Insider Perspective

February 2017
Written By: 
Sara Sobota

CCU graduate Kevin Kane returns to alma mater to talk shop

It takes a whole bag of tricks to make it in the television and film industry. Just ask actor/producer/director Kevin Kane.

Kane, who graduated from Myrtle Beach High School in 1994 and Coastal Carolina University in 1998, has achieved a significant level of acclaim for his work, which ranges from acting in television dramas such as Chicago P.D. and major films such as Trainwreck to directing and producing Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, a project that earned him both an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award in 2015. He appears and works as creative producer in Snatched, an upcoming film that will premiere in May, starring Goldie Hawn, Amy Schumer and Colin Quinn, with Paul Feig as executive producer.

Though he’s been working and living in New York City since graduating from CCU with a degree in theater, Kane’s professional career has been anything but linear. His early years involved some acting roles, but “paying your rent here is one of the biggest challenges in the world,” he said. “It’s such a battle—I’ve bartended, I’ve been a paralegal, I’ve cleaned bathrooms.”

While living in New York City, Kane trained at the William Esper Studio, where he met Amy Schumer; they, along with a group of classmates founded the Collective, a non-profit theater and film production company, in 2007. The Collective operates in the tradition of group theater, with members sharing roles in writing, performing, directing and producing as a means of creating their own work. The Collective holds an annual festival that premieres 10 original 10-minute plays produced by the group, and members regularly land roles in larger projects as a result of their work in the organization.

Kane will return to the Grand Strand in March to work with and talk to CCU theater students about his experience in the industry, bringing with him members of the Collective to perform several 10-minute plays. His central message is that an aspiring actor must possess a wide range of talents—in writing, acting, producing, directing and promoting—in order to break into the industry.

“If you think that there’s going to be this one audition, this one role, where people are going to go, ‘OK, here we go, you’re coming into the business now,’” Kane said, “not only is it a false way of thinking, but it’s a way of thinking that will completely keep you back.”

In addition, Kane said, surrounding oneself with a devoted community, such as the one created through the Collective, is essential.

“I got out of school and realized that you have to be with like-minded people. This isn’t painting; this is produced theater and produced film. It requires a movement of people, and these are the people we assembled when we graduated from training in New York. Us sticking together is the reason we’ve been able to accomplish everything.”

One member of the Collective who plans to visit, Brandon Snyder, also majored in theater at CCU and has enjoyed a decades-long artistic connection with Kane.

“A lot of people talk about pursuing an acting career,” Snyder said, “but Kevin and I both sensed how serious we were about actually doing it.” Kane graduated first and headed to New York City; a year later, Snyder followed, and the two became roommates.

“When [Kane] founded the Collective with his fellow Esper grads,” Snyder explained, “Kevin brought me into the fold as a writer and actor.

“I love working with Kevin for many reasons. We have history. We can speak in shorthand. He knows my tastes and I know his. We can communicate creatively. We've also seen one another grow as artists. Kevin is a great actor, but he’s also a strong director.”

Dan Ennis, dean of the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts at CCU, predicted that Kane’s message about what it takes to make it in New York will resonate with aspiring actors. Ennis travels to New York annually with CCU theater majors for a pre-professional showcase and frequently meets up with Kane.

“What I learned from Kevin, and what he’ll hopefully communicate to theater majors, is that they now have to package themselves entirely,” Ennis said. “That will be the neat angle for the kids—that whatever you think this business is, have you thought about the fact that you have to generate your own content?” Also, Ennis explained, “Having a theater major sit in a room with Kevin is a thousand times better than hearing it from me or even a theater professor.”

Though all the world’s a stage, theater majors will learn from Kane that the film and television industry is also a game. As Kane stated, “They’ve got to kind of learn that game and really make it work for themselves.”