When diplomacy fails, it's time to Magnus some mechs.


In “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter,” Tracey Birdsall leads a band of humans (and one pleasure bot) working to combat an evil robot empire. The war against the machines has been fought for many years, across numerous genre classics, and Birdsall and the cast came together on-screen and off to bring Neil Johnson's love letter to 80s sci-fi cinema to life.


The film is currently available on Blu-ray at Walmart and starting on August 15; it will be available through other venues, VOD and streaming platforms.


The Swerve Magazine: How does one fight a robot – with their mind or with their fists?


Tracey Birdsall: To outsmart Artificial Intelligence is no easy battle… There isn’t a method that isn’t deployed. In “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter,” there are gun battles, bombs, and also some physical combative scenes (one even goes down with a head-butt). I think the real key, however, is to always stay ahead of the game intellectually and physically – in the film and in real life.


SM: Now when you’re making a movie like “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter,” do you have to really tap into your imagination in some of those effectsy-fight sequences? I imagine you’re staring at “nothing” a lot of the time?


TB: Director Neil Johnson actually builds some of the physical robots to make it feel more “real.” Sure, there are plenty of scenes where the imagination is key. That said, I have a gigantic imagination – so it’s real for me no matter what. I think growing up watching science fiction really helps with that too. My mind can just “go there.”


SM: What kind of direction does Neil Johnson give in such scenes? I imagine he paints a picture of what you’re supposed to be seeing?


TB: He’s pretty precise in his direction! Since he’s also in charge of overseeing post-production, he already knows generally (and sometimes specifically) how the scene is going to play out. If it’s super complex, he’ll oftentimes act it out physically – which is really very fun and funny! He makes certain that you know exactly what’s expected of you… he blocks it all out. After that, you have to rely on your imagination and your will to survive (which is real at the time.)


SM: Do you think we’re only a few years away from a robot uprising for real?


TB: I do believe that we need to fear it in our future; however, us humans can be pretty dense sometimes. I don’t believe most people will see it coming until it’s too late to do much about it… some will. I would guess that we are looking at 10-20 years. Take for example an article that I read this week in the LA Times (by Ethan Varian) where Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg were clashing over ideas about Artificial Intelligence. This directly from the article:


“I keep sounding the alarm bell,” Musk told the National Governors Assn. in June. “But until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal.”


The article was absolutely fascinating to see that Elon had many of the same concerns that I do. I think people take all of this “advancement” in robotics much too lightly… “Rogue Warrior” deals head-on in the distant future with just how devastating such a situation would be.


SM: On a lighter note, got any favorite moments about robots taking over? Guessing “Blade Runner” is a favorite of everyone’s?


TB: “Blade Runner” is amazing and I’m really looking forward to “Blade Runner 2049” after seeing the trailer. Given their budget (of $200 million I read), they were able to take the flashier studio road in making what looks to be an amazing film. Due our independent nature, we had to focus on the human condition and the heart of the devastation we were dealing with.


We still have the excitement and the action, however we had to deal with it in real-worldly settings – which puts a lot of emphasis on the quality of the actors that we hired and the locations that we used – not to mention the special effects.  Some of my favorite films involving the overtaking by robotics include “War of the Worlds,” “Artificial Intelligence,” “Transformers,” and of course, “Terminator” and “Terminator 2.”


SM: How do you think audiences will accept the new “Blade Runner” that’s coming out? If it’s anything like the first, it’ll be rather unique.


TB: It looks extremely unique and extremely high in CGI! I love these movies, but I generally love any good sci-fi movie with a great plot and performances. It looks very unique, as does “Doctor Strange,” which I am currently watching, and absolutely loving!


SM: What would be your dream role?


TB: I’ve kind of been playing my dream roles between “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter,” and the next film that we are shooting. I do believe I would love to play a dark and twisted serial killer – as it goes against everything that I am - and have played. That’s usually what I like to look for – something completely different, which will grow me as an actor and as a human being as a result.


SM: What types of roles do you think you’re best at playing?


TB: A role has to have substance and arcs to lure me in. I have to want to delve my soul into it for a good part of a year at least (“Rogue Warrior” was two years) and prepare it endlessly. That’s really one of my favorite parts… If I don’t think I could do a really immersive job at a role, then I wouldn’t do it because my heart wouldn’t be into it. My strength in roles is completely relative to my commitment and desire to bring it to life, no matter the genre.