On NBC’s GRIMM, now in its fourth season Fridays at 9 PM, Sasha Roiz plays Sean Renard, a Portland, Oregon police captain who’s also a Zauberbiest. For those just tuning in, a Zauberbiest is the male version of a Hexenbiest, a shape-shifting witch. One example of a Hexenbiest is Renard’s former lover Adalind (Claire Coffee), the mother of their baby Diana. Adalind is livid with Renard, as she’s just found out he conspired with the Resistance to take Diana from her mother and give her to Kelly Burkhardt (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who’s a Grimm and the mother of Grimm Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), a detective under Renard’s command. Renard’s remarkably youthful-looking mother Elizabeth (Louise Lombard), another Hexenbiest, has just breezed through town, first to save Renard from what would have been otherwise fatal gunshot wounds, then to restore Nick’s Grimm powers after Adalind had managed to steal them from him. GRIMM is nothing if not eventful, as its fans – known collectively as Grimmsters – can attest.
Speaking of events, in real life, Roiz has put one together. The GRIMM Gala, which will take place Saturday, February 7 and is already sold out, benefits Portland’s Doembecher Children’s Hospital. NBC and Nike are sponsors of the gala, which is an outgrowth of the hospital’s Grimmster Endowment, which was founded by Roiz to provide financial aid to the families of young patients undergoing treatment at Doembecher. There’s also an online charity auction of GRIMM memorabilia benefiting the endowment that runs through February 4, which can be found at http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/dchf/fundraising/grimm-gala.cfm .
Roiz gets on the phone from GRIMM’s Portland location to talk about the endowment, the gala – and a little bit about what’s going on in Renard’s world.
AX: Originally, did you think, “How can I help the hospital” and then thought, “Aha, GRIMM,” or did you see that there are other TV shows that have their various charities and thought, “Hmm, maybe we can use GRIMM for this”?
SASHA ROIZ: It honestly was a very personal endeavor. I was visiting the hospital on a regular basis and fostered a relationship with them, as well as the cast – we visit together several times a year. I began the Grimmster Endowment there a year ago. I was trying to figure out a way to fund it in the most efficient and high-profile way, and of course GRIMM was the best way to do so. I’m not familiar with any other cast that has done something quite like this. I could be wrong, but this seems to be a unique situation where a production and a network really stand behind an event such as this and do everything from donating memorabilia from set to promoting us to funding us. It’s a really remarkable and unique situation. I’m very grateful to everyone who’s come on board.
AX: Did you initially ask your GRIMM cast mates to come with you to the hospital, or did they all find their way to the hospital individually?
ROIZ: They started to come with me. The cast, bless them, are very generous with their time, and all are engaged in some form of philanthropic activity and are always trying to give back. We try to always go as a cast. The kids and the families of the kids and the staff get a kick out of seeing us and engaging with us, and it gives us the chance to brighten their day and to distract them a little bit from everything that’s going on in their lives.
AX: Now, are the kids at the hospital old enough to watch GRIMM?
ROIZ: It all depends. There are some very young kids, but then what we found was, when the kids were too young, the parents were actually fans. Initially, when I started visiting, I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll cheer up the kids.” What I didn’t realize was how many parents were fans. And also what I didn’t realize was how much the parents needed a bit of a respite from the day to day, all the ongoing emotional stress of their days. It’s actually a wonderful distraction for them as well. So it’s been a wonderful experience altogether.
AX: Can you talk about some of the auction items? Presumably things like the illustrations from Nick’s Wesen books would have to be copies, because the show still needs those books as props.
ROIZ: Well, it’s not a piece of the book, but it is a complete original print. It was printed all at the same time and they are original printing copies, signed by our incredible artist, Carly Sertic, who does all the drawings for us that created the aesthetic for these books. And then in the case of, for instance, the Blutbad drawing, it’s signed by her, it’s framed, it comes with a certificate of authenticity and Silas [Weir Mitchell, who plays Monroe, the resident Blutbad] will sign that as well, because it only makes sense. So we’re trying to make it as personal and as original as we can. And some of the items are originals. There are items up there like the scalps and the key and the egg. So these are real props and memorabilia that people can own and own a little part of GRIMM history.
AX: After you’d set up the Grimmster Endowment, how did the GRIMM Gala come to be organized?
ROIZ: The genesis of it was, after several visits and several personal experiences where I encountered families that were really struggling, not just emotionally but now financially because of all that’s involved in sacrificing your time and relocating for the sake of the well-being of your child, I realized there was a big demand to assist them financially, so I began the endowment and then started thinking of how I could best fund this thing, because I thought it would be great that even once GRIMM has packed up and left, that we leave a little bit of ourselves with this city that has been so gracious and wonderful to us, and to mark we were here and we loved [Portland] and thank you so much.
Thankfully, our producer Steve Oster, who is really a philanthropist in his own right and does absolutely anything he can to give back to this community, was on board right away when I proposed the idea, and connected me initially with a few people at Comcast who were all remarkable and generous with their time, and they helped me set up the whole group of people. There’s a a dozen people or so at Comcast, and then we had Nike come on board, and of course the people at Doembecher. So there’s a remarkable group that’s working behind the scenes to try to make this happen, and the cast, of course, are volunteering their time. It is really a joint venture, and it’s a real indication of what this city is like. They really come together. No matter how big the corporation, everybody comes on board. Of course, NBC’s been behind it, and [the GRIMM production team]. I can’t thank people enough. It’s a really unbelievable event.
AX: What will the GRIMM Gala consist of?
ROIZ: It’s twofold. Currently, we have an online auction to raise funds, and of course we’re open to donations as well, so if you can’t afford some of those items – because they will get costly – anything you can give is very much appreciated. When [the auction] closes and the Gala takes place on February 7 here in Portland, then that has some other items that will be up for auction, one of which we’re very excited about. Nike came on and decided to fund our event as well by means of producing a limited run of fifty pairs of GRIMM shoes. They’ve never done something like this before. They’re GRIMM shoes by their head designer, Tinker Hatfield, as well as five single pairs of shoes that will feature five of the eight characters from the show in their Wesen form and their regular form. In addition to that, they have four hundred GRIMM fleeces – one of which I’m actually wearing right now – that they’ve designed for us. So all of these items will be available for auction as well, and hopefully we’ll raise a lot of funds for the Endowment. It’ll be a sort of party and dinner and there will be guest speakers and some video montages of our visits. I’ll be emceeing and hopefully it’ll be a great night.
AX: Have you been an emcee before?
ROIZ: I’ve never emceed a charity auction, but I’ve emceed a few weddings, so I can be quite the ham and I’m perfectly comfortable in front of an audience. This one comes from the heart and this one will have to be restrained to some extent, because I tend to have a little too much fun sometimes with the microphone.
AX: And there are presumably young people there …
ROIZ: Well, there are very proper people there [laughs] and I want to make sure that I stick to the script and don’t offend anyone.
AX: Once the event is over, does the Grimmster Endowment continue? Can people still contribute after the gala?
ROIZ: Absolutely. It’s open-ended, it never goes away, and you can always contribute to it at any point in time [here http://bit.ly/1CqeOgh ]. The great thing about the Endowment is that it’s locked in in perpetuity and will never go away. As long as the hospital is around, that endowment will be there.
AX: During your hospital visits, when you talk to the families or the kids, is there a particular thing they want to know, or they want to share with you? Is there a common theme in those interactions?
ROIZ: Well, if they’re fans, they want to share their enthusiasm for the show, and they’re happy that we’ve taken the time to visit them. Oftentimes, they share their stories, which we appreciate, and those are hard sometimes, but I think that’s part of the healing process. When you’re sitting at the hospital, you just want someone to hear your story and just have a little empathy, and that’s really the point of all this.
AX: And to ask a little bit about GRIMM itself, were you confident at the end of Season 3 that you’d be getting a Season 4?
ROIZ: Yeah. Our fan base is growing, our ratings are strong, NBC is behind us, and so I don’t think we had any doubt that we were coming back. I think maybe for a moment when I read the script where the Captain gets shot, I might have panicked a little bit.
AX: They didn’t hand it to you and say, “Don’t worry,” they just handed it to you and let your hair stand on end?
ROIZ: Pretty much [laughs]. So I kind of assumed, “Well, they’re not saying anything, so I’m just going to assume that I come back.” But then I did pull aside [series co-creator/co-show runner] Jim Kouf at one point and said, “I think I need a little bit more of a solid confirmation from you.” He said, “You live. Don’t worry.” “Okay, great.” So it was fun. But we had no reservations.
AX: Were you expecting Renard’s mom to be so young-looking and beautiful?
ROIZ: No, I wasn’t. I never know what to expect with these guys. Rhey constantly keep us guessing. I don’t mind that. But she’s definitely – I’m not going to use that acronym, but let’s just say she’s a yummy mummy. I’m sure it was hard for Captain Renard growing up in high school, and all the kids coming over to his house just to hang with his mom. There was a lot of, “Dude, your mom’s hot.” “Shut up, man!”
AX: In the scene in a recent episode where Captain Renard throws the Wesenrein cop over the desk, are those both stunt people, is that you and a stunt person …?
ROIZ: That is me, sometimes with the stunt person and sometimes with the actual actor.
AX: How was that to do?
ROIZ: I love it. I love throwing people around. I will do as much tossing of people as they need me to do – on and off the set.
AX: Do you have a favorite sequence that we’ve seen so far in Season 4?
ROIZ: There’s always something that they throw my way. I’m just coming back today and speaking to you from a big fight choreography [rehearsal] that’s going to take place in an upcoming episode, so it’s always fun to have these challenges. I like being physical, I like when the Captain’s physical. I think it’s a very important component to his personality and character. He’s not just someone who talks and makes veiled threats, he’s somebody who’s hands-on and dangerous, and I’d like to keep him that way.
AX: And how is it playing the father of an infant?
ROIZ: It’s good, but the infant’s been away. So thankfully, I don’t have to walk around nursing a child all day long, but those several episodes with the baby definitely makes for a very, very new and interesting dynamic, a part of the character up until that point I hadn’t had a chance to explore.
AX: Sergeant Wu, played by Reggie Lee, has recently learned about the world of Grimms and Wesen. Does Wu knowing do anything for you as an actor?
ROIZ: One of the reasons I like my character is because I like a character that’s replete with secrets. I like someone who has a lot going on under the surface and you can’t quite predict or anticipate what he might do. So I think sometimes when too many people are in the know, it’s frustrating for Renard, because he’s spinning a lot of plates. And I’m sure, I have no doubt, that he will have more and more secrets that will slowly surface, and he will have a lot of surprises in store for fans and also the other characters on the show.
AX: If the GRIMM Gala is successful, do you think you might do a second one?
ROIZ: I can’t say yet. I mean, this has been so much work, at this point, I can’t even think ahead [laughs]. But I’m sure the Gala will be successful, I know the show is successful currently, so I’m just happy for all that. If we have the time or energy, maybe we’ll do it again, but for now, we’re just going to focus on this and get through it. It’s been a year in the making.
AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the GRIMM Gala or the Grimmster Endowment or GRIMM the show right now?
ROIZ: I just hope that Grimmsters feel a connection with this endowment that’s in their name and that we can band together and make a real difference, and any donation is an important donation, so donate.
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Article: Sasha Roiz on GRIMM and the Grimmster Endowment – exclusive interview