Kevin Zegers has never been a reporter, but he could honestly say he had on-the-job experience before being cast as one in Gracepoint.
“It’s the first time I’ve played one, but I know a lot of reporters,” said the Woodstock, Ont.-born actor and former model who has done his share of press since his breakout role as Josh Framm in the Air Bud (1997) franchise. He’s since become more acquainted with the fourth estate promoting projects such as Gossip Girl, Transamerica, The Colony, The Jane Austen Book Club and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
“The Canadian press particularly has always been very nice to me and I’m so grateful for that,” he said this week during a break in filming Gracepoint in Victoria.
Zegers, 29, said he relied more on his personal familiarity with journalists rather than deep research to play Gracepoint Journal reporter Owen Burke.
“This guy is a lot of other things before he’s a reporter,” Zegers said. “He’s very happy with his small-town life. He does it to kind of get by. He’s a boots-on-the-ground kind of guy.”
Shooting on the newsroom set in the former Guardian Pharmacy on Oak Bay Avenue has increased Zegers’s appreciation for what it takes to run a daily newspaper.
“It’s crazy to see what a machine it is, how putting together a daily newspaper is such a lot of work, with a lot of people doing a lot of different things,” he said.
The Los Angeles-based actor didn’t have to think twice about doing the 10-episode Fox remake of Broadchurch, Chris Chibnall’s British crime series starring Scottish actor David Tennant as a troubled detective investigating a young boy’s murder in a seaside community.
A big reason was the Gracepoint script Zegers said was also instrumental in attracting such a sterling cast for the Americanized version set in coastal California. It’s headlined by Tennant as Det. Emmett Carver; Anna Gunn as his partner Ellie Miller, Owen’s aunt; Nick Nolte, Jacki Weaver and Michael Pena.
“When I read it I went, ‘I would want to watch this show,’ ” Zegers recalled. “I think that accounts for 80 or 90 per cent of who’s going to end up doing it. When I signed on, David, Anna and Jacki were already attached, so I knew they were going for a certain quality.”
As fans of shows such as House of Cards, The Killing or Breaking Bad (which co-starred Gunn) know, small-screen projects have become cooler than ever.
“There’s not as much of a stigma about doing TV anymore,” he said. “Some of the best scripts I’ve read were for TV shows, certainly the 10- or 12- or 13-episode ‘event series’ type.”
Zegers began watching Broadchurch, but stopped after being cast.
“They were interested in us bringing our own take on the characters. It’s a new show, and the story manifests itself in a different way.”
Zegers is aware that the acclaim he received for playing Toby, the teenaged hustler son of Felicity Huffman’s transsexual character in Transamerica, likely increased his chances of landing roles such as Belgian blueblood Damien Dalgaard in Gossip Girl, gay Shadowhunter Alec Lightwood in the Mortal Instruments franchise, or Gracepoint.
“I think the hardest thing to try and convey is that you’re a good actor,” he said. “There is no degree for what we do. You are never certified as a good actor. People look at your body of work and can attach a level of expectation.”
His decision to do Gracepoint was made easier because of his Victoria connections, Zegers said.
He was here in 2007 to shoot his scenes as a sullen, joy-riding stud who ignites a tragedy in Carl Bessai’s ensemble drama Normal; played a mechanic who investigates weird goings-on in former Spectrum Community School student Jeff Renfroe’s post-apocalyptic thriller The Colony; and an amputee firefighter alongside Victoria-raised pal Cory Monteith in Gia Milani’s All the Wrong Reasons.
“When Gracepoint ended up shooting here I was really happy,” said Zegers, a seasoned golfer who has been hitting the local links with Pena.
It helped that after our recent cold snap and precipitation that affected production, the sun came out again this week.
“It wasn’t minus 40, which is a good thing,” he said with a laugh, recalling the sub-zero conditions endured shooting The Colony.
Gracepoint often doesn’t even feel like work, Zegers said.
“Anna’s been amazing. Everyone’s been great. They show up and know exactly what they’re doing, which makes life easy.”
During extended breaks, he flies back to L.A. to spend time with his wife Jaime Feld, the talent agent and longtime girlfriend he married last year, and their two dogs.
“It’s been great. Finally I’m getting used to being someone’s husband,” he said, adding that his years of sobriety after a battle with alcoholism have put him in a happier place than ever.
“The stigma attached to addiction is not something I subscribe to,” he said.
“In L.A., people are very open about sobriety and their struggles.”
Losing Monteith, who died from a toxic mix of drugs and alcohol last summer, before the release of Milani’s indie feature that they shot in Halifax, still hurts.
“It’s not something that ever makes sense. I know it’s not something he took lightly,” Zegers said. “Cory’s not the first person I’ve lost to addiction, but he’s the closest person I’ve lost.”