Peter Kelamis brings a searing, sneering intensity to his evildoer role on Freeform’s hit sci-fi series Beyond, but he’ll be wielding a wholly different set of skills when he hosts the Leo Awards Gala on June 4.
Kelamis – who plays The Man in the Yellow Jacket on Beyond, and is a familiar face (and voice) thanks to scene-stealing turns in Stargate Universe and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – will call upon his years on the stand-up comedy circuit when he steps behind the podium for the glitziest of the three annual Leo ceremonies, which recognize excellence in BC’s homegrown film and television industry.
“I’m going to be more Ricky Gervais and less Academy Awards,” chuckles Kelamis in a recent phone interview. “It’s going to be less serious, and fun. That’s my goal.”
Decades before this Leos gig, the Vancouver actor was the star of his family’s living room, mimicking the comedy masters (Rich Little, Tim Conway) he watched on TV. “It was the most amazing thing in the world to me, that you could make people laugh,” recalls Kelamis. Early on, he figured out how to harness this ability and “work it for things.” “I’d do a Tim Conway impression for my parents, and they’d laugh, and I’d go, ‘Why don’t we go to Dairy Queen?’ And they’d go, ‘Oh, sure!’”
He was 8-years-old when he declared his career intentions (“I was on the playground and another kid asked, ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’ and I said, ‘I’m going to tell jokes’” and they’re like, ‘Huh – well, I’m going to be a fireman’”), although his comedy aspirations pushed up against something just as impactful from a galaxy far, far away.
“I remember going to see Star Wars: A New Hope at a birthday party, and all of the other kids were like, ‘Wouldn’t it be incredible to be Luke Skywalker?’ And I remember saying, ‘No, it would more incredible to be Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker!’” Kelamis takes a beat. “They all looked at me funny.”
Haters gonna hate, but Kelamis has achieved success on the comedy circuit (you can watch one of his early Just for Laughs performances here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zWogYFpUI0) and as an on-screen and voice actor. His lengthy filmography is a fascinating mix of studio and indie fare, and includes The X-Files, Smallville, The Killing, 50/50, The Cabin in the Woods, and No Men Beyond This Point. “I don’t think I’ve ever had two days on set that have been exactly the same,” says Kelamis. “I’m always surprised by something when I get there, and I always come home with a story, usually a cool one.”
Kelamis still works the stand-up circuit whenever he’s so inclined. “Sometimes I go far too long between doing stand up, and you start second-guessing yourself,” he admits. “There’s something about the gratification of a live audience that’s both terrifying and gratifying at the same time.” Also gratifying: the infectious energy that comes from being in the mix with other comedians. “You realize how skilled these comedians are getting up there with nothing but a microphone and a voice box and making you laugh,” marvels Kelamis. “I still respect the craft so much.”
Kelamis isn’t just a Leo host; he’s also up for an award for Best Supporting Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series for his work on Beyond. The series – now rolling into its second season – follows a young man (played by Burkely Duffield) who awakens from a coma after 12 years and discovers that he’s at the heart of some kind of sinister conspiracy. As one of Beyond’s primary villains, Kelamis’ The Man in the Yellow Jacket “does some very nasty things,” he says. “You don’t really know where his loyalties lie, although he does have loyalties. They’re not really clear and present.”
The Man in the Yellow Jacket (so named because of his ever-present dandelion-hued apparel) isn’t the kind of role Kelamis often gets the chance to play. “Usually if there’s an assassin or some kind of sociopath, they tend to pick a certain type of person, whether it be big or physical because he’s enforcing an agenda,” says Kelamis. “I’m not this big, huge, hulking, imposing individual, and the fact that [series creator] Adam Nussdorf went against type was something I really appreciated.”
And Kelamis might weave his appreciation for the role into his Leos hosting gig. “There’s a strong possibility that a yellow jacket may make an appearance.”
The 2017 Leo Awards take place May 27, June 3, and June 4 at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. Mackenzie Gray (Legion) hosts the first night, and Paul McGillion (Stargate Atlantis) and Veena Sood (Battlestar Galactica) host the second. The awards aren’t broadcast, but Reel People will tweet from the ceremonies (@sabrinarmf) and post next-day results to Westender.com. Follow @LeoAwards and @PeterKelamis.
MORE FROM PETER KELAMIS
On his Beyond co-stars: “I’m kind of the creepy guy coming in. Whenever I interact with the other actors, it’s usually not a normal scene. I’m kind of the X factor. It’s weird. I actually haven’t had scenes with most of the cast. We were actually talking about that in the off-season. We were saying how excited we were about next season, and wishing that we were going to have a scene together, because all in all, I think I’ve done scenes with maybe three or four of the cast, and there are maybe three or four of the characters I haven’t interacted with at all yet. This season is going to be interesting with regards to that.”
On fan conventions:“Some people don’t care for conventions. Some actors are kind of shy about it, or feel weird about it. I love going to conventions and interacting with fans. I absolutely love it. One of my characters was Goku in Dragon Ball Z, and to this day I have people come up and start crying at the tables, shaking my hand as if I’m some deity. The character is so important to their upbringing, and I’m just, ‘I did the voice but so nice to meet you.’ They’re having an emotional episode meeting this hero that meant so much to them – and it’s not me, it’s the character. Having the honour to do it makes you feel pretty darn good.”
On advice he’d give to a younger version of himself starting out in the biz: “Don’t take it so seriously. People think that getting a part or not getting a part is life or death, and although we all have to pay rent and pay bills and survive, just enjoy yourself along the way. That will convey in what you do, whether it’s on stage or on screen or just meeting someone on the street who’s seen your work and wants to say hello. Have more fun with it, because this particular industry, although it can be difficult when you are working and doing things, it’s the best thing in the world. There are times where you may have a really early call and you go, god, I’m tired – but think about the alternatives of what you could be doing at six in the morning for a living. I think we’re all pretty luck to be a part of it.”
On his collection of call sheets: “I used to keep my call sheets [the filmmaking schedules crafted by assistant directors and distributed to cast and crew every day of production]. I flip through them and it’s like going through a photo gallery: ‘There’s me with Brad Pitt. There’s me with Morgan Freeman. There’s David Duchovny.’ You can go down a list of things shot in Vancouver and I’ve got this really neat memento that I’m glad I held on to.”
On his Star Wars connection: “My amazing Star Wars connection is I got to do the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars Lego mini-movie. I was paid by essentially George Lucas to perform Yoda. It sounds ridiculous, but in the studio – I’ve done a ton of voiceover work, and sometimes you just go and it’s a lot of fun, or it’s a paycheque and you go and do your thing and go home – but that one was, ‘I’m doing Yoda! Yoda!’ It was a big sense of pride personally to do that particular role.”