The Class of 2018 Acting for Film, TV & the Theatre graduate was originally hired by Canada’s national public broadcaster as an Olympic Researcher for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games back in January, but was promoted to the role of the Olympics’ Associate Producer last week.
“I was shocked and very flattered to find out about the promotion…It’s very humbling to be part of a team where you can use your voice creatively and collaboratively,” Kelly said, noting that his job entails media ingest, media management, and working with producers to deliver content.
“There is a lot of creativity in broadcast, especially when filmmakers are involved in telling those stories.”
While Kelly admits he was never a big sports fan growing up in Neepawa, Manitoba, his family was one that made a point of tuning into the Olympics every four years to cheer on Canada’s athletes.
And now that he’s been living and breathing the Games every day for the last seven months, Kelly said anxious to revisit that childhood tradition by watching on as some of the athletes he’s helped profile strive towards the top of the Olympic podium in Tokyo.
“You find things that really capture your attention once you get to know the players and get invested in their journeys,” he said, listing Canadian swimmers Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck, as well as decathlete Pierce LePage, among the athletes whose profiles he helped produce and who he’s now looking forward to following during the upcoming Summer Games.
“Taylor Ruck has an incredible story about her personal struggles regarding her weight and eating disorders and how she pulled through…And I did a February shoot with Pierce LePage, so we got to become good acquaintances,” he added.
“It’s humbling to meet these people. You get drawn into their personal stories and then you really want to follow them and see them succeed.”
Like the athletes he’s come to admire so much, Kelly knows what it’s like to dream Olympic-sized dreams.
Growing up in his small town of 5,000, he knew he was destined for something big, even as a child. It wasn’t until after he received glowing reviews for his comedic role in a high school production of The Boy Friend, however, that he was bitten by the acting bug.
“While Neepawa was a great community, even as a kid I never really felt, in my head and in my heart, like I fit in. My scope for my career aspirations were always bigger – like, right to the moon,” he explained.
“Then, with the feedback I got back from my community (after The Boy Friend), with everyone saying I was one of the best parts of the play, my confidence received a big boost. It took a long time for me to move to Toronto to pursue acting, but it was always in the back of my mind.”
After graduating from high school in 2011, Kelly enrolled in an Interactive Media Arts diploma program at a community college in nearby Brandon, Manitoba. He ultimately landed at CTV Regina, where he worked for three years in technical operations.
His passion for acting couldn’t be ignored, however, and by 2016, Kelly had moved to Toronto and enrolled in TFS’s 18-month Acting program.
It was through the connections he made and skills he learned at TFS that Kelly was able to scratch another item off his bucket list when he landed a role in his first feature film, Godforsaken, in 2019. And it was those same skills he called upon two years later when he was vying for the CBC job.
“One of the biggest keys is just self-confidence and not doubting yourself, and I learned that through acting,” he said, noting that now, after more than six months on the job at the CBC, his belief in himself is only continuing to rise.
“Through this experience, I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought I was – especially working in a large group of people who have been doing this for years and knowing that they see something in me and that they can rely on me,” he said.
“It inflates your ego a bit, so you gotta check yourself before you wreck yourself. But I love working in a team environment and I love nurturing everyone’s ideas and that collaboration we share. It’s very important – and it’s the same thing on a film set, right? We all have voices.”
Beyond the Olympics, Kelly said he’s looking forward to returning to work in front of the camera again so he can flex his acting muscles – literally.
“I’ve been working a lot lately on my nutrition, exercise and physique, so I think the next thing on my bucket list will be getting into stunt work,” he said, noting he has a pile of his own scripts, action and otherwise, piling up at home.
“I think it would be so much fun to act in stunt-heavy, action-heavy film. Whether I’m the lead or not doesn’t really matter to me. I’d be happy being that side character who gets his moment.”
Whatever opportunities present themselves next, Kelly said he’ll be ready to tackle them.
“I’m not saying Steven Spielberg is going to call me, but you just never know and you need to be open to those opportunities…” he said.
“This industry – broadcast, film, and acting – a lot of it is skill and talent, but timing and luck are huge factors. That being said, never give up on your dreams, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”