Talk Nerdy With Us recently had the pleasure of chatting with actor Wesam Keesh. Wesam is best known for portraying Kyle Cohen on MTV’s hit drama Awkward. He has also had guest starring roles on Touch, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and The Mentalist. In Wesam’s spare time he founded a podcast called Actors Anonymous with his producing partner Jordan Burbank. Keep reading to find out more about Wesam.
So to get to know more about you, what made you want to pursue an acting career?
I was always in acting classes in high school. It wasn’t till the second year of college that I started to look at acting as a craft. It was something very special to me. Acting allows people to experience different lives other than their own, and hopefully learn something, and maybe better themselves and better the people around them.
Awkward was your big breakout role! What was your audition process for Awkward like?
It was actually a really, really fun and last-minute audition. For anybody who’s familiar with the show, my character first appears with a shirt that says Jenna lives. On my way to the audition, my manager at that time was like, “Hey, you should make … Do you have time to make a shirt that says Jenna lives?” I was like, “I’ll see what I can do.” (Laughs). I went into a Target, and I got some white gas tape and luckily I was wearing a black shirt, so I just taped the words Jenna lives with white gas tape on my shirt.
(Laughs). That was a lot of fun, yeah.
How have you grown as an actor in the past five years?
Oh man. It’s been incredible. I’ve been taking a lot of great classes and I’m constantly learning. With any craft, you’re just constantly working at it. Honestly, it’s made me a better person. The only way I can describe it or explain it is, you just understand people more, and you understand why they make the choices they make. You become more empathetic, and you understand their core beliefs, and that sort of thing.
This season Matty and Kyle have become close. What actor or character from Awkward have you not had a chance to have scene with that you would like to in the future?
Brett’s really fun to work with, so maybe in the future if Kyle and Jake can have more scenes together that would be great.
Kyle just got crowned prom king, congrats!! What was your prom like?
(Laughs). From what I remember it was a lot of dance offs with people. It was just a blast. Yeah, I was not prom king, but I do remember having a really good time.
What was it like when you got the script and found out that Kyle would be king?
It was very exciting! It’s always nice to see something happen that’s very unexpected in the script!
What can you tease about graduation and post-graduation?
Everybody always asks me these questions and I don’t know how to answer this question. (Laughs). The best thing I can say is there’s some really, really great moments between people. Some unexpected changes in characters that you’ve seen, and some really big surprises. There’s some really sweet and genuine moments between a lot of the already established relationships. Between Jenna and Matty, and maybe Jake and another love interest and so on and so forth.
Besides Awkward you’re also busy doing the Actor’s Anonymous Podcast, so how did that come to be? How did you and Jordan meet?
Jordan and I had worked before on a couple of projects, and I started having this idea that I wanted to do something in my spare time. I realized that a lot actors get into this negative space, and so I wanted to basically have a resource for actors where they can pull from on a weekly basis, and they can be motivated, and rejuvenated. They can be more positive and realistic about their careers and personal lives. I thought about doing a podcast where I bring on actors, directors, writers, and we just have these casual talks about the business, about acting, about life. It’s really evolved into something great.
We’ve been getting so much great feedback from the show! From actors and even people who are not actors, which surprised me. They’re telling us they enjoy the show, they love the stuff we talk about, and so it’s just been a really amazing process. My producer and co-host on the show, Jordan Burbank, is a great producer. He’s a great segment producer with me on there, and he’s just a great partner to have.
How much work goes into preparing for every show?
You know, there’s more work actually now bringing on the guests, because luckily we have a lot of people who want to be on it now. From the very beginning we wanted to make sure that whoever we’d have on the show, they’d have quality experiences and they’re quality people, they’re real artists, and they’re willing to share some of their hardest times and what they’ve learned from it and how they got out of it.
We keep it very … We don’t prep a lot before the show in terms of what questions we’re going to ask. It’s more of a very casual sit down discussion. We might tell them like, “Yeah, we’ve got a theme for the episode”, or “Let’s talk about these topics”, but nothing’s really pre-planned out. I realized that the best talks are when things are very casual and organic.
In last weeks episode, you guys had Beau from Awkward and you talked about needing to add explicit to your iTunes. Have you done that now?
(Laughs). That just tickles me because I just had a meeting with Jordan about that. We are in the process of making that happen, and so it will be fine. I mean, nobody’s going to be offended listening to it, it’s just you know? We might be a little edgy from time to time.
What’s the process for adding explicit to your product?
This is why I … this is why I have Jordan because I don’t know! I’m not a producer. He is the man when it comes to producing, so that’s a question for Jordan. He works his magic and it happens. (Laughs).
Who would be your dream guest on Actor’s Anonymous?
Me and Jordan have talked about this. Honestly, I mean, who wouldn’t love to sit down with Tom Hardy or Meryl Streep and just talk with them for like an hour. Right? It’s amazing. We have guests I’ve never met before come on the show. I don’t know if it’s because we make it comfortable for them or it’s a very casual thing, but it’s incredible.
You really start realizing that these actors, especially for actors listening in, they’re like, “Oh man. These are actors just like me. They’re going through the same stuff that I’m going through, and now I get to learn from: A, their mistakes, or B, their struggles”, so it’s this amazing thing where every single guest that comes on is so unique and special. We’re just excited whenever we do book someone because we know it’s going to be so different. It’s going to be so much fun, and there’s always new information that we gain from them. There are also universal truths that constantly get echoed whenever we have guests on. There’s the same themes that keep coming up for, not just acting, but just artists in general. It’s incredible. It’s so cool doing it.
What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from a guest so far?
Be yourself. Be the best version of yourself because no one else can do you better than you. I’ve heard this from acting teachers, from actors, from directors, casting directors, from agents, that is one of the main themes I keep hearing.
Now, why I say the best version of you, is because when people are like, “Just be yourself,” it’s like yeah, but you’ve got to constantly learn, improve, change for the time, evolve. You can’t just be in this suspended animation state of you forever. You know what I mean? You have to be constantly changing so the best parts of you are emphasized, and your working on your faults, working on your weaknesses, that’s the best piece of advice you can give people.
What’s something that your fans don’t know about you…until now?
Something they don’t know about me? I’m actually a private person. There’s probably a lot they don’t know about me. (Laughs). I like to garden, but I think I mentioned that before somewhere. I mentioned that on the podcast.
I’m not sure. That’s a really good question. Are you talking about something they wouldn’t know from me, like something nobody knows about me?
Yeah, something fans can learn about you that you haven’t shared yet.
I’m trying to filter out the embarrassing stuff right now! Oh my gosh. Goodness, goodness. This is a great question. (Laughs). You know what? I’m a really, really old soul deep down inside. I really feel like I’m much older than I am. I don’t know if that comes off cocky or weird, but that’s what it is.
What age do you recognize yourself as? What age do you feel familiar with?
I believe in reincarnation, so I’m going to say timeless. How about that? This is going to get so metaphysical! I love it! Like when people ask, “Do you remember your past life?” No, I have no clue. I know it’s been a lot.
I know it’s been a lot, but I do not remember my past lives, but you know what? You know what’s really cool? You know whenever you meet somebody and you guys hit it off, or you’re like, “Man, I immediately have a connection with this person”, or “You know what? I really dislike this person and I have no clue why.” I think that’s always funny.
YES! So you just posted a picture of a pomegranate from your garden, so is gardening a hobby that you’ve had for a very long time?
Yeah, I love gardening. It’s my favorite thing. It’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s so non-acting, non-business, it’s very with nature. I love nature in general. I’ve had to learn a lot gardening, but this year I’ve had so many blackberries. I’ve had to freeze most of them, and then the pomegranate tree that I have, I’m starting to pick the pomegranates and I’m going to get the seeds out and freeze them so I can make my smoothies in the morning. I have limes that are frozen.
I have to freeze most of my fruits because there’s so much. It’s been great, but it’s a nice place. I have a nice garden where I can meditate, I can read scripts, I can bring people over for tea. I sound like an old man. (Laughs). I go to bed really early, and then I wake up really early, and then I invite people over for tea.
Besides Awkward and the podcast, do you have anything else that you’re currently working on?
I’ve got a few irons in the fire, but I think maybe towards the beginning of the spring I’ll start announcing them.
Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so what do you nerd out about? What makes you a nerd?
Oh my gosh. Everything! (Laughs). I know that sounds so stupid, but I literally love when people have a job they’re passionate about in like say like biology, I want to know everything about their job and their daily routine. Or like science, I just love science in general, or like metaphysics.
I’ve been into podcasts, I’ve been binging on podcasts lately. I just listened to the Joe Rogan experience.
Oh, this is my new nerd out thing! I’m trying to find a blacksmith in the Los Angeles area because I want to start learning how to do metal working, and specifically weapon making. That’s something I’ve really been into and I’m tying to learn now. My last binge was archery, now it’s going to be blacksmithing, or metal working, whatever the proper term is.
Watch Wesam Keesh on Awkward, Mondays at 9/8c on MTV.