We chat to Tracey about her role in the new flick and working with sci-fi guru, Neil Johnson.
If you love Star Wars, Star Trek and a bit of Mad Max then you’re likely to love Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, which has been described as a mix of all three.
Ahead of its release this year, GDU caught up with the movie’s lead actress, Tracey Birdsall, about stepping into the role of a tough heroine, working with a robot sidekick and filming in the same locations as iconic sci-fi movies.
Check out what she had to say below:
Tell us a bit about your new film – Rogue Warrior : Robot Fighter.
It’s a sci-fi film and it’s about Artificial Intelligence (AI) on a mission to destroy humanity and my character sets out to stop it. It is extremely action packed, it’s very character driven and it has an amazing cast including Daz Crawford who was in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There’s Stephen Manley and Livvy Stubenrauch who was the voice of young Anna in Disney’s Frozen. The movie also has a lot of subtext and a lot of self discovery. As I mentioned the action is incredible with a lot of explosions and obviously there’s fighting with humanity v artificial intelligence.
You mention there are a lot of fight scenes, did you have to do any prep for the role?
Tonnes. I have been training to fight my whole life, but there were a lot of action scenes and fighting scenes I had to prepare for in this movie. We had a stunt coordinator who would work us through a lot of prep and I was doing my own stunts so by the end of day I’d be exhausted and amazed at everything I managed to accomplish. It was all very exhausting but ultimately rewarding.
What was one of the hardest action scenes you had to film?
In one of the scenes I have to run up sand dunes that were 200 feet high. While I’m running there’s explosions and a gun battle going on. It was a lot of running in the dessert, I was exhausted and by the end of it I was really beaten and bruised.
Was a lot of the movie filmed on location?
We tried to make the movie as real as possible while keeping with the sci-fi genre. So we’ve used a number of real locations so it’s not a stretch of the imagination. We used as little green screen and CGI as possible.
Some of the movie was shot in Arizona, California and actually some of it was filmed in Australia. We were in Brisbane six months ago shooting a few city scenes. You’ll get to see Brisbane taken over by robots – a lot of it was filmed from an aerial perspective, it’s incredible and it’s very cool to see.
I read that some of it was filmed in the same spots as Star Wars and Star Trek. Is that true?
Yeah actually we filmed at Trona Pinnacles in California, which was in Star Trek and it was also in Planet of the Apes. In Arizona we shot in the same location as where parts of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was filmed.
I’m such a sci-fi nut, I’m a huge fan all the way across the board, so to go to those places brought back thoughts and memories and it made it easier getting into character because of these familiar sets.
Your character, Sienna, is the lead (girl power✌️). Tell me a bit about her.
She takes it onto herself to overthrow these intelligent robots and save the planet. She meets people along the way and she’s different from your usual heroes because she’s very humbled by these people she meets. She’s a very spunky and bright woman and she has a lot of insight into what’s going on and how to stop it. Without giving too much away, she’s more than human, she’s very powerful and extremely capable. It’s was a fantastic role to play.
I have to say I love her outfit, it’s very Lara Croft.
[Laughs], her outfits were so much fun to wear. It’s funny because they were quite uncomfortable until they called out action and then it’s like you’re in character and you’re suddenly comfortable in what you’re wearing. Her outfits also play a lot into her character and who she is.
It’s not often you see a female saving the world, do you think she’ll make a great role model for young girls?
My dad raised me as a human being and never made me feel like there was something I couldn’t do – there was nothing I couldn’t do. I workout like a man and even harder than most men and I really believe that as human beings we have to tap into our fullest potential. I think she could inspire people just like Linda Hamilton who was the lead female in The Terminator inspired me. She was so inspiring to me, I watched her doing pull-ups and I remember just admiring her because she looked so buff and strong and I wanted to be like that. I actually told her that, we go to the same gym.
Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter is just the latest in a series of action movies you’ve been involved in, has working in the genre challenged you in any way?
It challenges you in so many ways. In sci-fi you have to find who the character is and their identity, but on top of that there’s a lot of imagination involved. So for example, if one of the characters is a robot, you have to use your imagination to play out the scene. In this film, my sidekick is a floating robot and I had to develop this personality for it and I had to react to something that wasn’t there. So it was challenging at first but it becomes easier. After a while someone started reading my sidekick’s lines and I had to completely change the way I responded because it wasn’t how I had pictured the robot to be in my head. It was extremely challenging but so rewarding.
How did you learn to overcome the challenge of working with an AI sidekick?
My sidekick’s name is Hoagland – the funny thing is I start studying my scripts six months before I begin shooting. So I knew I had this robot sidekick and I had to try to figure out how to make him come to life. So I brought home the physical robot and stuck him on a stand and I talked to him. Whenever I walked by or if I had something fun to share. It was an interesting approach and it worked because he became very real to me.
Have sci-fi fans been generally quite welcoming?
Overwhelmingly! I actually wasn’t prepared for it, especially on social media and at events, they’re amazing. I was the guest of honour at a recent film festival and the fans there were very excited. I had been warned of potential negativity but they’ve been warm and welcoming. I’ve had tonned of positive responses and I think that’s merits of the film.
Rumour is Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter is the prequel to a TV series spin-off called Gods of War – is that true?
We actually didn’t plan it that way, but we got approached by one company and now another company has approached us. It’s gone crazy. But right now we’re just focused on getting the movie out the door.
In addition to sci-fi, you’ve managed to keep a steady crossover with comedy – how do you think you manage to maintain that acting flexibility and not get caged into one category?
It’s so important for me to stay cross-genre and not get pigeon holed into a certain type. If you do that, then you’re narrowing your possibilities and your range as an actor. You have to switch genres to develop your skills. It’s like having different sides to your personality and you have to exercise them all. Also I love comedy so this year I have a comedy coming out called Who’s Jenna and it has an amazing cast of actors and it’s quite humorous. It has an East Coast gang of actors and they’re so funny.
Are you keen to check out Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter?