This week I had the opportunity to sit in on an open discussion with Chris Olivero, who plays Chris Olivero Declan McDonough on ABC Family’s Kyle XY. In this open forum interview, Olivero discusses life on the set of Kyle XY, the future of his character, professional goals, and antics on the set. I was especially impressed at how down to earth he was. He had no reservations about sharing his love of Science Fiction, and even suggested jokingly that he may show up to Comic Con in Star Wars apparel.
Hello. I was curious what you think of how the dynamic will change between your character and Lori now that the secret is out about what Kyle can do and everything.
Chris Olivero: The relationship now, it takes a lot of pressure off of Declan as far as not knowing who he can tell, what he can say, when people want to know the answers about Kyle. Now he can try to protect his friend, but at the same time try to focus on his relationship with Lori and where that should or should not go. Basically, the characters now can focus on themselves a little bit. Protect Kyle, but focus on their relationship, what their future holds together, what their future holds individually.
The dynamic is going to be like a friendship, with that same kind of back and forth that we’re used to, with some new elements to it because we’ve already been through so much together. Declan is still into Lori, and it’s the same thing of friends or not friends? That’s going to continue. But definitely a lot of the pressure is gone and now it’s kind of back to the whole family protecting Kyle.
The Declan/Lori relationship is probably the most real relationship on the show. Do you find that that adds an additional level of responsibility on your part to make that accurate, or do you just play it and have fun?
CO: No, I definitely feel responsibility to it because I do like the realness of it, where it’s the whole life-is-complicated and those complications affect your relationship. When you’re that age, when you’re in high school and stuff, it’s that element of what should you do? Do you kind of go with what the crowd thinks or what you think? It’s all that confusion about relationships and that’s what I like about it. It’s a strong relationship, which is also great to play.
It’s definitely, like I said, it’s a big responsibility in the sense of you have your own creative mind about your character and the writers have theirs and you have to kind of meld what you think. We’re always getting scenes with some of the writing changed or different things like that and we talk with them openly, continuously, so that we all are in connection with where the character should go. And yes, we want to be as truthful as we can, so the public can get that out of it and I’m glad to hear it; I’m glad that you feel that. That’s the best thing that we can hear is that it’s real and that people believe it because believability’s the biggest thing in what we do.
We want to continue doing that to the best of our ability and that’s what we hope the writers give us and we can hopefully make the fans happy.
Declan’s commitment to help Kyle find the truth about his past has generated a maturity level well beyond the Declan we met in season one. Talk a little bit about that transition in the character.
CO: Absolutely. In season one Declan pretty much had the high school worries. The thing about Declan, though, is there was always a depth to him. He may have appeared to be kind of the typical high school guy and there is that part of him, but there was always a depth of who he is, a soul searching kind of a thing. That’s why he was into Lori, because she was different and she was unique. And that was part of him. And then, when Kyle came into the world, he didn’t know whether or not to be jealous. He didn’t know what to think of him and kind of felt threatened by him. And then the friendship developed and Kyle became basically his only true male friend and he did whatever he could to protect that.
You do see him grow up and it’s one of the reasons why I really liked the character in the beginning, knowing that he was going to grow up and stand up for what’s right. He cherishes what’s close to him and he sometimes doesn’t handle situations right or he makes mistakes, like maybe how he reacted to Kyle standing with Lori. But he means well deep down. He definitely wants to help Kyle find who he is. He kept his secret. He took all the price, the physical tolls and the emotional tolls that came with it.
But it was great to see that the writers went with that and it’s amazing to play and it’s just like you said, it’s a big transition between season one where he starts and where he ends. And season two it’s the same thing. You see that he is flawed; he’s not perfect. But he tries hard and he wants to do what’s right. That’s pretty much where he went with Kyle. He’s just trying to do what’s right and trying to protect what he feels is close to him because there’s not that many things or people that are close to him.
I was wondering what’s in store for your character in the future.
CO: In the continuous part of season 2.5, now that the secret is out, the focus is going to be in Declan’s relationship with Lori and with Kyle as his friend. He just lost out on his basketball scholarship because of his injury. So it’s kind of going to be ‘where’s Declan going from here.’
He’s held Kyle’s secret. He’s focused on that; his relationship with Lori has suffered and he’s tried to repair that. Now that’s kind of where it’s at. All of a sudden, he’s thrown into [a situation] where now he’s friends with Lori again. Kyle has Jesse to worry about. Kyle has his own issues to get through and worry about and Declan now has his, with school and everything else.
So what’s in store is basically just trying to figure out he is; trying to figure out how to help Kyle; how to protect Kyle. We get to see more of that as the season will progress and, especially towards the end, more of the emotional kind of confusion. He tries to find some resolve and there’s always complications that are still going to arise in his life. Like I said, he tries to do the right thing, wants to do the right thing and sometimes things just don’t work out for him. But he’s going to try to search his soul and do the best he can and protect everybody as much as he can.
Kyle XY has a strong sci-fi tone. I was wondering what your personal sentiment, your personal relationship is with the sci-fi genre and if you feel stories like Kyle XY could be a reality today.
CO: Yes, I’ve always enjoyed sci-fi. I was into Star Wars. I used to watch Quantum Leap, MacGyver after school and Star Trek. I was always into the mystery. It’s always more enjoyable to me in a show when there’s a certain level of mystery or unknown, so you can let your imagination kind of go. I was into comic books and things like that. And we do have a lot of loyal fans. When we go to places like Comic-Con, you see the devotion of the fans. It’s pretty amazing and it’s rewarding just to know.
Even if fans don’t like your character, if they have either problems or issues, just to see they’re passionate about it – that’s what it’s about. If they believe what’s going on, that’s the most important thing. Not every character is the most likeable character or whatever, but as long as they believe it, as long as they’re passionate about it, that’s what’s important.
And I think Kyle XY’s a great show for today. I think it gives you the family values. It gives you a realness of teenage relationships and also an ideal. Kyle represents the ideal of what people could be. So you can watch him go through stuff and it’s like, ‘Man, I wish I was like that. I wish I could be like that.’ And that’s what everybody around him tries to do. They want to be more Kyle-like and they take steps in the right direction.
I would hope that in this day and age that the show, that the Trager family could be a reality and people could try to live and get through things and try to do the right thing and everybody could have a Kyle in their life. What do you enjoy most about working on the show?
CO: It’s got to be the people I work with. It’s a great group of people. We film up in Vancouver, so we’re all away from home, except for Jean-Luc and Kirsten; they live there. But we’re all away from home. When you’re on location, if you don’t have a good rapport with people, it’s harder than anything because a lot of times you have down days where you don’t have much to do in your hotel or your apartment or whatever.
So working with a great group of people, working with a great crew – and this is one of the only shows that I’ve worked on – there’s not a lot of division. The network people, the writers, the crew, the actors, everybody hangs out. It’s not really where the actors kind of find their thing and then the writers are over there and the producers are over here. We’re all in it together; we’re all enjoying it together.
It’s been that was since the start, since the barbecue we had up there. It was the first weekend we were there. We were playing cards, everybody was laughing. It was kind of like magic. It was like ‘wow, this is a group of people that all have their unique personalities, but all get along and that’s the most enjoyable thing.’
As far as the show goes, I like the story; I like picking up the scripts. There’s a new mystery and new story-lines to be undertaken. There’s a lot of stories that the writers come up with that don’t go and there’s a new storyline. You’re constantly wondering what’s going to happen and what’s going on and you’re able to communicate with the writers and give your own opinion of where your characters go. Just the whole dynamic of everybody and the nature of the show is what’s most enjoyable.
There was an interview in the summer where you talked a movie that they had put off because of your shooting Kyle XY. I just wanted to know if that was still a possibility or if you have other projects that are coming up, now that you’re in hiatus on the show.
CO: Yes. That was supposed to film this summer actually. The writers’ strike actually threw a lot of stuff into loops. There are some other film projects that, actually, this week, I’m waiting on. The thing of it is, with the show too, when the strike ends, we don’t know – we’re contractually obliged to Kyle XY, so we don’t know when it’s going to start up again. Basically, it’s a very wait-and-see and a lot of studios aren’t really into that because they want their actors immediately to sign on. It still is a possibility; it films in Lithuania, so obviously there’s no possibility to do Kyle and that.
Right now, it’s just a big wait-and-see. Everybody kind of has their fingers crossed as far as what’s going to happen. Hopefully, the strike will resolve and we’ll at least have a tentative date, so the projects can go forth. There’s about three or four projects now that I’m up for. But, like I said, this week, early next week, hopefully start around early March filming.
It’s just a big wrench in the machine with the strike and everything. When we film for nine months in Vancouver, it kind of limits what you can do in the meantime. In that three months or four months or whatever you get off, you hope to put something in there… and then something like this happens. There’s a lot of wait-and-see going on. I can say that I am up for a few projects right now. It’s just going to basically be about the dates and if it can work out, so hopefully.
I was curious, how did you come into the part of Declan? Did you audition for it? Is there a reason why you accepted the role?
CO: Yes. I actually did a couple of other ABC family pilots the year before. I guess this is the third one that I did. So I kind of had a relationship with the network already and with Touchstone and the director who I did another pilot with was the director of this. So I had a relationship already established.
But I had to go through the same process. I originally went in for Declan. Then they were going to cast Declan out of Vancouver. Then I went in for Kyle. Then I went to the producers for Kyle. Then they switched me back to Declan and then I went to the studio as Declan and then networked as Declan, then got the part.
I really enjoyed the script. Some pilots you’re like, ‘Yes, you know, it’s all right.’ But I really enjoyed the script and wanted to be a part of it and was kind of nervous about trying to get it. Then the whole, ‘Kyle is this,’ and then, ‘Okay, why don’t you come back in for Declan?’ And they’re back and forth, but it was very rewarding when I learned that I got the part. It’s a great network to work with and I’ve really enjoyed working with them. I had no reservations about working with them or not wanting to do it. I’ve done quite a few Disney things and I’ve always enjoyed it. Basically, the script and the relationship with the network is the main reason why I took it.
Do you have a favorite episode? If so, which one has it been?
CO: I play basketball; I love sports. So I enjoyed the basketball episode in the first season where Kyle is on the team because we got to film pretty much half the episode at a college and all day we got to just play basketball and run plays and stuff like that and, in down time, just play basketball. That fun because you have a lot of down time on sets and if you’re sitting in your trailer or watching a movie or reading a book, you’re sitting around. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait kind of a thing. So that was the most fun and the episode, I thought, turned out great.
Then this season we have some episodes later on that I think are quite good, especially the last episode. I haven’t seen the final cut of it yet, but just the script and it was an enjoyable experience.
A lot of people are talking about Comic-Con and going to Comic-Con next year. Do you know if you guys are scheduled to be there or do you know anything about that yet?
CO: I don’t. We’ve been there for the two previous years. I sure hope so; I do not know. I hope that would be a possibility; we have had a great time going there. We’ve had a great turnout; the fans have been great. We all as a cast have enjoyed it immensely. So, I wish I could say, ‘Yes, definitely we’re going to be there.’ We all want to be there. We all may show up with our Star Wars outfits on and just walk around. But we all want to be there, so hopefully.
I was curious what has been your favorite role that you’ve played besides Declan in another show?
CO: I always like playing different characters and I’ve been fortunate where I’ve gotten to play a drug dealer or a killer and things like that. I enjoyed CSI Miami a lot. It was just one episode, but it’s kind of nice to play. A lot of times, I’ll play characters where I start out kind of bad. But then I turn out to be the nice guy; I turn out to be the good guy or I’m just the good guy throughout it. But I get to play the darker characters, it’s good.
In the show, even when I played a bad guy, it’s been for a good reason, like I was a drug dealer because I was trying to support my sister. Not that that’s a great reason, but there’s always a positive kind of thing. So, in that, you thought I was this shy, quiet, kind of nerdy kid or whatever and then I ended up killing the …agent because I was tired of being rejected.
Also, there was a sentimentality to it. It wasn’t just pure evil; he did it because of the rejection, because of all the stuff that’s going on in his life. It was enjoyable to play. I like when people are like, ‘Huh?’ They don’t expect it. I thought it turned out pretty good so I was kind of happy about that. That was a lot of fun, actually.
I was wondering do you ever get to offer any input to the direction of your character like advice on the way the script may be going?
CO: Yes, we do. The writers are in L.A. so when we get the scripts, we can put in calls. A lot of times, we’ll call and say, ‘Where’s my character going?’ Like I said, we don’t get the information until kind of last minute, so we all are very inquisitive about it. Matt does a lot with Kyle, ‘I don’t think I would say this.’ I do the same thing with my relationship with Lori. We all like to put in our input with the writers. And the writers are very open. Sometimes they’ll even express ideas to us about what they want and we’ll say, ‘Well, you know…,. because we know our characters now. They write them, but we live them.
It’s a good collaboration between us, as far as what we would like to see happen. Like I said, we trust our writers, which is a great thing because we understand that they’re going to do what’s best for the character and for the show.
I’ve been like, ‘I don’t like this blah, blah, blah,’ but in the end, it always turns out. So you learn to trust your writers with the storyline, especially the direction of your character. But yes, we call all the time and give input on lines or we call and we’ll change the lines or we’ll say, ‘We already said this and we did this in Episode whatever.’ So we call L.A. and they’ll say, ‘Yes, change the line to this or change it to this.’ We constantly are offering little input.
The more you work on the show, the more you do that. Even with directors. We’ll get different directors for every episode and they’ll want to shoot a scene and we say, ‘I already sat in that chair and did the same line last episode,’ and they’ll say, ‘okay, do this.’ So, there’s a lot of collaboration back and forth with the writers and directors. The writers are ultimately the ones that kind of decide, but they are very open, which is refreshing because, a lot of times, you just have to listen to what they say. So it is a great, refreshing show to work on where you can put input into what happens and what your character does.
You were talking earlier about the season going on with Lori and Declan and I’m curious if Jesse is going to come back in the mix for Declan as a romantic problem or if he’s more focused on Kyle now.
CO: Jesse is always kind of there and a little mixed up for everybody. Jesse and Declan, after everything that happened, they haven’t had close contact or relationship at all because she was reprogrammed and all that was kind of done with and Declan understands that. And Declan’s main concern is Lori and Kyle.
But there is some stuff in the future that Declan will kind of come to her for, not for romantic interest, I can tell you that, but he comes to her more for help. So he does look to her and she does become more of a part of everybody’s life, more than she is now. Romantically, right now, Declan has his hands full with Lori and also with trying to figure out what he’s doing himself. But you never know with our show. There’s lots of rumors going around with everything, but you never know.
As far as this season is concerned, Declan’s main focus is on Lori and on his relationship with Lori, Kyle and himself. I think Lori and Declan both are trying to figure things out themselves. And Declan, like I said, he handles things in a different manner, but it’s going to make for some enjoyable scenes coming up.
I just have a follow-up to both what you just told us and your earlier answer about the future for Declan. Now that we’re going to get into that area, will we begin to see a little bit more of Declan’s back-story because you’ve talked about his depth before, kind of like what gave him that depth? And because we’ve kind of got a hint that maybe he has a connection with Kyle in another way, will we get to see any of that? Do you know?
CO: Yes. I can tell you now as far as a back-story for me, I know the writers didn’t want to just throw in a one-episode back-story. I talked with them about it a bunch. As you know, there have been mentions of my dad and mentions of my troubled relationship with my dad and no mentions of my mom. There’s definitely a back-story to be had and it’s just a matter of the timing for it, as far as the writers are concerned. As of now, they don’t want it to be just like a one-episode thing or a two-episode thing. They want it to be it’s own arc. Declan is one of these few people on the show that we don’t know about his past as much. We know he comes from a wealthier family, but we haven’t really dived into that, which I’m sure will be a nice story arc.
All that does play into what Declan does and who he is and it’s just going to have to be a wait-and-see thing still. He’s still trying to figure out, like I said, things with Lori and things with Kyle and I’m sure later in the season there’s more information that will come out, slowly. And then next season, we haven’t filmed it or even started yet, but I’m sure next season hopefully, there’s going to be definitely some diving into answering some questions about Declan.
You talked about your character and your back-story. I’m curious if you could write a storyline for Declan, what would you have him do or what would you have his back-story be?
CO: The ever-present joke, Declan XY. We joke about it all the time because I want every storyline to be about me. I don’t know where the writers are going, but I think I would write it kind of similar. I would like to see my father come in, with my mom not being in the picture and just the relationship there and the tension that that brings, so that people could see a reason for Declan’s actions and stuff, maybe with a troubled relationship or his mom maybe even leaving. That’s kind of where I’d really like to see the show go, but otherwise, just give a better understanding of who Declan is.
And also Declan’s involvement with Kyle – I really enjoyed solving the mystery of who Kyle was last season and helping him out and things like that. It’s fun to shoot; it’s fun to do. I’d really like to get more involved with Kyle and find out more about what’s going on with him and being his friend. We do have that; it is in the show. But if I could write it I would keep in the same path they’re going.
Like I said, I don’t know what’s going to be in season three. I would like definitely a back-story with my family and maybe even other family members, the issues that that brings up, just so we have, just so we have some reasons to know Declan better. I feel like sometimes you don’t like me and then you like me again, then you don’t like me, then you grow to like me.
Like I’ve always said, I don’t want to betray the audience. If I’m going to be bad, I want to be really bad. And if I’m going to be good, then I want to be a good guy. I don’t want to be mediocre; I want to be strong either direction, so that the audience itself can gravitate towards my character in one way or the other.
Chris, any plans for behind-the-camera work for you in the next two, three years?
CO: You know, I would really like to direct. It’s very, very hard to do. I like to write but, my problem is, I could come up with ideas, broad storylines and then I try to write it. And I can’t get past the page or I’ll write one conversation and it’ll be ten pages long. Maybe f I could collaborate with the writers or something, but I don’t have the skills. I really like directing. I’ve shadowed, which is basically following around, the director and listening. And I pay a lot of attention to what goes on behind the camera.
One of the most important things an actor can do, if I could tell anybody anything, is so much more than just acting. There’s so much that goes in when you’re doing a scene repetitively. There’s different camera angles. So I try to learn as much as I can. It helps what you do so much because you’re much more comfortable.
I don’t know if Kyle XY would let me direct an episode, but maybe three seasons from now. But I would like to; I eventually would like to direct because I really enjoy that aspect of it and collaborating with actors. The directors that are the best are the ones that work with the actors and talk with the actors and communicate with the actors. I think I know how to do that, so I really would like to direct and see how I could put the puzzle pieces together.
Can you tell us a funny moment you’ve had on the set? Do the actors play tricks or is there just something really funny that’s happened to you?
CO: I’m actually the one playing the most tricks. Funny things happen. There’s a lot of inside jokes on our show. A lot of the stuff is like people put stuff in people’s trailers or pictures on the wall. Or they’ll make up fan letters, pretend like they’re a fan and write some stuff, put that in Matt’s trailer, things like that. Last season I played a big prank on Matt.
We were finishing the episode and I got the set cell phone, it’s Rachel’s. I called from her cell phone to Matt and basically pretended to be somebody else, saying that the episodes were fried and you have to re-shoot them. This was when we already moved out. We were moving out next week and he was all panicking and I’m like, ‘Yes, I don’t know what to do. We’re sorry, but we’re going to have to be here for three more weeks.’
Then I ran over to Matt’s trailer and banged on the door and said, ‘Matt, Matt, did you get a phone call? Can you believe this? What are we going to do?’ He busts out of his trailer and he’s like, ‘I don’t know what to do. I’ve got to call my manager,’ and then I started busting up laughing. That’s the biggest joke. It worked really good, too. He really didn’t know what to do.
Things like that, there’s a lot of that going on. We joke around a lot and we hang out a lot. Usually, I’m the one making fun of stuff. I like to make fun of myself a lot, so it kind of helps and keeps stuff light and fun. We all kind of tease each other and joke about stuff. We like to do our own versions of Kyle XY in between takes. We’ll rearrange the scenes into our own twisted way. There’s a lot of that going on.
Thank you for your time.
CO: Thank you very much.