Louis Ferreira as Motive's Detective Oscar Vega
For the past few years, actor Louis Ferreira has kept busy adding to his already long and impressive list of feature film and TV credits. As Colonel Everett Young on SGU Stargate Universe, he risked his own life countless times in order to save others, while on Breaking Bad, the actor engaged in onscreen banter with series lead Bryan Cranston (which included the memorable “say my name” scene), and playing yet another military officer, Colonel Hall, he stirred up some trouble in Primeval: New World. Currently, Ferreira is helping get criminals off the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia as Police Detective Oscar Vega in the hit CTV police procedural drama Motive. Funnily enough, his role in this series came about as a result of his personal life overlapping with his professional one.
“While I was in Vancouver doing Stargate Universe, my son was living with me and going to school there,” says Ferreira. “When the series ended, we came back down to Los Angeles, and after falling in love with Vancouver and making friends there, my 17-year-old son said to me, ‘Dad, I want to go back to Vancouver and be with my friends.’ Well, I would have been a horrible father if I stopped him from doing what he wanted to do at that point, so I supported him in that. However, when he left home, I went through what I guess would be some version of empty nest syndrome. I was on my own and, no word of a lie, I was really struggling. I thought, ‘Dear God, please get me another job in Vancouver,’ because in my heart of hearts I always wanted to be with my son until he was 20. That was just a goal that I’d set for myself.
“Sure enough, the opportunity came up for Motive, and how it came up was that John Lenic, who was one of the producers on SGU, told me about this show he was working on called Motive and the character of Oscar Vega. So I went in for an audition, everything went well, they liked me and I was on the list, but they weren’t quite sure if I was the right vibe or the right fit. I eventually had a callback to do a test read with the three actresses who were trying out for the lead of the show, including Kristin Lehman. On that day, there was a mix-up and Kristin was given the wrong [audition] sides by mistake. Of course, she got a little panicky, like any of us would, and I said to John, ‘Put me in a room with her and we’ll go through the material together. When we’re ready, we’ll do it together.’
“I had never met Kristin before, but after going through the material with her, I said, ‘If there was a camera in that corner right now, they [the producers] would see that this is the correct pairing for the particular dynamic of this show.’ Here was Kristin playing a strong female character who works from the gut, and I’m playing her sort of calm, rock-steady presence. It was weird, because that’s not really me, but in this case it worked. It was almost a play on the typical gender reversal, where my character was in touch with the side of himself that is calming. So that’s how I read the scenes with Kristin and played Oscar as this man who is standing behind and supporting the Angie Flynn character. The interesting thing is that during the initial audition process, the show was far more character-driven, but it then became a procedural piece, which sort of stunned us. However, because Kristin and I focused on and expounded on that dynamic between our two characters, it stuck, and people felt it. I think that’s why amidst Motive’s procedural element, there’s still that solid relationship or bond between Kristin’s and my character.
“After I did that read-through with Kristin, I heard that she had been cast, which didn’t surprise me at all, but there was no news for me regarding Oscar. I figured it was dead for me, especially when they began seeing other actors for the role. So I went off to Toronto to do a guest spot on [the TV series] Rookie Blue, and out of the blue, no pun intended, I received a phone call that they wanted me for Motive, which was literally starting production the next week.”
In the Motive season one opener, "Creeping Tom," Vancouver police Detectives Angie Flynn and Oscar Vega investigate the murder of a popular high school teacher. This episode also introduces rookie detective Brian Lucas (Brendan Penny) as well as the team’s boss, Staff Sergeant Boyd Bloom (Roger Cross), and lead medical examiner Dr. Betty Rogers (Lauren Holly). Audiences are also immediately made aware of the fact that this is not your typical police procedural, in that both the killer and victim are identified to viewers only in the opening teaser. Flynn and her fellow detectives must then connect all the dots and discover what brought the perpetrator and the victim together. A veteran when it comes to working as a series regular, Ferreira felt right at home from his first day on the Motive set.
“Not only did I realize how lucky I was to be working, but also that I was working with Kristin,” recalls the actor. “She’s just a dream to work with, as are the entire cast and crew, but her and I work together just about every day, and the partnership as well as friendship we have is incredible and defies all the sort of stereotypical stuff that doesn’t exist on this set. Kristin is such a humble, caring, giving and down-to-earth human being and all about the work. I have so much respect for her. As for the crew, a lot of them are from Stargate, so I immediately felt comfortable with this TV family.
“With my character of Oscar Vega, the biggest challenge for me was the adjustment of going, as I spoke of before, from a character-driven piece and a dramedy in the nature of Moonlighting or Castle, to more of a procedural-type story. Beyond that, the core aspect of Vega that I wanted to really explore was that aspect of when you arrive at a place in your life where you operate from a place of simplicity and no longer have anything to prove. You realize life is short and you’ve been humbled and appreciate every day. It’s not about trying to entertain and make anyone particularly like you. It starts with liking yourself and then understanding that because of that, you can be comfortable in any situation that you happen to be in.
“There is a book called The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom written by don Miguel Ruiz, and the four agreements are: be impeccable with your work, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. I think of this book as my ‘bible,’ and I shared it with the Motive writers because it’s very important for me to have a sense of me, Louis, in the roles I play, including Oscar Vega. I’m very heated, very passionate and can be extreme, but this is a character who’s a very grounded, centered, calm and loving presence in someone's life. Oscar comes from money and was supposed to be a lawyer, but he went against his family. Before becoming a detective, he went into the priesthood, so there’s this very spiritual aspect to him that he still explores. After all, we’re all works in progress, right?
“So for me, trusting that simplicity in my performance was not an easy thing. Ten or 15 years ago, if I saw someone playing Oscar Vega like that I would have been like, ‘That guy is doing nothing. How can he be an actor?’ So taking that simplistic journey is a vulnerable thing to do, but I continue to embrace that challenge and, again, we definitely had to make a huge adjustment going from what we thought was going to be one type of TV show to a different type of show. My job, though, is to take what the show’s creators give me and turn in the best performance possible. Honestly, I have to say that those in charge of Motive have executed it so well on many levels. This [second] season, Warren Christie has joined us [his character of Sergeant Mark Cross replaces a newly-promoted Boyd Bloom as team leader], and he is a beautiful human being in every way. His character and Angie Flynn had a relationship in the past, something that Oscar quickly picks up on, and the minute that Mark Cross steps on screen, there is this ripple effect to the character dynamics that pre-existed and that is fun to watch.”
Despite having performed in a variety of genres, from comedy to drama, Motive is Ferreira’s first real stab at doing a procedural show, and he is enjoying the opportunity to stretch his acting muscles in such a direction. “I’ve always been keen to explore and do different things. I mean, I pray that I can do a musical before I end this career of mine,” he says. “I like having a checklist or wish list of the different things I’ve done as an actor, and whatever is still left on that list are things I hope to eventually cross off.
“Motive is one of those things that I have crossed off, having not done anything like it before, and I’m so fortunate to have such an opportunity. Again, I have such admiration for Kristin Lehman. I just feel like we’re a good team, and that comes from us as actors as well as our characters sharing a friendship and mutual respect. Kristin and I have sort of had these parallel careers, and we’ve come together at a time in our lives when we both wanted to be in Vancouver for the same reasons. So there’s been no downside here whatsoever. We’re all proud of the show we’re making and we just want it to continue in a direction that feels like growth,” enthuses Ferreira.
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.