I was able to chat with Kelly McCormack, who plays the brand new member of Team Awesome Force in the third season of Killjoys Zeph. She shared her experiences on the series as well as some details about some of her other projects. I’d like to thank Kelly for chatting with me and I look forward to seeing more of her on Killjoys this season.
How would you describe your character Zeph on Killjoys?
“Zeph is a farm girl turned science nerd who is devastatingly awkward and has a lot to prove and always wants to be right, but is a brilliant scientist and is looking for her place in the world.”
How do you get into character for her?
“When I first auditioned for the role I was like ‘you know what I’m just going to go ham with some awkward eccentricities’ like her physicality, the way she moves her fingers. I kind of added finger ties to the costume because I needed something to fidget with with my hands. I spend most of the day on set walking, wandering off and just repeating the science dialogue over and over and over again and making these equations and then pretending that I have these instruments in front of me. I would say that the way I get into character is to kind of do that. It’s a combination of practicing the heavy science dialogue, but also fidgeting with my hands a lot and moving like her. She has a distinctly awkward and maybe unfeminine way of moving that I try and kind of slip into. For me I like playing characters that have a little charcterness to them. My costumes are also amazing. I wear jumpers and I look like a female Link from Zelda. I just kind of get into costume and fiddle around and people think that I’m being weird, but that’s what happens.”
What’s it like doing all of the science stuff that you get to do on the show?
“It’s hard, I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. It’s not something I think every actor is super cool with. That’s why they had me audition with two scenes. One with Dutch and I at the bar in the first episode I’m in and also just a scene that was all just straight science dialogue. It’s hard, I do a lot of research into what I’m saying so that I can have visuals and I know what the words mean and I’m saying them correctly. Then I spend a lot of time putting things around my apartment and kind of talking while doing something else so it can feel like its second nature to me. I won’t lie it was like this for six months of my life. I would basically ask anyone and everyone to run lines with me. A lot of time Zeph is in one location while the team is on a mission so sometimes they would do this thing called block shooting where they would shoot the entire episode’s worth of stuff in one day. There are some times, like in episode 304 where everything I say science wise in that black site was shot in one day and it was also my first day on set. It was also the day that Trump got inaugurated so it was a really weird day *laughs*. It’s very difficult, it’s been a challenge, but I love challenges. What’s nice that set the bar pretty high earlier on was I shot 304 first and I had so much science dialogue and I worked on it for weeks and weeks and weeks and I think the production was like ‘Oh cool she can do it, now we can make her do all this other science stuff.’ Then you get scripts the night before and I’d just be up really really late trying to learn it and then you’re on set at 5. It’s not harder than being Dutch. I watched Hannah (John-Kamen), she’s in almost every scene. It’s incredible how hard she works.”
You’ve already gone into this a bit, but what was it like working on the series?
“It was a dream come true to be honest. I’ve been on other television shows before and I’ve played great parts, but this particular part with this particular crew was a dream come true. I also grew up such a sci-fi and fantasy nerd like I played Dungeons and Dragons, I used to draw anime characters with armor on, I had a pair of dog tags that I used to wear when I was like 10 that had Artemis on them, I would play swords like up in the forest. I was such a nerd that playing a character that looked like something off of a Magic card or something out of a sci-fi book was totally a dream for me. My part time job in high school, while I was also working as an actor, was being an extra on shows that filmed in Vancouver. I was an extra in Battlestar Galactica for 4 years all through high school. I had been on sets where they had these incredible spaceships and science based future props and it’s so neat what they do. I wish every fan of sci-fi shows we could just bring to set. It’s just so cool! It’s so cool like you see it in real life and you’re like ‘Wow this is cool,’ and then you see it through the monitor and you’re like ‘What how is that..?’ It’s just so incredible what they’re able to do film wise. It’s been a dream. I couldn’t be happier. The cast and crew is so lovely and I just hope that it continues.”
Had you watched the series before you were cast?
“Yes, I had. In Toronto it’s important to watch the shows that are filming here, so I had watched quite a bit of it actually. When I had the audition I watched more and then when I got cast in it I binge watched the first two seasons back to back in two days. *laughs* So I watched quite a bit. I’m a big fan of Aaron Ashmore and I’m a big fan of Hannah and Luke (Macfarlane) as well so I had seen the show. I auditioned for it a couple times though I’m having a hard time remembering what other parts I had auditioned for, but any show that shoots in Toronto you kind of audition, as an actor, for multiple roles and over the years. I was a fan for sure.”
What are some of your favorite on set moments?
“My first day on set was the scene where I was putting the electrodes on Luke and the electrodes weren’t sticking so we did that scene hundreds of times and I was slowly getting to know this person I had never met while putting electrodes on his half naked body. That was pretty funny. The three leads, I feel like a little bit of a broken record saying this, but they are so funny in real life and they have so much fun. They’re just goofing off all day. The whole cast and crew, the crew especially. Another thing I wish the fans could interact more with the camera operator, the gaffer, the sound recordists, and all these people that for me mean so much to me for the show, but they’re people you don’t see on screen. In 307 I have an episode where Dutch and I interact quite a bit and that day and that script meant a lot to me. That entire day on set was a lot of science and something that I’m really proud of, that I pulled that day off. I really liked the day that Johnny (Aaron Ashmore) and I were in Aneela’s ship, the hullen ship, in episode 303. It was basically just me and Johnny in that hullen ship all day just laughing our butts off. We didn’t leave like the whole day and it’s this like bright, bright, bright ship and I kind of felt like I was on drugs for most of the day because it’s just this white, white, pristine room. Aaron and I were just laughing, that sticks out as a memory. Another thing would be listening to Hannah John-Kamen do Aneela’s voice in the read-throughs. It was terrifying. We would just be sitting around reading the scripts for each episode and the scripts are so funny and they’re so action packed and terrifying. Then in the middle she would just be being Dutch, being Dutch, and then she’d switch to Aneela within a line. We would all just kind of slow turn towards her because it was just terrifying. The way she talks like her and I was so impressed. Watching Hannah work was definitely one of the highlights of the whole experience. She is the definition of a pro easily.”
Besides Killjoys, you’ve been in a webseries that I’ve previously done some coverage on. You play Dee in That’s My DJ, could you describe that character a bit?
“Dee is a hilariously fun character. She’s like the out to lunch, comic relief a little bit. That series produced by Hey! DW and Emily Piggford and Jade Hassoune. All those guys they’re a bunch of friends of mine. We’d bike to set down the street and Kristian Bruun, whose a good friend of mine and who I produced my first feature with, we were all making that one hot summer. My character was written to be this as I say “lol” kind of weirdo, like groupie type. I had a lot of fun, I was allowed to do a lot of improv and just make her as nonchalant funny as I wanted. Everyone else on that show was doing the heavy lifting with the emotional character arcs and the themes and the stories and the realities of the DJ scene with drugs and sex and rock and roll and all that. Then you have Dee who’s just kind of cruising through it as a groupie. I unapologetically say on Twitter ‘More Dee!’ *laughs*”
What were some of your favorite moments from That’s My DJ?
“I’d probably say dancing with Emily Piggford knowing that the camera was shooting 60 frames per second. I’ve always wanted to do that. That was on my like bucket list. I have like a pretty funny bucket list like I want to run from a burning building or an exploding building. I want to die with my eyes closed on camera. I want to be stabbed from behind right before I stab someone else. I wanted to dance in a dance scene at 60 frames per second. It was kind of a cinema trope that I always wanted to do. That was a lot of fun. In the third season there was a scene that kind of opens up the whole show which is like a party, a house party. That was basically just a house party that we were having at the creator Hey! DW’s place and there was no acting required. It was just us chilling. There was no cocaine *laughs* but there was a lot of us having fun and if the camera picked us up then yeah, but if it didn’t that’s okay.”
You acted in and produced the digital series, The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island, could you describe that project? (I will admit I completely butchered this title when I tried to say it out loud, but Kelly was a great sport and corrected my terrible pronunciation of Neddeaus)
“That’s a digital series, a digital original. It’s kind of more than a webseries, it’s a digital series on the CBC platform. The CBC is like our Canadian public broadcaster like the BBC and this is an original scripted series that was released on their platform. Sort of the same kind of release strategy as a Master of None. It’s a fake 1970’s documentary about an island dwelling family that the CBC released as if it was a real documentary unearthed from the archives. I produced the series and I’m also in the series. I play Eloida the demonic twin sister. It was created by Aaron Schroeder and directed by Sam Zvibleman, a pretty well-known director in the States. It’s pretty much the weirdest thing I’ve ever done with my time ever. We shot it for four weeks up north in northern Ontario on a remote island in the woods and we made this fake documentary. I say it’s basically like Grey Gardens, except for fake, but pretending to be real. It’s doing really well, it’s the number two show after Coronation Street on the player right now. It has a bit of a cult following and a hilarious Reddit thread wondering if it’s real.”
What can you tell me about your first feature, Play the Film?
“My first feature I made with Kristian Bruun, who plays Donnie in Orphan Black. We made that film about 4 years ago. I wrote it in two weeks, we shot it in two weeks, and we produced a whole feature film for $1,000. It was a triple indie is what I like to call it. It’s about a bunch of actors who aren’t booking work and they decided to put on a theater show about very serious issues to jumpstart their careers. They make this theater play about Bernie Madoff and the Occupy Movement and within the first scene a gun gets misplaced and the actors are stuck rewriting the story on stage and they wind up making the most offensive piece of theater to ever debut in front of a live audience. It’s a comedy that stars a bunch of really well known comedians in Canada and in the States. It’s kind of a Noise is Off, Robert Altmanesque one location comedy that we made in 40 degree (Celsius) in summer and it kind of jumpstarted my career as a producer and writer. Another culty kind of film and then my second feature I wrote Barn Wedding, which was a similar kind of a group of my friends and I made this film and then my feature Sugar Daddy we’re shooting in the new year and that’s my next project.”
Could you elaborate on Barn Wedding and Sugar Daddy?
“Barn Wedding was directed by Shaun Benson and stars Emily Coutts, myself, Brett Donahue, and Lara Jean Chorostecki. It’s about this young couple who want to get married in this picturesque barn like summer wedding, very Pinterest worthy summer wedding like the ones we all see videos of. They have to move up their wedding, but the bride is determined to get married in this barn, her like Pinterest dream. So she brings all her friends up to this barn in the dead of winter to set up over this weekend. The whole movie takes place over this one weekend with a bunch of close friends, a couple family members, some like friends of friends who really shouldn’t be spending a weekend of time together in a barn in the winter during the tensions of a wedding. The two leads Emily Coutts and Brett Donahue are coming to terms with the fact that without the distraction of social media and posting things, and Instagram, and the city, and the kind of social led public life now they’re in the dead of winter in this cabin with no cell service and stuff like that they kind of face the fact that if you can’t have a public life how can you have a private life if and how well they really know each other. It’s just a nice little film I made with some of my friends. We filmed it over 10 days in this cabin in the woods in the winter. I have a recurring theme of taking my friends to remote places and shooting things over short periods of time *laughs*. That film did really well and was in festivals all over the world, so did Play the Film.”
“Sugar Daddy is kind of like my film where people kept asking me what kind of films do you make and I was like ‘you know is films under duress made with your friends a category, no okay.’ *laughs* Sugar Daddy was the first time I sat down to make a feature film where I thought how do I want to participate. What do I want to say? What film have I not seen? What female character have I not seen? A couple years ago I quit all my part time jobs, I shut myself into my apartment, and I wrote Sugar Daddy over the course of two or three months. It’s about this starving artist. She’s this electronic pop singer/songwriter, she plays a bunch of different instruments and she’s trying to make it as a singer, but she’s broke. She signs up for this website, SugarDaddy.com, which is that online website where you get paid to go on dates with older men. It’s kind of this cultural e-commerce phenomenon. She ends up getting all these clients, it’s not like an escort service, she’s not sleeping with these clients, it’s this paid dating thing, you might have heard of it. There’s tons of articles and stuff written about it. As she learns how to package herself for all these other men she learns how to package herself for the already sexualized music industry. Her music gets more biting and more intense and her realization of the expectations on women and how we’re packaged for selling and the commodity of sex and the relation between art and self-worth all kind of blow up in her face. We’re writing original music for the film. Wendy Morgan is directing, who’s a famous music video director. She directed all of Janelle Monae’s videos like Tightrope and Gnarls Barkley. She’s an incredible, incredible director. And I have these two incredible producers I’m working with as well Lauren Grant and Lori Lozinsky. We’re shooting it in March of next year and I play the singer/songwriter electronic pop musician. It’s the biggest thing I’ve kind of like made happen so I’m really excited/nervous/gonna puke. *laughs* Talking to you right now I’m looking at my electric guitar, my drums, my pedal steel, I’m like okay, what am I going to practice today for that time when I wrote a movie where I play a bunch of instruments ah *laughs*”
“Sugar Daddy hopefully isn’t going to just be a Canadian film, the budgets a lot bigger than the budgets I’ve worked with. It’ll be an indie film, but hopefully it’ll sell in the States and it’ll play in theaters so you’ll hear about it. It’s a really complicated topic that makes people really uncomfortable. Not everyone is like super cool with this idea of women kind of commodifying their own sexuality and I hope that it opens people eyes about women and this question about is there a right way for a woman to behave.”
“Everyone always asks me are you saying Sugar Daddying is good or bad and I’m like ‘I’m saying a woman should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do with their life and that’s what feminism is to me, the freedom to do what we want.’ My thesis is everything is Sugar Daddy. The way I get treated as a female producer, less so much as an actor because you’re so overtly treated like an object *laughs* even in a way that’s not terrible. You have to act and dress a certain way because there are entire departments making sure you do, that’s what happens on camera, but as a producer the sexual politics I have to deal with in the industry are very real and I basically say my thesis for the film is everything is Sugar Daddy. If a man buys me a drink there’s the expectation that I deliver something sexual. That’s just the inherent weird patriarchal exchanges that are written on the way that we interact with each other. My thesis is that you don’t overtly have to be paid as a sugar baby to understand that if a guy buys you dinner there’s a feeling of oh crap do I put out, do I not put out, that’s the thing that all women grapple with in their early twenties as well. That’s something that I didn’t really think I could just say no to because you were told those things. Those are the directions I want to take the film and anyone who reads it is kind of like, ‘Woah, like you’re going to actually do this. *laughs*”
Do you have any other upcoming projects?
“Those are all projects I made happen as a producer or writer. As an actor last year I was on 11/22/63 and Ricky Gervais’ Special Correspondents. I’m in a new TV show that Comedy Central and CBC is doing called Crawford, which I can’t really talk about what my character is. All I can say is I had 5 and a half hours of make-up and it is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done in my life and it’s the same creator as The Trailer Park Boys, Mike Clattenburg’s new show, and it’s really weird *laughs*.”
Make sure to tune in to Space Channel or Syfy tonight at 8 pm est for a brand new episode of Killjoys!
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.
Photo from Syfy website
[Minor editing changes were made to this article on Friday, 8/4/17. This included correcting the name of director Sam Zvibleman who was misidentified.]