FYIG recently got to chat with the multi-talented Kelly McCormack about her role on Killjoys, her next feature film Sugar Daddy, her production company, and a whole lot more. Check out the full interview inside!
What sparked you to get into the film industry?
I took the bumpy, windy, scenic route to get into the film industry. It wasn’t so much a spark as it was a wild, relentless, smashing of a blunt object against a tall-a** metal wall to make a spark. I started performing at the age of seven, but all I ever wanted was to be on stage and sing. I didn’t pay attention to TV or films. In high school, I did a bit of TV work, but I always felt like an imposter. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto from New York that the film industry opened up. I was getting sick of waiting for roles, particularly good ones for women, so I started writing and producing to put work on my reel — and the creative potential, permanence, and collaboration of the film industry sparked a new fire. Films were like a large scale art project too.
So a few summers ago, I was broke, had a play fall through, got laid off from a part-time job, had some time on my hands, and wrote my first feature in two weeks, shot it in two weeks and produced it for $1000 with a bunch of friends in the heat of summer. It was insane, glorious, and I was hooked. Then everything changed, or s*** hit the fan depending on how you look at it. Putting myself in the driver’s seat meant I could relax at auditions and focus on roles that were more in line with who I am, and and the industry started to take notice. I sort of… back-doored myself into film and TV and it’s been a steep learning curve ever since. I still don’t know what I’m doing. Like I said, I took the scenic route! But think… the Rockies.
Is there a certain area in the that you were looking to focus on or were you out to try as many different things as possible?
I try to focus on just acting, writing and producing, but I end up doing a whole whack of other things depending on the project. Ultimately, acting has been my entire life so that’s my main focus, writing means I can justify staying up late and being a recluse, and producing is an absolute thrill. I just like making s*** happen and connecting people.
You’ve been able to work alongside James Franco in 11.22.63 and Ricky Gervais in Special Correspondents. What was it like working with those two guys?
Ricky Gervais was on my top five list of actors I wanted to work with in my life so I was very nervous arriving on set. But he walked right up to me and gave me the warmest of welcomes. He is probably the single funniest person I’ve stood in a room with. It’s non-stop gold coming out of that man’s mouth. The AD had to work really hard to keep people on track because the crew was always in stitches. While directing, he giggles behind the monitor which makes you feel really good when you’re in a scene. I couldn’t believe I was making him laugh. I still can’t get over it.
On 11.22.63 I had the most insane part. I don’t think I’ll ever beat this character description. I played Dawn: The 1960’s STD-ridden southern belle prostitute with a gimp leg and a bad attitude who takes James Franco to bed then beats him with a shoe. The director let me have as much fun as I wanted and I went HAM. If I could play character roles with accents like that my whole career, I’d be happy. But the highlight of the day was, of course, my killer dusty pink baby doll lingerie ensemble and beating James Franco with a shoe.
Tell us about your upcoming role in Crawford.
I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about my role on that yet… but let’s just say, my character description for this show rivals Dawn’s. I think my wheelhouse is getting progressively weirder! But the standout with Crawford was working with Trailer Park Boys creator Mike Clattenburg. His style of directing is so unique and collaborative and the writing on the show is like nothing I’ve come across before. It’s so original and out of control funny.
Your character Dee is returning for Season 3 of That’s My DJ in which you co-star with Emily Piggford (who we recently had a chat with). What’s in store for Dee this season and how was it working alongside so closely with Emily?
As you know, Emily is the sweetest human on the planet. She is effortless to perform with. I just want to be around her all the time. I’m constantly putting her forward for my own projects I’m producing because she’s a pro. We’re also on Killjoys together! Like last season, Dee is off in her own world and there for the good times.
Speaking of Killjoys, you’re being introduced as a new character named Zeph for season 3. What can you tell us about this new character?
Zeph is a dream role. She’s a weirdo tomboy farm girl turned science nerd who has zero filter or interpersonal skills, and is obsessed with the biological science and dresses like a female Link from Zelda! I mean COME ON! Killjoys follows these three bada** bounty hunters, who are an amazing team and have two seasons of incredible chemistry together. Zeph comes on board when they are in need of a new nerd to fight a biological adversary, and she kinda…messes with that chemistry in a fun way. Or she is just really awkward all the time.
The role was challenging because I was spitting so much science and every scene – and I mean this – every single scene, there was a new fancy space science contraption I had to look like a natural using. But being the awkward tomboy nerd comes naturally to me and it was a pleasure playing a character who has such an unwavering passion for science. Also, there is something really special about this cast and crew. The three leads – Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane – are super fun and a pleasure to be around. No crew has more fun than these guys. Finally, showrunner Michelle Lovretta is a straight up bada**. I’ve learned a lot as a producer and writer secretly watching her work, hearing her voice in the scripts and seeing how she treats and connects with people. From the top down, her choices, vision and personality shine through in everything she does.
In addition to acting, you also have your own production company called Floyder Films. How did that come about and what types of things are you looking to accomplish with it?
After I made my first feature, I wrote and produced my second, then a couple short films, digital series and the production company sort of manifested organically. Now I am looking to produce other people’s work, option books, and focus on stories in the realm of what I call “gender pain” – narratives that expose the constraints and expectations of masculinity and femininity. I named the company after my righteous boxer dog Floyd who has this rough masculine exterior but the sweetest feminine personality.
With the production company, I like to keep things simple with the mandate. It’s all about good art made by good people. That’s it. I love how talented my friends are and I want to do everything I possibly can to bring them up. I want my production house to feel like a house, which is why feeding people well on set is paramount to me, and why I often do it myself. I’m trying to create a family and a life for myself and my friends of our own making. In my head it’s like a righteous free forming hippie ‘70s compound!
You produced a new digital original series for CBC called The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island. I understand that this is a faux 70s documentary and that it was produced on a remote island. Where did the inspiration for this come from and what can you tell us about it?
My friend from New York, creator Aaron Schroeder, called me up one day and said he had written this weird series and needed a producer. We had both worked with this theatre director and composer Liz Swados in New York who had a talent for bringing together experimental, bizarre, boundary-pushing artists, and I adored her. Anyone who had worked with her was a certain pedigree of artist I trusted, so I trusted Aaron had something special even if it sounded like the most non-“marketplace” TV show of all time with a name no one could pronounce.
The Neddeaus is a faux 1970s documentary about this island-dwelling family shot in the tone and style of those NFB films Canadians watched in schools, often when a substitute teacher wanted to kill time. Like a Grey Gardens, but fake! I rounded up some theatre artists who had the right brand of fearlessness needed for the project, and we shot it in the woods up north for four weeks on three different islands, with three boats, and a small crew and all in natural light. It was like nothing I’ve ever done. The series was directed by Sam Zvibleman who has a really special brand of soft and strange humour and realism to his work, so we toed the line pretty carefully between funny, weird, real and heartfelt. I also played one of the demonic twin sisters, so most of the time I was driving a boat around in costume. It was a logistical nightmare shooting in the woods on remote islands, but for a girl from BC, I was in heaven.
Do you ever get burnt out wearing so many hats or has it just become natural as your career continues to expand?
I don’t get burnt out because I love what I do and, to be honest, I have no idea how to live any other way. Time off, holidays and relaxing stresses me out way more. It’s just the way I’m wired! But so much of what I do is fuelled by passion and I’m careful what I say yes to. A project has to make my hands shake with excitement and make me want to flip tables and kick open doors. I think if do start burning out, it’s because a project doesn’t inspire me anymore. That being said, when I was seven years old, I did a project on having the super power of not having to sleep so I could get more work done…. To say I’ve been ambitious and driven from a young age sounds too…healthy or noble. I’m a total obsessed workaholic who hates sleep and down time. Maybe it will all catch up with me! Like I said, most the time I have no idea what I’m doing.
Your third feature film as a writer is set to shoot in Winter 2018 and is called Sugar Daddy. What prompted you to tackle this topic?
To put this it frankly, Sugar Daddy came from a dirt broke and angry place. But angry in a good way. I had written a few films that sort of came together organically with friends, and I was being asked a lot “what kind of films do you write?” and I hadn’t had a chance to really consider that. Sugar Daddy was the script that I sat down and thought, alright Kelly, what story do you want to tell? What voice do you want the world to hear from? How do you want to participate or change the world even just a little? And at the time in my life, when I asked myself those questions, I had a serious bone to pick on behalf of women. I quit my part time jobs, let myself go dirt broke, and locked myself in my apartment with the question “is there a right way for a woman to behave” and a whole lot of s*** to say in response.
Sugar Daddy is about a musician who lives for her art and doesn’t have the resources to pursue it in the way she wants, so she signs up for an online dating website to go on paid dates with rich older men. She learns how to package herself for these men to get what she wants, and in doing so, learns how to package herself for the already sexualized music industry. Her music matures, she becomes more ruthless, and she puts herself through the ringer entitled the dichotomy of art and self-worth and the commodity of sex. Hopefully, the film will make people uncomfortable in the best way possible, and make people talk. Everyone behind the project is so passionate, smart and inspiring. Producers Lori Lozinski and Lauren Grant to work harder than anyone I know and director Wendy Morgan has an incredible aesthetic that is all her own.
Do you have a dream project or anyone you’d really like to work with?
Oh man. Big dreams? All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a little girl was to meet and work with composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. He’s the Spielberg of musical theatre, and it’s the pipe-iest of pipe dreams but he’s still writing new music so here’s hoping! So there is that, and playing a character that looks like something off a Magic Card. I was a big sci-fi and fantasy nerd growing up. I’ve love to get cast in something where I have to weird a sword, ride a horse, and speak in Elvish y’know?
But at the moment, Sugar Daddy is that dream project, and the four women involved are exactly who I want to be working with right now. I’ve also got a few irons in the fire, optioning some of my favourite sci-fi books, developing some new theatre projects, and keeping my fingers crossed every day that certain things will pan out…
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