We had the pleasure of talking a little with the actor Bill Kelly, known for having participated in over 50 television and film projects, including “Hillbilly Elegy”, “True Detective”, “Bloodline”, “MacGyver”, “Queen Sugar “and others. He explained to us many situations that can happen behind the scenes, in short, how cinema works! When he’s not acting, Bill loves spending time with his family and going to see live bands!
We know that before becoming an actor you worked as a radio host. How did your radio career start?
My radio career started in 1981. I’d always had this desire to be a DJ but had no idea how to go about it. A friend and I went down to our local AM radio station, WEKY in Richmond Kentucky and asked if we could tour the station which the DJ was nice enough to do. I was hooked after that. I figured out a way to make a demo tape (a REALLY BAD demo tape!) by using a couple of record players and a cassette machine and I took it to the station. I was hired the next day. They told me to show up at 5pm that day for training….and they threw me on the air at 7pm. That was my intro to being a radio DJ.
And how was the transition to the cinema then?
Radio is acting, too, but on a much different scale. Every day when you come into the studio, you hang your problems and emotions on the back of the door and put on a show that is fun and lively. You’re there to entertain people and make their day better. Acting in front of the camera is much different but the experience of radio gives you a little boost in how to handle it.
What was it like being an actor the first time?
It was fantastic but nerve racking. It was a lot different than I expected. I didn’t realize all of the different aspects there are in shooting just one scene.
Were there any difficulties you did not expect?
Hitting marks and doing the same things in every take. I hadn’t paid attention to what I was doing when we shot the first take and had a tough time replicating what I did. Continuity directors are awesome!
You play the sheriff in the highly anticipated movie “Where the Crawdads Sing”, recently released. What about this project? How is the release going?
It’s going well! The film has been very well received by those who’ve read the book as well as those who have not. I see a lot of people mentioning in their posts that they are going to see it again for the second time. It’s a wonderful film with a great cast and a great screenplay written by Lucy Alibar.
You have worked alongside numerous award-winning actors including Anne Hathaway, Samuel L. Jackson, Glenn Close, and others. Do you have any anecdotes from filming with them?
They are all just normal people off screen. When we gathered for the first time to look at the Vance house for Hillbilly Elegy it had been pouring, so it was quite muddy. Glenn Close is wearing flip flops with mud between her toes and she was just fine with it. She’s a fantastic lady.
Is there a particular actor or director you hope to work with in the future?
JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg, and I’d love to work with Livi Newman again.
The role of your dreams that you hope to play?
I’d love to do an action film where I get to be the good guy! And a comedy…haven’t had that chance yet.
The pandemic and its aftermath have speeded up the already ongoing process of digitization and the time spent online has increased once more. What is your relationship with social media, especially at a career level?
Social media has its good side but it’s also like ‘road rage’ for a lot of people. There are people who can’t seem to just scroll on past comments they don’t agree with. I don’t engage in hateful crap.
And what are the changes that in your opinion has brought about cinema as an art?
It’s nice to see more opportunities for diversity in cinema, of course. But I like some of the technical advances that have been made, too. The new virtual sets are amazing!
What about your free time? Do you often travel with your family, or do you prefer to relax at home?
I like being at home with my wife and family. We have a lot of fun together doing simple things like working in the yard or running out to listen to local music on the weekends.
Is there any advice you would give to young actors?
Don’t give up on your dreams. You CAN achieve them. …and, when you do an audition…. forget about it. It’s out of your hands so don’t waste time thinking about it. Your agent will call you if you got the part!