Actor is ‘Grimm’ on TV, but happy in real life
Sasha Roiz talks about philanthropy, his TV fantasy and the future.
Actors are used to living on the move, going where the roles take them. “We’re all itinerant workers moving around the country and the world. I love that and embrace it,” Sasha Roiz tells From The Grapevine.
The actor was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, grew up in Montreal, Canada, studied theater in London and has lived in Los Angeles and Vancouver for work. But five years ago, he was cast as police captain Sean Renard in the NBC fantasy series “Grimm,” which shoots in Portland, Oregon.
He and his castmates “are so deeply involved and entrenched in the city,” says Roiz, who established the Grimmster Endowment at the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. They recently raised $386,000 at a fundraiser, a total of $750,000 in two years. “It’s been a real passion project. The whole cast is involved. We’re all in love with the city and we want to give back,” he says, noting that doing so “keeps me busy and grounded.”
The son of engineers, Roiz lived in Israel until he was 6 but still has vivid memories of the “smells, feeling and flavors” of the country. He hopes to make a return visit this year with his brother. “I think when you’re taken from what you know as a child, you hold onto those memories more firmly as an adult,” he says.
Roiz, whose previous credits include the films "The Day After Tomorrow," "16 Blocks” and “Pompeii,” and the TV series “Caprica” and “Warehouse 13,” was drawn to Renard because he loves complicated characters. "It was a departure from the stuff I knew," he reveals. In a world populated by mythical beasts, Renard is descended from a Hexenbiest (witch) and is part royal, which has meant playing everything from demonic possession to wild love scenes – "all these things that never cease to surprise and amaze me. That’s the great thing about fantasy. You can come back from the dead, and I have.”
Roiz loves that Renard still keeps the audience guessing about his loyalties. "He keeps me guessing," admits Roiz. "He walks both sides of the fence. I love characters like that, that remain ambivalent and you can’t quite figure them out.”
In the 100th episode airing March 11, some great mythology and story lines will be brought back, and Renard will face a crisis: “The political campaign that he’s a part of takes a very dark turn quickly leaves him in an interesting position where he has to make some decisions about his loyalties,” Roiz hints.
Always interested in acting, he pursued it in earnest after a few years as a drummer in the rock band Tricky Woo. “I wanted to be a theater actor. I really had no intention of being in TV or film,” says Roiz. But when he moved to Toronto, roles came quickly, and he reassessed. Some of his favorite pre-“Grimm” roles are Sam Adama in “Caprica,” a guest part in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and playing “a badass with a sword” in “Pompeii.” Last summer, he got to return to his theater roots when he and “Grimm” co-star Silas Weir Mitchell performed a play in Portland.
He has no concrete plans for this summer’s break, but between his charity work and other interests, he has a lot to keep him busy. “I am a very avid traveler and outdoors guy,” says Roiz, noting that Portland is wonderful for nature lovers. “I just came back from Africa, where I hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro. I love travel photography and post on Instagram. I like being active and I work out a lot. The show keeps me in line because I’m featured naked frequently. I have a very strict diet when I need to.”
He loves being part of a long-running series, and hopes to continue participating in interesting projects in the future as “a working actor who’s respected by his peers. I’m happy to be ‘that guy from that thing’ rather than have people know me by name. That’s more than enough,” he says.
Off camera, the 42-year-old actor’s goals include getting married and having kids. “I put it on ice for a long time for career and I want to experience that,” he says. “That’s on my personal to-do list.”
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