Travis Milne was off "Rookie Blue" for only three episodes, but he says it felt "like an eternity" to him.
Several weeks into its current Season 4, the Canadian-made ABC police drama let his character -- Officer Chris Diaz -- make good on his promise to move from Toronto to Timmins with the young son he didn't know he had, along with the boy's mother. They return for a visit in Thursday's (Aug. 15) episode, but any joy is torpedoed when the child disappears while Andy and Nick ( Missy Peregrym, Peter Mooney) are minding him.
"This is the biggest episode Chris has ever had," the friendly Milne confirms to Zap2it. "He kind of loses it, and you get to see this different side of him. It was a challenge, since after being gone for those weeks, it was like getting back on the ice or the field after an injury. You're like, 'Am I going to be able to run as fast and jump as high and play as hard?'
"I just threw caution to the wind and went for it," Milne says. "I had tons of time to prepare, since Tassie [ Cameron, a creator and executive producer of the show] was kind enough to send me a version of the script as soon as she could, even before the table read."
During his weeks off, Milne kept his distance from the "Rookie Blue" set, since he didn't want to be "just hanging around." He admits that when he first learned he'd be written out for a while, "I was nervous about it. The initial reaction was, 'Oh, man, I'm fired.' Especially as an artist, your brain is naturally attuned to think the worst thing that could happen to you is happening, but that really wasn't the case.
"After that, I was actually kind of excited ... not necessarily to be off the show, but by what they were allowing Chris to do. Just think about where he was in Season 1; it's like you're looking at a completely different person now. Things are really beginning to affect him. It's undeniable."
Indeed, Milne appreciates that Cameron was "brave enough to say, 'We're going to let Chris go dark.' Sometimes, characters do that on TV shows and it's not very good or very believable, so there was a lot of pressure on me to 'bring it.' Chris has always been known as the comic relief, and by the end of Season 4, he's constantly getting banged up and having to persevere.
"It's interesting to see the textbook 'good guy' have problems and manage his way through them. I was able to leave as one person and come back as entirely another. I know it seems like (the absence) wasn't very long, but it was almost a month that I was off. By the time I got the green light to come back, I couldn't wait. I hate not working."
Milne's future with "Rookie Blue" is virtually guaranteed by the Season 5 renewal the show already has. However the rest of this summer's episodes play out for Chris -- the former boyfriend of fellow officer Gail Peck ( Charlotte Sullivan) -- his portrayer knows how he'd like to see the cop continue to develop.
"We've turned the page on Chris from young adult to adult," Milne says. "Nobody can tell him what to do, and I hope he's allowed to grow into the man he has become. The maturing factor for him is huge, and by Season 5, he should emerge from being a rookie into a fully capable cop who maybe can help some of the younger rookies settle into their jobs."
Photo/Video credit: ABC