Screencaps to come.
After years as a working actor, singer Riley Smith takes on leading-man status in CW’s “Frequency.”
Riley Smith believes in destiny. That’s no easy task in Hollywood, a land as full of rejection and broken dreams as it is of opportunities and runaway successes. But the 38-year-old actor, who stars in the television drama “Frequency,” which premieres tonight on the CW network, considers himself fortunate. “My first job was a pilot for the WB and here I am 20 years later working for the same studio,” he says.
Smith considers himself among the lucky ones. “I never had to have a ‘real’ job,” he said. “I got lucky that I’ve always supported myself acting, but I always say if I had the choice I’d probably have 30 credits on my IMDB page instead of 75.” Smith, who moved from Iowa to Los Angeles to take acting classes after high school (he used the money he made modeling in a Tommy Hilfiger ad campaign to pay for them), landed his first acting job within months, on a WB pilot that never made it to air.
Since then, he’s become a television fixture, more handsome than your typical “character actor” but equally versatile — with regular roles on popular shows such as “7th Heaven,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “24,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “90210,” “True Blood” and “Nashville.” He’s also appeared in films including “Not Another Teen Movie” and “Bring It On.”
“I’ve done a lot of failed pilots and shows that got canceled. When you are going through the journey you are always asking yourself, like, ‘Why didn’t this happen?’ or ‘Why didn’t that happen?’ and then when something like ‘Frequency’ comes along it becomes very evident that everything has a reason.”
The show, a reboot of the 2000 movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, centers on Frank Sullivan (the role originated by Quaid) a Queens, N.Y., cop killed on the job who manages to reconnect 20 years later with his adult daughter through the supernatural airwaves of an old ham radio.
Because of his long relationship with the parent company Warner Bros., CW offered Smith three different pilot scripts to choose from, and he chose “Frequency,” which also stars Peyton List and Mekhi Phifer. “Peyton and I have actually been acting partners for 10 years and we’ve put in countless hours studying together,” he said of the actress, whom he met through a mutual agent. “We were in the same episodes of ‘90210’ but not in the same scenes. Now we are in scenes together but not physically on the same camera. It just makes sense that I am working with someone who I know so well and that I trust as an actor,” he said of the serendipitous casting.
If he seems overly earnest, blame it on his Midwestern roots. “I have a really strong family back home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I get emotional just talking about them,” he says. “My mom always told me to have faith. That’s kind of what keeps you going.”
Cedar Rapids’ other famous sons include Ashton Kutcher, Michael Emerson, Ron Livingston and Elijah Wood. “I consider myself fortunate to have done well for myself, but you go back to my town and those guys have done really well, so everyone’s kind of unaffected in a way. I almost feel like sometimes people are, like, ‘Man, you gotta pick it up.’ If I was from Wisconsin I’d probably be a bigger deal in my hometown.”
As for his music career — his L.A.-based band, The Life of Riley, has released three albums and he also sang on “Nashville” — Smith says he’s always writing songs when not acting. “I set up a mini studio in my apartment in Vancouver [where “Frequency” shoots] and it keeps me really calm,” he said. He grew up on his family’s quarter horse ranch listening to country music. “It’s sometimes hard to switch back to my Queens accent for the show when I’m listening to country in my trailer. I’ve gotta lose the Southern accent quick.”
I’ve added a few episode stills of Mekhi’s appearance on Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel. He looked quite handsome!
We had a chance to talk to Peyton List about The CW’s reimagining of Frequency, what could have become of Flash Forward, and being a badass.
Frequency was a time travel movie with a twist. Instead of a time machine, it was a radio that could talk into the past, so a modern day cop got to speak with his father again, and save his life. CW has reinvented Frequency as a TV series, and this time the story revolves around a father and daughter.
Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List) is a modern day cop who discovers her old HAM radio can speak with her father Frank (Riley Smith) in 1996. Like in the movie, she gives Frank vital information that saves his life, but inadvertently leads to her mother falling victim to the Nightingale Killer. If the show makes it, it will take longer than two hours to save her mom too. We spoke with Peyton List at a CW party before their presentation to the Television Critics Association. Frequency premieres Wednesday, October 5 on The CW.
Does Frequency have double the backstory of a normal job because you have two timelines to remember and they keep changing?
Yeah, it’s a lot to remember simply because it’s not just point A to point B to point C. You have to remember what happened in each one. Not like you have to be crazy on top of every single detail. We don’t want to overload the audience but it’s important to remember certain bits of information that sometimes are planted and then reveal why they were planted a few episodes down the line. It’s really smart writing but in a rewarding way for the audience. I feel rewarded as a reader when I get the scripts, so I hope it comes across in the execution.
Once you establish how the radio works and the events of the Nightingale Killer in the pilot, what’s the next step in the case?
Well, the most immediate problem is the mom, Julie’s disappearance. They know what day she goes missing. They know what day she doesn’t show up for work anymore. They know when she is taken. It’s just a matter of figuring out who takes her, what they did that made the Nightingale Killer still active, finding who he is, track him down and get him. That is the most immediate problem. It has the most consequences but then you also have the other smaller things that are important to her, like the loss of her boyfriend/fiance who was her life. The mom relationship is suddenly torn away from her life and her identity is taken because her loved ones around her are no longer there. She’s struggling with that while trying to be a detective and trying to solve the case of her mom. So it’s watching her deal with that and then you have the flip side of Frank’s character dealing with the fact that he got to come home. He gets to be with his wife and he wants to enjoy those moments. He wants to have that time. You get Frank and Raimy trying to figure out a way to work together when they’re people that don’t really know each other very well. It’s a lot of interesting personality character elements.
Is it like they’re meeting for the first time even though they’re father and daughter?
They’re meeting for the first time as adults with fully formed personalities and character traits. There’s times where they’re oil and water and they’re blood, but they don’t have tons of shared experience together and memories and stuff. So it’s forging that relationship. It’s an interesting thing when you’re not doing it sitting across from each other. You’re doing it just talking to somebody like on a phone. It’s like building a relationship just on a phone. It’s a really particular kind of relationship and at times it’s even more intimate. I think they’re trying to find their way in what their roles are, if it’s father/daughter, if it’s partners in this case that they need to solve and also with Raimy it’s getting over the hangups that she had about growing up without him.
Is Riley there when you do the radio scenes?
Riley is sitting off camera when I’m doing the radio stuff and I’m going up first thing Friday morning, the day after the panel. We’re doing Riley’s side of the HAM radio so I’ll be sitting off camera.
Do you think you can keep that up for 22 episodes?
At first, I was a little bit concerned about the logistics of it. I was like, “Oh, it’d be awesome if we can try but eventually one thing will happen and it’ll fall by the wayside.” Production has actually been really great about making the extra effort to make sure it happens. It’s so important to this show. Everything hinges, both storylines hinge on the relationship that is forged through those HAM conversations. So I think we’re going to keep it up as long as we’re on the air.
Is Raimy trying to get her fiance back?
Raimy is starting to toy with the idea of how could I do that. How would I get someone back who doesn’t remember me? When you stop and think about it, I don’t even know how I would start to go about it without coming off like a totally insane person.
How do you recreate a courtship when one of you knows how it went before?
No, it reminds me a little bit of that movie with Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, The Vow. It reminds me a little bit of that where it’s how do you make someone fall in love with you when you know that they did at first organically. How do you recreate that natural thing that you had? When you know we can be great together, we actually have already done it, how do you get there. It totally reminded me of that.
You were on another show with a lot of mythology, Flash Forward. Are there any similarities between everything you had to deal with and remember for that and what Frequency entails?
With Flash Forward, I would say the similarities are this shared ticking clock of an end date. One of our biggest storylines and threads throughout the season is finding Julie. We know what day she’s taken. We know that we’ve got X number of weeks. We’ve got 11 weeks until she’s taken and we’ve got to solve this mystery by then. With Flash Forward, it was the same thing. Everybody catches up to that date six months later down the road. So it has that element of urgency and high stakes but on Flash Forward, it was just a slice of so many different people’s experience and so many different people’s lives. Where this is so centered around Raimy and Frank and then the ripple effect outward from there and all the people in their lives and how it affects those people, and how their relationships are different with those people because of changing the past. Like not having a fiance anymore.
Is there any 1996 equivalent stock tip Raimy can give Frank? In the movie he says Yahoo.
That is one of my favorite parts of the movie. “Repeat it: Yahoo. Yahoo.” I love that because I saw the movie way later and I remember Yahoo. Oh my God, that’s so funny. I don’t know. To be fair, I was not really up on the stock market back in 1996. I suppose you would say Google. I don’t know.
Twitter or Facebook maybe.
Yeah, yeah. I am embarrassingly poorly informed about the stock market.
So it hasn’t come up yet.
It hasn’t come up yet but I don’t put anything past JeRaimy [Carver]. I’m sure he’ll find a way to sneak in those homages to the movie. Especially the treats that I go, “Oh my God, that was my favorite part of the movie.” I’m sure he’ll get those in.
When did you see the movie Frequency? You said you saw it later.
I saw it after I read the script [for the show]. I saw the movie the second time I read the pilot. I was kind of blown away and I was blown away that I hadn’t seen it before. I don’t know how I missed it. I thought it was awesome. It was great. There were so many things about it that just reminded me of movies I used to watch in the ‘90s and early 2000s. There’s just that certain feel to it where the explosions are really big and the music comes in and it pulls at your heartstrings. Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid were wonderful. Elizabeth Mitchell was just warm and just magnetic. It was a great movie, start to finish.
Is Raimy a badass cop?
Yeah, yeah. If I had any question before about it, it was solved in episode 103. She’s a badass, yeah. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Do you ever think about what Flash Forward could have been had it continued?
I don’t know where Flash Forward would have gone in season two. I know they set up this entirely open premise for a season two and I was devastated when that show ended. I don’t think I’d really been part of something on that large of a scope before, where it was exciting to get every script because you’re just going, “What’s going to happen to my character? Does my character die? Does my character live? Why is she in this place when she’s in that place? How does she cope with this relationship not working out and how does she move forward and put value on other things?” And then it ended and you’re like, “Well, I’ll never know.” So I don’t know where they would have gone with it. I think it would’ve been great. I love the show so much that I have no doubt that it would’ve been awesome and fun.
It changed a lot from the pilot, didn’t it?
Yeah, it changed a lot. I don’t know what the plan was initially. I only knew what the pilot script was then. I didn’t know what they were going to do with my character so I would just wait for the next script to come out. I know a lot of the storylines they did, I had no idea what was coming but I liked how global it was. They were constantly sending characters all over the world to deal with a humanity problem as opposed to something that’s happening in Los Angeles or in America or in North America. They’re going to every continent and I really liked that about that show.
That was one of your first roles. Are you a much different actor now?
I feel like that was sort of my first, I had done guest stars here and there with sci-fi, but that was my first time spending a long time with sci-fi. Like spending a whole year just in that genre. I don’t know if it made me a different actor. I was kind of used to ensemble casts and being a part of something larger. I think I’ve changed more in the years since where I’ve done shows that are slightly smaller in cast and they focus on more intimate relationships. I think that’s definitely different.
He portrayed Dr. Greg Pratt on NBC’s long-running medical drama ER and had a co-starring role opposite Eminem in the feature film 8 Mile. Now, actor Mekhi Phifer is starring in the new TV show, “Frequency,” playing Lieutenant Satch Reyna.
Darlene Hill from FOX 32 talks with actor Mekhi Phifer about his new series on the CW, “Frequency.”
The star of The CW’s new show Frequency shares his workout, diet tips, and what it’s like being a father… sort of.
The CW is bringing you back to the 90s.
In the network’s new show, Frequency, 38-year-old Riley Smith plays undercover New York police officer Frank Sullivan. Sullivan is killed during a sting operation gone bad. But, fast-forward 20 years and he comes in contact with his daughter through an old ham radio in the basement. The father-daughter duo find themselves working together, however, the butterfly effect ends up creating unexpected consequences.
While he was on set filming for season one, we chatted with Riley about one of his most exciting roles as an actor, how he stays in NYPD shape, and what he would do with a ham radio time-machine.
What was it about this role in Frequency that you were really looking forward to?
I just thought that the script had all of the elements of everything that was exciting right now, that’s trending right now. It was just by chance that this “time frequency jump stuff” is really big. That we didn’t even know when I read the pilot. That was just another added plus.
I was looking for a leading male [role] but I needed somebody that wasn’t just your stereotypical, two-dimensional lead character like “Mr. Perfect” or the guy who just saves the day all the time. It’s not me. It’s not real; it’s not reality, and not something that I would enjoy playing.
It’s hard to find a lead character that has a lot of layers and dimensions and this guy has so many. On top of that he’s very flawed. He’s basically an anti-hero. It was perfect. The minute I set the script down I called my reps and said that’s it, this is the one. I just knew it from the beginning.
Selfishly, I love the character; unselfishly I just had a really good feeling about the pilot series as a whole.
Surely you’ve learned something new from every role you’ve played, whether it be about yourself or the character or something about the subject matter. What have you learned from this character?
Wow, that’s a great question actually. I haven’t gotten that one yet. I guess for me, I’m learning about how I want to be a father. I’ve never really played a dad on TV or movies and I don’t have any children of my own yet, although I come from a very tight family in Iowa. Family is very important to me and I’ve sacrificed that for my career so far, but it’s definitely something that I want sooner than later.
This is the first opportunity [I’ve had] to play a father. In the show, I’m the father of an 11-year-old girl.] I’ve learned how I want to be with my little girl. There was really no tutorial on it, no director giving me any advice, the writer didn’t give me any advice, it was kind of like, “here’s the pages, here’s your daughter, do what you want to do with it.” So I created this guy with all the circumstances that my character has, but more importantly the relationship and the love he has for his daughter supersedes anything that he’s doing in life. Basically everything he’s doing is for her.
I guess that’s what I’ve learned the most. Every time I’m in a scene with little Ada who plays young Raimey, I’m just finding more and more layers of fatherhood that I didn’t know he had.
Anything real physical that you’re doing?
I’m playing a New York undercover cop. I didn’t realize that there’s a toughness to an undercover cop, especially an New York undercover cop. That’s starting to come into play so that’s why I’m glad that I’m keeping up this routine and throwing on some muscle. I try to look the part a little bit more. It’s never too physical, but about every episode we’ll have some sort of cop-esque physical thing going on. Whether it’s a chase or a stand off. Usually some sort of muscle comes out in every episode.
In your line of work you’ve got to stay in shape. What does your fitness or diet routine look like?
I call it the trailer jailhouse workout because when we’re on set, I’m working 70 hours a week on this show. I have a really nice gym in my apartment complex, but the reality is when you work 16 hours a day, get home, the last thing you want to do is work out.
So I went out and got these fitness bands and a core ball.
I have a workout plan that’s on the wall in my trailer. Every day I just come in and I bust them out. What I tell myself is that I’m going to do a whole circuit every time I come into my trailer. Whether it’s when I start in the morning before I change to go into hair and makeup, when I come back from hair and makeup before I go to the first scene, in between every scene. If you bust out basically 20 push ups, 20 flies with the bands, 20 of everything basically. I’ll do curls, flies, shoulder presses, reverse flies, push ups, and sit ups. The whole round of 20 takes maybe 5 minutes to just bust through it.
Just doing push ups and pull ups and stuff all day…
That’s why dudes come out of jail so yoked.
How about your diet?
It’s hard to keep anything really dialed in, but I got a Magic Bullet and I keep it in my trailer. I’ve got my protein powders and all that kind of stuff. I’m just making shakes throughout the day. I usually try to get 3 shakes in. And, the guy that runs our base camp, and greets us at our trailer—we’ve already got a system down where he knows every morning to have an egg white omelet for me, except on Fridays when I tell him he can put it in a tortilla because it’s a Friday.
When I show up every day I’ve got an egg white omelet waiting for me and then three hours later, I’ll do a protein shake. Then I’ll try to go light with the lunch and then another protein shake. The third meal, usually dinner, is either a shake or something light. Just trying to eat throughout the day.
You’ve got it dialed-in!
I’m trying man, it’s really hard. It’s not really in my DNA. I’ve never been that guy. Even when I was in high school and I played athletics, I wasn’t a gym rat. The hardest part for me is the routine. Instead of trying to take myself out of my life for a routine, I just make the routine part of my life and it’s been a lot easier to do it.
In the show, your daughter speaks to you in the past through a radio. If you actually had a radio that could go back in time, who would you speak to and why?
My very first acting coach/manager when I moved to LA was a guy named Craig Wargo and Craig took me on when I just literally stepped off the boat from Iowa and he mentored me. He coached me every single day through every single audition, for every single job, and he really was a father to me for 4 or 5 years. Then he unexpectedly passed away. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him and everything we had worked for together to get to the point I’m at now. He wasn’t able to live to see that. I keep him with me a lot and I’d love to sit down and have a couple more chats with him about it.
The show takes place in the 90s. What was your favorite thing about the 90s? And how about the least favorite thing?
High school and high school.
I think the 90s were my high school years. I graduated in 96-97 so that was my senior year of high school. I think I started high school around 93 so pretty much the mid 90s was my formidable years growing up, finding myself. I have so many amazing memories about those 4 years, but at the same time so many embarrassing and hurtful memories too, right?
Start your Hump Day with an all-new episode of “The Real.” The ladies begin the show with a Girl Chat that’s sure to keep you and your girls talking!
First, Loni sits down one-on-one with superstar Dolly Parton. Then, Mekhi Phifer stops by to tell us all about his role in CW’s “Frequency.”
After, Tamera weighs in on whether disciplinary actions were too extreme or on the right path… in a segment we like to call “Mental or Parental?”
It’s all going down this Wednesday on your favorite show… “The Real”!
Visit “The Real’s” official site to find out what channel and time it airs where you live.
Check out screencaps from the interview that include screencaps from upcoming scenes in the series.
I’ve added HQ stills for the third episode of Frequency. You can check out more information on the episode in our episode guide.
When Raimy (Peyton List) uncovers evidence in the Thomas Goff (guest star Michael Charles Roman “Grace and Frankie”) case, she relays this information to Frank (Riley Smith) over the ham radio, which prompts him to take matters into his own hands while ignoring a strong warning from Satch (Mekhi Phifer). Meanwhile, Gordo (Lenny Jacobson) talks Raimy into going out for a drink where she has an interesting encounter with Daniel (Daniel Bonjour), who still considers her a complete stranger and possible stalker. Lastly, Raimy struggles to adapt to life without Julie (Devin Kelley), and Frank tries to adapt to life with her.