Prospects look good for Zegers

Kevin Zegers in It's A Boy Girl Thing

Last updated: 29-Dec-06 14:03 GMT

KEVIN ZEGERS is good-looking. That wholesome, all-American, Tom Cruise kind of good-looking normally found only in Tommy Hilfiger adverts and made-for-TV Hallmark movies.

Except that he's not American. He doesn't want to be Tom Cruise. And the role that saved his career was anything but family-friendly.

Clocking up more than 50 film and TV roles since the tender age of six, Zegers - a native of Ontario, Canada - found himself all acted out at age 20. Unemployed and uninspired, he was just about to call it quits when along came a little flick called Transamerica. Playing a bisexual hustler to Felicity "Desperate Housewives" Huffman's pre-op transsexual was a watershed moment, Zegers says.

[Note from cpps90: Kevin was 19 when he did Transamerica, not 20. The movie was made in summer 2004.]

"It wasn't that I'd had enough. But I sort of said, it's going to get a lot more difficult now that I'm older, now that I'm the age I am - in my early 20s," he says.

"Then I did Transamerica and it just sort of changed the way I looked at my career. That's when I made the decision - okay, this is what I'm good at, this is what excites me."

Zegers' latest role, in It's A Boy Girl Thing, continues the gender confusion theme - as well as his new pledge to avoid the "generic jock" roles. Listed in the closing credits as high school footballer Woody, Zegers actually spends most of his screentime playing the dorky and very female Nell - a result of one of those Freaky Friday-type body swaps Hollywood loves so much.

"The character that was most interesting to me was Nell," he explains. "The generic jock/popular guy for me is sort of boring. People say, oh, it's a body-swap movie or whatever, but I think it makes it more interesting. If it was just about two kids falling in love in high school, it's been done 100 times since Sunday."

Zegers' Nell is relatively studied and subtle - girlie without resorting to overblown caricature or drag. The 'walking a mile in someone else's shoes' theme appealed to Zegers, who says it was a challenge to play his co-star Samaire Armstrong, best known for her stint as Anna on teen soap The OC.

"At that age kids are so inside their own head - I was at least. All you're thinking about is who's looking at me, am I doing things right, am I saying the right things? Should I be doing this, should I be doing that?

"You never think about what the other sex is doing - especially men, I think. You're just a walking ball of hormones in high school - it's feast or famine and it's sort of every man for himself. And I think for kids especially it's really interesting to see the other side of the coin, and how girls have to get ready in the morning and get their bits together."

Unlike most actors his age, Zegers isn't some starry-eyed kid fresh off the Greyhound to Hollywood. On screen since early childhood, he didn't grow up dreaming of being an actor, because he already was one. His background has been both a drawback - note his early 20-something career crisis - and a blessing, he says.

"It sounds sort of obnoxious," he concedes, "but after 16 years it makes everyone a lot more comfortable that when I show up on set, that's sort of my comfort zone - that's where I feel they can't really throw anything at me that I haven't seen when I was eight or 12 or 17 or whatever." And despite appearing in movies with talents like Ellen Burstyn and John Malkovich, Zegers says he remains cool in the face of fame: "Even meeting actors, things like that - working with really good actors - that awe factor is not in me.

"But I'm also different in the sense that I don't live, eat, sleep acting. There's a whole other life to live. My dad works in a mine, my mum is a teacher, and I just think of it as a job. You get to a point where the glamour and going out and partying and being that guy is just, for me at least, not what I wanna do."

So we can't look forward to Zegers and Paris/Britney/Lindsay headlines any time soon? "No. God no. That won't happen," he says. With his businesslike attitude to acting, it's no surprise Zegers has thought long and hard about the kind of career he'd like to have. Ask which actor's CV he'd most like to pinch and he doesn't hesitate: "Johnny Depp. It's almost cliche at this point to say that, but I just think he knows how to play the game right.

[Note from cpps90: Kevin Zegers hung out with Paris Hilton while filming The Hollow with Nick Carter, her boyfriend at the time.]

"Not being in the public is just as important as being in the public. You know, when he did The Libertine it's not like he expected it to make 100 million dollars. But he balances that with something like Pirates Of The Caribbean.

"It's sort of the way that I am trying to approach things and do things now."

With four films scheduled for release in 2007 , Zegers' grown-up film career is definitely on the move.

[Note from cpps90: The four films are Caitlin, The Jane Austen Book Club, Gardens of the Night, and The Stone Angel.]

But he knows the perils fame can bring. Like Depp, Zegers is almost unbearably photogenic. And he understands the demands that places on him in Hollywood.

"If you're good, you're just going to be good-looking and sufficient, and that's fine for most people. You'll be hired a lot and you'll work a lot in this business if you're good and good-looking. But to be great - for people to ignore the way you look, one way or the other - is incredibly difficult and incredibly hard to achieve."

* It's A Boy Girl Thing is currently screening at cinemas throughout the city.

Kevin Joseph Zegers
Birthdate: September 19, 1984

Significant other: Actress Marisa Coughlan

Career high: Landing the role of Toby alongside Felicity Huffman's Oscar-nominated turn in Transamerica

Career low: A string of forgettable kiddie films during the 90s, including MVP: Most Valuable Primate

Famous for: The indie sensation Transamerica

Words of wisdom: "Probably half of my friends are gay and probably half are straight. I couldn't care less what somebody does when they're in bed with somebody."

This article: