Movies & TV / Columns

Kenny Johnson Talks with 411 About his Latest Movie Check Point, More

April 1, 2016 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

You know Kenny Johnson. The versatile actor is known for playing Detective Curtis Lemansky on The Shield, Joseph Shaw on Cold Case, Detective Hamilton “Ham” Dewey on Saving Grace, Herman Kozik on Sons of Anarchy, Matt Webb on Prime Suspect, Tyler Gray on Burn Notice, U.S. Marshal Max Clayton on Dexter, Caleb Calhoun on Bates Motel, along with a number of other memorable roles. He’s quickly earned a reputation for being one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood, bringing unique spins on a multitude of roles.

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Kenny stars in Check Point, where the plot focuses on an invasion of “sleeper cells” who disrupt a tight-knit community, throwing their “Norman Rockwell” life style into chaos and fear. With an extraordinary cast in a seamless thriller inspired on actual events from FBI agents and Homeland Security investigations of terrorists’ sympathizers. Check Point deals with the very controversial fear and concerns that Americans and now the global communities, are facing, given the recent terrorist attacks across the world and in the United States.

Kenny took time out of schedule to answer some questions about his previous roles, Check Point, and more!

Steve Gustafson: Kenny, first, thank you for answering some questions for 411wrestling.com! I’ve been a huge fan of yours for sometime. You’ve played characters (Curtis Lemansky on the drama series The Shield, Caleb Calhoun on Bates Motel) who appear to be one way but over time we see their shades of gray. Do you seek out those roles or is that something you interject while working?

Kenny Johnson: Hey Steve! I do seek out great writing, things that may be controversial. I like to challenge myself into the abyss of outside the box. Things that will stir thing up in people, because it’s real. I always try to humanize every character because our common thread is that we are all human. Imperfect. Trying to learn. Make mistakes, fall, and then try to get up and try again. Our choice to learn, grow. Right, wrong. As humans we have choices and given that when you choose wrong and the consequences are a ripple effect sometimes that shape our life. Or ripple effect others. And do we have a conscience. And if so how does that effect each of us. Or our characters. I try to research as much as possible. Then add as much of my own upbringing, which was hugely abnormal in many ways. But as a person, adult, it’s our responsibility or choice to create our own moral compass and create our own destiny. Much like each character I play. I do have premonitions and believe in manifesting what you put out there.

Steve Gustafson: Nice, that’s an interesting way of looking at the character and developing it for yourself. I have a question I’ve meant to ask you for a while now. I’ve read that when you auditioned for the role of Lemansky (The Shield), you made some choices for the character that you initially thought ruined your chances of winning the role. It was obviously the right call on your part but what were those choices compared to what they gave you to read?

Kenny Johnson: Lem, I messed up by telling the room, after I was given two completely different directions of who the character was, I said, “One of you shut the F up and the other tell me what to do.” So I blanked out in my world of “OMG! You just told them to shut the F up.” My mind saw lips move, I heard nothing but my mind saying you said, “Shut the F up. They’ll never hire you. They’ll never hire you.” I didn’t know who anyone was in the room. So when I heard someone say, “You got that ?” I had no idea what anyone said. So I thought, “Kenny just do something. Go for something. Just do it.” So I said, “Yeah,” having no clue what anyone said. I don’t remember a thing from that point. I had adrenaline but I blacked out that whole section, what I had done. No one moved. No one said anything. Then someone said sarcastically, “Well that was a real sporty read.” Then, without looking, the casting director said, “Bye bye.” I got up pissed at myself and slammed the door. 3 weeks later I got a call, “He’s perfect. He’s Lem. They love him.” I hung up on my manager three times in a row cause I thought he was messing with me.

Steve Gustafson: Wow! That’s crazy and very fortunate because, I believe, that was the first time I was exposed to your work. Lem was one of my favorite characters on the show and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. OK, now on to Check Point. How would you describe Roy in Check Point?

Kenny Johnson: Roy in Check Point was like a weird combo of Lem from The Shield or Kozik, SOA, Ham from Saving Grace, and Caleb Bates Motel. I love broken people and try to understand and figure how they got that way. And research as many Marines PTSD and how the government and the dealing of soldiers like life can be imperfect. Yet our heart overcomes our misunderstanding hurt and anger. And truly we all seek out our destinies. And our never ending search for the “Whys?” in life. Somethings don’t make sense but our will to find our purpose is so in us that we keep going forward. Maybe looking for God to heal us or give an understanding of things we don’t get , at the time. Roy’s homeless and cannot deal with reality of losing everything. Yet not being told when he was away on his 3rd Special Ops tour. So he feels betrayed and broken in a way. It’s an ambiguous line of right and wrong. But he broken. Until something in his town, in his life brings a gut check. To protect his country, his fellow man in his homeland. His intimate purpose is his ultimate sacrifice.

Steve Gustafson: Very cool. He sounds like a character right up your alley. The movie deals with some pretty intense themes and 10 years ago, audiences might have scoffed at the possibilities but today, this film seems very possible, given the political climate we find ourselves in. What are your thoughts on how Election 2016 is playing out?

Kenny Johnson: I want this election to be for the people, of the people. I want our country to unite as one. Not disconnected by greed and power but by trust, by coming together as a nation. We have a new great nation people look to. We need to be fair to all; rich, poor, color, ethnicity. We need to have us all count. I hate greed, lies, fear, the power to bully. This thing in our film is happening. Could it get worse and actually go this way? Anything is possible but God I hope not. By the grace of God and country, we are being watched over by a greater power. But it’s up to us together to make the right choices, to ensure trust, and oneness!

Steve Gustafson: Like I mentioned, you always pick great roles. What’s next for you?

Kenny Johnson: I have Solace, a movie with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell coming out in September, the follow up to the movie Seven. And I did a season of Secrets and Lies with Juliette Lewis coming out in the summer. And Bates Motel! Keep watching!

Steve Gustafson: Definitely! Sounds awesome! Thank you again and all the best!