Cross Fit: Interview with Motive's Warren Christie

By , Contributor

CTV/Bell Media

Warren Christie as Sergeant Mark Cross

Changing of the guard — it happens all the time in the workplace when a new boss takes over the reins. In season two of the Canadian police procedural TV drama Motive, Vancouver city police Detective Angie Flynn and her partner Detective Oscar Vega along with their colleagues wish good luck to their newly promoted supervising officer Staff Sergeant Boyd Bloom, while at the same time welcoming on board his replacement, Sergeant Mark Cross. Although Cross may be a new face to everyone in the office, with the exception of Angie, the actor playing him, Warren Christie, is certainly no stranger to TV viewers, having most recently spent two seasons fighting crime of a different kind as Cameron Hicks in the Syfy series Alphas. For the actor, booking his role on Motive was very much a homecoming in more ways than one.

“I’ve lived in Vancouver for the past 12 years but I don’t spend a great deal of time working there,” says Christie. “It just so happened I was home when the whole Motive opportunity began to unfold for me. I’d be lying if I said I knew a ton about the show at the time. I’d heard about it, so I began watching a little bit of the series and was immediately impressed with how it was shot along with the work being done by Kristin Lehman [Angie Flynn], Louis Ferreira [Oscar Vega] and the rest of the cast. I also liked the show’s overall concept, in that each episode starts out by introducing the victim as well as the killer. I thought, ‘That’s a new take on police procedurals.’

“From there, it was a matter of seeing if I’d be the right fit for the Cross role. I had to [screen] test like everyone else, and it came down to me and a couple of other actors. Thankfully at the end of the day when the dust settled, they chose me.

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“It’s an interesting situation anytime you join a show that’s already been going for a season or more. Everyone, the cast and crew, is one big family; they all know each other and have established a real comfort zone when it comes to the work. So you feel like the new kid in school. You’re nervous—at least I am—anytime you start a new project because you’re figuring things out and trying to fit in. However, any nerves I might have felt with Motive subsided very quickly because everyone was so friendly and welcoming. The producers are all great, and Kristin and I had previously crossed paths. I’d also met Louie before as well as Brendan Penny [Detective Brian Lucas] and Lauren Holly [Dr. Betty Rogers] was on season two of Alphas, so it was made really comfortable for me right off the bat. The crew is incredible, too. They’re fun, they’re fast, they’re good, and we enjoy each other’s company.

“As far as the Mark Cross character and his whole storyline, that was an interesting [acting] challenge for me, because the show’s producers and writers basically knew what they wanted to do with Mark, but we were also figuring out stuff about him as we went along. His introduction in my first episode was great. My first scene was literally Mark being introduced to everyone in the bullpen. We actually ended up doing an adjustment to it where Roger Cross [Sergeant Boyd Bloom] came in and we had a nice passing of the baton, if you want to call it that, between our two characters. So it was a wonderful start for me as well as Mark Cross.”

In Motive’s season two opener "Raw Deal," Detectives Flynn and Vega along with their colleagues arrive at a motel to investigate what appears to be a suicide. However, a closer examination of the body reveals that the victim did not act alone and that it was, in fact, a murder. As the investigation unfolds, Mark Cross assures the team that he is not there to shake things up and it will be business as usual, but as the man in charge, it is his prerogative to offer opinions as he sees fit. This does not sit especially well with Angie, who just happens to be Mark’s former lover. In order to get the job done, though, they must learn how to work together while he integrates himself into the running of things.

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“One of my favorite scenes from this season is, again, from my first day of work,” recalls Christie. “My character and Kristin’s had this one quick little scene together where we get a big pop of understanding about these two individuals very quickly. We were fortunate enough to really nail down a lot of Mark’s and Angie’s history and you get it in this very short scene, which was a lot of fun to shoot.

“Mark is a very driven guy and believes that the end justifies the means,” continues the actor. “You see that start to come out as the season goes along, but you also have to understand that he’s sort of a fish out of water with this job. For him, this is a stepping stone to where he ultimately wants to get to in his profession, but it’s a new position that he still has to learn. The dynamic between Mark and the other characters is complicated. We’ll learn he has a bit of a past with Angie, and there’s a curious dynamic with him and Oscar, too. Technically, he should have gotten this promotion instead of Mark. Suddenly, Oscar has this younger guy who’s his superior officer and who hasn’t necessarily put in the time to get to where he is. All of this made for some interesting situations and allowed us as actors to play off one another on screen in some really neat ways.

“I think from the beginning we see Mark grow into this promotion. Again, this is a new position that he hasn’t necessarily been groomed for. So he’s thrust into this job where he has to act a certain way, but you’re also talking about a guy who just spent two years working undercover. So his greatest attribute is being able to very quickly assess the situation and be who he needs to be. That’s both good and bad in this new position that he has and with what’s going on around him. Like I said, though, we see Mark grow into the job as well as into trusting the relationships that he has with both Angie and Oscar. That, in turn, helps with the development of all these characters working together as a team. Everything evolves nicely from the beginning to the end of the season, and then we have an overlying storyline involving my character that comes to a big culmination in the season finale.”

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The overlying storyline that Christie just spoke of involves a new recurring character this season on Motive, Samantha Turner, who is played by the actor’s former Alphas co-star, actress Laura Mennell. “I knew Laura before Alphas, and then we spent two years working very closely together on that show, no pun intended, in a variety of situations,” he says. “So we’re friends and it’s always a pleasure to work with Laura because she’s one of the nicest people I have ever been around. On top of that, we have a comfort level where she and I are able to just pick up where we left off and immediately start working with one another again. So having her come onto Motive was a real plus.”

In what ways does the actor feel his Alphas character differs to the one he plays on Motive? “On Alphas it was a very physical role and involved a lot of action stuff, which I absolutely love,” notes Christie. “Mark Cross is somewhat of an opposite type of character. Yes, he also has an edge to him as well as a history, but in Motive the stakes are slightly more, I want to say almost cerebral, because there’s not a lot of action to our story. This is about people examining evidence and who work together in an effort to figure a case out. So there’s a very different sort of spin to things. I have a ball with the stunts, running around, shooting guns and getting to act like a big kid, but with Motive there were other things required of me as an actor. As I mentioned, the season finale gave me a ton of amazing things to do and is a great ending to a season that, to be totally honest, I was really delighted to be a part of.”

While filming season two of Motive, Christie had the opportunity to work on a TV pilot called Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, which was recently picked up as a series by the Bravo network.

“The people at Motive were kind enough to let me go and do a few days of work on that project,” says the actor. “It stars Lisa Edelstein, who people will know from House M.D. Funnily enough, the two of us were doing an episode of Castle together only a couple of months before we began shooting this pilot. Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce is really funny as well as beautifully written and Lisa is brilliant in it. I think it’s going to do quite well for the network, and as long as there aren’t any scheduling conflicts, and, of course, if they want me back, I’m looking forward to doing a little more work on that show.”

Motive currently airs Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST/PST on Canada's CTV Network. Please note, all photos above copyright of CTV/Bell Media.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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