Home celeb profile Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly

by devnym

by Agnes Bee
photography by Jared Ryder

Michael Joseph Kelly is casually good-natured as he recalls his somewhat happenstance beginning in acting. Although originally undeclared at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, he remembers cycling through a few “tracks” as he tried his hand at business, accounting, and finally law after an inspirational political science class. “I took [that class] and then a bunch of them and then I ended up making political science my major. And that was my plan. And then one semester I was just taking a really hard load without any electives and my advisor said, ‘I think you should lighten your load and put an elective in there.’ I asked for any suggestions and he said, ‘Acting classes are kind of hard but a lot of fun,’ and I said, ‘All right.’”

Without any prior acting experience, Kelly impressed his acting professor and then went on to appear in several plays. Although he considered a double major, he ended up changing his major to concentrate solely on acting because, “… I knew this is what I wanted to do.” He immediately credits his parents, Michael and Maureen, when asked about the origins of his passion and remembers fondly their reactions to his lead performance in The Glass Menagerie. “I still remember that after the show they had tears in their eyes and they were like, ‘we’re behind you 100% in whatever you want to do.’ They weren’t in a position to be behind me financially, but certainly, to this day, I have more support from my parents than I could ever ask for.” He adds humbly, “I would say they’re a very big reason why I am where I am. I’m so thankful to have that.”

Having taken on a few detective and cop roles in such television shows as Generation Kill, The Sopranos, and Kojak, Kelly remembers the experience of filming for television as a perpetual game of catch-up. “Your prep time for television is sometimes less than a day, you know, because you’re finishing – I’m talking about being on an episodic television show – you’re finishing an episode. It’s all you can do to prepare for every day along the week. You have about eight working days to shoot a television show. And on like the sixth day, you get the script for the next week, and you’re still working on last week’s, and you have to prepare for the next.” He considers himself to be a more time-conscious actor who prefers to process his roles and “go more slowly.” His tendency to appear in supporting roles has afforded him this discipline as he states, “Me, I like to take my time a little bit so I seem to enjoy film a lot more… I worry too much, I guess.”

He is at his happiest now in film with big studio projects like Changeling and Dawn of the Dead on his resume, along with The Afterlight, an artsy, independent film premiering at the Rome Film Festival this year.

Among all his impending projects, Kelly is most excited about his first romantic comedy Did You Hear About The Morgans? coming out in theaters in December. Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play a couple that have witnessed a murder and go into the witness protection program. Kelly plays the murderer, Vincent, who then goes on a hunt to find the couple. He laughs, “ […] it’s so great because I’ve never done a romantic comedy and to be able to be afforded that was a total blast because I’m always in such serious roles. […] The atmosphere on that type of set is totally different from a real serious drama: light, and everyone is cracking jokes. It was a lot fun.” He attributes a large part of that fun to Sarah Jessica Parker’s participation in the project. He describes the actress as, “ [A] really, really great gal; very down to earth.” The two first met when Kelly appeared as the romantic lead in Washingtonienne, a pilot for HBO that Parker produced. “[I played] kind of like the pseudo-Mr. Big type of character. More political. A Sex and the City kind of thing.” Parker and Kelly encountered one another again at a table reading for Did You Hear About the Morgans? and Kelly says, “we hugged and it was really nice to see each other again.”
When asked how the film industry is weathering these rough economical times, Kelly suggests that actors are the ones really feeling the hurt. “Not only are the parts harder to come by,” he says, “but when you do get them, you know, everyone is claiming no money[…]” He laughs a bit and shuffles off any implication of a complaint as he repeats an observation made by his own manager about his own steady climb in the industry despite “less films being made; less films being green lit.”

His take on the current political climate is positive as he beams over Obama and finds our current President to be uplifting the American image after the damning stab of the Bush years. “I couldn’t be any happier with the direction this country is going in,” he beams. “What Obama has brought us, you know it sounds silly and it’s cliché to say ‘hope’ but it’s true. You saw everyone walking around after he won, or at least the vast majority of us in New York, walking around with a smile and their shoulders got a little higher and holding their head high and I think – he did, he brought hope. It’s part of the reason that he won the Nobel Prize, because he did inspire millions of people and just knowing that we’re in a little better shape throughout the world, the way we’re perceived now, is a nice thing.”

When asking Kelly what he hopes to achieve in the next ten years of his career, he humbly steers clear of the typical allure of the Oscar or industry recognition. He alludes to “the golden ring” but remains modest. “I’m very happy being a working actor. As long as I can stay comfortable with my family and support them and put my child, and God willing, many children through school, that’s the best thing.”

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