If Aliyah O’Brien looks familiar to you, it’s because you may have seen her in her recurring roles as Regina in Bates Motel, Holly in Rookie Blue, or Robin in Beyond. This summer, O’Brien is gracing your televisions again in ABC’s new series Take Two as LAPD Detective Christine Rollins.
I recently spoke with O’Brien about her new role, what she loves about the series, and playing badass women.
Take Two is a dramedy created by the producers of Castle. It follows Sam Swift (Rachel Bilson), an actress who has just completed rehab after her show was canceled by the network and her boyfriend dumped her on the red carpet.
Sam follows a reluctant P.I. named Eddie Valetik (Eddie Cibrian) to research her next role, and finds that she’s actually kind of good at this whole crime-solving thing.
O’Brien began by describing her character a bit.
“Detective Christine Rollins is a second-grade detective with the LAPD,” O’Brien explained. “She’s kind of a badass. She’s really good at her job. She works really hard. She’s earned her way up the ranks, and she loves her work. She’s constantly fighting for justice and very morally driven. She always wants to do the right thing and make sure that the bad guys are caught.”
While Detective Rollins and Eddie Valetik come from two different spheres of law enforcement and cross paths professionally, they also have a personal relationship that borders on friends with benefits status.
“She has a long-standing friendship with Eddie Valetick, the P.I., they’ve known each other for about nine years, and they’re really good friends. They tried dating for a little bit, and it didn’t work out, but they managed to stay friends,” said O’Brien. “And they like to help each other out with cases, solve crimes together, and look out for each other in that way.”
Take Two premiered just last week, but the show’s blend of comedy and drama was already clear from the trailers. The nuance and blend of two styles is one of the things that attracted O’Brien to the show.
“I love the tone of it,” said O’Brien. “I love that it’s grounded and real but still has good, witty banter and fun plotlines, so you get a little bit of the best of both worlds in that way. It’s fun to play it, and it’s fun to watch it, but it’s not over the top. I’m not so partial to sitcom kind of type shows that are all laughs. I like there to be some feels and some connection on a bit of a deeper level to the characters.”
While O’Brien enjoys the witty banter that she gets to portray as Detective Rollins, she also loves that her character is a badass, and feels that the way the Take Two writers are writing other women is an important representation in the TV landscape.
“I think it’s so cliché when it’s two women fighting over a man or just that catty thing,” said O’Brien. “Obviously, it happens in the world, but that’s not the majority, and we need to steer away from that. We need to inspire women to champion each other.”
“When I look at my friend group, I’ve got these amazing, beautiful, strong, big-hearted awesome women in my life. We try to boost each other up and be there for each other. There’s so much abundance in the world, it’s crazy to think that we need to fight for our little piece of something,” O’Brien explained.
“I hope we’re phasing out those kinds of clichés because it’s not teaching anyone, especially our youth, what a healthy female friendship looks like. I’m very thankful and proud of how our show’s writing women.”
“I taped the audition from Toronto when I was living there last year,” O’Brien recalled. “It was one scene–a good scene–but it was long, and I didn’t really think anything of it.”
“I was in Bali just after Christmas,” O’Brien remembered. “The first day I was in Bali, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of ‘Oh wow! This is somewhere that feels like home, I’m going to move here.’ I said to myself, ‘I’m going to move here part-time, I’m gonna go home, and book a series so that I can live in Bali for part of the year.”
It was after she returned to Vancouver from Bali that she got the news that she received a callback.
“The day after I got back from Bali they scheduled a callback for Take Two,” said O’Brien. “Then the next day, they said ‘We’re testing you.’ So they did all the stuff that you do with that, the negotiations and whatnot, and then I booked the role.”
“I really feel like the universe gifted me with this, or I manifested it, or [it’s] a co-creation, but it really just felt meant to be. I really feel like the role just really sits naturally on me, there’s something about it that I feel very connected to.”
O’Brien’s road to acting started as a passion before she made the decision to pursue it full-time.
“I did musicals [in high school] and stuff like that, even though I couldn’t sing. I did my best,” O’Brien laughed.
“Later in life, I was in school for kinesiology, I was a personal trainer–and a friend said, ‘Hey will you take this acting class with me for fun?’ and it was in this church basement, with this acting teacher that was way overqualified to teach in a church basement, but she gave us these really meaty scenes and we’d play all these games and stuff,” O’Brien remembered.
“It was during these juicy scenes that I just felt so alive. It was like I tapped into a part of myself that I just hadn’t experienced often enough,” O’Brien said. “It was like recreating the total depth and aliveness of life, and it caught me.”
During the final performance for one of these classes, a director told she should consider doing it as a profession.
“We had to do these little performances at the end of our class,” O’Brien noted. “I didn’t invite anyone because I was too embarrassed, but there was a director there that came up to me after and she was like, ‘You know, if you like this, you should consider doing it as a profession.’ And I was like, “No, no, no! That’s crazy!'”
“But it planted a seed and I started to take more classes just for fun, because I enjoyed it. Then eventually the tables sort of turned, and I thought to myself, I need to pursue this or it will be something I regret,” O’Brien recalled.
“I was living in Victoria at the time and I packed my stuff and I decided to move to Vancouver to take an acting program full-time and just see if I could make it happen. And I have not looked back, it’s been a wild and very rewarding ride,” she said.
Since she started acting, O’Brien has appeared in a variety of shows. They’ve run the gambit from science fiction, like Beyond, to comedy, like Men with Brooms, and drama, like Bates Motel. I asked her if she has any preference for one style of show over the others.
“I think I’m partial to variety,” O’Brien reflected. “I like doing a little bit of everything. I will say that I love the tone of [Take Two] because when you’re working on something for as long as we are, six-ish months, it’s nice to do something with levity that’s still grounded and real, but also has a lot of fun and sass and wit to it.”
“That is probably my favorite because you get the best of both worlds, and you also have a good energy at work,” she stated. “I find [on] some of those darker shows, sometimes it can be a little intense. Which is okay for a shorter period of time, but I don’t know if I would want to do six months of that.”
“I love comedy. I love sci-fi. I love them all,” O’Brien elaborated. “There’s just something about having a higher, kind of fun vibration, on set, it’s really nice.”
One of O’Brien’s guest starring roles was on the Vancouver-based Syfy series Sanctuary in 2011. O’Brien played Afina, a vampire queen who was accidentally awakened by Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping) and Nikola Tesla (Jonathan Young).
O’Brien vividly recalls her vampire ensemble, which consisted of a custom dress, high heels, a pair of fangs, cosmetic contact lenses, and long talon fingernails.
“That was probably the craziest costume that I ever had to wear,” said O’Brien. “They custom-made the outfit and it was super restrictive on motion and movement, and yet I had all these fight scenes and things to do.”
“Then I had the teeth and the eyes when I was vamped out, and the nails, and when you had the nails on you couldn’t touch anything or pick anything up, you were basically useless,” O’Brien said.
“Then I had high-heeled boots of course; because all vampires have high-heel boots, and the ground, the surface that we were filming on and walking on had these rubber crystals. They were basically made to look like amethyst crystals from the encasing that had been shattered that I was hibernating in,” she remembered. “That was all over the ground, so walking on those little bumpy things with the high heels was a nightmare.”
“It was like the ultimate acting challenge to be super stoic, and badass, and fierce, while also feeling super awkward in your outfit,” said O’Brien.
Even though the costume may have been outrageous and there were technical challenges to filming the episode, O’Brien likes that part of her work and finds it satisfying to work through it to get to the finished product.
“There’s all these little technical things that you have to be mindful of while being real and connected and all the other things. It’s really, at times, very challenging, but also very rewarding when you can get it all together in one take,” she explained.
When O’Brien isn’t acting, she loves to stay active and do a lot of physical activities such as hiking, biking, Pilates, boxing, and ecstatic dance.
“[Estatic dance is] a freeform dance where you just move your body to great music, however you want,” she explained. “If you look it up, and you watch videos you’ll think it looks crazy because people are just, you know, they just move their bodies however they want, which sometimes looks really weird, but it’s so liberating.”
“I find it’s very freeing to be uninhibited in the way that you connect with your body, and move your body, and for a lot of people, it can be almost like a spiritual experience. It’s amazing, and the music and the community is always usually very supportive,” she said.
Aside from staying active, O’Brien puts a lot of value in her friends and relationships and puts a lot of time into self-care.
“I’ve got a really amazing friend group and a lot of really soulful women in my life, and so we get together and connect and talk about life, and drink wine, that sort of thing, and then I’m also really into personal development and nurturing my inner being,” said O’Brien. “I do a lot of reading books and sometimes I’ll do little workshops, or just go walk in the woods and walk in the woods, and just have like a ‘me’ day. I’m big on the self-care.”
“I’ve definitely upped my self-care game in the last year. That’s something that I love and also try to encourage in others,” said O’Brien.
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