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?
Don’t forget to catch Riley Wednesday, October 5 at 9/8c on The CW for the premiere of Frequency. And be on the lookout for his new solo album dropping in early 2017.