I Spy: Interview with Nikita's Dillon Casey

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Denise Grant/Platform PR

Actor Dillon Casey

Handsome, smart, loyal, a protector and a crack shot — that in a nutshell describes Nikita’s Sean Pierce. An ex-Special Forces soldier, he is part of a team of operatives hunting for Nikita, a rogue spy and assassin whose self-appointed mission is to bring down a top secret government agency called the Division. Having joined Nikita in its second season, actor Dillon Casey has fit perfectly into Sean Pierce’s spy shoes. Oddly enough this role is one that almost slipped through his fingers.

“I’d actually auditioned a couple of times for Nikita, and this latest audition was one that I wasn’t initially going to do,” recalls Casey. “It was my third pilot season in Los Angeles, and my dad had planned this incredible trip to Mount Kilimanjaro. I decided, ‘You know what, I’m going to go on this trip.’ When you’re an actor it’s very tough to plan anything at all, so sometimes you just need to go for it.

“So I told my dad I’d be going. In the meantime I went back to Toronto and while I was there my manager called to tell me that there was this part in Nikita that he thought I’d be perfect for. Even though I wasn’t going to be around, he still wanted me to read for it just in case. Because I wanted so much to go on this trip, I went into the audition relaxed and had convinced myself I didn’t really want the part anyway. So I did my thing and it all just clicked. When I walked out of the audition room I knew that I had the part and wouldn’t be going on that trip.”

In Nikita‘s season two opener “Game Change,” Nikita (Maggie Q) and Michael (Shane West) devise a plan to take down the Division along with Oversight, the group of U.S. government officials that controls its operations. Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), now a free agent, agrees to work for the Division in exchange for its help to find Sergei Semak (Peter J. Lucas), the man behind her family’s assassination. Meanwhile, Oversight assigns Sean Pierce (Dillon Casey) to keep an eye on Amanda (Melinda Clarke), who has been promoted to the Division’s new commander. Casey sums up his first day of work on the Nikita set in one word.

“Sweat, and lots of it,” he says with a chuckle. “It was 40 degrees Celsius in Toronto, we were shooting in a warehouse with no air conditioning, and I was ridiculously nervous. I wanted to please everyone, do the right thing and not get fired, which are all things you don’t want to have on your mind when you’re an actor. I was the new guy and just wanted to get through the day.

“My first episode really was trial by fire — at least that’s what it felt like to me. I got the part and two days later I was on set shooting a scene with Lyndsy Fonseca and Melinda Clarke, two people I had seen in films as well on television and now suddenly I was working with them. The next day I arrived at work, was handed a gun, quickly shown how to use it, and then the director yelled, ‘Action!’ I was expected to look like a Navy SEAL and shoot that gun. So it was just a matter of having to come to terms with the fact that, holy crap, I’m working on this TV show and I’d better step up my game.”

He may be a highly trained agent, but Sean is quickly finding that his professional life is not as cut and dried as his superiors would like him to think. “My character is a Navy SEAL, so he’s mission-oriented and the type of guy who take orders,” explains Casey. “He’s also a very patriotic as well as honorable individual, and that’s where a great deal of conflict comes into play for him. Sean is torn between protecting his mother (Senator Madeline Pierce, played by Alberta Watson) and doing what’s right for his country and what’s right in general. He’s discovering that his mother is tied up in a number of potentially corrupt situations, and he’s basically torn between protecting her along with Alex, who he’s developing very strong feelings for. On top of that, there’s the little matter of taking down Nikita, who he’s beginning to figure out may actually be a good guy.

“Those conflicts are probably my biggest acting challenges with Sean because I want to make sure that I’m getting that conflict across to the audience. He first came into the Division not trusting anyone, especially Alex, and wanting to intimidate as well as scare people and make sure they’re doing their jobs. Now, however, he’s seeing it’s not so black and white. That’s made him vulnerable, which isn’t a very natural thing for Sean. And by vulnerable, I mean that he’s revealed his feelings about Alex to Amanda, who’s a direct enemy of his and someone he also works very closely with. Once you reveal your emotions, you are basically revealing a weakness, too. That has put Sean is in a very precarious position and has been improvising along the way in order to compensate.”

While Sean’s relationships may be further complicating his life, they are also helping flesh out the character, which Casey could not be more pleased about. “I love that the show’s writers are taking their time developing Sean’s relationships, so even now you’re still not quite sure where he stands,” says the actor. “I think the only person you can be sure about with him is his mother. Sean will do whatever it takes to protect her. No matter what situation he finds himself in, I think the number one thing on his list is protecting his mother. Family goes a long way with him.

“With Alex, as I said, he started off not trusting her and thinking she was going to be an enemy as well as a liability. Now, though, it seems, at least to me, that Sean really cares about her and has some strong feelings for her. As for Nikita, I always think of her and Sean as The Roadrunner and The Coyote. He’s The Coyote chasing after Nikita, The Roadrunner, who is always one step ahead of him, but Sean is starting to find some common ground with her and realizing that Nikita might not be so bad. As for Amanda, my character has never trusted her and has always been right on the mark with her. I think Sean’s feelings for Amanda have stayed the same and, if anything, she’s becoming much more dangerous in his eyes.”

When asked if he has a favorite Nikita scene so far, Casey wastes no time answering. “It was easily when Sean had a face-to-face meeting with Nikita,” he says. “The neatest thing about this show is that every day I go on set and get to do something that I never expected to do in my life, and that includes shooting guns. Well, in this scene with Maggie Q, we were in a parking lot in Hamilton, which is a city outside of Toronto, at three o’clock in the morning. She “shot’ me, a squib [explosion] went off on my chest, and she ran away. I chased after her and ended up on the roof of the parking lot where a real helicopter was taking off into the distance as I’m shooting at it and trying to take it down.

“That was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life,” enthuses Casey. “I’ve never been that close to a helicopter, and then I find myself shooting at one while it’s flying away. It was surreal. Before the holidays, I walked onto the set one day at seven in the morning and was handed a sniper rifle. Within two minutes I was aiming it at people and ‘shooting’ them before my first cup of coffee.

“Every time I receive a new Nikita script and start reading it, I get goose bumps just thinking about all the neat things that I get to do on this show. Again, I love the conflict in Sean’s life. I know he is a momma’s boy and a lot of people make fun of him for that, but I think it’s a really interesting character trait. I just love the way that the writers are surprising me. When they originally brought me on the show, they talked about how Sean was possibly going to be a love interest for Alex, and we still don’t know whether or not he will be.

“I’m really glad that the writers are taking their time with that. There’s a dangerous thing that can happen in television where once two characters get together, where do you go from there. So I enjoy the will-they-or-won’t-they aspect of this and how it continues to be done in a very original way. I remember when Sean tried to seduce Alex and she ended up kissing his hand. He failed miserably, but I would love to see him try again. I don’t know what the outcome would be, but I wouldn’t mind if he kept going in that direction. I like when Sean gets a little lighter, too, and makes some smart-ass remark. It shows that he has a sense of humor. If anything, I’d like to see that side of him be developed more.”

Born in the U.S. and raised in Canada, Casey considered other career paths before finally embarking on his current profession. “I always loved acting but never really thought I would ever become an actor,” he says. “It just seemed like a fun thing to do. I did plays in both grade school and high school, but I put it [acting] off and went to university where I got overly educated if anything.

“I didn’t really know for sure it I wanted to be an actor until I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be anything else. I got my Masters in Economics, so I guess I thought I’d pursue work in the financial field. My dad is a doctor, so I considered following in his footsteps as well. I love animals, so it also crossed my mind to become a vet. I was never really passionate about anything else other than acting, though, so I guess that told me what I needed to do.”

In 2008, the actor booked his first series regular role in M.V.P. a Canadian TV drama about hockey players and their wives when they were off the ice. “I played a rookie named Trevor Lemonde, which worked out well because I was still a rookie actor, so I got to walk about wide-eyed and not always knowing what the hell was going on, which worked for the character,” notes Casey.

“One of things I remember most about that job was always thinking that I was screwing up and was going to get fired at any minute. As a result, I didn’t really enjoy the job as much as I should have at the time, so I try to make sure not to do that to myself any more. That was a fantastic learning experience and a lot of fun. It was also another of those trial by fire moments. I was working with all these experienced actors and I had maybe two or three other acting jobs under my belt. At the end of it all I found myself on a Times Square billboard in my underwear, so things kind of snowballed and I didn’t fully comprehend what I was getting myself into. Again, though, I learned a great deal.”

Casey’s other TV credits include Valemont, Being Erica, Skins, Aaron Stone, House Party and Warehouse 13. He also played the recurring role of Noah on The Vampire Diaries as well as Brad in the Torchwood: Miracle Day episode “Dead of Night.”

The Vampire Diaries was my first substantial job that I got after moving to Los Angeles,” says the actor. “I was broke and desperately needed a job. I was about to call my dad and ask him for rent money, but then I went in to audition for Vampire Diaries, got the part and was flown to Atlanta that day. I had an incredible time working with Nina Dobrev [Elena Gilbert], whom I’d worked with before on a Lifetime TV movie called Too Young to Marry.

Torchwood was a really interesting experience. I had signed up to do a very intimate scene with John Barrowman [Captain Jack Harkness] and I was, of course, nervous about it. I had never done a love scene up to this point in my career, and now my first love scene in front of the camera was going to be with a man. I was very lucky, though, to be working with John Barrowman because he made it all very professional and very comfortable for me.”

Besides Nikita, the actor has a handful of other projects currently in the works. “I have a movie called The Vow coming out next month,” says Casey. “It’s a love story in the same vein as [2004’s] The Notebook and starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. That was an awesome experience. Everyone is buzzing about this film because everyone loved The Notebook and people are already comparing The Vow to that.

“I also have a production company with my brothers, Conor and Lyndon. We’ve been working together for a long time and one of my goals is to get a feature film off the ground with them. You can check out our website. I have a web series as well called Living in LA with Dillon Casey. It’s a satirical view that’s a little too close to the truth of what it’s like to be an actor in LA. Basically it’s like therapy for me; anytime something really lousy happens in this business or in this town, I make a funny little clip about it. You can see them on YouTube or the Funny or Die website.”

Although he is curious to know what the future holds when it comes to his acting career, Casey has learned to live much more in the moment and better appreciate what he is currently working on. “The problem with acting is that if you’re not careful, you’re always worried about what’s the next thing you’re going to get and how is this job going to help you get to that next thing.

“What I try to do now is just enjoy every role. It’s hard to make it in this business, and every time you’re on set as a working actor, you need to look for the reward in that and believe that you’ve done something to deserve to be there. You need to look around you and, in my case, think, ‘Holy cow, I’m standing here firing a gun at a helicopter. Where else could I do something like this and get paid for it? This is amazing.’ Sometimes you just need to pat yourself on the back and realize that you’ve worked hard and done the right things in order to get where you are today.”

Please note, all Nikita photos above copyright of The CW.

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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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