Tracking Tracey

Ian Tracey as Jimmy Reardon in IntelligenceI’ve been busy this summer watching Canadian character actor Ian Tracey in his many television and movie roles, a daunting task when you consider that he’s been acting for 35 years. You may not be familiar with the name, but you might recognize the face. He’s very distinctive looking, with a wide weathered face, a furrowed brow, and a large gap in his front teeth. He’s not very tall. He reminds me of a pit bull, and I mean that in best possible way. Tracey has a gruff voice and he’s not a classically trained actor, so he’s perfectly suited to play blue collar, regular-guy types. He’s played cops, criminals, bar owners, fishermen, sociopaths, soldiers, homeless guys, and henchmen. He is able to convey a dangerous menace, so it’s not ridiculous when he shoves around a guy who’s much bigger.

Tracey first came to my attention on The X-Files, when he guest starred in the episode The Walk. He played a bitter vet in a VA hospital with no arms or legs. If I hadn’t been so focused on Johnny Depp, I would have noticed him a decade earlier in his four appearances on 21 Jump Street. Tracey is based in Vancouver, and both of these American television shows were filmed there.

Ian Tracey as Huck Finn

Huck Finn

Ian Tracey began his career as a child actor. I’ve already discussed Tracey’s first television series, Huckleberry Finn and His Friends.  I found this series on YouTube, where I also discovered his 1976 film Dreamspeaker, which is one of the most depressing movies I’ve ever watched. I even found stills from Tracey’s first film, The Keeper with Christopher Lee. Watching the YouTube trailer to the cheesy series Tropical Heat (a.k.a Sweating Bullets) led me to buy the third season on DVD at a bargain price, but I can’t bear to write about it. I’ll just say that Tracey played bar owner Spider Garvin in seasons 2 and 3, and maybe he just needed the money. Or, maybe he wanted to soak up some sun in South Africa, since this is one of his few shows that wasn’t filmed in Vancouver.

The Outer Limits: Judgment Day

The Outer Limits: Judgment Day

Hulu.com is a good place to find more of Tracey’s work. All the episodes of 21 Jump Street are here, as well as The X-Files (season 3, episode 7: The Walk), Highlander (season 5, episode 4: Glory Days), and The Dead Zone (season 2, episode 17: The Mountain). Two episodes of The Outer Limits (season 2, episode 9: Trial by Fire; season 6, episode 1: Judgment Day) and one of Poltergeist: The Legacy (season 2, episode 13: The Devil’s Lighthouse) are also on hulu. There’s the more recent series Rookie Blue (season 1, episode 10: Big Nickel) which is available with a paid hulu plus subscription. [Sadly, it seems like every time I go back to hulu, something that was free before has now become part of the paid subscription.]  His six episodes of Sanctuary rotate in and out, so you just have to watch for those to stream. The first two seasons of the Canadian series Da Vinci’s Inquest are also on hulu, and this is the show that kicked off my interest in Tracey.

Da Vinci’s Inquest ran for 7 seasons from 1998 through 2005, followed by one season of Da Vinci’s City Hall. Dominic Da Vinci is a Vancouver coroner, played by the brilliant Nicholas Campbell, and he works with pathologists, forensic scientists, and Vancouver homicide detectives on cases of suspicious death. What makes this show unique is the realistic depiction of police work. More often than not, the bad guys aren’t caught, let alone identified. Even when they are identified, many times a case can’t be made to convict. There are even times when it can’t be determined if the cause of a death was accident or homicide. The good guys don’t always win, if ever. It often leaves me at the end of an episode feeling seriously blue. What really depresses me, though, is that only the first three seasons are available on DVD or streaming. Petitions, emails, and messages in fan forums have so far failed to get the rest of this excellent series released. As the show reaches the end the third season on my local Retro TV station, I’m holding my breath to see if we go into season 4, or if they just start airing season 1 again. My email inquiry to the station has received no answer.

Ian Tracey as Mick Leary in Da Vinci's Inquest

Ian Tracey as Mick Leary in Da Vinci’s Inquest

Ian Tracey plays detective Mick Leary, a younger cop who is usually paired up with old school veteran Leo Shannon, the wonderful actor Donnelly Rhodes. Leary has a problem ex-wife, a problem brother, and a sweet romance with one of the pathologists. One of Tracey’s best episodes in the season 1 finale, The Capture. A traumatized victim leaves him in tears, and later he gets pissed off at a suspect and threatens to shoot her through a car trunk. I love his range of emotion and his intensity.

Da Vinci’s Inquest was created and written by Chris Haddock. Once it ended, Haddock cast Tracey as crime boss Jimmy Reardon in his CBC series Intelligence. This show only lasted for two seasons, and I knew when I started watching that it ended abruptly with a cliffhanger that was never resolved. I’ve read online debates over whether the story was veering too close to the truth about water rights and Canadian/US politics, leading to its cancellation. Even knowing I wouldn’t get any resolution, I am still surprised about how emotionally invested I got in this show. I’d love to know what was going to happen next.

Klea Scott and Ian Tracey in Intelligence

Klea Scott and Ian Tracey in Intelligence

Intelligence is a complex drama about Mary Spalding, head of the Vancouver Organized Crime Unit, who’s fighting for a promotion to CSIS, a Canadian version of the CIA. When a stolen briefcase containing informant files lands in Jimmy Reardon’s hands, she is forced to swap information with him. Reardon is a third generation weed smuggler, who heads up the family business which includes legitimate operations like shipping. He’s fighting his volatile ex-wife for custody of their 12-year-old daughter, and he’s also struggling to keep his loyal but undisciplined brother in line. Reardon should be the bad guy, but he turns out to be the most moral, level-headed character in the show, and the most sympathetic. Sure, he’s in the drug trade, but he won’t touch anything besides marijuana. He’s fair to his business associates. He obviously hates resorting to violence, and he just want to go about his business. His long term goal is to become legitimate and move away from criminal activities. The real bad guys here are the agents in the intelligence network, who are busy backstabbing their associates, when they’re not covertly recording them or lying to their faces. They never arrest any bad guys, they just turn them into informants and let them continue their activities. Matt Frewer plays one of the worst offenders, and he’s also a fascinating actor. In the first season, his character Ted Altman is secretly working with the DEA to bring down Jimmy Reardon, threatening Mary Spalding’s career in the process. This show has a bunch of other interesting characters, too many to describe here, and it helps to watch these episodes back to back to keep them all straight. Chris Haddock uses many of the same actors who appear in Da Vinci’s Inquest, and it’s fun to see them playing different roles.

I’ve got many more films and television shows to watch before I’m finished with Ian Tracey’s body of work. I won’t be able to watch everything, since so many series and seasons and TV movies are not available. At least I can look forward to new roles in the future. He’s appearing in the pilot of Alcatraz, a midseason drama series airing on Fox. It’s set here in San Francisco. Was he filming in my own backyard? Possibly. According to IMDb, filming locations included both San Francisco and Vancouver. [Update: I couldn’t find him in the pilot when it aired.]

One of the things that surprises me about Ian Tracey is that he has almost no internet presence. There is no facebook fan page, no twitter, no major fan site, not even an actor profile on the official Da Vinci’s Inquest website, at least not on the international version. Here’s his profile from the US site. He’s obviously a very private person. Perhaps his brush with teen idol status during the Huckleberry Finn days makes him avoid the limelight, or perhaps he just wants to work as an actor without all the fuss of stardom. I will respect his privacy and not make a fuss, but I will recommend that you watch some of his brilliant work.

Update:  Here’s an article about Tracey from 2006. It gives more information about the missing Da Vinci’s Inquest seasons than I’ve found elsewhere, at least about Tracey’s character. [see updated link in comments below]

Happily, my Retro TV channel is showing season 4. Tracey is brilliant, especially in the fifth episode, “Ugly Quick,” where his character is reeling over the shooting death of a fellow officer.

If you’re a fellow fan of Tracey’s work, be sure to leave a comment! Also, let me know if you have seasons 5-7 of Da Vinci’s Inquest, or Da Vinci’s City Hall.

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32 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Katelyn on August 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I haven’t seen much of Ian Tracey’s work, but I have a feeling I’ve seen him around. Sometimes it’s nice when actors don’t have an internet presence, because then it’s like you found a secret gem no one else really knows about. Of course it makes it more difficult to find other fans to dish with. At least you’ve got your blog!

    Reply

  2. Hi Ian,

    I loved your Character in Intelligence, I hope Jimmy does not die please.

    I honestly did fall in love with your character. Ever since I watched Intelligence – I have googled you, wanted to more about you. Job well done…

    [Note: Comment edited due to series spoiler]

    Reply

    • Hey, Pam!
      Thanks for leaving a comment. I would certainly be flattered if Ian Tracey visited my blog and read your comment, but I can’t promise anything!

      Reply

  3. Posted by Alison on September 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Just came across your blog here. Its good to know there are more fans of Ian’s around the world as I have been a long term fan since Huckleberry Finn and Friends and have struggled to find more of his work (although the internet does make it easier these days!!!) and being based in the UK makes it difficult. He is truly magnificient and i love watching anything he has appeared in!!!!
    Alison

    Reply

    • Hey, Allison! It’s lovely to hear from another fan. If you took a look at the rest of my blog, you’ve see that I’m obsessed with many actors in the UK. I certainly know the frustration of not being able to find an actor’s work from across the pond. Are you able to access hulu.com from the UK? I’m happy to report that my retro TV station has just started airing season 6 of Da Vinci’s Inquest, so I’ve seen more of the series than I’d hoped. Let me know if there is anything I can help you get, and stay in touch!

      Reply

  4. Posted by Heather on February 22, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Hi, I happened across your blog of my favourite actor. I too first noticed Ian during the X-Files episode. However, I do vaguely remember the Huck Finn series when I was growing up but was much too interested in Starsky & Hutch at the time. I’m only 6 months older than Ian and as a teenager a Huck Finn story didn’t interest me. I have been enthralled with his acting style since first seeing him and think he is adorable. I watched most of the entire DaVinci series when it was airing originally and then caught the 2-hour summer pilot of Intelligence & loved it. I was ecstatic when it became a series because of the Mick Leary withdrawals from which I was suffering (ha ha). I was terribly disappointed when it was cancelled and also heard the rumours about the story-line being too close to true. I’ve tried to catch Ian in as much as possible since (Hell On Wheels, Sanctuary, Supernatural), but he’s not taken the lead role in anything since poor Jimmy was left on the street to die. Chris Haddock is brilliant and I really hope he creates something new for all of our supremely talented Canadians to work in and brings back ‘our people’ in new exciting roles. I got so attached to the characters that you do really cheer on the drug dealers & not the cops so much. I’m still very angry with Bob for not going outside with Jimmy to talk to Stella. Thanks so much for posting about Ian. For the longest time I really thought I was the only person who knew who he was as none of friends have ever heard of him. Oh well, all the more for me to enjoy when he is working.

    Reply

    • It’s so nice to hear from another fan! I know there are more of us out there, because I see what brings people to my pages. So many of them seem to as internet-shy as Mr Tracey himself, because they don’t leave comments saying hello. I too wish Ian Tracey would take on a starring role in something where we could see him regularly. I’m sure he gets offers and must have reasons for sticking to guest and supporting roles. Did you see that Chris Haddock is doing something with Boardwalk Empire? I only glanced at the headline and need to go back and get all the details.

      Reply

  5. Posted by dvp on March 19, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Check out Ian in this upcoming film.
    http://www.indiegogo.com/corvusfilm

    Reply

  6. Posted by rebecca on August 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    i first spotted ian tracey in huckleberry finn when i was 12 years old and was convinced for a decade after that that i was the only teenage girl in britain that new of him! saw him in a few bits and pieces after that, x files, tropical heat, conspiracy of silence etc, then i got the internet, tapped in his name to see if he was still acting , thankgoodness i did just think of what i’d have missed!, iron road, civic duty, davincis, intelligence, 4400, david millgard story, tommy douglas story, emile, the list goes on and for as long as it does i’ll keep watching.

    Reply

  7. Posted by margaret on September 16, 2012 at 8:09 am

    what’s the latest news on Ian ???
    Do we have any thing here in the states that he will be seen in ??
    Hugh Fan of all of his work
    M.

    Reply

    • I’m not sure about TV, but his movie Donovan’s Echo was just released on DVD in Canada. I don’t know how big a role he has, but at least it’s something!

      Reply

  8. Posted by deidre on September 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I love Ian Tracey, Chris Haddock, also Colin Cunningham. There is a Facebook group called Intelligence TV, having to do with everything about the Intelligence series. People have complained too there about the Da Vinci’s Inquest DVD’s not being available. Its a closed group you have sent a request to join, but here is the link. Also I emailed CBC years ago when they canceled Intelligence after 2 season, got no response. I would email to complain about DI only being on DVD for 3 seasons, but I don’t where to email. http://www.facebook.com/groups/weedking/

    Reply

  9. I see that Ian’s movie made with Danny Glover is being released on netflix in May….you can bet it will be at the top of my queue…..

    Reply

  10. No new updates !!!! come on people someone must have something new on “our” favorite Canadian actor……

    Reply

  11. still waiting for “Donavon’s Echo” to be released……also was disappointed about Ian’s role in “Cedar Cove” , needless to say I didn’t watch the show once I realized his name wasn’t listed in the credits. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the casting director of ” The Killing” will find a place for Ian in next season….such a talented actor…..

    Reply

  12. Posted by SuzyD on November 30, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Hi. Great post, thanks! I was disappointed to find the Yahoo article about Ian Tracey resulted in a 404 error, but was able to find it on their restructured site. Here’s the current URL for anyone interested:

    http://voices.yahoo.com/ian-tracey-canadian-actor-jack-all-trades-65635.html?cat=49

    I’m very glad to hear you were able to watch the latter seasons of Da Vinci, it gives me hope that perhaps they’ll eventually be released here in the US. DVDs, streaming, I’m not picky.

    Have you found any reason for the unavailability of those seasons? some contractual problem (e.g., other shows had music rights as a hurdle to overcome), or just a plain greed, where the owners don’t believe they’ll make enough $$? If the latter, other shows with limited appeal (though I hardly put DVI in that category) have been released as “print on demand.” Perhaps the DVI folks should look into that. Or at the very least streaming … come on, we’re still interested after all this time, that should tell them something.

    Anyway, thanks much for your posting, it’s nice to see others are as interested, and frustrated, as I am. :O)

    Reply

  13. Posted by SuzyD on November 30, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Oh, and thanks so much for the link to the US DVI site — it was Ian not being mentioned at all on the Canadian site that had me searching for an explanation, and how I got here. Privacy concerns I understand and respect, but not being listed in a cast directory where no private information is revealed actually makes him stand out more than if he’d just been among the cast. I know he eschews the “star” stuff, and admire that, but in this case I think it’s a bit over the top, and probably achieves the opposite of his desired effect.

    Reply

  14. I just watched “Man of Steel” again on video, and realized the person I thought was Callum Keith Rennie throwing beer in Clark’s face was actually Ian Tracey. I think I was tricked because I was noticing other actors from “Battlestar Galactica” in the Canadian scenes.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Star on August 28, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Does anyone know Ian Tracey’s website or where you can write to him?

    Reply

  16. Posted by margaret kingston on September 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

    why don’t we have an Ian Tracey fan site ?????

    Reply

  17. Yes, please let me know where I can find more of Ian!

    Reply

  18. Posted by margaret kingston on July 10, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Ian has been on a few episodes of Wayward Pines…..as Franklin….the show is filmed in Vancouver BC….go Canucks !!!!

    Reply

  19. Posted by Afan on January 7, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Ian was Ina short film called “lead and follow” you can find on the Telus storyhive site

    Reply

  20. Posted by Afan on January 7, 2016 at 12:53 am

    http://www.storyhive.com/project/show/id/79
    It’s fantastic to see him in a romantic lead

    Reply

  21. Posted by Anita Swillinger on July 4, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    I, too, am a new-but-loyal fan of Ian Tracey and Nicholas Campbell. Canadian actors, or at least these two (oh yeah, and Donnelly Rhodes!) are SO natural at their craft. The show Da Vinci’s Inquest is so interesting and well done, really well done. Note: I have noticed some actors making recurring appearances in later episodes, only as other characters. I don’t care… I love the show!) Check out ALL episodes PLUS Da Vinci’s City Hall on youtube, under Fiddy Kitty (or something like that) with no commercials and with that wonderful closing theme!

    Reply

  22. Posted by margaret on October 3, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    if it wasn’t for Da Vinci’s inquest I wouldn’t have become a devote Canucks fan !!! long story but bottom line that’s how I learned to love the game……

    Reply

  23. Posted by martha on April 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    I enjoyed your posts on the subject of Ian Tracey. I first came across him during the brief period in which Netflix had Intelligence online – I can’t recall whether it was Netflix US or UK, I used to be able to watch either via a proxy server. Intelligence was just SO good: the writing, the acting. It is great to follow a series that is actually difficult, that challenges one’s concentration. Ian Tracey and Matt Frewer were so so good. The cliff hanger ending of season 2 was heart breaking. I like to think that Tracey’s character survived and that all the characters are all still out there intriguing away. I’ve been consoling myself by watching as much Da Vinci’s Inquest as kind people have posted on You Tube. I’m also surprised that all seasons haven’t been released on DVD. I always look out for Tracey’s name in credits on films or programmes. Sometimes I just see him before realizing he’s in something – as with Wayward Pines and Hell on Wheels. Though, in both, he wasn’t in enough episodes for my tastes. Darn. He has an excellent understated way of acting. Glad there are other fans out there.

    Reply

    • Thanks for dropping in! It’s always nice to hear from fellow fans. I hope you get to see the later seasons of Da Vinci’s Inquest. I still haven’t seen the very last episode, and none of the City Hall sequel. If you’re on twitter and/or Instagram, try following Keenan Tracey, Ian’s son. He occasionally posts photos of his dad. Happy hunting!

      Reply

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