STEVE KAZEE: Hey Y’all, he ain’t Riff-Raff!

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Words by MICHELLE GANNEY
photos by BENJO ARWAS

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Away from the bright lights, the photo shoots and the glitzy red carpet gala’s, Steve Kazee is a genuinely down to earth and humble guy. The multi-faceted Tony and Grammy award-winning actor, singer and guitarist is reprising his role as ‘Gus’ in “Shameless” as well as being cast as ‘Riff’ in ABC’s beloved “Nashville”.

Fans of “Shameless” will recall Kazee’s character being subjected to some pretty tough rejection at the end of last season. However, we’ll be seeing his character in a new light this time. “Well you’ll definitely see Gus again this season and what will be interesting is you’ll get to see a different side of Gus. Last year you saw a very warm, sensitive, optimistic persona and now you’ll see the more realistic side of what a person put in that position would do and how they would respond. Gus definitely gets to sing a little song in the third episode. It’s a song, which I think is going to have quite a few people talking. It’s nice to go back and give the character a strong voice. The writing was incredible but when you’re a nice guy you don’t often get a chance to stand up for yourself”.

Talking of nice guys, Kazee is the newest addition to the show everyone has fallen in love with “Nashville”. With its vengeful heartbreak songs and dramatic storylines, he is set to play ‘Riff’, a country music star, in the highly anticipated second half of season 4. He’s got some competition but he may steal Deacon’s swoon-worthy country King crown. “I play a character named Riff who was on top of the world as a country music superstar but then at the age of 30 decided he was going to pack it in and retire and move with his wife to a farm and just live a quiet life. He gets pulled out of that retirement 15 years later by his buddy, Luke Wheeler [played by Will Chase], and gets brought back into the fold in order to help him out”.

Despite joining the cast at a later stage, his bromance with Will Chase made the transition smooth sailing. “We had known each other from New York when we were doing theatre there. So I was lucky that we already had that relationship and we could just jump right in and not have any of the awkwardness that comes from joining a cast when you’re not a regular. It was just like meeting up with a friend. He’s a great guy and a great actor and he made that set very welcoming and made me feel part of the family”.

Moreover, it sounds like being part of the Nashville family is just like going to a concert, not a bad set-up at all! “Oh it’s great, especially when there’s a performance. We probably had about 250 extras in the house so it was very much like doing a real concert in a venue and they were very much into it, people were excited to be there and to be a part of the show, there was a great energy. All of my times on set were incredible, they’re such wonderful people who really love what they’re doing and that shows, you can tell. You can feel the energy coming through the screen”.

Despite his bevy of accolades, even Kazee gets star struck when meeting his idols. “I went to the Golden Globes after party. Oh my god it was so great, I sat next to Harrison Ford for a little while, which was a dream come true. He was just as wonderful as you would expect him to be. He’s a very charming man, he’s got a very charming personality, he was very warm to anyone that wanted to come up and say hello. I was also able to see some old friends who I haven’t seen in a while and there are quite a few shows on HBO that I like, “Game of Thrones”, “The Leftovers”, so those people were peppered throughout the party. I’m still a fan, I’ll always be a fan, so I get excited to be in those rooms and see my favourite actors from my favourite TV shows. It was a really wonderful night”.

With the entire world anxiously counting down the days until April 24th (the premiere of season 6 of Game of Thrones, obviously!), it seems Kazee is just as excited. “I’ve got to say I’m a Jon Snow guy for sure. I’m not devastated because there’s no way he’s gone. Nobody’s ever really dead on Game of Thrones. It was too abrupt, it didn’t feel right so I just think it’s a big part of the storyline and we’ll get the answer when it comes back on air. I love it. I think it’s great when a television show can get that many people talking about it”.

Sitting next to Harrison Ford at the Golden Globes after party was definitely a victory for Kazee. However, in terms of his approach to life and his philosophies, he seems to take counsel from a different, albeit just as legendary, idol. He smiles and says, “What would George Clooney do? That’s one of my favourites. He is one of my favourite actors and one of my favourite human beings. I don’t know if I have a serious life philosophy. I’m a person who’s very interested in science and the universe and quantum physics and astrophysics. When you think about how grand it all is, beyond the borders of this earth that we live on, it’s hard to take any of this too seriously. You just kind of have to exist in the life that you have and continue to push on because none of us are guaranteed, I don’t know what my expiration date is. We’ve lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman in a week, both at the age of 69. I may live to 75, I may live to be 55, I don’t know so I just try as best as I can to be present in the moment and enjoy life”.
I have to say, my interview with Kazee has to rank up there as one of my all time favourites. His frank approach and clear enthusiasm as a regular fan was refreshing. A true gent.

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About The Author

Stephane Marquet
Creative Director

First of all, excuse my French! … I was born in the South of France. Lived in Paris for 10 years and travelled the world until I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, because obviously recession was a great time to move to a new country! I also arrived around Halloween and was greeted at the Social Security offices by a nurse who directed to the window Number 6 so a witch could hand me my social security number. Welcome to America. I am a painter, a photographer and the creative director of BELLO mag.

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