Exclusive Interview with UnREAL’s Josh Kelly
Josh Kelly was born to a Navy family in Yokosuka, Japan and at a young age was actively involved in theater as his family traveled the world. After four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kelly moved to Los Angeles to return to his passion of acting.
Kelly’s impressive acting resume ranges from credits on True Blood, Dollhouse, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and more. Recently he can be found on Lifetime’s UnREAL as Jeremy.
Read our interview with Josh below.
How did you get involved with UnREAL? What was your audition process like?
“I showed up for the initial audition. I had prepped for it, but also I had a bunch of buddies sleeping over and I had five of my former military buddies crashing at my place because I think there was some sort of special event going on. I don’t think someone died or anything, but we all were hanging out for some sort of celebratory reason.
I woke up earlier than all of them and practiced some more and then I went into the audition and I did a good job, but the creator, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, she talked to the casting director as I was leaving. I made a joke on the way out, as I was walking to my car, and they asked if I could come back and I came back in and they were like, “You did a great job, but we really liked that light humor… You know how you were kind of funny on the way out?” They wanted me to do more of that, so I did more of that, and then I ended up booking the role after several more auditions and screen-tests and stuff.”
Are you a personal fan of reality TV?
“I’m a fan of TV, in general. I think, actually doing the show, I’m more of a fan of reality TV. I wasn’t much into it back in the day. I think the problem is, with me, if something’s on the TV, I’ll start paying attention and if it’s not worthwhile, I still pay attention. I really have to be selective about what I’m getting out from watching it. I don’t seek out reality TV, but sometimes it sucks me in.”
As the season has progressed, Jeremy and Rachel’s relationship has also … As a viewer, are you Team Rachel or Lizzie, for Jeremy?
“I’m Team Rachel. I’m like Jeremy. I like to believe that it’s worth the risk to try and pursue true love (until you get too old), as opposed to settling for comfortable love and I think that’s what Jeremy’s doing with Rachel.”
Did you know that they would get together so quickly in the first season, when you first got the role?
“No, I didn’t even know if they would get together in the first season. I didn’t know if they were going to write it, where it would always be a will they, won’t they? Or if they were going to let them get back together. I knew the backstory. I knew that he was going to be contemplating whether or not he should be with her, and she would as well, but I didn’t know if they would actually get together.”
A lot of shocking events have happened this season on the show. Is there one thing that, during the table read, your mouth dropped open, and you’re like, “I can’t believe this is happening,”?
“There were multiple things that happened, like that, but I think the biggest one was what happened in the last episode with Chet and PA Madison. They would send us our scripts late at night, and so we’d be like, “I want to sleep, but I want to know what happens next episode,” and, this time in particular, Freddie Stroma and I, we’re roommates, and we both got the script and I started reading before him and I think I was five pages ahead of him and I was like, “Huhhhhh? What page you on?” He’s like, “I’m on 45,” and I was like, “Oh man, when you get to page 48, you’re going to-…” I didn’t really see it coming.
In watching the show now, you see that it is foreshadowed, but that’s what’s exciting is you don’t always see things that are obvious, until you know the outcome.”
Obviously, Adam and Jeremy are rivals, since they’re both attracted to Rachel, but what was your relationship with Freddie like off camera?
“We’re great friends. We played pranks on people, we played pranks on each other. We watched a lot of movies together. We lived on top of a movie theater, so we watched a lot of movies. We consulted each other on some writing projects we were working on. It was great.”
Who’s the biggest prankster on set?
“I definitely am the biggest prankster.”
What’s the biggest prank that you’ve pulled?
“I pulled a really big prank on Tom Brittney, he plays Roger Lockwood. Freddie, Tom and I became really good friends and we would go out, and Freddie likes to play sporting events. I just finished golfing with him right now. It’s because he’s really good at it. It’s kind of obnoxious. You have to realize, you’re going to lose at whatever sport this is, so it’s not about winning, it’s about playing with Freddie. It’s fun. He’s the most athletic man I know.
Tom Brittney, who also is athletic, in his own right, can’t throw a Frisbee to save his life and this happened two weekends in a row [laughs]. And on the following Monday, we were sitting in the makeup trailer, and Tom was talking about, “I can’t throw a Frisbee to save my life. If Steven Spielberg called me right now, for his Frisbee movie, I would have to say, ‘I can’t.’ It’s my biggest fear to have to throw a Frisbee on camera.”
I thought it would be funny to talk to the director, Uta Briesewitz, and ask her if we could play a little prank on Tom, an initially, when they’re setting up the scene, tell him that the producers want him to throw a Frisbee while he’s talking to the girls.
This is the thing, I wanted a tiny, little prank, Uta turned it into an awesome prank. She was like, “Do you have a Frisbee?” And I said, “No,” and she was like, “Can you get one?” So, I talked to the props department, and I got a Frisbee. Uta turned it into something awesome. He was terrified! He was a guest star, he’s not a series regular, and he’s throwing a Frisbee to the girls and it’s an epic fail every time . Uta was like, “Tom, stop messing around. Throw the Frisbee to the girls.”
Tom was like, “Uta, do we have a ball or something? I promise I’m trying my hardest.” [Laughs]. It was fun and we all laughed and he appreciated it. We wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t really good friends with him.”
What’s happening with Jeremy during these final two episodes of the season?
“Jeremy’s really going to go for it with Rachel. I think he already has. He didn’t give up on Lizzie, but he realized he’s not meant for Lizzie and Lizzie isn’t meant for him. At least for now. You know how these on-again, off-again relationships go. He’s going to really try for Rachel.”
In the pilot, viewers knew that Lizzie was Jeremy’s ex, but they didn’t give a whole backstory to it. Did you come up with one in your head? For how long you and Lizzie had been together before? Or how that relationship played out the first time?
“My answer is going to sound super actor-y. I used sense memory [Laughs]. With a movie, you know everything that’s going to happen in a movie. With a TV show, you don’t know everything that’s going to happen in the course of the show, so I like to leave a certain amount of ambiguity with my character backstories, but I pretty much decide who they remind me of in my life and I’ve had enough relationship. I did use a specific on-again, off-again girlfriend as my Lizzie emotional totem, you could say. It was more about the emotional connection and understanding of how Jeremy and Lizzie feel.”
If the UnREAL characters were real, who from the production side would you want to be really good friends with and want to hang out with outside of work?
“AD Sam. He doesn’t get enough screen time. I do think I made up the joke, but it was, if you ever want to see me get better, you just add Sam. AD Sam. Graham plays AD Sam and he was great. He’s a fun, good energy-type dude, and his character is a guy who is underused!
Oh, also the host. Brennan Elliot plays the host of the show and he’s hilarious and the host is hilarious. He’s great. He’s so watchable.”
Is there an actor on the show who you haven’t had enough scenes with that you would like to have more scenes with?
“Craig Bierko and Constance Zimmer. Constance is a powerful actress and I hope to have more scenes with her in the future. You get better at acting when you’re working with powerful actors and I would love to work with her more.”
Will Jeremy be back for Season 2?
“I don’t know. I’ve read that most of the production staff is coming back, and I would hope that means Jeremy is, but I don’t know. That’s the thing, you never know. I’ve been cut out off things, sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with you. I hope Jeremy comes back, but until it airs, you never know if you’re in.”
Besides UnREAL, what other projects are you currently working on?
“I’ve been writing a lot and waiting to see what would happen with UnREAL. I did a short film that was probably the hardest, most intense character I’ve ever worked on. I was an Army Ranger, and one of the guys that I went to Iraq with is a director now, and he directed this short and I had no idea he was going to be that good and that the short was going to be so good.
You just do a thing for a buddy, but then it turns out to be one of the most important things I’ve ever done and it turned out so good. It’s called, Prisoner of War. It’s going to be coming out on Veteran’s Day.
They’re releasing it on the internet. It’s not for profit, it’s more for purpose. It’s about soldier-suicide and the struggle that almost every veteran goes through, almost every night and day.”