Even in the perpetually busy buzz of 49th Parallel in Kitsilano, Kelly McCormack still brightens the tone. She is just a couple of hours removed from her flight from Toronto, but is bursting nonetheless with a kind of effervescent energy, which, combined with her forthright manner, makes her a force to be reckoned with—even over a cup of green tea on a hot summer’s afternoon.
McCormack, as the saying goes, wears a lot of hats. She is an actor, producer, and writer. She developed her love for the dramatic arts through early-in-life encounters with stage productions. “My mom took me to the Hal Prince production of Show Boat. I remember, so vividly, Lonette McKee. She sang her solo sitting on a stair, basically right in the audience,” McCormack recalls. “I was young, but it was transfixing, absolutely thrilling. It felt like she was reaching right into me, singing directly to me. I knew then and there I needed to be a performer, to try to give an audience what Lonette gave us that night.”
McCormack’s early career was a seemingly unending series of casting calls, many of which involved several hours’ worth of waiting in line for a 30-second window to show her stuff. “It is almost inhumane, how that system works,” she says. “I even had a producer take a washroom break right during my audition. He walked out, saying, ‘Keep going, you’re doing fine.’” But complaining is not really in McCormack’s way of thinking. “It was an interesting process,” she reasons. “You just had to keep your eyes on the ultimate goal, and eventually, the jobs started to come in.” So, onto the bright stage lights of New York, and then a fairly easy segue into film work.
“There were some interesting opportunities, acting in small films at first. It is a completely different thing than stage acting, but I really enjoy it,” McCormack says. “I enjoyed the whole thing of being on a set, the collaborative nature of it. That’s why I started getting involved in other aspects of the industry, too.” Basically, McCormack has, to date, done everything a person can do in film, “except directing. Maybe one day, but not now. Film is, to me, a director’s medium, whereas the stage is an actor’s medium. I enjoy the process in making a film, playing my part in it, but the director is the focal point. I don’t really feel ready to be a director, and maybe I never will.”
Not that she needs more on her plate. In 2017 alone she has had a recurring role on the hit Syfy and Space Channel series Killjoys, and has both acted in and produced a digital series for CBC called The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island. This all on the heels of performances alongside, among others, James Franco and Ricky Gervais, and in the midst of finding time to write the screenplay for a film she is producing and starring in, called Sugar Daddy, which is scheduled for shooting in late 2018.
“I look at my life, and while there are some long hours and hard work, I just feel so fortunate,” the Vancouver native says. “I am making a living doing something I love to do. And I am trying to make a difference in the world, too.” Part of that is finding ways to question how female sexuality is commodified, and how difficult it is for women to negotiate the power structures of arts industries. That is what drew her to write the Sugar Daddy script. And her production company, Floyder Films, enables her to marshal all kinds of talent, and to challenge her own craft further, to bring new works to life.
The tea is by now at room temperature, but that doesn’t bother her. Her mind is on something else, and firing on all cylinders, as is, clearly, usual. “I love that art can make a human connection,” McCormack says. “That’s all I really want.”