Interview with Melissa Roxburgh


valor - Interview with Melissa Roxburgh
Melissa Roxburgh as CIA Officer Thea in CW’s Valor

Actress Melissa Roxburgh has played a not so damsel in distress in The Marine 4, a werewolf on Supernatural and an unusual alien in Star Trek: Beyond. Now the 24-year-old, Vancouver native is starring as the mysterious (and possibly villainous) CIA officer Thea in The CW’s freshman military drama Valor. She talked to me a bit about Thea, Star Trek, her other projects in the works and if it’s too soon to start a #SaveOurShow campaign for Valor.

Stacey Maynard: Thea is set up to be a bit of a villain, but we obviously don’t know anything about her true intentions, do you think that she is a villain? Or just a woman doing her job?

Melissa Roxburgh: It’s unclear at this point in the season if Thea has the same goals as Madani and Gallo or what secrets she has about her job with the Shadowraiders. However, she is a young woman coming into the position of running an operation usually handled by someone with more experience. The only way she could have done that is by her ability to work hard and push to the top. Stepping in as an outsider with this attitude would be bound to cause problems whatever “side” she was on.

SM: Doesn’t help matters that she is a woman in charge of mostly men. Do you feel that comes across in her character? That she’s breaking into a big boys club.

MR: Absolutely. We see the struggle with this dynamic as the show progresses, and it parallels Nora’s fight in her position with the unit as well. These women have to sadly fight twice as hard in their respective roles. Because of Thea’s age and gender, the men might overlook her ability to do her job. Thankfully the reality of female positions in the CIA have increased drastically in the last decade, though that does not erase the sexual discrimination that still happens in this line of work along with many others. We see Thea navigate this professional terrain in various ways throughout the season.

SM: One thing that always draws me personally to shows are strong female characters, luckily this one has three amazingly strong (but different) female characters. Does that dynamic follow through on set as well with Christina and Corbin?

MR: Oh absolutely. Not only are we all incredibly close as a cast all around, but us ladies love and NEED our girl time as well. I think aside from the fact that we genuinely like each other, we acknowledge that female support is pretty critical, especially right now in this industry. We all have really different personalities and paths in life and the amount that I personally have learned from those two is incredible. They’re super badass and you can’t help but respect women who own their sh*t and are shameless in it.

SM: About female support in the industry, do you feel in light of current events that things are shifting hopefully to the positive?

MR: I mean, I’d really like to think so. At the very least, women feel more protected in the fact that can say speak up or out and know that they have more support than a while ago. I don’t think we’re there yet. I mean, even in working on this show I’ve come across stories and statistics about that workplace alone that reveal how far we still have to go.

SM: The reveal of Thea’s sexuality at first looked like a ploy for her to get information from one of the other Shadowraiders, but it was quickly quashed. Was her sexuality a surprise to you or was it written like that from the start?

MR: On the pilot, I had no idea they were taking my character in that direction, but I’m really glad they did. It definitely wasn’t a ploy for information at all! I think the way that was revealed as more to give some insight into Thea as a human being as opposed to being a twist or anything along those lines. She’s open. And she’s honest about that part of her. It doesn’t make a difference to her what gender if she feels a certain way about that person specifically. It’s not a defining characteristic but it’s a shade of who she is and it’s a part of her world outside of the Shadowraiders. It was also an introduction to Zoe Cho’s character, who is played by the awesome Chelle Ramos. She brings light to the issue of being an openly gay character in the army and the issues one might deal with in that position. By bringing it up I personally hope it’s a commentary on the fact that this really still is something people deal with sadly even in the world we live in today. It’s sad.

SM: Most definitely, in a community that is always clamoring for representation, are you prepared for the attachment that might come from it? (like White Canary and Alex Danvers of other CW shows.) (this one is only half joking) Also, can you tell us that isn’t the last that we are going to see of Zoe and Thea?

MR: I know right! I think they work well together 😉 It is and it isn’t. Zoe is with the unit by the end of the season so there’s always a chance things work out for them in the end.  All I know is that as an actress I hope to add a voice against any possible stigmas that this community faces. I like the line where she says it’s not an experiment…because it wasn’t. The reality is, tv might not always represent things properly, but I want to get it as close to right on my end as possible to be sensitive and supportive.

SM: That was positively one of the best lines of the night, it showed that it wasn’t for her job, it was because she wanted to.

MR: Completely.

SM: Are there any spoilers you can let out of the bag?  Like can you tell us Thea’s last name? Or just tell me…I promise not to tell.

MR: Spoilers…hmmm. Well being CIA, they never disclose their last names. Not ever. So…can’t give that information. 😉 I can tell you that we do get to see a different side of Thea coming up…and that doesn’t really stop until the end of the series. She changes a LOT from the original woman we saw which is incredible.

SM: Mind if we talk ratings for a moment?

MR: Haha no problem.

SM: I mean it is the nature of the beast, unfortunately. A show can be critically acclaimed but still get canceled if it doesn’t have the numbers. Even though it’s only 3 episodes in, sadly the ratings aren’t doing so well. Is it too early to start a Save our Show campaign?

MR: I think so. But I’m honestly game for it if it keeps us on. I have faith that with the amount people are online streaming and the way things are calculated these days, I’m not as concerned with the actual number. We’re doing something a little different for CW too, and I think they know that. Hopefully they’re patient in seeing it bloom. 🙂

SM: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

MR: I’m doing an independent called In God I Trust which shoots in Vancouver. It’s three different storylines set in Idaho that eventually come to an overlap. I play a university student struggling with her religion and ideals of the world in a small town environment.

SM: That sounds really interesting, religion is obviously another hot-button issue that is always there to poke at the public in ways that are both good and bad.

MR: Yea, I like the idea of this role because I’m actually the daughter of a pastor and have had my own zig-zag path of what I view of religion. Despite the fact that I absolutely believe in God today, it looks a little different than the way I viewed it as a kid, and I’m grateful for that. Still learning. I’m happy to play someone who has the confusion or even opposite opinion of what mine might be. Think it’s important.

SM: You grew up in Vancouver, right?

MR: I did. Still love it there. Vancouver in the summer is my favourite place.  I’ll relocate for the winters though haha.

SM: Was it nice to be able to shoot close to home?

It was nice. I mean, to be honest, my career has been completely out of Vancouver up until recently, so I didn’t know what it was like to shoot anywhere else. I kind of like getting out of my hometown though and exploring new cities. Itches the travel bug a little bit.

SM: Travelling bugs can be fun, do you have a favourite place you have visited?

MR: Kenya so far, but at the end of the year I’m traveling with my best friend to Australia and Thailand, which I’m looking forward to.

SM: Some people are unaware that you were in Star Trek: Beyond, but that was you under all that makeup and prosthesis.

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Melissa Roxburgh as Ensign Syl in             Star Trek: Beyond

MR:  The process was CRAZY!

SM: How long did that makeup process take?

MR: The whole process of that was crazy haha. I had to get a whole head cast, which if you’ve never had one is TERRIFYING (you literally are covered in the stuff that makes casts, with only a straw out of your nose to breath through)…once they assemble the actual prosthetic, it took about 8 hours (which they eventually got down to 5/6 by the end) to put on.

SM: Tell me a bit about that experience?

MR: I had gone into the audition with dummy sides so I had NO idea what the character was going to be. Then I got a callback and was called into the room with Justin Lin (director: Star Trek: Beyond) and got to play with the scene (which I still had no idea what it was to be honest) Then about a month later I found out I booked the role, and 2 months after that showed up to set to discover I would be a supporting lead character wearing prosthetics which they described as having a “crab head”.

SM: On your twitter page you have a couple Latin phrases (vive fortis et fera. peto verum.), are these words that you personally live by?

MR: “Vive fortis” is my favorite. IF I’m translating it correctly, it means to live ‘strongly’ or ‘boldly’. cross my fingers that’s correct because I have fortis tattooed on my body. So someone PLEASE tell me if it’s wrong hahaha.
I like that because to me it means you shouldn’t live any part of your life halfway. Say what you want to say to the people you want to say it to. Do the things you want to do, don’t do the things you don’t…just be bold. No half-assing anything.
I actually wrote that on my twitter way back in 8th grade or so when I created the account…and then a year ago I was going through a REALLY tough time in New York and spur of the moment went and got it with my best friend. (*Note: I reassured Melissa that through my research, i.e. Google Translate that Vive fortis does, in fact, mean “Live strong”.)

SM: Other than random twitter interviews, how is your off time spent?

MR: My time spent off is different day to day. I’m still taking school part-time at university and so work on that when I can. I LOVE to run so I do a lot of that when my knees decide to be good, other than that I love to take as much time to spend it with the people close to me, however that may look.

SM: What are you studying? Theater? Or something more “academic” like sciences and the like.

MR: I’m actually studying Communications. I want to use that to go into some sort of Journalism with an organization that helps social justice issues overseas. My family raised me on trips to places like Africa, Albania, Guatemala, etc., to help in schools, run soccer camps, anything really that helped and connected with small towns where we were.

SM: That’s is really phenomenal! Do you currently work with any charities at the moment that I can highlight?

MR: No, been talking to two different ones over the last number of months to see which ways I can help, and how, but haven’t stepped into one or the other yet. Will let you know as soon as I decide.

SM: Awesome! I would be more than happy to tweet and send out as much rooftop screaming as I can do with my tiny platform.

MR: Thanks!

Thank you again to the wonderful Melissa Roxburgh! She has been a gem! Catch Valor on The CW at 9pm est after Supergirl! You can also catch up on the first four episodes on the CW app.
Follow Melissa here @melissaroxburgh on Twitter as well as here @mroxburgh on Instagram.