC: The “Grimm” cast even interacts with each other through social media though you work side-by-side. With the closeness of the cast and the seclusion of Portland, you all seem to have bonded in many ways.
SR: We had no anticipation that the show would have had the longevity that it has, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s definitely changed our relationship with the city and each other. We came into it with one step in, expecting that any day we won’t have a second season or third season. Once we saw there was longevity, we committed fully to the city. Being away from your home base makes you instantly feel like family, and the city has embraced the show. It’s been such a wonderful host, and as much as the city celebrates us, we really want to give back to the city. We got behind this charity set up for a local children’s hospital called Doernbecher with an endowment called the Grimmster Fund, which is the name of our fanbase. It’s there to help families in financial need.
HC: Filming so much away from your home, it seems that the cast has adopted Portland. What do you do in your off-time?
SR: It’s gone from being a job and project that we visit going back and forth to L.A. to being a life now. We film nine months a year, so it doesn’t give us much of an opportunity to do other things. This year, Silas [Weir Mitchell] and I have decided to do a play in our hiatus. We’re going to be doing a play here in Portland at the Portland Center Stage called “Three Days of Rain.” Its a three-hander — three actors — and we’re really excited to be back on stage. That, with our charity work — and this gala that we’re putting on has been taking up a lot of time, about a year in the making — and then, hopefully, back to filming another season of “Grimm.” We definitely have an active life up here. This is life, and we’ll lament the days that we have to pack up and go back. For now, it’s a beautiful place to be.
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