Kevin Zegers: For A Good Cause!

Kevin Zegers
Even with a multitude of movies on the horizon, Kevin Zegers still finds the time to give something back.

By Phil White

Photographed by Mike Piscitelli
(Scans from Veronique)

Kevin Zegers's IMDb profile states that the 23-year-old Canadian actor can bench press 285 pounds and has been in over 30 commercials.

Fortunately, thanks to his brilliantly complex portrayal of juvenile delinquent Toby in the critically lauded Transamerica (2005), and eight movies due within the next two years, Zegers's acting is now garnering more attention than his workout routine.

"Since Transamerica, a lot of great opportunities have opened up for professionally," Zegers says. "I'm being offered challenging scripts now rather than being dismissed as 'that kid from Air Bud.'" One of these scripts is director Robin Swicord's adaptation of the Karen Joy Fowler novel The Jane Austen Book Club, in which Zegers plays a student trying to seduce his teacher. The movie is about a group of friends who discover, as they read Jane Austen's novels, that their lives are mirroring the author's plotlines. It's a chick flick, quite frankly, but for Zegers, the presence of a certain co-star made filming easy. "I have this huge infatuation with Emily Blunt," he says, laughing nervously as if Blunt was standing close by. "I didn't have to fake wanting to entice her."

Speaking of enticement, there are few things that can get a man more female attention than appearing shirtless in a fragrance ad. That's exactly the enviable position Zegers finds himself in as the face of the new Calvin Klein cologne CK IN2U. "Most of my roles are in independent films that don't gain me a lot of exposure, so the CK campaign is creating a nice balance because now people will recognize me," Zegers says.

But still, he's adamant that he's an actor, not one of those actor/model types. "I'm completely committed to my film career, and it shows in my on set beharior," Zegers says. "I used to be this shy kid but now I'm standing up for myself: I don't take crap from anyone who compromises the success of my movies." Zegers attributes this newfound toughness to his immersion in gritty roles such as that of Frank, the 26-year-old survivor of child abduction and prostitution who he portrays in Gardens of the Night. Zegers hopes what he gained from the film is secondary to the effect it will have on viewers. "It's a horrible, ugly, uncomfortable subject and I lost sleep while filming it," he says. "But I'm pround to be in a movie that has such a pwerful message." Profits from Gardens of the Night will go to Children of the Night, a charity that rescues kids from prostitution. "When I'm 70, I don't want to look back and realize that all I've done in my life is take," Zegers says. "I'm fortunate to live a comfortable life and I want to give something back."

Working on Gardens of the Night is not Zegers's only involvement in benevolent causes. Following his appearance in the Elton John-produced It's a Boy Girl Thing (2006), he was asked by the singer to join his AIDS Foundation board. Zegers just got back to L.A. from London, where he attended the charity's 9th Annual White Tie and Tiara ball, which raised $12.2 million. "Acting is an introspective, self-focused profession," Zegers says. "Working with Elton's charity diverts my focus outward onto other people and that helps me balance my life." The other side of Zegers's balancing act involves maintaining professional integrity, a tricky feat in an industry that values box office marketability over fine acting. And while his bank balance may take a hit from not selling his soul to the summer blockbuster devil, Zegers isn't worried about it. "My choice of roles might not make sense to some people, but I'll continue focusing on the quality of the project not the size of its budget," Zegers says. "I want to work with directors like Scorcese and Bertolucci, and this is the way to achieve that."