In an exclusive interview, Kelly McCormack talks about landing the role of Zeph this season and where she thinks the character is headed.
There’s an infectious energy that seems to run through the phone line when talking to Kelly McCormack about her journey to the role of Zeph in this season’s Killjoys. It’s an energy that you simply can’t help but enjoy being exposed to. McCormack’s turn as the nerd-centric character Zeph, which has been heartily embraced by fans, has been a good add to the show’s mix and vibe – and she couldn’t be happier. It was a role she wasn’t sure she’d get.
“Like most acting gigs, I auditioned for it,” McCormack explained from her home in Toronto. “It was the first role I auditioned for in 2017 and it was one of the first times I kind of let myself authentically be who I was in an audition. I kind of let my freak flag fly a little more than I usually do. I let it rip a little.”
“ And it proved to be successful,” she added. “It was a really great vote of confidence for me in who I am – kind of the nerdy tomboy.”
McCormack professes a love of sci-fi shows, movies and books and said she was excited to explore and carve out a new niche just for Zeph in the Killjoys world. While landing the role was sweet, she admits that she didn’t quite understand how big and significant the part of Zeph was when she auditioned. She thought it was more of a one-off kind of role. Turns out, she was going to be part of the team for an extended stay.
“Even when I went to the table read, I didn’t realize how big the role was,” she said. “It was kind of exciting to know that I was the new member of the team.”
And it’s a close-knit team, according to McCormack. From actors and writers to the crew, the Killjoys set provides a fun place to work and hang out. An admitted fan of Killjoys coming into the series, she said she’s enjoyed Zeph offering a new voice within the show. And the atmosphere on set has helped foster that voice.
“The Killjoys cast and crew is one that everyone envies, I think,” she said. “It’s a notoriously wonderful place to work. Zeph is a lot of fun to play. She’s a dream, so I hope we get a fourth season.”
She noted that Hannah John-Kamen (Dutch), Luke Macfarlane (D’avin) and Aaron Ashmore (Johnny) helped make the transition into the Killjoys realm a seamless one.
“The three leads are so kind. Because I didn’t really understand the bigness of the part, they were so helpful to me and I was like ‘Holy crap, they are being so kind,’” McCormack said. “I wish the fans of the show could meet all the crew as well. For us, the actors, the crew means so much to us. We spend all day with them. They are all big fans of the show and get the ‘Firefly’ comedic vibe of the show – great quips and jokes.”
“It was a little daunting, I was super nervous when I started,” she added. “I get inconsolably nervous before I get to set. After the show’s been running a bit I kind of chill out.”
She also credits show creator Michelle Lovretta with some timely sage advice, reminding McCormack to deliver Zeph the way she had in her audition. “’Are you sure?’ I asked her,” said McCormack laughing.
And with that, Zeph became the new nerd on the show, but a different type of nerd than Johnny. McCormack said there’s an excitement in developing Zeph in a way that offers a new niche to fill.
“I love the character,” she said. “So arrogant, yet so likable. She’s completely unaware that she’s a female in a male-dominated field.”
“In the beginning, it was more about her dealing philosophically with joining a team, it’s not something that comes naturally to her,” said McCormack. “The writers and I talked about her being in a place where she’s a loner, probably ex-communicated from her upbringing in a way that hasn’t been established yet. Science is everything she has, she can trust it. Science has her back. Anything in the interpersonal realm is not really her forte. How does she trust these people above something that’s been a close friend to her?”
McCormack said she’s playing Zeph as someone who always needs to be right and wants that need to be associated with her passion and distrust of other people. “In my experience, anytime I need to be right, it’s because we (females) have a deep desire to prove ourselves. It’s how Zeph defines herself.”
But watching Zeph transition from the awkward little science nerd into a member of the core team of the Killjoys, with war looming larger in the grand scheme of things, has turned her learning curve on its head. And it’s changing Zeph in a real way.
“She’s forming a relationship with Dutch – she’s watching Dutch and there is an honest sisterhood and respect for each other there,” she said. “The female relationship there was something that was really appealing to me. Zeph and Dutch – it’s so great to see two women bonding over the things they love and wanting to do the right things in the world.”
She marvels at how John-Kamen bounces between the roles of Aneela and Dutch.
“Hannah is so badass,” McCormack said. “She’s like the north star of the show. Actors are supposed to be chameleons and she brings an entirely different energy to the set with each character. Hannah is the kind of actor that has opinions about the work, so she’s gonna talk about it and talk to the writers about it. I love her.”
Zeph’s interactions with Johnny have also been a highlight this season. McCormack’s character has added another layer to the problem-solving equation. Johnny has turned into something of a mentor for the new nerd, teaching her that in addition to problem-solving there needs to be weight given to doing the right thing and being part of the team – not just mentally, but emotionally.
The scenes with Aaron Ashmore are always fun, she said, calling him a “very giving actor.” And while the two resident nerds come at problems from different angles, the answers they’ve delivered this season have been vital as war looms with the Hullen.
So, what’s next for Zeph?
“Where is she going? Well, the only thing she can trust is science, but now she’s invested in this group and the success of the group,” said McCormack. “She is emotionally invested, which I think is hard for her. She cares about the gang, so she’s either on the way to a meltdown or a serious personal journey. I think Zeph is a bit of a ways off from her reckoning and I think it will be a while before we find out exactly what Zeph’s transformation will be – hopefully in season 4.”
Could that transformation include a little romance? As this season has marched on, Zeph has carved out interesting relationships with D’Avin and Johnny, several times inadvertently saying things that, with a twist, could have a sexual content. Recently, she even asked Dutch if the boys “talked about her.” Or is there someone else in her romantic future?
“I think Zeph wants something — who she wants remains to be seen,” said McCormack. “She’s vying for something, I think. She doesn’t get ‘much action;’ her nerd mating skills aren’t that developed. It’s less about who she’s interested in and more about wanting to get some somewhere.”
“I think she thinks the guys don’t like her,” McCormack added. “She’s super smart and mature, moreso than some adults, but she’s also immature like a high school girl. It’s a fun quality.”
Season 3 has had plenty of twists and turns, with Dutch and the gang looking for a way to defeat Aneela and the Hullen armada. The season finale is right around the corner and McCormack said the show’s fans will love it.
“The shit is about to hit the fan,” she said. “It’s kind of all hands on deck. Everyone who has been important to Dutch and pledged their loyalty to her will have a duty and have to perform that duty. At the end of the day, Zeph and Dutch have this kind of quiet bond and I think Zeph is able to kind of see ahead a bit about how it all may play out. She loves Dutch, loves her as a hero and idol, so watching Dutch walk into the fire is going to be really difficult for her. Zeph is more invested in people than she’s comfortable with and they are about to walk into a war with a biological agent whose number she has kind of had this season.”
With the season finale nearly here, just how Zeph’s burgeoning relationships with the crew will play out is yet to be seen. As she said, hopefully more answers can arrive in season four of Killjoys.
Until then, McCormack is staying busy, something she said she tries to do daily. “I hate sleep,” she said.
To that end, she’s got a couple things brewing — a TV show she is producing and acting in called “The Neddeaus of Duqesne,” which is shown CBC. She also has a part in the Comedy Central show “Crawford” and a digital series called “That’s My DJ.” “There’s more exciting stuff that I can’t announce yet,” she said.
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