Kevin Zegers. Up until recently, you may have been wondering why that name sounds so familiar. Put a face-to-name and list off Air Bud (1997), Transamerica (2005) or Gossip Girl, and any question as to “who is Kevin Zegers” has vanished. Yes, Zegers was that child star you remember, but no, Zegers is not one of those child stars that peaked in their teens — just reference his recent lineup of new releases for confirmation of the exact opposite.
Starting the list off with his role in the highly acclaimed book series turned spectacularly popular movie, Mortal Instruments (2013), on through to the upcoming release of The Colony (2013), starring Zegers personal two favorite actors Bill Paxton and Lawrence Fishbourne, moving forward to this month’s TIFF presentation, All The Wrong Reasons (2013), featuring an all-star Canadian cast including the late Corey Monteith, it’s evident that Zegers is in the midst of a comeback.
Having spent some time out of the spotlight while working to overcome a battle with alcoholism (which he shared the details of in a recent interview with CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos), Zegers is now ready to embark on the next phase in his career and get to the work it takes to start fresh.“I had to sort of relearn everything,” says Zegers. “It’s not as if you sort of stop drinking and carry on doing everything the way you used to do it, it sort of shifts your entire life.” In his case, the shift, according to the 28-year-old Canadian actor, is definitely one in the right direction, “I am married, the work thing is going really well, so life is good.”
After a blockbuster premiere for Mortal Instruments: City of Bones just last month, Zegers hits audiences with a quiet festival film that looks at the space between two people, the persistence of the past and the humour that can be found in unearthing the lightness of being, no matter how weighty it feels.
A firefighter who has suffered the lost of his arm, Zeger’s All the Wrong Reason’s character, Simon, is realizing that life as he knew it is no longer, a recognition that has him wearing his pained soul on his sleeve — a vulnerability that Zegers empathized with. “He’s sort of having to relearn how to live again,” explains the actor. “And it was just a very similar situation that I was going through. So I just felt this nakedness that he would have felt at that time — it was something that I really wanted to explore.
With the premiere of All the Wrong Reasons around the corner and Zegers returning to Canada this fall to film the second instalment of Mortal Instruments, it’s safe to say the actor is back front and centre in the spotlight for all the right reasons. Below, Zegers on growing up a child star, the evolution of Hollywood and what’s got him excited about his slew of new projects.
Congratulations on the big release of Mortal Instruments and your wedding! Everything always seems to happen at once, how are you managing all these big events? Anytime to breathe?
No, honestly, not really. It’s been kind of chaotic for the last couple of months actually. I think the first chance were going to get to kind of take a breath will be during our honeymoon, and then we go back to Toronto to start filming the sequel to Mortal Instruments.
I understand you have never had another job besides acting and never felt the need to work on a backup plan. Was it odd as a child, all the other children dreaming about growing up to be firefighters or astronauts and you were already well down your career path?
I have played hockey, so I always thought,‘Oh, maybe I could play hockey,’ or I thought, you know, maybe I would be a doctor, but, I guess as I continued doing what I was doing, time went by and I fell more and more in love with what I was doing, so it kind of just became obvious that this is what I should be doing.
Every now and then do you ever think about doing something else?
Honestly, no. Nothing that is not in the business that I am in now, I mean I would like to direct and start producing films, but no certainly not another job.
Thinking back to your experience as a child star, do you see the industry being any different for young Hollywood today? I imagine social media alone has changed the landscape.
Yeah, I think the whole business in general is much different than it used to be. Whether it’s for children or anyone, I think with social media and with just the way the business is right now, the sort of whole old school, ‘what a movie star is’ doesn’t really exist anymore; I think just because people see the people who they watch in movies all the time [now]. I think it used to be, if you ever saw like Brad Pitt on the red carpet that was the only time that you saw him or in the movies that he was in, so it was like there was this sort of level of interest that you had in people because you just didn’t really see them that much. I think the only people who are able to do that are the people like Daniel Day Lewis because he doesn’t live here and has no interest in being apart of that whole part of the business.
Times have certainly changed.
I think in terms of when I grew up being moderately successful as a child actor — and I mean, I am grateful there wasn’t sort of the attention paid to people that there is now. I certainly made a lot of mistakes and could have very easily…had they been public… made a mess out of my life, but you know fortunately it didn’t happen that way, but it certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t make the same mistakes as a lot of kids these days are making, it just didn’t happen to be put out there.
Even though you were a successful Hollywood child star, I understand you didn’t move from Woodstock, Ontario to L.A. until you were 17.
Yeah, right before my 18th birthday.
How was that transition?
In retrospect, I think it was pretty tough, I knew a couple of people out here, but at least when you go to college there are a lot of other people your age, you’re sort of confined to your school, and so I was kind of just figuring things out as I went along, and it was tough. I am glad I did it when I look back, but it was definitely a period of time that I wouldn’t want to do again, that’s for sure.
Do you ever get homesick for Canada while living in the US?
I mean I come back a lot. When I ever get homesick I am fortunate now that I can just hop on a plane and come home. I have also been working the last few years in Toronto a lot, which is obviously kind of a great situation cause I can work during the week and then go back home on the weekends, and go see my family and stuff, so certainly in the past couple of years its a lot easier for me to get back because I work there so much.
Right, for The Colony as well as Mortal Instruments?
Yeah, The Colony is shot there, All The Wrong Reasons is shot in Halifax, and then The Mortal Instruments obviously shot in Toronto as well. You know, it’s been a good couple of years, and now I am going back for the rest of the year to shoot the sequel [to Mortal Instruments], so you know, I have been fortunate.
You’ve been quite public with your battle with alcoholism in your early 20s, and said something that really struck me in a recent interview, “When you get sober your life starts – so I am really like two years old.” With the recent passing of your friend and co-star Cory Monteith, has your perspective on your own second chance changed at all? Deepened perhaps?
Well, I mean listen, I have spoken about Cory enough. It’s tragic and shitty, and you know I feel like the more I talk about (it)…the only thing I can say in front of my own stuff is that it definitely is all sort of new… I mean in spite of me having experienced a moderate level of success or having done some of the things I am doing now.
New because you’re coming at it from a different perspective you mean.
You can’t mask anxiety with a substance…the insecurity of ‘are people going to like this movie;’ all that stuff that used to be buried underneath alcohol…to be totally honesty, it’s now sort of a much more present thing. But, in the same respect, I am more able to enjoy my life, which you know balancing the two is a pretty easy decision now that I have made it. I mean work feels new.
Well I don’t think you’ll have to worry about whether audiences will like All the Wrong Reasons, it’s already got buzz. What drew you to the film?
I really liked the script. I thought the character was great. You know, that was kind of it. I didn’t really over think it, I just finished The Colony and then script was sent to me. I just kind of said yeah, and we started filming. I really like the character, that was sort of my main draw to doing the film because I felt like I was at a place in my life where I wanted to sort of explore that part of myself.
Quite a different film than Mortal Instruments. I like how you played your character Alec Lightwood, a gay Shadowhunter, it wasn’t clichéd.
It’s the most fun I have had ever shooting a film, I think that was kind of the take away that I had more than anything. I think the fact that you know people get to see a gay character that is not this sort of typical version of what you might it expect…I think its exciting. You know, some people were like “are you a little nervous to play a character like this in a film that so many people will see?” I sort of had the opposite reaction. What a great opportunity to do that? I sort of felt honored that they asked me, but again my reaction to these things is definitely a little different than people might expect.
The Colony, being a Canadian movie and filmed in the chilly North Bay, appears to be a cool film in more ways than one. Rather than feeling obligated to act in a Canadian film, I understand you jumped at the chance to work with Laurence Fishbourne and loved the script.
Do I feel [an] obligation to work in Canada? Not really….I feel more of an obligation to myself and to my family to sort of do the best thing that is in front of me. I mean, if I had to chose between a pretty good Canadian film and a great film somewhere else, its not even a [question]. Not to say I don’t appreciate the Canadian films that I have done, but I did those films because they were the best thing for me to do at the time. Not because they were Canadian films. Same thing with The Colony; could have been a French film I would have done it with Bill and Lawrence, those are two of my favorite actors, so it was kind of a no brainer for me to dive into that.
Makes sense. You’ve been in this business a while now, but with so many new projects on the go, do you feel sort of like this is just the start of your acting career?
I feel like it’s the start of a new chapter. I mean, I think I can kind of take the things I learned when I was younger and use them to my advantage.Published September 6, 2013