Getting To Know Kevin Dary , Actor and Voiceover Actor
Kevin, let’s start with your story. Your career is amazingly atypical. You were born in France, your father is a politician, you started as a dancer, then moved to Japan for a few years before deciding to fly to the United States. Why did you choose to make this new turn in your life? How has the journey been so far in the City of Angels?
Atypical surely is the right word! Well, I would say that this is how I always lived my life. As you mentioned, I am the son of a politician, and I didn’t want to walk that path. Arts, different ways of expressing myself, being true to who I am, have always meant a lot to me, regardless of the outcomes. Making it my job and following my passion felt like the natural thing to do, it just couldn’t be any other way.
I absolutely loved my time in France and in Japan, and I miss those two places a lot, but here is the first time I can say I feel like I belong. The place where dreams come true, where hard work leads to something meaningful. It might sound cliche, but the motivation is real!
The amount of work and projects here is just beyond anything else I have encountered, which also plays a huge part in keeping you motivated as an artist. Even during the pandemic, which slowed the industry down significantly, I still got to work thanks to voice-acting. For me, the journey, while a never-ending one, has so far been amazing and just keeps getting better.
How were you introduced to the movie industry and more generally to the entertainment world ? What first got you interested?
Two things played major roles. The first one was music, especially artists like Michael Jackson and Aerosmith, whose music videos were playing on TV constantly. The former being the one that made me interested in dancing, and the latter making me feel like it was OK to be myself and to do it for me.
Second, I grew up in the late 80s/early 90s, so big Hollywood blockbusters were everywhere in French cinemas at the time. But this was also the era when French TV imported a lot of Japanese anime, which defined a whole generation. All of those movies, cartoons, TV shows were dubbed , so not only did I get to fall in love with the stories and characters, but also with the voices dubbing them. My love for acting was immediately followed by a real passion for dubbing, trying to recognize voices from one movie to the other.
But like most people, I’m sure, the element of magic, the adventures and worlds that were shown on screen had a huge impact. The things I’d feel when watching a movie or a series, I always hoped I could bring to someone else, because they helped me understand who I was and who I am.
You are an actor, and a voice actor as well. Which one would you say requires more training and what brings you the most excitement?
That is a tough one. I would say that both are demanding, but voice acting has that extra layer of freedom in certain circumstances. Especially for animation or video games, when you get to create a character or match a certain unique voice and attitude, you can get very creative because the audience is less likely to question voices from drawings or polygons.
Now when it comes to dubbing, that’s something else. It can be extremely demanding because you want to both be faithful to the original actor’s performance, but also adapt what they’re saying for a different audience and yet keep the motivations and intentions intact, while still bringing only a fraction of yourself in there. For a lot of people, it is just not a natural thing to do, in that booth and with the mic, it just feels like a lifeless environment. So, I’d say that it might require more training in the sense that it’s very specific.
That would not be (or that would be less of) a problem when you’re acting, because your choices and the environment you create for your character is all you. However, the pressure is on because your performances are much more demanding. The work you bring and the amount of your experiences you choose to bring into the performance to make it real to you and the story are on a different level.
But the sense of freedom I was talking about for VO, I know many actors feel that for on-camera or theater work. I still feel like I get the most excitement out of acting, but VO, depending on the project, gets really up there too!
You have written and starred in two movies recently. Could you tell us more about the process of writing a movie script and then seeing your story come to life? Is it hard to focus on acting only when you are also at the origin of the project?
It has to start with something that is meaningful to you, I think. Both the stories I wrote had themes that I cared about, some of my experiences in them. That’s what motivated me to write them in the first place. The hardest parts for me in the writing process are the transitions. First from the idea in my brain to a proper, clear written form, and then, after many rewrites, getting the tone of what’s now on paper to show on film.
I must admit that trying to make my own projects happen was incredibly stressful until the moment I got to be on set and shoot the actual projects. After my first film, Pandora’s Box, I realized that if I was not able to let go of any other mantle when shooting my scenes, I would obviously not get a good performance, and the movie would suffer from it, my acting partners would suffer from it… It was very hard at first, because I treated the project, not just my character, as my baby, but I managed.
I delegate everything when it comes to production, and I completely trust others will do their best to do justice to my vision. That way I can focus on my performance as an actor, which is what I am and what I do. But sometimes, in order to do that, you have to create your own parts first, and it makes the acting work even more rewarding.
Could you tell us more about your two movies “La Chambre de Claire” and “Pandora’s Box”?
La Chambre de Claire is my most recent personal project, I co-wrote the story with Kiara Beltran, a wonderful actress and writer. The project was born out of our desire to act together and showcase our abilities to speak different languages (Kiara is fluent in French). We got together and pitched a few ideas, until we agreed on the story of an international couple dealing with a loved one in a coma. It gave us the opportunity to showcase what life is like for people in international relationships (something we both know very well!) and at the same time, the drama grounds this couple, and communication, of any kind, becomes a major theme in the story.
The movie is quite experimental when it comes to camera work, we wanted the whole story to be told in a “found footage” style, so everything is viewed through the lens of a personal camcorder, and we ended up choreographing a lot of the camera work with Director of Photography Frederico Imperiale and Director Noelle Soulier, because only Kiara and I were manipulating the camera.
That also meant a lot of work for us as actors too because every scene needed to be a long take. No pick-ups or editing with a different shot. It pushed everyone to their limits, crew included, and I am so grateful that I got to work with such a motivated team. They all understood the project and they worked so hard. The film is currently in its festival run, and we have just received news that we are part of the Official Selection of the 2021 Manchester Lift-Off International Film Festival. I’m thrilled.
Pandora’s Box, as I mentioned earlier, was the first project I wrote entirely for myself, to showcase what kind of person and actor I am. It was destined to be for festivals only and it was a true passion project. I have been inspired by musicians since childhood and I also had several family members dealing with addiction in their life, so this film was very personal and cathartic in a way.
I really loved playing Alex, because sure, he’s a rock star and all, but the whole point was to show him in his everyday struggles rather than on stage and dealing with fame and success. I wanted to show that anyone can be affected, and how they in turn affect their surroundings. It is far more conventional than La Chambre de Claire in terms of cinematography, but oddly enough there is also that element of privacy being invaded, here to reinforce the idea that this happens in everyday life and regardless of your status.
Pandora’s Box got several awards and nominations, including some for my performance, which is something that still amazes me. I am incredibly, incredibly grateful.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work? Any turning points that changed your life forever?
Never expect anything to go as planned. And this can be both a positive and a negative! When I worked on Pandora’s Box, I understood really quickly that no matter the amount of preparation you have, you can’t control everything. The sooner you are able to accept it (and I know it’s hard), the easier things will go. Being prepared assures that you can face shortcomings, but you can’t ever guarantee that everything will go smoothly. People not showing up on set, someone’s car getting towed, equipment failing… It’s stressful, but in the end the film still got made, which is what matters.
Conversely, and I’d say that’s where it absolutely changed my life forever, is in moments like auditions or encounters that turn into something completely unrelated. I remember walking into the sound booth for an audition at Voxx Studios, when they were searching for a male French voice for a TV series dub.
I never got the part, and I was rather disappointed. Unbeknownst to me, the casting director actually liked my takes so much that he asked me to join for the dubbing of a feature film about six months later. And I have been regularly working in voice-acting ever since. You just never know.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I feel like so many people deserve shoutouts! It would take forever to list everyone. Basically, I want to thank all the people who have worked with me in any capacity, and those who still are today. In this industry, you can’t do everything alone. And of course, my family and friends back in France who are so supportive and from day one told me to absolutely go for it.
Going back to becoming an actor, what kind of movies inspired you? Which stories transport you? Which actor led the path for you to become one? Were there any artists in your family?
I love fantasy and comedy, but I was inspired mostly by sci-fi, adventure and drama. The Alien and Rocky franchises are probably some of my all-time favorites. It’s no surprise that their lead actors have been incredibly influential. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley will always be one of the greatest heroes and models of mine. Rocky’s story, an underdog who gets a shot at becoming this icon, constantly overcoming greater foes and obstacles, resonates with me and my life choices. I could name many other movies that speak to me: Lost In Translation, the Indiana Jones films, 12 Angry Men, Le Pacte Des Loups… The list goes on.
Which reminds me, I also admire French actors: Jean Reno, François Cluzet, Marina Fois and Mathilde Seignier, to name a few. But the actor who made me say “I want to do that” is Michael Douglas. Specifically his performance in The Game. I found his character, Nicholas Van Orton, fascinating and mesmerizing, no matter how dark and twisted things were becoming around him. I didn’t even know much of Michael Douglas before this film, but it had a tremendous impact on my life and redefined the way I watch movies.
Oh, and I am the only artist in the family. Like you said, I’m atypical. I guess I like to be the odd one out.
Which directors would you like to work with? And as a director, who would be the dream actor or actress you would love to work with?
From France: Michel Hazanavicius. He directed The Artist and won an Oscar for it, but he also is behind the first two OSS 117 movies, which are spoofs of 60s spy movies and are, to me, the pinnacle of French comedy. It would be an honor to work with someone whose talent has such range.
From the US: Sofia Coppola. I have seen all of her work as a writer/director, but Lost In Translation spoke to me on a whole other level. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s relationship as two strangers meeting by accident in Tokyo and connecting over their loneliness hit so close to home. I also thoroughly enjoyed Marie-Antoinette and The Bling Ring. If I ever were to direct, I think that, besides all of the people I mentioned earlier, I would specifically add Hiroyuki Sanada. He is a Japanese actor whom I discovered in The Last Samurai, which I believe was his first US film. I got to dig a little deeper and found some of his earlier work in Japan, including his Shakespeare theater work.
He has since appeared in many US productions, and I would say rightfully so. There is a very unique calm intensity that he brings, and it contrasts so much with the work he has done in theater. I feel like I could learn so much from working with him and clearly his commitment to the craft is stellar. Certainly, an example to follow.
Interview Los Angeles lea Carlsen and Lou Jefferson for SpLAshPR Agency