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French Canadian actor Roy Dupuis is the male star of the USA Network series La Femme Nikita. He plays Michael, a Class 5 operative in the ultra-covert anti-terrorist organization called Section One. Michael handpicked and trained a young woman from the streets, Nikita, to become a sleek, sophisticated killing machine. Their relationship is one of a struggle for power, desire, love, and defiance. (For a more detailed description of the plot line of La Femme Nikita click here).

The exquisitely handsome Dupuis gives the character of Michael great command and strength with minimal gesture. Classically trained, with vast stage experience, Dupuis is an extraordinarily gifted and confident actor. In the following interview he displays his intelligence, thoughtfulness, charm, and the physical and intellectual process he utilizes when approaching a role.

We spoke to Roy Dupuis from the production offices of La Femme Nikita in Toronto, Canada.

FF: Tell me a little bit about where you grew up and your childhood.

Roy Dupuis: Well, the scenery is mostly forests and lakes and small mountains. It’s the country -- it’s north, about five hundred miles north of Montreal ...

FF: Wow ...

Roy Dupuis: ... it’s a region called Abitibi. It was mostly colonized for the wood and the mines. So there’s a lot of bushwhackers and miners that are still there.

FF: So it was a fairly rural ...

Roy Dupuis: ... Around twelve thousand people. The wood was pretty close. One of my favorite hobbies was building houses in trees.

FF: Sounds beautiful.

Roy Dupuis: Yeah, I had a great childhood for that. It was close to nature and close to – well, the real wood. We would go get Christmas trees almost in the back yard, you know.

FF: Yes, yes. And had your family been there for many generations?

Roy Dupuis: My mother’s family, yeah. My grandfather and grandmother from my mother’s side were from there. I think my mother was born there.

FF: And are both your parents of French descent?

Roy Dupuis: Yes.

FF: And where in France are they from? Have you traced it back that far?

Roy Dupuis: I know that from my mother’s side it would be Basque. But I don’t really know the name of the descendants. All I know is they’re from the region of the Pyrenees and the mountains.

FF: And did you come from a large family?

Roy Dupuis: In my family were three children.

FF: Are you the oldest?

Roy Dupuis: No, I’m the middle guy.

FF: The middle?

Roy Dupuis: My sister was the first one, and then a year and a week after that it’s me. And then the year after that my brother.

FF: Are they in the business?

Roy Dupuis: No they’re not. No. No one in the family is.

FF: Just you.

Roy Dupuis: Yeah. Closest to the business I’m in is my mother, I guess. She’s a piano teacher.

FF: Ah, very nice. Did your family then move? And how old were you at that point?

Roy Dupuis: We first moved because my father was a travelling salesman, and he was transferred to Kapuskasing, which is in Northern Ontario. So from Northern Quebec to Northern Ontario, which was pretty similar. Mostly colonized by French people from Quebec. And that’s pretty much where I learned my English. And that happened when I was eleven.

FF: And at that point were you beginning to be interested in the performing arts, or had that not happened for you yet?

Roy Dupuis: It never really happened. I mean it was almost an accident.

FF: And when did that accident occur?

Roy Dupuis: Okay, let’s see. It’s kind of a long story. An old piano student of my mother’s came to visit her, and this girl now had a boyfriend, and this guy wanted to go see a movie. And he was alone so I said, "I’ll go with you." And we went to see the movie Molière.

FF: That was shown here on PBS.

Roy Dupuis: It’s amazing.

FF: Isn’t it? It’s fantastic.

Roy Dupuis: Yeah. And I saw that movie. At that time I was studying at secondary five. I was getting more into science. I liked chemistry and physics and mathematics. I liked the ‘whys’ of things. And so I saw that movie, and the day after that I dropped my physics class to go into this French theater course, just on the influence of the movie I guess, of the character of this masterpiece I just saw.

FF: Yes. And what was the allure? What was it while you were watching it? What was the thing that struck you, that you felt had to be part of it?

Roy Dupuis: The movie?

FF: With the whole, you know, atmosphere of ...

Roy Dupuis: I think it’s the romantic side of it, the romantics. Romantic for me is passion, it is a will to change things or to do things differently, and to, I guess, to create. And all the family and traveling of Molière, the family work, the family he created around himself. And the adventure.


FF: Right.

Roy Dupuis: That was there almost every day of his life.

FF: Definitely, and how he threw himself wholeheartedly -- body and soul -- into what he did.

Roy Dupuis: Yeah, because that’s what he was.

FF: Right.

Roy Dupuis: He couldn’t do otherwise.

FF: Yes.

Roy Dupuis: I always had passion for things, or I used to -- I studied music for seven years when I was younger, played the cello. Actually in secondary five all my friends were mostly in the arts you know. So I just went back; that day I just dropped that course and joined them.

FF: Right.

Roy Dupuis: And then we had to do an oral in front of the class and we hadn’t prepared anything -- me and one of my best friends. And I said, "Come to my place after school and we’ll see what we can do, because we have to present it tomorrow."

And he had started a biography of Molière, and he showed that to me. And I said "Oh, okay, I know what I’ll do." And I grabbed a hat of my mother’s, and some moccasins and a broom, and I made a mask, and I sat him in my room and I said just stay there. And I did the scene of Le Balai de Nuit, the Night Sweeper. Know when -- in the movie when the King is there to see Molière, and he wants to play classics?

FF: Oh, yes, yes ...

Roy Dupuis: And then Madeleine Bejart tells him, "Okay, go out there and do the Balai de Nuit, the Night Sweeper." And he does that scene, the commedia dell’arte scene with the broom.

FF: Yes.

Roy Dupuis: So I did that in front of him. And he was just like wow. What was that? So I said that’s what we’ll do tomorrow. You’ll start your biography of Molière, just read everything he did in his life, but then afterwards you’ll say Molière was not just a writer; he was also an actor. And at that time I’ll come in the class, and I’ll do that piece.

FF: Wow

Roy Dupuis: And then I said, wait a second. And he was a violin player, my friend. So I went to get -- my mother had a book on almost all the plays of Molière. And then, in the entracte of Le Malade Imaginaire, there’s the scene with Punchinello, who wants to sing -- wants to declare his love to a girl, but he’s always being interrupted by a violin.

FF: Oh yes, I was reading about that last night.

Roy Dupuis: I learned that the same night, and we kind of put that together. After the sweeper, I’ll say, "My name is Molière, but for you I’ll be Punchinello." And then I did the other thing.

So the whole class was kind of impressed.

FF: Sure

Roy Dupuis: And then they came to me, and they said, "We want to do a classic. We want to do Molière, at secondary five. I was sixteen years old.

FF: Uh huh.

Roy Dupuis: And I said, wait a minute. I hadn’t read it, actually. So I read, and I came back the next day, and said, "You guys are crazy. It’s a huge plate to put on secondary five." And finally, I made the whole play at secondary five. And even our teacher was saying, "Oh, you can’t. You can’t do that in secondary five. It’s too big, it’s too…" -- then anyway, I picked out my actors from all the schools, which I wasn’t supposed to do, just pick the ones that were in class. And then, since my friend was a violin player, he was playing with a certain orchestra in Montreal; they were very good musicians. And I said, "That’d be good if the scene would be played with music." So at the end, we had a chamber orchestra come in from downtown Montreal.

FF: Wow.

Roy Dupuis: So -- I wasn’t really going to my courses any more. I was just doing that.

Next, Roy is admitted to Canada's most prestigious acting school, but the story isn't quite so simple.

Photo of Roy Dupuis at top of page by Marni Grossman.