There is nothing like a father daughter relationship. For actor Kenny Johnson, his relationship with his eight-year-old daughter Angelica is even more special because the two get to work with each other on screen. Kenny and Angelica have been in a few movies together and tonight will get the opportunity to appear together on “S.W.A.T.”
Johnson chatted with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his daughter, tonight’s episode and his career.
DJ Sixsmith: You and your daughter are on a brand new episode of “S.W.A.T.” tonight. How did this all come together?
Kenny Johnson: I’m grinning ear to ear. One day she came home dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and demanded she wanted to be Little Red in “Into The Woods.” That went on for a couple months. They were actually auditioning for that role in LA and she got the role. She started doing musicals and then she did a film with me a few years ago called “No Stranger Pilgrims.” The director saw her on set and wrote her a role. That was kind of cool to watch her. We did another film recently that we haven’t quite finished yet. She plays Little Red and I play the wolf and it’s a very different take on the wolf. During this time I got a call from Shawn Ryan’s writers. Shawn knew she was an actor and I kind of threw something out there. She had done some documentaries and some school projects and Shawn looked at them and wrote this role about this girl with dyslexia. He called me about a month prior to ask me a bunch of questions about Jelli. That’s her nickname, her real name is Angelica. She got a call a month later and auditioned. She had an hour and a half to do an eight page scene and I worked with her on it. It was mostly opposite my character. Shawn really liked it and it had to be oked by CBS and they cleared her. I got a call at 10pm the night before shooting and they told me Angelica got the role. That’s how it began. It was a really incredible experience and it was magical.
DS: How did this experience working with your daughter compare to past experiences?
KJ: This one was really intimate. I personally had dyslexia and didn’t know until I was 23 years old. I couldn’t read and I had a below 2nd grade reading level. I didn’t understand why and just thought I was stupid. I would get kicked out of acting classes because they thought I was difficult. I went an institute and was there for about six months. I then found a private instructor for about three or four years to work on this. That is very intimate to me and then they wrote a dyslexia storyline for Angelica. She can read better than I did at her age, but I can definitely tell she has little symptoms of things that I have. It was interesting to watch and it was interesting to have her in a part where she can’t read at all. She was great at being in the moment. There were a lot of magic moments. I relate to her and I want to help her and I remember the embarrassment. There’s something about my daughter that’s really great. You just feel like it’s you and her no matter how many people or cameras are around. It’s like when I worked with Holly Hunter or Forrest Whitaker. They have this ability to be so present. She was able to do that within what we were doing on “S.W.A.T.” I just didn’t want to suck for her. I was nervous because I wanted her to be great and at the same time, I need to exist in these moments as purely as possible. She lives in the moment and then the next moment she is asking for a treat.
DS: What makes “S.W.A.T.” unique compared to the other shows on television?
KJ: We are unique because we do it by the book. S.W.A.T. comes in when the cops can’t handle a situation and it’s all about getting the job done and ending it in the safest way possible. This show is super demanding physically. We have about 30 lbs of gear on all the time and we’re having to bust in doors. The cause is incredibly honorable. We have a S.W.A.T. guy from San Diego who is our tech advisor and he’s on us about every little thing. You want to honor the role for who you are doing it for and do it to the best of your ability. This show really challenges you in that respect. My guy is pretty straight forward and I do things by the book. I’m normally used to playing dysfunctional and flawed characters who have major issues. This role is a different beast. It’s an intense thrill ride
DS: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
KJ: I always what’s meant to be yours will be yours. If you are true to yourself and what’s inside, things will manifest and come in the form of what you really want to do. I don’t look at it like I’m competition with thousands of others. All you can do is prepare and get ready physically, mentally and spiritually. You have to trust the process. I’m not big on doing 100 auditions a year. I only take four or five things a year. You need to be smart about your choices. This is my eighth series and four have been critically acclaimed. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed.
Watch “S.W.A.T.” tonight at 10pm EST/PST on CBS.