ED- I know that our readers will be extremely happy that we have actor/ filmmaker Kenny Johnston with us today. Kenny, we have learned that you play the lead in ‘Kingdom’s End’. This is fabulous. Can you tell us something about this project and your part in it?
KJ-Thank you! “Kingdom’s End” is a short film written and directed by Ammar Rasool. I play the lead role, a homeless man named Aaron,
ED- Tell us the story behind ‘Kingdom’s End’.
KJ- Aaron, the character I play, has given up on the pursuit of happiness in the traditional sense of it’s definition. He once had a great job with a good company with a lot of potential and possibilities, but was very empty inside, so he gave it all up. He comes to believe that the whole corporate structure in America is a great deception and that the working class has been duped into believing that moving up the corporate ladder will bring you security and happiness in life, but realistically it’s a false sense of existence. So the movie begins with Aaron setting up camp in his friend’s office who is out of town for a while, and in return Aaron will take phone messages for this friend. A woman calls looking for someone else but is intrigued by something in Aaron’s voice so she keeps calling him. After a series of conversations, they establish a closeness, and this woman, who won’t tell Aaron her name, inspires him to climb back into life. With a new sense of purpose Aaron is very set on meeting this woman in person but she never calls again and Aaron spirals.
ED- Tell us about some of your past projects.
KJ-I have done a good deal of television shows over the years, “Law and Order”, “Ned and Stacey”, “Newsradio”, and I played ‘The Flash’ in a CBS pilot of “The Justice League Of America”. One of my latest film projects is “Los Bastardos” (The Bastards) by Mexican new wave helmer Amat Escalante from Mantaraya Productions. “Bastardos” premiered at Cannes last year and is just out on DVD. I just finished shooting another film from Mantaraya called “Rio De Orro” (River of Gold), due out later this year where I play a Union army captain during the civil war that has been assigned to claim new U.S. land in Mexico. That was a lot of fun, riding a horse and shooting a rifle. I felt like John Wayne for a couple of months.
KJ- In “Death Interrupted” I play a modern day St. Mathew which is a lot of fun. The project is a story based on parts of the bible and it’s a hoot being able to throw in all the puns and good natured jabs at these biblical characters that have gone through so many judgments, good and bad, over the years. So here they are in modern society speaking for themselves. It’s well written and we have a great cast. Very funny.
ED- What was your inspiration to set your career goals in acting?
KJ- Well I was a very quiet kid growing up and unsure of myself and what I wanted to do with my life, but I did know it would have to be something apart from a desk job and would have to be thrilling. So at some point in high school I decided to become a police officer with aspirations of being in the secret service one day. So the summer after graduation, while I was already enrolled in the community college in my home town in upstate New York for a career in law enforcement, my parents were going through a messy divorce and I was pretty depressed. Then one night when I was at home alone, the movie “Raging Bull” was on the TV. It already started but I watched it anyhow and it was at the point in the movie when Jake LaMotta asks his brother if he slept with his wife. It’s probably the best scene in the movie. Well I watched that scene, which really drives the next ten minutes of the movie up until the climax when Jake beats up his brother pretty bad, and it appealed to me like nothing else I ever watched before. Understanding the art of it, It made me realize that I was an artist my whole life and never knew it. It was a big eye opener. I then knew why I was so quiet and unsettled growing up. It was an emotionally intense moment. So, the next day I un-enrolled myself and moved to NYC to study acting and never looked back. It’s funny because I have been told a lot over the years that I look like Robert DeNiro and I do one of the best DeNiro impressions in town.
KJ- I have made a handful of short films. The latest is called “Signal Lost” starring Sean Young (“Blade Runner”) and Tony Denison “(The Closer”) that screened at the Hollywood Film Festival and is being distributed by Quat Media. You can see the trailer and behind the scenes at www.signallostthemovie.com. Before that, I made a short mockumentary called “The Legend of Pete Jones” that’s really funny. It’s like an “E True Hollywood Story” on crack. It’s up on youtube, just type in the title. I am currently writing a feature and am helping a couple of friends get theirs produced.
ED- Has acting given you the confidence that you need behind the camera?
KJ- Acting gives you confidence for a lot of things in life, but I’ve always been writing stories or scripts since I was a teenager and always fantasized about being a filmmaker. So one day I bought a 16mm film camera and went out and made a short and learned so much. And I watch a lot of classic movies and films from around the world, so I think I gained the confidence behind the camera by just doing it. But I will tell you, directing has given me confidence for acting for the camera. It’s made me more aware of the framing and what is going to read in terms of movement and action, so it’s really helped me as an film actor.
KJ- Oh yes, especially during the audition process. While filming, I respect each actor’s process, and the actors that don’t have a process, they just believe it and work off the other actors, and I respect that too, as long as they give what the scene calls for. As an actor, I work differently depending on the project and character I am playing, so I definitely relate. You can ask a lot of directors and I think most of them would say that one of the biggest challenges is being able to express ‘clearly’ to the actors what it is that you want. I’m sure it gets easier with experience.
ED- what other films have you done, and what plans do you have in the future of film making?
KJ- One of my early shorts that I am proud of is called “Looking Out”. It’s about two old friends who are reunited after one of them is just released from prison. It’s a 12 minute film that consists of one long, uncut shot of the two guys walking along a huge cemetery. It was shot on 16mm film and I acted in it as well. The contrast between the old friends is evident and awkward and it turned out to be a charming piece. I have a feature length script I am writing about one night in this restaurant in Los Angeles. It’s a character driven piece, an ensemble that is very much like a play. It’s based on a short story a friend of mine wrote and I am very excited to get it made.
ED- Kenny, it has been an honor and a pleasure conducting this interview with you. I know that our readers will be happy to read about you, and learn more about your future endeavors. Thank you for your time, and we hope to hear again from you soon.
KJ -Thanks Ed! It’s been my pleasure