Born to Act: A conversation with Kim Coates
By Shane Collins
I had received a phone call from Carly Fawcett and she informed me that she was organizing an event and needed a photographer. I asked her what was happening and she told me Kim Coates was coming into BNA to talk about life and acting. Carly is heading up BORN TO ACT; a new actors studio and online program aimed to help actors hone their skills at the craft as the Okanagan sees a big boom in local productions.
Carly had arranged an open house, hosted at BNA’s tasting room and within the small location, a bustle of spectators, actors and fans alike poured in and helped themselves to a selection of tasty beers and yummy treats and before too long, Carly took the stage and announced a two scholarships available through her program. One for A BIPOC and an actor starting out.
She had also brought the Saskatchewan born actor in to share some of his stories and advice for those hoping to make it in the business. “Please give a ridiculous warm welcome to my friend and colleague, Kim Coates!” He walked through the crowd with his hand in the air, a smile on his face and let the uproar of applause welcome him to the stage.
The two of them spoke of Kims earlier days of theater and how it all started back in Saskatchewan then out to Stratford. The guy seems to have been born to act. He held a confidence most find too heavy to handle, especially in the beginning of a career. He took to the stage and dove into theater to become really good. Knowing what he wanted, Kim had to dig deep and trust his gut. Sometimes in the pursuit of things, we have to say no. With an agent pushing television on him, he was steadfast and dedicated himself to the theater. His profound confidence stems from these years studying theater. It eventually led him to Broadway which in turn helped launch his career in tv and film. During one audition, he walked into the room eating a banana. He would just stare at the people auditioning him as if he didn’t give a shit. Stunts like this would end up winning over those who dared audition Kim Coates.
“If you’re going to be an actor, you have to be present because the second you start acting and not being present in the role, you’re fucked.” Kim doesn’t mince his words.
Carly spoke of their work on the multi DORA award-winning production of ‘JERUSALEM’ in Toronto. He won the DORA award for best actor.
Personally, I’ve enjoyed watching Kim in shows like the mega hit, SONS OF ANARCHY but I also loved his performances in BAD BLOOD, BLACK HAWK DOWN, OPEN RANGE and WATERWORLD too. He pops up in a lot of films. He spoke of how SONS OF ANARCHY was a game changer and how there came a point where people would stop him and say, “hey you’re that guy from,” to saying, “hey, you’re Kim Coates.” His eyes lit up when he told this story. “That feeling of your hard work paying off is something almost impossible to explain.”
Kim is well aware of the growth of the industry here in town. “It’s an exciting time to be in Kelowna if you’re an actor,” he said. “If you feel that pull towards this kind of life, the time is now.”
For Kim, he’s been at it long enough that roles seem to be offered rather than sought out. I really liked the story telling part of the whole evening. I’ve been to New York. I’ve always loved the vibe of that city. There’s something profoundly dazzling yet somehow sinister about it and so many amazing films and actors have come up from the depths of that town, so to hear him tell the story of how, in a small dingy bar, somewhere downtown Manhattan, during the late 80’s, he spoke of being at a table with none other than Gary Oldman. Back then, Gary was rocketing up in his success but he was playing similar, dark and intense roles. Kim asked him, “aren’t you worried about being typecast?”
Kim seamlessly changed his voice and his gaze and for a moment, we watched him slip into his version of Gary Coleman. In a British accent, he said, “Well, I give off a good creep. I say, “I do believe I give a good creep indeed.” We all had a laugh at that. Kim has played a bad ass many times and he’s had to wrestle with that dilemma as well.
“I think I give good creep, too. I’ve been the bad guy. Lots. I’m good at it.”
Can’t argue anything there. We can’t always change what we’re born to do, I guess. I think that deep down, that’s why celebrities are so colossal in this society. We seem to admire and marvel at those who pursue the stories they portray and not only succeed but bring to life the most incredible stories. They broke the mold and became something else. Something… spectacular.
It was a night to welcome those in the film biz to come together and hear from one of the greats. There was a Q&A afterwards and I got the courage to raise my hand. I was soon selected to speak and I cleared my throat. With my camera in my hand and right at the front of the crowd, I asked, “Do you have any advice with working in front of a camera?” He took a moment to think, then, he turned that gaze to me and said, ‘When you know your character and when you know your lines, the camera becomes invisible. I know where to enter the scene or how to take my seat at a table but really, when you’re in that zone, the camera isn’t even there.”
Carly put on a magical evening and it was awesome meeting and photographing Kim Coates. As a bonus, I also got to mingle with some of the people who need photos for their portfolios. It’s a major win for a growing community of local artists who are willing to believe in themselves and pursue what they’re passionate about. It’s not easy. There’s no guarantee. It can be straight up daunting. How many of us have stared down a tightrope? How many have dared step out onto it? How many have fallen down? How many try again? How many actually make it across? Kim has walked his line and even though I’m no actor, I’m an artist and I battle with the walking across just like everyone else who dares try to make a go of it in the arts. I think it comes down to faith and to an unwavering belief in oneself that not only will they walk the line, but will get to the other side.
Check out Carly’s BORN TO ACT online and in studio classes if you think you got what it takes. And keep your eyes open for those steele blue eyes of Kim Coates. You just might see him on one of those productions sometime soon. The secrets out, folks and it wouldn’t surprise me if you see the production crews and vans and Hollywood’s heaviest of hitters hanging around Kelowna, making movie magic and putting Kelowna on the map, right where it belongs.