Exclusive: Dillon Casey Discusses "Nikita"

Exclusive Interview with Dillon Casey of Nikita
Interview by Jamie Ruby

Written by Jamie Ruby

Dillon CaseyDillon Casey is a Canadian American actor, who currently stars as Sean Pierce, an army Special Ops officer on the CW's Nikita, which is filmed in Toronto. Casey is also trained in martial arts, for which he received a black belt, and has his own production company with his brothers, Taryn Leigh Films.

The actor recently sat down for an exclusive interview with SciFi Vision to talk about working on Nikita.

Dillon Casey
Photo: Denise Grant
Casey did not expect to get a role on Nikita. "I had been living in L.A. for the last three years, and I'm originally from Toronto. So I was in L.A. for pilot season for, you know, months. And I got one job, like a guest star here, and then a commercial – just barely keeping afloat.

"My dad had planned this trip to go to Mt. Kilimanjaro, which was amazing, and usually as an actor you can't plan anything, because you never know what you're going to miss out on – but this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I figured, "Screw it, I'm just going to go and I don't care."

"I went back to Toronto to get my visa and all that settled up, and then got a call from my manager telling me, "Oh, by the way, there's this part on Nikita that we want you to go in for. I know you're not going to be around, but just in case."

"I went into this audition really relaxed, thinking, "I don't even want this part." And of course that's when you get parts as an actor, when stop caring so much. That, and when you plan something else.

"So not a bad problem to have, I got the part and didn't go on my trip - it ended up working out really well. And after all was said and done – I'm very happy that I got the part."

Casey plays a regular on Nikita. "I play a character Sean Pierce who is a Navy SEAL, recruited by his mother to go to Division and take down Nikita and retrieve the black box.

"...Basically he's brought into this underground, very covert government operation that trains assassins. He's under the impression that it's a good operation that just needs some cleaning up. He thinks that he's working for the good guys and he thinks that Nikita is a traitor who needs to be taken down. Slowly, however, he's starting to realize that this Division is actually pretty corrupt and this Nikita might not be so bad after all. Unfortunately, he's under the impression that Nikita wants to take out his mother, so he's torn between trying to protect his mother and trying to do what's best for his country."

Casey watched the American film Point of No Return, which was based on the original French film La Femme Nikita and liked the concept, then proceeded to get caught up on the CW series to get the tone of series and figure out where his character comes in.

The actor also gets inspiration from other sources. "I guess I try to take it from pieces of myself that would fit in with this type of guy. I read every single book I could get my hands on that had the words "Navy SEAL" in the title or was about Navy SEALs in some way. I then just let that information filter through me when I'm reading the scripts, and whatever comes out, comes out."

According to Casey, sometimes the atmosphere can be intense while working on the series. "There are moments when it can be really intense trying to get the best shots of a fight scene or an intense action scene, because it can be hard to stay in the mind state of these [characters]. It can be exhausting, because the stakes on the show are always so high. You can be so tired from not sleeping the night before, and just want to finish this shot and go back to your trailer and take a nap, but you can't do that, you always have to be in that mode of "adrenaline." There are times when it can be really intense, but at the same time, with high tension anything can become funny or ridiculous, so there are these points of self-aweareness, where a life and death situation on camera can become hilarious. I guess it's a kind of delirium that comes with the territory. The whole thing is a bonding experience. Everybody's working their asses off so you better to the same – not for your sake, but for theirs."

Casey finds some challenges in his role on the series. "[The] most challenging I'd say is making sure that I can represent this conflict that Sean has - I mean, he's a Navy SEAL, right? And to become a Navy SEAL you're a very patriotic person and you have to be a little "crazy" to go through the training that these guys go through. The conflict comes from trying to align "do what's best for my country" and "protect my mother." Then there's also Alex, who he definitely cares very strongly about. He's trying to balance these loyalties which are all at odds with each other. My feeling is that he has to be pragmatic – prioritize, but that's not easy for him. I just hope that's coming across and I'm doing justice to the type of man I'm representing.

"Also I'd say just the fact that on any given day you'll be handed some gun that you've never touched before - I'm not really into guns - and I'll be handed some sniper rifle and expected to know how to use it in ten minutes. That type of stuff is challenging, for sure."

Dillon Casey
Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg
©2011 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Casey had to figure out most about the weapons himself at the beginning of his job, without a lot of help. "Literally I got the part and I was on the set two days later. I think that a bunch of the other cast went to the gun range and kind of figured out how to use it, how to use a gun so they could look like pros. But me, they just handed me a gun five minutes before the take and they were like, "Here's how you shoot it; here's how you reload."

"I was up in Northern Ontario, just outside of Toronto, the other day. It was the first take, seven o'clock in the morning, this guy, Pete 'Guns' we call him, hands me this huge sniper rifle, shows me how to use it. He's like, "You have to set it up here; this is how you reload it; this is where you aim from." All this stuff, it's a really complicated gun; none of this stuff is easy. Five minutes later they say "Action!" and I'm just supposed to go. And you really don't have a choice; you have to do it and just hope that it looks good...You never know, actually. Sometimes they'll say, "Oh, that's great," because they don't have time to do another one (Laughs). Luckily the editors are on our side making us look good. They cut out all the bad stuff."

Casey, however, loves it. "My favorite part is also the most chalenging part, I'd say. My favorite part is how I get to do stuff on the show that I never would have expected to do in my life.

"I was in Hamilton, which is a city outside of Toronto, at like three o'clock in the morning, shooting a real gun at a real helicopter that was flying off in the distance. I've never even been that close to a helicopter and never shot a gun before this show. So when it was happening, it was just surreal. And the fact that it's challenging and you've got to make it look good, that just makes it all part of the fun.

"...It's amazing. I remember after I did that take, the sound guy came up to me and was like, "Can you believe you just did that? This is amazing." I was like, "Yeah, this is pretty cool." "

The actor may get to shoot a lot of cool weapons, but he hasn't done many actual stunts. "I haven't gotten to do too many stunts. We've done a few fight scenes where of course I get my ass kicked by a girl, that always happens to me on this show (laughs). I do as much as they'll let me do, but there's always a point where they want to bring in the stunt guy, because if I get hurt, then I guess they have to rearrange the whole shoot. The stunt guys are also much better at doing stunts than I am."

Casey has also had another role on the CW – on The Vampire Diaries. "That was a lot of fun. It was cool going back to see Nina Dobrov, who I worked with a long time ago on a Lifetime movie (Too Young to Marry). It was really nice seeing her in her element: she's just on a rocket to success right now, and it was great hanging out with her while she still remembers me.

"It's sort of the first time I've been on a show that was already successful, because when you're working in Canadian television, you're always on the verge of cancellation and nobody even knows that your show exists. It was a fun experience, I got to be a vampire and suspend from the ceiling...then tortured and killed...For some reason, I'm always in these shows where people want to kill me or beat me up (laughs)."

Casey used to have a hard time watching his acting back, but he doesn't mind it now. "I don't love it but I also don't mind watching myself. I used to be one of those people who couldn't sit in the same room if something that I was doing was on TV - I couldn't be in the same room as the other people watching it. But now I have learned to enjoy it because I've already done it; there's nothing I can do about it now, let's see how people react to it. When you're doing film and television you don't get the round of applause at the end, sort of validation when you get to watch it with other people and [see] if they enjoy it or not. The problem that I, and a lot of actors have, is that I always see the negatives when I watch myself, never the positives, but you have to learn how to see your performance in order to improve upon what you're doing."

Looking to the future, Casey isn't sure if he will ever step behind the camera for a project. "Just watching directors, they're there working their asses off. I don't know if I'd want to work that hard. I guess I'm really just interested in acting right now, and getting as good at that as I can possibly be, but I guess at some point I would love to try it all - directing, producing. I do a little writing with my brothers, who are professional writers in Toronto - we have a production company also, but they don't ever let me direct (Laughs)."

Casey, however, does have another acting project coming out with the film The Vow. "It's a love story in the vein of The Notebook. It's between Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams.

"It's about a girl (Rachel McAdams) who is about to get married to a lawyer (Scott Speedman). He is sort of the ideal guy your parents would like you to marry: the rich lawyer, nice guy, the safe choice...But something about him doesn't sit right with her...

Dillon Casey
Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg
©2011 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
"Then she meets this fun, Bohemian artist (Channing Tatum) who throws a curveball into her life. She falls in love with him and ends up marrying him, but after she marries him - it's all based on a true story, actually - she gets in a car accident, gets amnesia and forgets ever meeting him...Channing Tatum then has to win her back.

"I play her sister's fiancé, who's also the lawyer type. My relationship with her sister mirrors the decision she now needs to make: "Do I want to have that life that my sister chose, or do I want to go with this artist who claims we are in love?" And it goes from there.

"The cast is stacked. It's got Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams. Pretty amazing."

Casey also has a web series on Funny or Die called "Living in L.A. with Dillon Casey." It's a satire, which is painfully close to the truth, of what it's really like to try to be an actor in L.A."

The actor also has a production company with his brothers. You can check out his website www.caseybrothers.ca.

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