Kim Coates spent the past few decades honing his craft, building relationships within the industry he loves and calling the shots when it comes to his projects. As a result, he is one of the most transformative, mesmerizing and sought after actors in the game. His film career began in 1991, when he starred alongside the legendary Bruce Willis in “The Last Boy Scout.” Since then, the multi-faceted performer starred in more than 50 films, including Academy Award winners “Black Hawk Down” and “Pearl Harbor.” Of course, it wasn’t until he took on the iconic role of Tig Trager in FX’s critically acclaimed hit series “Sons of Anarchy” that he became a household name. The success of “Sons” and the notoriety he received from his work on the beloved series catapulted him to the next level of his already impressive career.
Without a doubt, Coates’ latest project is one of his most ambitious to date. Shortly after he wrapped work on “Sons of Anarchy,” he landed the titular role in “Officer Downe,” an adaptation of the ultra-violent “Man of Action/Image” graphic novel written by Joe Casey (who also penned the film’s screenplay) and illustrated by Chris Burnham. This larger-than-life film serves as the directorial debut of Slipknot co-founder Shawn Crahan. Coates stars as an LA super cop who is killed in the line of duty but is repeatedly resurrected and sent back onto the streets. Already fully armed with a cult-like following, “Officer Downe” is generating a spectacular early buzz in “Entertainment Weekly,” Bloody Disgusting, Dread Central and, of course, the mighty Icon Vs. Icon. However, it doesn’t stop there! Kim Coates has five other films slated for release later this year!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Kim Coates to discuss his journey as an actor, the challenges he faced along the way, his upcoming role in Shawn Crahan’s “Officer Downe” and the other impressive projects he has on tap for us in 2016!
You had an incredible run in the past few years and it opened up a lot of doors for future projects. Before we get to that, let’s go back to the start. What intrigued you about acting early on and made you pursue it as a career?
Great question because I had no idea what acting even was when I was young. I was never a child actor or anything else. I was a massive sports freak! I am Canadian and proud of it — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the home of Gordie Howe. I am a Red Wings fan and a big hockey fan. I knew I needed to go to college and I knew I wanted to teach. I wanted to be a history teacher. When the time came to go to college, I started flipping through this gorgeous catalog of college classes. I shuffled through and when I opened it up it was on “D.” I had an elective and I even knew what that word meant for crying out loud! I was perusing everything listed under “D” when I came to drama. I thought, “Hey! Let’s take an acting class! I can pass that for sure! How hard can that be?” So, I took that drama class. I call it drama now because now I think I am such a big actor! [laughs] I tell ya what, brother, it changed my life. The reading, the English, The Shakespeare, Ian Escko, Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, gay people, straight people, people with flair, caring people and everything in between changed my whole life and brought me to where I am today. I have been a professional for over 30 years now. Longevity was always important because I knew I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I have worked really, really hard and it has all worked out. It has been a great life for sure!
That leads to my next question for you. In your opinion, what is the secret to that longevity you were seeking?
Honestly, for me it was so important to be good and to work hard. I am certainly not going to be one of those pretty boy or pretty girl actors who are the fraction of the 1% who are so frickin’ beautiful and actually talented and their dad runs Warner Brothers so they are a movie star right away. That was never in my cards. What was in my cards was, “How about you be the greatest actor you can be before you start doing movies.” That is exactly what I did! I did 24 plays at University, including Summer Stock and I signed right away with this big, beautiful agent in Toronto named Gary Goddard. He is gone now unfortunately but I signed with him in the mid-’80s. He said, “OK, we are getting into movies right now!” I said, “No we’re not! No we’re not. Stop. No. Theater! More theater!” I did it too, bro! I did community theater across Canada and I was the youngest MacBeth ever at Stradford. I was 26 years old. I went right from there and all these New York agents saw my work and said, “You’ve gotta come to New York right now!” I did and I replaced Aidan Quinn in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” I played Sammy Kowalski for six months on Broadway. Warner Brothers came calling and the rest is history! I have done 60 movies now. For me, the longevity came from having to be good. If you are good, you will always work. Not only did I always work but I was able to really go with my gut and not be afraid to fail and do the TV shows and movies that I wanted to do. I have really been proud of that.
As you should be! You put together a solid body of work! Was there anyone behind the scenes who served as a mentor and gave you the push you needed at a time when you needed it?
Absolutely! Tom Kerr. He discovered me at University when I was this redneck, sportsaholic guy who refused to wear tights in my drama class. I would always wear shorts and would never put tights on. I just wouldn’t have it! [laughs] I’m such an idiot! Anyway, Tom Kerr was my mentor, man. He got me. I did 11 plays at The Neptune Theater in Halifax, Nova Scotia when he was running that theater. He introduced me to the late John Nevall, who got me to Stratford right away, two seasons. I told you about that already. Tom Kerr is and always will be my mentor. The late Tony Scott was such a good pal of mine in my early, early film career with Bruce Willis in “The Last Boy Scout.” It is so sad that we have lost Tony but I have worked with Ridley as well on “Black Hawk Down,” so there have been some directors out there that have had a big impact on me as well. In Canada, it is directors, right? If you fall into a director that loves you and wants to use you over and over, which has happened to me a couple of times, it comes in handy. There is a guy by the name of Damien Lee up in Toronto who can’t do movies without me! I love that! I love being part of a family like that!
You are on a great roll right now but I am sure you have seen lean times as well.
You know, I have “Officer Downe” coming up, which is such a crazy, crazy movie and I can’t wait to talk to you about it but I also have seven others opening this year! It has just been a massive 14 months for me. “Sons of Anarchy” was a game changer for me in many, many ways. Before “Sons,” there weren’t too many lean times but there were times when I just didn’t want to work on certain things or take on things I didn’t really want to do. My wife and I budgeted and we did it. I always seemed to work along the way but “Sons” was a game changer, financially for sure. It was always like, “Oh, you’re that guy!” Or “Yeah, you were in this!” Well, now I am Kim Coates! Because of “Sons of Anarchy,” everyone knows who Kim Coates is now. I am recognizable now and I can’t go anywhere without someone taking a selfie. That is part of the deal now! To me, some of the best writing is on TV now. I would be foolish not to be open, and I am but not right now because “Sons” was seven years and it has been great to be back to movies, but I am open to so many things now. “Sons” was definitely a game changer in so many aspects for me.
Let’s talk about “Officer Downe.” I know a lot of people are excited about this film. How did you get involved and what excites you about the film?
It’s great! I have seen it and the world is about to see it! It was the first film, post-“Sons,” that I wanted to do. It was last February, over a year ago, when my people said, “Here it is.” I took a meeting! Clown, Shawn Crahan (Number 6 of Slipknot) directed it. He was in Berlin on a speakerphone. I read the script, saw the graphic novel and it was crazy! It’s crazy! I didn’t know how we were going to make a movie out of this because it’s nuts! I said to Shawn, “How are we going to do this and do it in 28 or 29 days?” He said, “Because we hope to have you as the lead!” When someone says that to you with another eight people sitting around this table, you know you are in a really good place! I worked my ass off on that film, as did all my guest stars. They are all amazing! Every single one of them! Luna Velez, Tyler Ross, Bruno Gunn, Reno Wilson and Meadow Wilson all hit it out of the park! The film is set in the future in Los Angeles. I am a cop, a good LA cop. We need to get that out there right now, he is a GOOD cop! He believes in the badge and has done nothing wrong. He dies, they put him on ice, 20 years go by and LA becomes the worst place to live in the world. It is run by bad guys and you can’t even imagine how bad these bad guys are! They figure out how to bring my character back to life. It is awesome because this guy, Officer Downe, was dead for 20 years. Is he Frankenstein? Is he Robocop? Is he a real guy? I had some perimeters and some deep, deep work within myself to figure out who he is and what is he really. Joe Casey wrote the script and Mark Neveldine shot this thing along with Gerardo Madrazo. They did such amazing things and let me do my thing. I did all my own stunts. I don’t know how I survived but I did! [laughs] I can’t wait for people to see it. It is a very spectacularly different, crazy, unrestricted comic book movie. That is all I can say!
I know “Officer Downe” has a cult following. Did that bring added pressure to the role?
Well, it’s not quite like “Batman” though right? I know Action Imprint/Image Comics released it and Joe did such a great job with the comic and Chris Burnham’s artwork is phenomenal but I don’t think too many people had heard of it before. Ya know what, brother? My mustache is exactly the same! I am not as big as the guy in the comic because that would be impossible unless I was a WWE wrestler and I’m not! [laughs] I worked my ass off! I have a 16 pound gun called The Answer Man! It was pretty hard to pull back that trigger and shoot day in and day out but I had a lot of fun doing it! I don’t know what people are expecting but there hasn’t ever been another one before this! This is “Officer Downe #1,” so here we go! Come along for the ride! This movie is not for everybody but for who it is for, they are going to want to see it again and again and again! You watch!
We are familiar with Shawn Crahan’s work in the realm of video but “Officer Downe” is his feature film debut. What did he bring to the table for a project of this caliber?
He is such a talented guy. He is such a true artist and a pirate. He is just a pirate! He takes it all, he shares and he listens. He is not afraid to fail like me. He is a rockstar and his head works in drums. He is always thinking and his work behind the monitor is fabulous. He let me play and do my thing. We always talked every morning about the day and what we were going to shoot because it was madness! Like I said, everyone worked their ass off on this movie. Clown really listened to his DP, Mark Neveldine, Joe Casey and they shared a lot of stuff. We all got along and I can’t wait for people to see his work because he should be very proud of this film and I know he is!
The material is very well written but what did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the written page?
I don’t know. I will leave that for other people to decide. I know Joe Casey has done some interviews and he has said some pretty amazing things about me, which I say right back at him. I know we are biased because we have worked together but I’m an actor, man! That is all I can say! I love accents, gaining weight and losing weight, I will dye my hair or rip hair out! For this, I went around with a couple of cops obviously. I did my due diligence on getting into the research and sitting down with Joe. I had great people around me like Don Ritz, who is the costume designer, and we figured out the hat, glasses, all the props and how I would wear my short sleeves and what length they would be at. Hell, I am naked in this fuckin’ movie, man! I’m tellin’ you what! It’s on! It’s on! I am proud of the look. What I brought to it is what I do with every part and what I think every actor worth his salt would do. It was a privilege to be asked to this party because I have never done a part like this. Well, there are a lot of parts I haven’t done because I like them to be unique in their own way but this one is very special. I found myself in this futuristic, graphic novel, LA world where I am flying by the seat of my pants, hanging upside down for over an hour, getting punched in the stomach with a body bag! You have to see this movie, man! It’s insane — for all the right reasons!
One of the things I love about your performances is I never see Kim Coates the man but the characters you bring to life. You disappear and become the character.
Thank you, man! Thank you so much!
What can you tell us about the process of building the character of Officer Downe in your mind before shooting?
First of all, be it this project or any other, it is always about the script. It is always about the words and then collaborating, talking about ideas, accents, posture and the guy. As long as those conversations happen, and they have with all my work down the line, then I know where to start. When you start, you have to be unafraid to fail. That is it! Just don’t be afraid to fail and you will ultimately succeed. That’s my motto! For Officer Downe, what was so weird was he hardly talks. I mean, yeah, I have some scenes where I talk for sure and there are a couple of little monologues but I don’t do a lot of the talking because he has been dead for 20 years! So then it became about things like, “Well, does he have a twitch? What happens when he gets emotional? Does his eye twitch?” What I took from the comic book, which was so unbelievable, comes from when you look at Chris’s artwork. Whenever I am in fights with these bad guys, they are like gnats and they never go away. There are all different kinds of them out there! When I looked at the comic book, Downe’s face would change. He would show his teeth, get gnarly and have a snarl. I tried to do that in the fight scenes. Yet, when I wasn’t fighting, I was super internalized, super method, super quiet, like Frankenstein, like a real person trying to figure out what just happened. For me, it was so much fun because it was a different way of approaching things because it was based on a comic book character. It was so much fun!
In addition to “Officer Downe,” you mentioned having a bunch of other films on the way this year. Give us a rundown of those and what has you excited about them!
Absolutely! All of these projects started going in rapid fire! “Officer Downe” premieres June 3. It has already been sold out for awhile at the LA Film Festival. It’s a massive opening with a Friday night midnight screening! Get ready! The world will see it eventually and I can’t wait for people to see that! On July 29 comes “The Land.” It is a beautiful film that was at Sundance and got sold right away. It is directed by Steven Caple Jr., who is a USC graduate. This is his first feature film! Nas produced it and Erykah Badu plays my girlfriend in it. It stars Jorge Lendeborg, a great young actor who is going to be a movie star. I play his uncle, Uncle Steve.
The trailer for that just debuted and it looks like an awesome film.
Yeah, you saw that? Crazy good, right? That is going to be everywhere June 29. Then there is “Goon 2.” With the first “Goon,” I got nominated for my third Canadian Oscar and I am 0 for 3! Fuck off! Give me one, one of these days, you bastards! [laughs] I am playing the coach, Ronnie Hortense. We all came back, all the usual suspects. Jay Baruchel is directing this time because Michael Dowse couldn’t do it because he wasn’t available. Jay happily took the reins and did an amazing job. It was huge fun to do, “Goon 2.” That will be out of the Toronto Film Festival. I also did a big movie with Kevin James, a comedy where I play the president of Venezuela with a big porn mustache and a bad Spanish accent. I hate soccer. I love baseball! I miss my pet dolphin! It was so much fun to be with Kevin and was an absolute blast. It is called “The True Memoirs of an International Assassin” and it will be in Netflix movies later this fall. I did a beautiful film with Holly Hunter where I play the sweetest man alive! My mom is going to be so thrilled! She won’t believe it! [chuckles] I play Holly Hunter’s boyfriend and the film is called “Strange Weather.” It also stars Carrie Coon, who is an amazing actress, just as Holly was. It’s a three-hander, get ready for it. It will be out this fall. I also did a little kid’s movie called “The Adventure Club.” Again, I was looking for something different and I don’t get a lot of kid’s movies thrown my way. The script was amazing and I play Uncle Ozzie. On top of all that, I just finished a big western with Judd Nelson and Trace Adkins up in Vancouver. I was on a horse for a month and it was a lot of fun. Now, I am doing the press and getting ready for all my big openings, supporting my charities and talking to you! I have a lot of stuff happening this fall and maybe even this summer, so it is nonstop but it’s all good!
You make it sound so effortless, Kim, but the hard work you put in definitely shows. Looking back, how have you evolved along the way?
The people I have met and the people I have learned to hang to have been very important. When you act like I do, travel all over the world and do movies like I do, you meet so many people and at the end of the day, you are lucky if you have a handful you can call your brothers and buddies. Those are the guys you call all the time. I am lucky to have a handful of buddies and I can’t do this business without them being a sounding ear for me and me for them. That has been great. I have also evolved as a dad with my two girls. Seeing them grow up has been pretty amazing. My wife has stuck with me and that is a fuckin’ miracle! She is a saint! It has been a good life, brother! I love traveling around this world and meeting people that listen. I think I have evolved into a human being who listens a lot more now than I ever used to. I love sharing experiences. Everything is changing so fast now, so it is really nice to slow down, go to your favorite lake, put your feet up, crack open a beer and enjoy it before it’s gone.
Actors, both young and old, can look to you for inspiration. What advice would you give to them on the craft?
The younger ones know this or at least they should but they don’t need to run to Hollywood or New York right away. You can stay right where you are and do improv, theater, classes, shoot little movies on your iPhone, collaborate with your peers and use nepotism, all along the way, with anyone you may know. Don’t be in a rush to come to a big city like Los Angeles, New York or Toronto. It will eat you up. Stay in Seattle, Edmonton or Orlando for a minute, for an hour, a day a week or a year because you will eventually make it to wherever you are supposed to be. There are so many kids out there who just want to be a star and on TMZ. It’s all bullshit. It’s not going to happen. You need to become an artist first and through hard work, reading, improv and all the things you need to do to become an actor, then you might have a chance. By having a chance, you can really have an amazing life. We need more and more artists everyday in this world. That is what young actors need to do. As far as older actors go, I would never tell an older actor what to do because they are old like me! [laughs] They already know if you are still acting in amazing projects at our age, you have done something right along the way! That is pretty great and gratifying. It is always hard and it is never easy but I don’t want it to be easy. I really don’t! One small thing with “Sons of Anarchy,” when [Kurt] Sutter gave me that transgender, Walton Goggins/Venus thing with Tig at the end, I thanked him so much for that! That was so difficult in a way. It was so bizarre. What a trustworthy thing for Sutter to give it to Tig Trager, who is the only biker who could have pulled that off! I believe that! For me to be in that uncomfortable zone is exactly where I love to be. I don’t ever want to be comfortable when I act. That is the type of stuff I yearn for! People never forgot that, so that is what I am saying.
I know you lend your voice to a lot of great causes. What can we help shine a light on?
Ya know, I have five or six that mean the world to me. One Heart Source (www.oneheartsource.org) is one. My daughter Kyla is one of the big shots on that non-profit, which is an educational based non-profit out of Tanzania, South Africa and now Jamaica. They help impoverished children find strength through books and education to empower them to achieve a better life. They are doing some amazing work there! A few others are The Boot Campaign and Wounded Warriors. I have a few up in Canada as well, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Creative Kids up in Saskatchewan and in Toronto there is Sick Kids Foundation. I go back two or three times a year and we raise millions of dollars for all of these incredible kids who are my heroes! It is a great thing to give back because my fans have given me so much and the world is a better place when we all give back! It’s an important thing to do!
Thank you for letting us help spread the word! We wish you continued you success!
Thanks, Jason! Great talking to you and take care, buddy!