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portrait of an artist: christian kane
a one-two punch of talent
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

Christian Kane has a favorite quote from Steve McQueen: "When I believe in something, I fight like hell for it." But the multi-faceted entertainer is also a testimony to Warren Zevon's adage: "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

Kane celebrates his third season as Eliot Spencer on the hit TNT series, "Leverage". Eliot is the kind of man who squires a lady down a country lane with one hand placed gently on the small of her back while he haymakers her deadbeat ex-boyfriend with the other. The gracious, Southern charm is all Kane, whereas Eliot can kill you with an eyelash. Only if you deserve it, of course.

photo by Beth Riesgraf
People familiar with the series "Angel" might think Kane has kicked back a bit since that series ended in 2004, but the actor's loyal fans, affectionately known as "Kaniacs", have followed his non-stop trajectory, including his work on the series "Close to Home" and in the movies Hide and Not Since You. Two more movies, Good Day For It and Minuteman, are currently in post-production.

Kane also has a strong dedication to music, paying his dues for many years by performing all over the U.S. and Europe, and recording and collaborating with many Nashville hitmakers. Once production wraps on "Leverage" this summer, he embarks on a massive radio tour to promote his new single, "The House Rules", a fun-lovin', boot-stompin' dust-up. His major label CD debut is due in October 2010, and showcases his passionate voice and a gift for sharing the simple, meaningful, tales of life.

Before I go totally fangirl on you, let’s ease into this. We’re big foodies at Intrepid Media, and understand you’re quite the chef. If we had dinner together, what would you prepare for us?

My signature Rattlesnake Steak: A blue cheese, jalapeno, bacon, and green onion-stuffed filet mignon.

Aside from your latest album, what would be the background music?

We'd start off a little easy with some Allman Brothers, and as the wine gets goin', we'd segue into some Alice in Chains.

Many other actors and singers have opened restaurants. If this opportunity presented itself, what dining niche would you like to fill?

I fell in love with Argentina's cuisine while I was there, so maybe a California Argentine.

Speaking of acting, the way you broke into the business is a great story. Please share it.

I walked into a management company and said I would make deliveries for them if they sent me on auditions. A month later, I was one of the leads on a TV show ("Fame L.A."). I wish there was more but that was it, kind of a Cinderella story. Another one of my favorite quotes is from Woody Allen: "90% of life is showin' up."

Does being this scrappy come naturally to you, or do you have to dig deep for it?

I grew up wrestling and playing football in Texas and Oklahoma and hung out with dudes who were tougher than I was. The Oklahoma town where I grew up, Norman, is a huge town now, and pretty clean, but back then there were a lot of mean streets. And hell, Odessa was the murder capital of Texas for a while. You either learn how to handle yourself or you stayed home with Mama on the weekends. I liked girls too much. So I wasn't at home on the weekends.

Much of this dynamic is evident in Eliot Spencer, the "hitter" on the TNT series "Leverage". How much collaboration do you have with the writers to expand Eliot’s development?

I tell 'em what I would like to do, usually to a "NOOO!!! Eliot can't break this guy's neck!" or "NOOO!!! Eliot can't rip this guy's leg off and beat the other three guys with it!" Luckily for me, executive producer John Rogers has a great hold on my character. I'm very fortunate to have him on my side. I also coordinate my fights, so what's on the page doesn't necessarily mean it'll make the screen.

That's where I'm fortunate: John Rogers and executive producer Dean Devlin make sure I get from A to B, they just don't care how I get there. That trust and freedom is my favorite thing about this role. Understand, this doesn't really happen on other shows and I take this responsibility, and safety of my fight crew, so incredibly serious that I think that's why they trust me. They hired me for a reason and it wasn't to be funny.

Doing my own stunts is both a blessing and a curse. But I wouldn't change it for the world. Everybody's kids on set wanna be Eliot; they think I'm Batman. I can't let ‘em down.

One of the best elements about “Leverage” is the humor, not only in the dialogue, but also with all the heist characters. You in guyliner in "The Runway Job" -- what a kick! But, good writing aside, the playful banter shared between cast members would seem hard to fake, even for the most talented group. How is this ensemble different from other projects?

Because we all still love each other off-screen, a rarity after three seasons of a show. We also have such great writers who aren't hung up on themselves and don’t mind if we go off book every once in a while. This is what makes the chemistry great. A lotta times we're just talking.

In a recent episode, "The Inside Job", the audience learns more of Parker’s backstory (played by actress Beth Riesgraf). While there have been slight hints to some aspects of Eliot’s previous life, will more be revealed about him?

Ooooohhhh yes! As is Eliot's story, this is top secret, and I'm pretty sure John is connected with one of the agencies that Eliot works for/used to work for. I'd like to stay alive to film Season Four! But I promise: you will know MORE than you want to about Eliot before this season's over.

With so many other channels developing original series, what sets “Leverage” and TNT apart?

Original programming, smart writing, and real life superheroes. People wanna be entertained, and TNT is just doing it better than everyone right now.

One of your earlier acting roles was as Young Hub, a swashbuckling roughrider in the film, Secondhand Lions. This was such a fun family film. What would it take to bring a film like this to the screen today?

Well, Robert Duvall and Michael Caine for a start. I wiped two off my wish list in one movie! I think you can bring this kind of film to the screen these days if you remember the importance of the kid in us all. I know a lotta people with kids who can both say The Princess Bride is their favorite movie.

Fan Question #1: Please tell us what was so juicy about playing morally inept lawyer Lindsey McDonald in "Angel".

Juicy is a great word. Literally... do you know how hard it is to walk around with an attitude as a mortal on a set full of bloodsuckers as long as I did?

Fan Question #2: Please give us a tidbit about Joss Whedon only you would know.

Joss tried to kill me five times, and the day we got cancelled, we were downstairs in Hell where I got my heart cut out every morning. It was a morbid place to get news like that, and I looked at him and said, "What are you gonna do?" and he said, "First off, kill you."

I owe Joss most of my career. I love this man, always will.

Fan Question #3: A confession: On this site, I’ve been known to reference “The Christian Kane Purr Factor”. I mean this with the utmost respect, since you take good care of yourself, seem to be a real gentleman, design romantic lingerie for women, and have flowing poet hair. But for me, a radio professional kind of partial to cool voices, much of that purr factor is because of your husky voice. Do you consider it an asset both on-screen and behind the mic?

I do. And I use it. I guess I channel Clint Eastwood a lot. Now, I'm not Clint, but I very damn well might be JOSEY WALES!

When you whisper, is it in a register only kittens can hear?

(laughs) Maybe...you'll have to ask Riesgraf about that one.

Speaking of the mic, your 5-song EP is available now. How's it doing?

It's on iTunes now and doing very well thanks to all of my undying, loyal fans. I really do have the best fans in the world.

Compared to the stop-go, stop-go nature of acting, does songwriting feel more like a stream-of-consciousness creative process?

Songwriting is what I feel. I take my time to find the story. My songs are written in thirty minutes, to two weeks, to two years....

You’ve spent a lot of time in the past year collaborating with other songwriters on different projects. What has surprised you about this?

I’ve been doing this for a long time so the surprises, unless a great hook turns into an even better one, are gone. I'm happy about this. Now it’s about the song and me finding it, not me finding out how to do it.

Again, though, I surround myself with some of the best songwriters in the world in Nashville, so they give me a lotta confidence you can't find anywhere else.

Finally, I’ve heard you mention you like road trips. Please name your Top 5 trip songs.

Can't... there's too many, and I’m on the road a lot. I can, however, suggest albums:

* Bob Seger: Greatest Hits
* Alice in Chains: Unplugged
* The Counting Crows: August and Everything After
* The Doors: Greatest Hits
* Travis Tritt: Greatest Hits

...to name only a few.

* Visit Christian Kane's official site for the latest news and concert dates.

* Get a taste of the new album by downloading Kane's EP featuring the songs, "The House Rules" and "Thinking of You". You'll also find Kane's EP on iTunes.

* Keep up with all the hijinx of the "Leverage" team at TNT.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


the bad boys of television
and why we love watching them
by tracey l. kelley
topic: television
published: 11.30.09

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taking inspiration from project runway
by tracey l. kelley
topic: television
published: 10.27.10


alex b
7.28.10 @ 4:14a

I always suspected Christian Kane to be a fun, cool guy. This totally confirms it.

Well done Tracey!

jael mchenry
7.28.10 @ 8:50a

I would wolf down that Rattlesnake Steak in a hot minute. Mmmmmm, good answer.

sharon king
7.28.10 @ 10:28a

I loved your intro where you mentioned about turning fangirl. Thanks for a refreshing interview. It was a wonderful read :)

juli mccarthy
7.28.10 @ 11:24a

Wow, he sounds like a fun, level-headed guy! I was not familiar with him, until just last week when a few of my girlfriends and I were out for dinner and they started discussing actors. Kane's name came up and they all went weak in the knees. I have seen Secondhand Lions though, and if that's an example of his *early* work, I am looking forward to seeing how he has matured as an actor.

I'm a country music fan, too, so I'll be on alert for his music now.

Guess it's time to fire up the DVR and iTunes.

jennifer young
7.28.10 @ 8:05p

I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this man! I've been a fan since he was 1st on Angel. From that moment on I had to get my hands on everything he's been in. Imagine my surprise to discover that the boy could sing! I think I put on about 10,000 plays of his songs on his MySpace page. The minute he released his EP I had to have it. He's my dream man ;) My only wish is to be able to see him perform live and someday I will get that wish. Thank you for a wonderful article that shows exactly why us Kaniacs go weak in the knees thinking of him. I don't think there's anything he can't do, and he keeps his wonderful Southern charm on top of everything.

Looking forward to the CD coming out and hopefully many more seasons of the best show on TV!


tracey kelley
7.28.10 @ 10:51p

Thanks for the kudos, everyone. I just think of a million and one questions I'd like to ask, winnow it down to a handful, fret over those for about three weeks, and as you can see, Christian did the rest. :D

tracey kelley
7.30.10 @ 2:51p

Post script: "Leverage" will move on to Season 4!

katherine (aka clevertitania)
8.2.10 @ 11:33a

Gotta say, can't believe you didn't mention Her Minor Thing. Probably my favorite of Chris' movies, though Hide is truly an amazing piece of film that everyone needs to see. But Her Minor Thing also has Michael Weatherly, so just on eye candy alone (besides being a very funny and unusual comedy) it's worth the time.

Still doing the happy dance over the S4 renewal.

jj freyermuth
8.14.10 @ 12:43p

so good!

tracey kelley
9.27.10 @ 2:18p

Update for fans: Christian's "House Rules" video debuts on CMT Friday. It was directed by Timothy Hutton.

tracey kelley
12.16.10 @ 12:55p

Update for fans: Christian's first full-length CD, "The House Rules" is available all over the place now, including iTunes, Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.... Or you can get the CD and special merch on his site: http://www.christiankane.com/

penny booker
10.24.11 @ 2:53a

I Got To Meet Christian & He Is The Absolute Most Wonderful Person! So Sweet, Romantic, & Real! He Hasn't Let Hollywood Get To Him & That Just Makes Him That much Better Of A Person!!!

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