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    • Please join me in welcoming actor Kenny Johnson for a Cake Panel! About Kenny: Kenny Johnson is an American actor whose celebrated range, depth and sincerity has only been magnified by starring opposite Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award winners and nominees, such as Anthony Hopkins, Vera Farmiga, Holly Hunter, Juliette Lewis, Glenn Close, Forest Whitaker, Maria Bello, and Michael Chiklis, among others. Johnson can be seen in a barrage of critically acclaimed series, from Dexter (2006) to Bates Motel (2013), and from Sons of Anarchy (2008) to Secrets and Lies (2015). His portrayal of Detective Curtis Lemansky on The Shield (2002) won him a substantial fanbase struck by his character's strong but sensitive personality. Johnson's future only brightened - now consistently in demand as an actor who embraces his characters, protects them and fights with them to further not only their stories, but the stories of the actors around him.  

      Currently, Kenny plays Dominique Luca on the CBS hit show SWAT alongside Shemar Moore, Jay Harrington, Alex Russell, David Bradley Kim, and Lina Esco.  SWAT has recently been renewed for its third season.

      Questions that we weren't able to answer in today's session we'll carry over to the next Cake Panel with Kenny in the future.

      Welcome, Kenny!

    • It seems real to life. I mean, the subject matter is very current in what’s going on. And I think Shawn and Aaron and all the writers jump on it to make it as real as possible. They really connect with that. And we enjoy the superhero stunt stuff - we get to go in, take out the bad guys, and that’s fun for people to watch, ass kicking is always a fun thing to watch!

    • Ok, so Shawn Ryan had been thinking of a way to end the series in 7 seasons. And they had two other characters they were thinking of killing off, and then they thought “Where do we go with that, will that spiral into something that can go into an endgame for the series” but none of it worked. So Shawn came up with the idea 3 months prior to it actually happening. And he came and talked to me about it, it was a bit of a shock to me, but I definitely came in the show as we’re all there for the creative concept that he originally came up with, so whatever he decided we were going to go with. So if the constant of the group got killed, what would happen? If Mackey got killed, does the end justify the means as his concept, and then you have Shane who’s narcissistic, paranoid in a way, and Shane and Lem were best friends coming into this, and they thought “what if we kill Lem, because he’s the only one with a conscience, then that would be bringing us into annihilating whomever got him.” And in the whole time, Shane was there next to Mackey, until HE found out. And they were going to blackmail each other, or at least Shane was! So it was a great way to spiral the show into an end. If you have a strike team you build on, for five years, they did a lot of good things but a lot of things that weren’t quite by the books. So it seemed like a genius way to spiral the show down into this tragic ending. Shane ends his life, kills his wife and kid, and you have Mackey, and he makes this deal for immunity - it was kind of gnarly, you know? 

    • Personally, here’s my thing: I believe that things that are meant to be in life are gonna happen no matter what. So you prepare and focus for what you see, the path you wanna go on. And whether you’re paid to go on it or not, you work on that path, to get ready for the moment for when you do get hired for something. I grew up with a dad who was abusive in a lot of different ways, and there was so much putting down, me feeling like I wasn’t worth anything anyways, that when I got into the business nothing bothered me, because it didn’t feel worth than what I grew up with, that was normal to me. So I felt like I got nothing to lose. If I get told “no” 1,000 times, it doesn’t phase me, and you can tell me I’m the worst actor in the world or don’t have the look for something because I heard that for years when I was modeling in my early 20s, I went against all that, I ended up working with the biggest agencies and doing the biggest campaigns, despite all the rejections. Same with acting: I got “This guy’s horrible, he can’t act,” and I thought that they can say what they want, but always believed someone would get ME, and my energy. And I’ve been insanely blessed and lucky for the last 20, 21 years. It’s been awesome. 

    • I don’t care whether it’s a villain or a hero. What I’m always looking for is a flawed character. A lot of times I like to play the antihero, the very flawed character, with real obstacles, and for me it’s more interesting when you have incredibly flawed characters. It lets you fill in a lot of in-between stuff, and people identify with that a lot. If it’s a straight up villain or hero, that’s not very interesting, but if you have a writer or creator who makes a character true to life, that’s interesting to me. I could go hero or antihero, either one, as long as they have those elements in them. 

    • God, my favorite? Oh my god, there are so many! Well, one of my favorite memories that I really liked was the first time that Freddie, Norman, came to my hotel door, and kind of was transforming into Norma. And I wasn’t sure what was going on, but he was coming at me, accusing me of all these horrific things, then he pulls out a knife, trying to swipe and stab me, I throw him back in the chair, and we get in this fight, and I think it’s crazy, but I realize it’s Norma’s kid, and at the same time, he’s tapping into Norma. And I think that’s one of my favorite first scenes I ever did. But there were a lot of great scenes I did with Vera that were heart wrenching, or scenes with Max who played my son Dylan. But it’s hard to say which were my favorite, there were so many!

    • Aw, thank you! So my favorite episode? Some of the Shield ones were just so fun. And I mean, there was the one where we robbed the Armenian money train, that was one of the most fun ones! There was an early episode - the Shield had way too many fun episodes. Sons of Anarchy, I loved the time when I came in and had to fight Tag, or had to play these guys in basketball, where I was supposed to load up a truck and then got sidetracked with basketball, got bopped with a head by a metal bar and they stole my truck filled with guns… SOA, whether we were shooting or in-between scenes, all we did was wrestle each other, fight each other, we were like fourth graders at recess, that’s all we did all the time! So for some reason, my onscreen and offscreen stuff on SOA, we’re all still best friends to this day. Same with the Shield, we’re all the same. Michael Chiklis and the other cast and myself, we’re all still really close to this day. It’s wonderful. 

    • Hahaha! Yes, because of the handholding at the end - they wanted to set it up as accidental but weirdly uncomfortable. All of a sudden she realized Luca is trying to help her daughter out, and she’s like “What’s going on.” That would be interesting, because Kelly doesn’t have a dad, and Luca likes helping people in general, so that would be an interesting place to go. Me, I love the neighborhood. I love it because it makes me think of the Shield, you need balance, you’re trying to incorporate yourself into the neighborhood and yet still set a good example, have a good effect on the younger kids who are possibly making choices. So it will be interesting, if they’ll go down that road with Kelly’s mom also. That’s an interesting concept! So we’ll see what the writers do. 

    • It’s funny, most of my characters on my shows, they never give my characters girlfriends! Everyone else’s does. And I find that interesting, because everyone else is with a girl or dating or married, but my characters are always the loner who doesn’t. And I’m like that’s funny man!

    • Yeah, I mean, the truth of that is when I researched biker gangs and clubs and everything like that, you know, they paint a dark world out there when you’re researching it. I know they’re like family in their own respect, but in a way, it was really tough for me to jump on a show - I was happy to, I love Kurt Sutter, he was a writer on the Shield, and I’d just finished my series with Holly Hunter, and he’d called me up that day and said “How’d you want to come play with the big boys?

      And I’ve owned bikes, but I’m not into biker gangs, so I had to research a lot. So it took about a week and a half of me researching. I got into these characters, who they were, and it took me 1.5 weeks to acclimate into it. But Charlie Hunnam embraced me from day 1, as did Ron Perlman, as did Ryan Hurst, Boone, everyone took me in like I was their brother. They took me under their wing as “you’re coming and playing with us now.”

      All the extras on the show ere from real biker clubs, there was a real pecking order there, and it was very odd and interesting in that respect. But from the actor’s point of view, they couldn’t have been more awesome for me. I felt safe to dive into that world. It was still make believe.

      Charming is a fictitious town. SOA, as much as we play it like it’s real, we’re still who we are as these characters playing, and they’re not real murders. So it made it ok for me to let go after 1.5 weeks. But all the extras were either biker guys or porn stars, for real, those were all the extras. So it was… interesting. 

    • I've been in totaled cars that got completely crushed to nothing going 90 MPH into rock ledges, off the road into rock walls. I remember being surrounded and held by something in my seat where I don't remember hitting the steering wheel, but I remember specifically everything in slow motion, never having touched anything. That was really different for me, because it was the first time I felt a presence, you can call it an angel, protecting me.

      I’ve had premonitions since I was four years old, knowing who I was going to marry. 6 months prior to the Shield, I had a premonition I was going to be on it. Same with the Holly Hunter show, Bates Motel, I knew I was going to be on that show even though the brother character wasn’t created at that point. I’ve definitely been around ghosts, but that would take too long to explain! I’ve had ghost encounters, really weird dark energies happen. Especially in Flagstaff, Arizona, that was probably one of my darkest encounters with a ghost or bad energy entity. 

    • Haha! Ok, so I drive BMWs mostly because when I had my daughter Angelica I had to look for the safest. My wife at that time was researching how to keep our kids safe, and BMW SUVs are the safest type of vehicle, so that became my car that I drive now. I love old pickup trucks personally, ones I can work on myself, like a ’67 Chevy, or a ’68. My dream car would be a ’57 Chevy. I have a fascination with old cars. But I’ve also driven cars that go 200 MPH. You get me behind the wheel, press the gas, and the fact you can go so fast so quickly is a really fun thing to dive into, too! And I’ve played around with Teslas before, they are so incredibly fast and stealthy, going 0 to 70 or 80 in such a short period of time, it feels like being launched from an aircraft carrier!

    • Yeah! I’ve owned four motorcycles in my life. So I’ve always kind of ridden. Because I like to. First I grew up in Vermont, I started on dirt bikes, and then in California I’ve owned three different motorcycles. All of ‘em got stolen, and the last one was stolen 2 weeks before I started on SONS. Every time I got comfortable in LA, I’d almost get hit by cars, literally inches away from whatever. I’ve had a few of my friends die from people out here, and no matter how safe you are on a bike, if you ride alone, there’s always that possibility. So it was kind of Godsend that my bike was stolen right as my daughter was born - I know how to ride bikes really well, and now they’re gonna close off the roads, and I just need to look out for the other actors that don’t know how to ride, haha! I love riding bikes, it is so freeing, and getting to play on Sons of Anarchy was so cool. I wish it would have lasted longer for me, actually. 

    • You know, Bates Motel was a huge uphill climb from day one because of the backstory on it. For me, I had to go back like I do with all my characters, starting from the day you’re born, then 5-10 years, your relationships with your siblings, what kinds of relationships you have with mom and dad. So in Bates I created a dad who was abusive, a mom who was bipolar and borderline schizophrenic, so it was a tough thing he was dealing with, but the dad I made kind of sexually abusive towards the sister, and also with him. And there was something there that I had to make that story real for me is that kind of happened when I was growing up with my best friend down the street, she had a dad who I found out 20 years later was doing sexual things to her, and she had a mom who was borderline schizophrenic as well. SO I went back and tapped into what she went through, what I went through.

      So in Bates instead of this guy being a vicious monster, let’s say the dad was doing things with Norma early on that were kind of sexual, what if Norma had started something with HIM because of what HE was doing to her? So they kind of only have each other to survive in life. So that’s only between Norma and Caleb, no one else knows, and that big thing that happened on that is when she realized it was wrong when she was old enough, he did it one more time and the twas the time she said NO. And that’s what she will remember, she said no, he overpowered her, and then she got pregnant, and then he took off and then came back. So he thought whatever they did was between them, and she’s had to do what she needed to do to survive.

      She had to make this story that Caleb was a vicious guy, and he has to take that, but not share prior to that, because it won’t change anything. At this point, what he did was wrong, period, and all he can do is try to be a better human in life, and basically take responsibility, say “yes, that did happen,” and not try to blame it on anything prior to that. To help me, Kenny the human, be able to function, I had to make this backstory. It’s not like one day he became a vicious guy who did these things to her. So that was my backstory to make it ok. 

      I told the creator that too. I had to. She fought me, but I said “In order to humanize this guy, I HAVE to do this story. In order for me to live in this skin, I have to know this is my truth of what happened. You can do what you want to do writing-wise.” But otherwise he’s this despicable character. 

    • I don’t own a bike now. I own a bicycle! But I’m comfortable on bikes. Like I said, I’ve owned four motorcycles, and when you start a young age, I grew up riding snowmobiles, I was one of the best on it in 7th and 8th grade, and I’d still be as fearless as I was then, and I feel that way about motorcycles too! 

    • I had a friend who wrote a script and he brought it to me, and he’d written one of the lead guys to be played by me, his best friend. He was my best friend out in California, my first best friend out here. And he, I think, knew Stallone at the time, and he wrote this thing for the UCLA film festival, and asked me to be in it. I didn’t want to be in it, because I couldn’t read well, I was majorly dyslexic but didn’t know it at the time. But he said “I wrote this for you,” and I said “I don’t wanna do it!” It took a month for him to talk me into it.

      And then I had this weird thing happen when we started shooting the first scene, surrounded by everyone, taking it all in, not having done that before. And as soon as they said ACTION, everything around me froze, like time stood still. It was like a weird movie I was in and I had this energy whoosh through me, and a voice said “This is what you’ll do the rest of your life,” and I just had that moment. We went on, did the scene, shot the movie, and it was one of those things if you want to call it a Godlike moment or epiphany! At the time, I didn’t want to address all my personal issues, being fine by myself, but this forced me to do everything opposite of who I was at the time. I had to honor that voice that gave me that message. And so I’ve been acting ever since. It’s not your average story, you know?

    • I have one called THE HOWL. It’s a Little Red Riding Hood take on good and evil. It’s a very offbeat script I did with this girl called Michelle Martin. I did a movie called “Blue” with her before. I know she’s trying to get it done by the end of the year, and my daughter played Young Red Riding Hood, and I play the Wolf. It’s interesting, and in our concept, the Wolf is Little Red Riding Hood’s dad, so in our version she’s half-wolf, half-human. There’s a layer of religion in there, Christianity, and at the same time, you don’t know if this story is true or if it’s all happening within her mind. It’s a trippy script, but I love it! 

    • I still get nervous, I still struggle through scripts, have to read them a few times, make notes, draw pictures, and I have certain ways I have to learn or get dialogue down, doing repetition hundreds of times. It’s hard, but it forces you to do things differently than other people, and I won’t let it stop me from expression or interpretation or the way I think, the ways I can put things out there.

      So if anything, there’s so many dyslexics like Einstein, Bell, Cher, Tom Cruise - there are a million artists who have been so effective in this world. These things just make you look at the world differently, so don’t get down on yourself! I have a major fear of reading in public, I practice, I try, we’re only human. You just do what you can do. And again, in this world, there’s no such thing as perfect. And it’s ok if you have something that you’re not that great at, you just keep trying and using your own expression, as long as people don’t make you feel bad about yourself. Listen to the positive people in life, they’ll encourage you to best person in life you can be.

    • I think the school episode was my favorite, because it just rang true to what was going on with what’s going on with schools, and addressed it in a delicate way, a positive manner, and I loved we had a PSA at the end. Everyone thought this was too close to home to do something so personal, but we thought we could do it in a way that doesn’t glorify them but bring awareness to the subject matter, so that people look out for each other and speak up so that if something does come up they can speak up sooner rather than later and prevent something horrific from happening. It kind of broke my heart. I did so much research on it, it’s such a tragedy in all ways, shapes and forms. So I think that was my favorite episode because it was so meaningful.

    • Yeah, I mean, I think that Lem’s an ass-kicker, man. He’d definitely have gone in there, taken on nine gangbangers at once and have no problem doing it, fearless in every kind of way, and so Lem would be a badass. Cozik, I think, gotta be the original ass-kicker! Always gotta say Cozer too, and at the same time, my character right now Luca, they make him such a superhero that it’s hard to find anybody that could take Luca out. They set it up like superheroes, so it’s not fair to put them in comparison! Everyone’s gotta be at the top end for everything.