Recently, one of the newest sci-fi action movies, Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, made its debut at WorldFest Houston, 50th Annual International Independent Film Festival. Skillfully directed by Neil Johnson, Rogue Warrior is a nod to sci-fi action movies from years gone by — Logan’s Run, Krull, THX 1138, and the like — while successfully standing on its own as a unique and thought-provoking story. Chances are, if you’re a fan of the aforementioned titles, then you will thoroughly enjoy Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter.
Set to hit theaters on June 2, 2017, with its jam-packed action and stunning landscapes, the imagery of Rogue Warrior often feels like a comic book. Outwardly, it plays like a straightforward action flick filled with gun battles, robots, great CGI, and a scantily clad blonde-bombshell (Sienna) as the heroine. But underneath the surface lies a story about self-identity and the sheer survival of the human will.
Rogue Warrior has received high marks from critics and audiences alike, and it won Best Sci-Fi and Best Visual Effects at WorldFest. The Hollywood Reporter gives the synopsis for one of the most creative sci-fi action movies of 2017.
“Rogue Warrior takes place a few decades from now in a future in which artificial intelligence rules a post-apocalyptic Earth and other planets. A rebellious weapons dealer named Sienna (Tracey Birdsall) may have discovered a way to take down the robots and restore humanity to its proper place in the universe. Her plan involves a perilous trip to the galaxy’s center to find a mythical weapon that can neutralize A.I.”
After viewing the premiere of Rogue Warrior at WorldFest, this reporter had the pleasure of speaking with Tracey Birdsall. Tracey has virtually spent her entire life in entertainment; as a small child she started singing and dancing in theater, she starred in a Sunkist commercial when she was 15-years-old, she has appeared in numerous television series (including Family Ties, Loving, and The Young and the Restless), and she has starred in a variety of short films. She’s also a talented musician, writer, and producer (including Rogue Warrior). And in her first leading role in a feature-length action film, she did all of her own stunts. Tracey spoke in a joyous manner as she explained what this was like while revealing a deep three-inch scar on her shin.
“It’s so much fun. It really is. I have scars—and—it’s great. I’m so proud of them; I have pictures of all of them. I grew up a tomboy. I was the boy in the family. I had two older sisters that were super-super gorgeous, and I was just kind of this nerdy kid with crooked teeth, so I became the tomboy.”
During the screening, for about five minutes, Tracey stood from her seat and walked over near the exit of the theater to observe the movie. She gazed at the film as expressions revealing both scrutiny and endearment washed over her face. Last September, she won the award for Female Action Performer of the year at the AOF (Action on Film) Festival, and she was the only American actress to be nominated for Best Actress at WorldFest. And that’s all because of her rigorous hard work.
Tracey Birdsall is a dedicated artist; she takes months to delve into a character and to bring the character’s essence to the forefront. Her acting transcends emotion as whatever her character is feeling, the audience also feels. And often, Tracey is left feeling those emotions long after the credits roll.
“I had to watch this five times before going to the premiere, because I would start crying. Because I remember what the character was feeling. So even though I’m not super emotional in my life, watching Rogue Warrior would tap into that place of what I felt at the time. And I thought, ‘I can’t cry during the premier!’ So I had to keep watching this until I could separate from that character.”
She attributes her skillful acting techniques to her acting coach, Margie Haber, and spoke of her work ethic and the traps that some artists fall into.
“Nobody ever forgets a bad performance, but everybody forgets a good party. I’m not a social person; I’m one hundred percent into my work. All of these people [who go to parties] think they’re going to network and that they’re going to get these great jobs, and then they end up going to a rehab. And it’s like, ‘What are you thinking? Don’t go to the party—study!’ Go to the best to learn. No one wants to watch somebody act, they want to go along on the on-screen journey with you. I went to the very best teacher.”
Tracey doesn’t only work hard on her craft, but she works just as hard in the gym.
“I do heavy-heavy weightlifting, and I have since I was 13. I have scoliosis. So when I was a kid I asked, ‘What do I have to do to not have to go to Children’s Hospital three times a week to do physical therapy?’ They said I have to lift heavy weights to make my back muscles strong. And I’ve been doing it ever since. And that’s also how I recover between roles, because you kind of forget who you are. So I get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, and go to the gym. And I do it every day until I start feeling ‘Tracey’ again.”
In Rogue Warrior, Sienna is accompanied on her intergalactic journey by a few characters, including a wise-cracking robot named Hoagland (voiced by actor Tony Gibbons). The hilarious banter between Hoagland and Sienna steals the show, and it’s no wonder why their relationship seems very genuine. While laughing, Tracey shared how she prepared for her dialogue with the small robot.
“I had to get used to Hoagland being human-like, I had him in my office for four months before shooting, so I would talk to him. And if someone came in I would introduce them to Hoagland, because he had to be real. He’s still in my office.”
After watching Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter and after speaking with Tracey, four things were unquestionably apparent about the talented actress: she is very intelligent, kind, talented, and incredibly down-to-Earth. This reporter asked her how she remains levelheaded.
“Acting for me is not about glory, it’s not about fame, and it’s not about the pay—it’s about what my heart wants to be doing. And I don’t relate to being that person on the screen. I’m an actor. I have no relationship to what I look like. I don’t relate to the image that people make of me. That’s my publicist’s job. But that’s just my image—that’s not me. I’m a barefoot girl. I’m in shorts and a tank-top in bare feet. I only wear this [referencing her incredible dress] because [designer] Lavanya Coodly makes these amazing dresses for me. I hate shopping.
“And I think I stay grounded because of what I went through as I child. I looked like I was 12 up until I was 25. When I was in the fourth grade, I was bullied and physically attacked in school almost every day. I remember being on the ground and getting beaten up, curled in a ball.”
Tracey spoke of this not as a person trapped within horrible memories of her past, but with a smile, and as a person grateful for her journey. She has several more movies set to be released soon, including the romantic-comedy Who’s Jenna…? But as an avid fan of sci-fi and action, she is thrilled that she will be doing more work in the genre, including the film The Time War. You can learn more about her striking career and her upcoming movies by visiting her IMDb or by following her on Twitter. And if her other movies are as good as Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, audiences are in for a big treat.
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Not only is Rogue Warrior one of the best sci-fi action movies of 2017, it features one of the kindest and most talented actresses out there today, Tracey Birdsall.
[Featured Image by Empire Motion Pictures]