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ABC's Canadian-produced crime drama Rookie Blue recently concluded its fourth season with an action-packed two-part finale that included heartbreak, reunions, a shooting and the introduction of a brand new character: Wesley "Wes" Cole, played by Canadian actor Clé Bennett.
Bennett, a Toronto native, is a two-time Gemini Award-winning actor with a full resume. He's worked on a number of Canadian television shows, including Guns, Lost Girl, The Line and the highly acclaimed hit Flashpoint, in which he portrayed Rafik Rousseau, a member of the Strategic Response Unit—a role that earned him a nomination for an ACTRA award. Bennett has also appeared in a few films, such as Barney's Version, in which he worked alongside Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman. In addition, he's built an even more diverse career with his work as a stage actor, a director of a short film, an actor in a short film, and voice-over work for animated projects and video games.
TheCelebrityCafe.com had the opportunity to chat with Bennett about his new role in Rookie Blue, as well as other aspects of his career.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: What's it like being the new guy in a cast that has almost all been together since the beginning of the show?
Clé Bennett: It's actually quite easy because the entire production team, cast and crew, they welcomed me with such warmth. I've worked with some of them before on other productions and I know some of them just in personal life too, so it was actually like a reunion of sorts.
TCC: Which cast members do you know?
CB: I know Greg Smith, Travis, Charlotte, and I know Lyriq; I've worked with a lot of them.
TCC: Are you worried about negative fan reaction to your character's presence, since he's kind of a challenger to a character and relationship that has already built a fan base (Dov and Chloe)? If so, how will you handle that?
CB: I'm not concerned about it. I think it's always interesting to shake things up a bit. I knew that fans might view Wes as the big bad wolf coming in to steal Dov's girl, and I made a point to play the character in such a way that, [fans would say] "I can see how Chloe would date this guy," and ... it's interesting that when he realizes that Dov is dating Chloe, his reaction isn't confrontational. He's actually very practical of it, he's understanding of it. He actually questions whether or not this says more about his relationship with her or [Dov's]. So, he's a really practical guy. He understands that he hasn't seen her in a while and that it's practical for her to be dating another guy in the interim. However, he's very serious about reuniting with her and he feels that he missed out on spending time with her, he missed out on his opportunity to let her know how he felt about her before, and he feels this is his second chance to make something of that.
TCC: How do you compare yourself to Wesley Cole?
CB: When I act, I make a point of not inserting myself into my character. I actually prefer playing characters that have nothing to do with me. That's what acting is all about. Acting is about becoming somebody else that's not you. I don't really think about how Wes is similar to me. I just leave myself at the door and become Wes when I hear "action."
TCC: You've had a lot of roles as a law enforcement officer of some kind. Is there something you particularly like about that role or is it a coincidence?
CB: When I was a kid, my favorite thing to do was play cops, so it's really just the evolution of that. I used to play make-believe cops when I was a kid, and I'm playing make-believe cops as an adult.
TCC: You had the opportunity to play someone on the other side of the law with your guest role in the CW's Arrow, correct?
CB: I play the role of Xavier Reed, aka The Mayor, and he's this ruthless badass. In the aftermath of the quake (last season's finale of Arrow), his goal is to take over the Glades with sheer fire power. Those people who are familiar with the story line would know what I'm talking about.
TCC: So when will that episode air?
CB: Look for The Mayor to show up in episode four.
TCC: Which do you like playing better, the hero or the villain?
CB: I enjoy playing both equally. I just like playing interesting characters. I don't really judge my characters. A lot of people ask me if I prefer to play good guys or bad guys, and I always say to them, I don't really judge my characters. I like to look at the motivations behind why my characters do what they do. But then again, I have a thing for playing, I guess you'd call them good guys who get caught up in bad situations that make them have to do bad things.
TCC: How do you feel about film versus television, given that you've experienced both mediums?
CB : I don't differentiate between film and television at all. I see them both as just acting on screen.
TCC: Who has been one of your favorite people to work with so far and why?
CB: Oh wow, I don't know, I've had so many wonderful experiences on many sets, it's sort of hard to say who my favorite person to work with is.
TCC: Is there anyone in particular who inspired you when you were younger?
CB: There's sooo many different actors that I've been inspired by. Anybody who's ever inspired me to imitate them at recess or imitate them in the mirror. Those are my inspiration, those are the guys I looked up to.
TCC: Is there anyone in particular you'd want to work with in the future?
CB: The list is so long. There's so many different actors that I look at, that I'm inspired by for so many different things.
TCC: You've done a variety of different projects—from television and film to shorts, to stage acting, and more. Is there a specific medium you enjoy the most?
CB: No, I mean, I love acting in general, but do I prefer acting on stage or acting on screen? I love the exhilaration of acting in front of a live audience because you have that immediate feedback from the audience, but I also really appreciate the subtlety that the camera demands of you. You can't fake anything on camera, and I appreciate the challenge of that.
TCC: What drives you to take on such a variety of work?
CB: I just love the challenge of portraying different characters. When I was a little kid I used to love to create, I had this cardboard fridge box and I would turn it into a spaceship or a fire truck or an army base. I was always creating different characters. I mean you're playing by yourself, often times you have to play all characters. So it's just an evolution of that. The actors that I admire are the ones that have the biggest ranges, that are able to slip out of themselves and become chameleon-like.
TCC: Many of the television programs you've appeared in are Canadian programs. From your perspective, are there any differences between the Canadian and American television markets? What about the fans?
CB: I don't think there is a difference really. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
TCC: If you had to point to a particular role as one of the most pivotal or significant to you, what would it be?
CB: I loved playing Carlos on The Line, Carlos was a complex, multi-dimensional character with big problems and that's definitely my favorite kind of character to play.
TCC: What do you have planned for the future?
CB: Well, I'm currently working on some new projects and then I have a few others that I'm unable to mention right now, but in the short term, as I mentioned, you can look for me to appear as Xavier Reed, aka The Mayor, on Arrow, and look forward to seeing me on season five of Rookie Blue, as well as the voice of 2-Bit in the animated series Mother Up.
TCC: And you're working on a CBC show, Murdoch Mysteries?
CB: I play a character by the name of Ozzy Hughes, who's a ragtime musician who plays in a travelling band called the Jubilee Singers and upon their arrival in Toronto for a limited engagement, their band leader's murdered and then the mystery begins. I can't really delve into it otherwise.
While fans have to wait until next year when "Rookie Blue" returns to see Clé Bennett as Wesley Cole, he can be spotted in the aforementioned, and other projects in the meantime. At the end of the conversation, Bennett echoed sentiments of the show's fans: He is excited to see what will happen in season five of "Rookie Blue."
Image courtesy of: Sasha Stoltz Publicity and Management