Breakout buzz -
A lead role in Transamerica is a major transition for Kevin Zegers

Hollywood actor Kevin Zegers jokes around in the bathroom at a Woodstock restaurant.

Interview with London (Ontario) Free Press, Jan 12, 2006

Photography by Gary Murray

From Air Bud to the A-list.
Already home field for up- and-coming Hollywood hot shots Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the London area has another on the way: Kevin Zegers.

The St. Marys-born, Woodstock actor is getting major Hollywood buzz for his role in the drama Transamerica, which has opened in limited release.

Among other events this awards season, he'll be attending Monday (Jan 16, 2006)'s Golden Globe Awards.

And Zegers, 21, gives the London bar scene, where he says he did a lot of people-watching as a teenager, some credit for his acting chops.

"After doing this for almost an entire summer, I became much more focused on my work. I wanted to be able to create characters as complex and interesting as those I met in the bars."

His lead role in Transamerica opposite Desperate Housewives star and Golden Globe nominee Felicity Huffman marks a major transition in the life and career of Zegers.

"This is the first film where I was able to really put 100 per cent of myself into my work."

The film is set to launch its London cinema run in mid-February.

"The role enabled me to finally be seen as an adult actor and to break away from the stereotype which had been created for young actors. And I got the chance to see what I was capable of doing."

Zegers is attracting critical acclaim for his portrayal of Toby, a drugged-out New York City street youth who meets Bree (Huffman), a man in the final stages of completing a sex change. The script's dramatic twist is that Bree is actually Toby's long-absent father.

"Unlike a lot of other movies, Transamerica has something to say," adds Zegers. "It's a road picture about a transsexual and a street hustler, these two troubled people who find each and both really need someone to love them."

Raised in Ingersoll and Woodstock, the son of Jim and Mary-Ellen Zegers began acting in TV commercials at age six. Two years later, he made his big-screen debut in Life With Mikey, a comedy starring fellow Canadian Michael J. Fox.

At age 12, he came to broad public notice starring opposite the basketball-playing dog in the 1997 movie Air Bud, reprising the role of the title canine's best friend in three sequels. Zegers was the hockey-playing chimpanzee's co-star in MVP -- Most Valuable Primate.

Because of those animal-film assignments, whimsical labels, like "Hollywood's dog boy" and "the monkey movie boy," were attached to the young performer who much prefers his longtime nickname, Ziggy.

In addition to numerous guest shots on TV series, more than 20 film titles appear on Zegers's resume, among them Treasure Island, Virginia's Run, Dawn of the Dead, The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie and It Came From the Sky.

"Not to knock the other movies I've done, but Transamerica is the one I'm proudest of," says the actor by telephone from the Los Angeles home he shares with Marisa Coughlan, who stars on the TV series Boston Legal.

The two met at a 2004 Halloween party given by a mutual friend.

"I came dressed as a painting and Marisa showed up in a cowgirl costume," recalls Zegers, who just finished The Return Of Zoom, a "superhero" movie co-starring Tim Allen, Courteney Cox and Chevy Chase.

"I'm the bad guy in the plot, a character named Connor Concussion," says the actor, who'll also appear in another summer 2006 release, It's A Boy Girl Thing, a romantic comedy co-produced by Elton John and Mel Gibson.

He's focused on attending the Golden Globes, Critic's Choice and other movie prize ceremonies honouring Transamerica.

"We're going to do the whole award season. I always vowed never to go to any of those award shows unless I was in a movie that was nominated," says Zegers, the former kid movie star now staking his claim to serious actor status.

Working alongside Huffman in Transamerica turned out to be a valuable learning experience for her young co-star.

"I came to adopt Felicity's philosophy about acting. It's called 'Work your ass off!' Go all out, each and every day. Always be ready to work, and accept the challenge of being the best actor on the planet."

Huffman has drawn two Golden Globe nominations, one for her performance in Transamerica, the other for her role in the hit TV series Desperate Housewives.

"Felicity's very gracious about the awards, but she really doesn't care about winning them. She's all about being selfless, showing up on the set and doing her job," says Zegers.

"Getting to watch her up close was great for me. I take acting much more seriously now. I always worked pretty hard before, but I also figured being a movie actor was about having fun, making money and being friends with cool people."