American actor Kyle Bornheimer talks with DAMAN about his profound love for comedy, as well as two of his latest activities—the 2020 sci-fi comedy “Avenue 5” and the 2022 “High School”
When it comes to the question, “What is your favourite movie or series genre?”, most of us would probably give more than just one answer. We might come up with two or three genres but, of course, there is one particular choice that we like better or the best. For American actor Kyle Bornheimer, it is comedy that has a special spot in his heart.
Starting his career with a series of commercials and small TV roles, Kyle has always felt comfortable being funny—which later becomes what he is known for. He had a role in a great number of sitcoms including “Playing House”, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, “Perfect Couples” and “Worst Week”. Kyle also starred in full-length films such as “Bachelorette” and “Little Evil”.
In a conversation with DA MAN, Kyle talks about his passion for comedy and his fashion style, as well as sharing about his experience in starring HBO’s “Avenue 5” and Canadian 2022 coming-of-age series “High School”.
DA MAN: In your series “High School” that takes place in the 90’s and this being Tegan and Sara’s story, music plays a big part. Has music been a big influence for you and did you make any playlists to get into character to play their step father?
Kyle Bornheimer: Love of music,especially 90’s indie rock, has playeda big part of my life. I worked at a record store in the 90’s and spent my twenties going to see bands like Pavement and Sleater-Kinney and Guided by Voices all the time. The world of the show—the whole 90’s indie vibe the show has—was something I was familiar with and was excited to revisit. My character is based on Tegan and Sara’s real-life stepfather who played a big part in their musical development simply by being a passionate fan of music and introducing them to certain artists at a young age. He’s a huge Springsteen fan, so I listened to a lot of Springsteen for a few months, and even got to sing some for a few scenes! I’m a frustrated lead singer— there’s nothing I want more than for some band I love to ask me up on stage with them! (It has never happened.)
DA: You had a funny tweet where you said you either play 20 years in the past or 20 years into the future (“Avenue 5”). Where would you go in a time machine the past or the future? And what place do you think has better clothes?
KB: It’s hard to beat the 1970’s for fashion, movies, and music, so there’s a big chance I’d go back to, like, 1975, though it would probably be more interesting to go back even further. I just don’t know how I’d do without modern plumbing and, you know, toothbrushes and stuff. I took a walking tour of Bath, England last year while working on Avenue 5 and half of the tour guide’s stories were about the challenges of personal hygiene in the Georgian period. Visiting the future does hold a fascination for me, though it might be scary going into the future, given what we’re doing to the planet right now. The fashion in 100 years would probably be cool though—young people can make anything look cool, even the apocalypse.
DA: Speaking of “Avenue 5”, your character may or may not be expecting a child, in space
with your real-life longtime collaborator Jessica St. Clair. How do you find the grounding in such crazy scenes? We find ourselves rooting for you even though everything around you is chaos and crazy.
KB: You pinpointed the exact right ingredient, in my opinion— grounding. That’s the fun of it. Taking it so seriously. Gene Wilder was the master at that. He is fully committed with every fibre of his being to the reality of the situation, no matter how absurd. As for rooting W for Doug and Mia this season, the addition of the pregnancy gave us some opportunities for that—not necessarily because Doug and Mia are suddenly great people. They’re still two of the biggest jerks on the ship but it gave them a humanity and some new notes to play what seemed true to them and added some new colors. Turns out making two jerks have a baby is a great comic engine!
DA: You have been in nearly every TV series from “Breaking Bad”, “Playing House”, and “Brooklyn 99”. That is drama, comedy and everything. Do you have a preference between the two genres? Do you actively choose to do a drama and then a comedy? What is that process as your film and TV resume is varied.
KB: Early on, I started to feel comfortable being funny in commercials and in small TV roles. It was something I knew I could do and that casting directors, show runners, and directors started to know me for. Once they did, my career started a grow a bit. I’ve always felt fortunate for that and I’ve always tried to keep up my chops and not take anything for granted. This is not an easy business to break into or sustain a career in so it’s nice to have a genre in which I feel comfortable. I love all genres as a fan and as an actor, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting roles and projects, regardless of the genre. Action is one I haven’t been able to do a lot of, but would love to try. Of course I will have to get past eggnog and cookie season to get in shape for that.
DA: Since we are a fashion magazine I need to ask how has
fashion played a part in your life. Do you find that fashion influences how you approach your characters? Do you make certain fashion choices for your characters?
KB: Getting into wardrobe, having wardrobe fittings, meeting with the costume designer… Not only are these some of the earliest things you do on a project, they are also some of the most fun AND important. With a lot of characters, I wasn’t sure how I really wanted to play them until I met with the costume designer and started playing around with wardrobe options. They lead to great discussions about era, personality, relationships, everything. In my own life, I was definitely my coolest in my early 20’s. One style going on in the 90’s was vintage shopping – usually clothes from the 60’s and 70’s. I have to say, I could really rock that look on a good night. Then I went through a pretty boring and unfocused fashion period, until recently, I think I’m putting it together now.
DA: “High School” is such a great show in highlighting the struggles of youth. Your character doesn’t always get it right but tries which is really nice to see. Was it difficult to play that character?
KB: One of the reasons I was attracted to the project was because the characters were so well-drawn. Tegan and Sara’s memoir was raw, honest, wartsand-all—and ultimately tender in how it portrayed themselves and the people in their life. Clea’s and Laura’s scripts reflected that—which is to say, as an actor, their stellar writing made my job relatively easy from the standpoint of understanding Peter, finding a way into his skin where his strengths and weaknesses were, where his comfort zone began and ended. Peter is a work in progress and what I found interest
ing is that he doesn’t know that about himself when we meet him. But the show throws some stuff at him that will force him into a process of evolving. The very human, imperfect way he navigates that and what it says about that era, and about attitudes around sexuality and gender roles, et cetera, is one of the reasons I find him so fun to play.
DA: You have great hair. Tell us your go to hair products?
KB: Well, thank you for saying that. I use different products, usually recommended by the amazing hair stylists I get to work with on shows like “High School” and “Avenue 5”! Kevin Murphy products seem to be go-tos for me.
DA: “Avenue 5” is such a well written and very fast paced show. It feels like this season is turned up with cannibals and more on board and the claustrophobia is really sensed. It feels like they are tapping into how we all feel in a COVID world but did you get that amped up sense when you read this season and also filmed? And do you think they will have enough lithium to get home? I need to know!
KB: The show’s creator, the legendary Armando Iannucci, is a master at social commentary through comedic chaos. And he and his crack team of writers are always ahead of the curve. This year’s storyline involving a lithium shortage popped up in early drafts, very early on in the show’s conception. Just weeks ago I started seeing headlines about a very real lithium shortage that might be happening in real life. I can’t tell you what happens in the show, but in real life it looks like we better start putting a plan together!
DA: You have literally done everything film, TV, comedy and drama. What are you still hoping to do creatively? What is next for you?
KB: In the immediate future, hopefully season 2 of “High School” and season 3 of “Avenue 5”! After that, I’ll go back to your question of genre; I’d like to do some action!
DA: Last question about “High School”. What were you like? Were you popular? A jock? Bookish? And what advice would you tell your high-school self that today Kyle knows?
KB: For most people I know, high school was either horrible or wonderful. I’m somewhere in between. Advice I’d give to my younger self? Hmm… I don’t know. All the bumps in the road, all the mistakes, they helped shape the person I am. Maybe I wouldn’t want to mess that up by telling my younger self anything. So much in life is about experience, going through something and learning from it. But all of us could make sure we’re cultivating empathy and looking out for other’s feelings more from a younger age, so maybe I’d slip that advice in somewhere.
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