With season two of ABC's Canadian import Rookie Blueon the way in just about a month - it's set to premiere on June 23, subject to being bumped by the network's coverage of the NBA Finals - actress Enuka Okuma, who plays rookie cop Traci Nash, dropped by to chat about working on the cop drama and where her character may be headed next.
What originally drew you to the role of Traci?
It came around just as any job comes around; I went and auditioned. But being one of the five in an ensemble cast is really appealing to me, and I'm from Canada, so being able to come home to work was appealing too. And I love the people I get to work with. It's just kind of a win-win-win situation.
How much training did you get for the role? One of my huge pet peeves is police series where you can tell the actors aren't as well prepared for the job as they could have been.
Oh, Lord. We had one day. Season one, we had one day. We had some really great officers come in and talk to us. They taught us very quickly. Huge learning curve that day. It was all kind of within this one five-hour stretch. But what's interesting is, obviously you can't learn it that quickly but it was perfectly fine because we're rookies. We're not supposed to know what we're doing. When you see that fear on our faces, it's genuine fear.
Where is Traci headed in this second season? That rookie label has to come off at some point, right?
It does and it doesn't. Certainly we've been on the force a year but we're still screwing up. We're still insecure and scared. But we're just taking those steps a little bit faster and standing a little bit taller. My character, she laid low in season one, but season two she's starting to show she wants to be more than just a cop. There's still all the bed-hopping going on. There's a crime every week but everyone wants to know who's going to end up with who.
What sets this show apart from all the other cop shows that we see each TV season?
I think it's pretty obvious that with us, we're just as concerned with the crime as we are with the relationships of these people. We get to see their relationships, squabbles and fights. It's really - you can get really invested in our characters. A lot of people who are looking for a gritty cop show watch our show and don't know what to make of it, because it's not a typical cop show at all. They said at the beginning that it's compared to Grey's Anatomy, in that you're just as concerned with how they're handling it personally.
How much has this role changed or informed how you personally see police officers? Are you thinking a little more like one?
Most definitely it's changed how I see them. They're the law, they're outside of you for the most part. Once I realized what it actually takes to do their job, I have such respect for them now. I have a good friend of mine whose husband is a police officer and she's a social worker, so they really shed light on the fact that their sense of humor is grisly and sick, because they have to keep it light if only to survive emotionally. My character is a single mom, so to deal with what she deals with, I love and respect and admire my character. These people are heroes.
One of the officers even said to us, as a cop you can't turn off that sixth sense that you have, which is always being aware of your surroundings. That has stayed with me.
Allow me to geek out for a second: you played Marika, the unknowing girlfriend of the villain, in the seventh season of 24. What was that experience like?
My fiancee and I, when we first moved to LA, we would rent DVDs of 24 and we would be watching [at] three, four o'clock in the morning. I remember saying, "I want to do this show." It's one of my favorite shows to actually be on, especially because the experience was great. I can't wait for the movie. How are they going to do the concept?
You're also pretty well known for your voice acting in anime projects like Dragon Ball Z.
That's one of the best gigs ever. Nobody's looking at you. You can just have fun. I haven't done a cartoon in a long time, but I have a theater background, so it's just fun to play larger than my characters.
You've recently moved into directing and writing (with the short "Cookie"). What made you interested in doing that, and how was that experience for you?
It was really fun. It was something that I've always wanted to do. There's actually no reason that it happened at the time that it did. I just decided that "one day" could be today. It was the best thing, and I can't wait to move into doing bigger projects. We premiered at Newport Beach Festival, and we played at Catalina, and next week it's Toronto. I'm pretty happy with the film and hoping to keep going.
Is there anything else you'd particularly like to tackle in the future?
I just want to keep challenging and doing bigger stuff. I got to work with Tom Hanks last year in Larry Crowne, and I loved that experience. Being around these uber-professionals is exactly the company I want to be in.
Do you have a dream role out there?
I feel like I haven't found it yet, that's for sure. Anybody that's had to overcome huge adversity - I think that would be pretty amazing. Anything that goes through like a lifetime. That's something that I think would be really hard to do.
What are some of your favorite TV shows?
I'm a huge True Blood fan. I love Nurse Jackie. I was watching Boardwalk Empire, and I'm into Game of Thrones right now. I love HBO. I'm a big fan of those cable shows. Don't get me wrong, I love ABC too, but I'm a huge cable fan.
My thanks to Enuka Okuma for this interview! Check her out when Rookie Blue returns to ABC on Thursday, June 23 at 10 PM ET/PT.