Tracey Birdsall was born in Van Nuys, California, the youngest of three daughters born to Ronald Birdsall and Carol Birdsall (born Carol Stone). She was raised in Southern California and is primarily of British and European descent. Bert Lewis, the famous Walt Disney composer, was her great-grandfather.
Birdsall trained in dance, singing, and musical theater throughout her youth, which later led to her studying various acting techniques. She claims her real breakthrough in her training was when working with renowned acting coach Margie Haber, who taught her to simply become the character – no matter how excruciating.
Known for her meticulous preparation, Birdsall is recognized worldwide for her diverse and challenging roles and for working across genres. In the recently released and highly anticipated Science Fiction film Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter (2017), Birdsall has garnered awards including the esteemed Female Action Performer of the Year Award at the highly regarded Action on Film Festival, Best Actress Jury Award from the West Coast Film Festival, Best Actress Jury Award from LATCA, and was the only American actress nominated for Best Actress at the 50th Annual WorldFest Houston 2017 – for her role as Sienna.
Interview with Tracey Birdsall
Sci-Fi & Scary: Your work over the past few years shows a definite science fiction trend emerging. What is it about the genre that draws you?
Tracey Birdsall: It’s all about opportunity! I grew up a science fiction junkie, but I only recently have had the opportunities open up. Neil Johnson wanted to start using only really good – well-trained actors (instead of the usual sci-fi trope), and all my hard work and training finally paid off in my favorite genre! The draw comes from the character development, the action, and the imagination – it’s actually a lot like being a kid again.
Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your current favorite sci-fi movie?
Tracey Birdsall: Fairly current is Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. I love human stories told as a backdrop to science fiction films. That’s actually what I loved so much about filming Rogue Warrior too.
Sci-Fi & Scary: You have worked with director Neil Johnson on a few occasions now. A deliberate choice, or happenstance?
Tracey Birdsall: A definitive deliberate choice on both of our parts.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Clint Morris called you a flag-flyer for independent films. What is it about them that makes you support them so strongly?
Tracey Birdsall: I googled flag-flyer – just in case you meant other than the obvious, so you should see the Urban Dictionary definition! Since you obviously meant the obvious, I adore independent films because of the collaborative nature. I absolutely love bringing characters to life in an immersive nature, and independent producers and directors take advantage of that love – in a good way.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Tell us a bit about your character, Sienna, in Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter?
Tracey Birdsall: Sienna’s character has gigantic arcs not only in her life, but also in her self-awareness. On top of all of that, the worlds are being destroyed around her so the tension is high. She’s extremely deliberate in all of her actions, but also extremely vulnerable. Taking her from being so tough to feeling so vulnerable was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – huge wonderful arcs. I learned a lot about my own humanity living her life for a while – ventured into new territory.
Sci-Fi & Scary: How long did it take you to film Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter?
Tracey Birdsall: Principle photography lasted three weeks. Additional principle photography with new cast members took approximately 2 weeks. Additional filming and pick-up shots lasted approximately 60 non-linear days. All in all, it took about two years of work to get it out the door – intense and constant.
Sci-Fi & Scary: How do you balance life and work when you’re putting in long hours on the set?
Tracey Birdsall: When I’m filming, it’s very much like life stops. Everything that’s not crucial gets put aside and there is no balance. Managers, publicists, and even family members (who are so used to this) are put in charge of the essentials because I can’t focus on anything else when I’m immersed in a character. The character can be very selfish of my time…
Sci-Fi & Scary: What was your favorite thing about the movie and/or filming experience?
Tracey Birdsall: Preparing for and living the life of someone I painstakingly create. I literally thrive on it.
Sci-Fi & Scary: The movie has received a lot of positive press, with sites like HorrorFuel calling it an ‘absolute win’. Did you get a sense when filming that it was going to be so well-received?
Tracey Birdsall: That’s definitely the goal… I think the hardest part is when critics (a couple of big ones) don’t watch the film (gotta love Vimeo pro statistics) and then just spit some words out without thinking of the time and effort – and love – that went into making it. At least the people who actually watch the film have had some really nice things to say about it 🙂 It makes me very happy, as our true purpose (as actors) is to entertain.
Sci-Fi & Scary: At the Edge of Time, and The Time War are both in post-production. Do you think fans of Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter will enjoy both of them, or do they aim at a different target audience?
Tracey Birdsall: They are completely different! Time travel films where my character only vaguely resembles Sienna… The Time War will be out next, and it’s a very big film – much bigger budget. The audience will be slightly different, as the film is much more complex in nature and cast. It’s really quite dark sci-fi!
Sci-Fi & Scary: Do you think if you could go back in time and talk to your younger self when she was first getting roles that she would be surprised at the direction film roles have taken you?
Tracey Birdsall: It’s funny that you should word it that way, as I refer to this all the time! Much younger to when I started getting roles, however… way back to my youth. My childhood self would be excited beyond belief. I used to cast whole scenes and shows on the grass of my childhood home – with neighborhood children for some reason playing along. My “overactive imagination” as a child would be duly proud – as I never had to put it away, so to speak. All that I have to do is work harder and longer than anyone else is willing to work, and I get to continue being that child. How awesome is that?!
Sci-Fi & Scary: Is acting in your blood, so to speak, or did you break the mold in your family?
Tracey Birdsall: It’s funny that you should ask. Up until recently, I was only aware of my great-grandfather Elbert Lewis being in the industry. He was a very famous composer that composed/scored some of the biggest films for Mack Sennet in the 1920’s (including Suzanna (1923)). He also moved to California with Walt Disney and composed scores of films for him (including Steamboat Willie (1928)).
Recently however, I was on a Facebook Page for the Birdsall Family, which hails from Birdsall, England. I have been quite fascinated with my heritage there since visiting Birdsall (during a few weeks filming in England for The Time War). As was pointed out to me, Betty Grable stems from the same ancestry line that I do. I’ll have to do some research to see that exactly how we are related, but she was the biggest actor of her time – so that was pretty cool that I wasn’t the first…
ROGUE WARRIOR: ROBOT FIGHTER is a Science Fiction film set in the distant future depicting the overthrow of humanity by artificial intelligence on Earth and other worlds.
Directed and Written by: Neil Johnson
Released by: Sony Pictures
Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Now available on Blu-Ray.