Kelley Mack is known on The Walking Dead as Adeline who was a resident at The Hiltop. Adeline meet her demise back in season 9 as part of Alpha’s pike border victims. But before she was on the hit AMC series, she has directed and produced films such as A Knock at the Door, The Printer, and The Perfect One. She also has won awards for her roles including winning the award for the best leading actress on Simón, at the Madrid International Film Festival, the Student Visionary Award and Best Actress for her role on The Elephant Garden at the Tribeca Film Festival and the First Run Festival. With all of those accomplishments to her name plus more, Kelley Mack’s future is very bright. I recently got the chance to interview Kelley Mack as we go over her time on The Walking Dead and much more on this exclusive interview!
I would like to get to know more about you. What was it like for you to grow up in Ohio and what drew you into acting?
KM: “I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and most of my extended family lives in the Midwest. But I actually moved around a lot because of my dad’s jobs, so I grew up in several different states around the country! I think that upbringing caused me to be really adaptable to new situations and people, which translates really well to acting/constantly playing different characters and always working in different locations/environments. My mom was a theater minor in college, and she was the one who got my brother, sister and I into acting and taking us to auditions. Since I was so young, I didn’t totally understand what was happening, just that it was tons of fun and I got to meet a wide variety of people, which I absolutely loved and still do. Learning about different types of people, cultures, places, etc. (the research) is probably my favorite part of the acting process now.”
After you won your award from Tisch School of the Arts, you decided to step away from acting for a while and started to study film production. Was it because you found another passion, or was it for another reason that you stepped away for a while?
KM: “I think part of it was rebellion against my mom, who really wanted me to pursue acting because she thought I had a talent for it. But I also loved playing with cameras around that time. I was the one with video camera off to the side at family holidays and get togethers, just loving being a fly on the wall and capturing candid moments. So I went on to study film production & cinematography in college, where I realized a passion for cameras and pulling focus, but not so much for lighting. It’s such a challenging, important position on set (like every role), and it just didn’t click with me. I also did several internships at production companies and talent agencies, which by process of elimination, really, revealed to me that acting was my main true passion.”
What were some new things that you had to adjust to when you started producing films compared to acting at the time?
KM: “I started producing and taking my first official acting classes right around the same time, so I was really adjusting to both. Spending hours & hours preparing auditions, coordinating a film from beginning to end as a producer all while being a freelancer jumping from gig to gig to pay the bills. I have produced four shorts mostly so I could have more footage for my acting reel, but I discovered how much I enjoy producing and am quite good at it. Producing is definitely more of a left-brain job, which actually makes sense for me since I’m kind of type A. I love filling out paperwork, scheduling, spreadsheets, the whole thing… haha. So in that regard, it’s different from acting, which is way less concrete and of course doesn’t deal as much (at least in auditioning) with all the other areas of production. I’m still adjusting to both & learning every day, which is my favorite!”
How did you get your role as Adeline (Addy) on The Walking Dead?
KM: “My agent sent me a self tape audition email, I read for a character different than Addy, and then didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I then got another self tape request, with the same lines, but the character description was a bit different. So I re-taped the same scene with the differences in mind (Addy was described as a bit more bookish and good-hearted than the previous character), then sent it in. My agent called me about a week later on a Monday morning saying that I was the pick for the role, then they asked for my demo reel, which we immediately sent over to the TWD team. A few hours later, they said I was booked and to fly to Atlanta for my fitting the very next day – which happened to be my birthday!”
What are some of your favorite memories being at The Hilltop and did you see any of the other communities during your time on the show?
KM: “The clearest memory is when Jackson Pace and I were driven to Hilltop for the first time – the crops leading up to the big fence and smelling all the food cooking and hearing all the animals – it just felt like woah, I’m home! It was really cool – such a spectacular set. I also of course loved my scenes with Norman Reedus – he’s a cool guy, and so kind. And other than working with people from the Kingdom and the Whisperer communities, we (Jackson, Joe Andi-Hirsh and I) also shot a short scene with the Highwaymen. Our shots when the Hilltop community meets them on the road were cut but it was really cool working with them & the horses that episode.”
You have any stories working with Alanna Masterson and Matt Lintz?
KM: “I don’t really have any crazy stories, but if I had to describe Alanna in a few words, I’d say she’s a chill badass. Matt is really sweet and kinda quiet & shy. He is in a family of actors, and because he was a minor, his parents were closeby on set most of the time. It was cool getting to know them more and seeing their unconditional support of him and his siblings’ careers.”
When did you know that Addy was going to be one of Alpha’s pike victims?
KM: “I found out via a phone call from one of the SFX makeup people while I was on set filming episode 913. It was pretty last minute! I was only supposed to be in 2 episodes originally, so I was grateful to have been able to work on five of them and hadn’t anticipated that I’d stay on the show for too long.”
How did you prepare for the scene at the barn where the tragedy took place over there?
KM: “I just did my normal script work preparation for the scene emotionally, and the stunt choreography all just happened right before we shot it, so there was nothing to really prepare in that regard. I mostly prepped myself for shooting my last episode of the show! The barn scene was actually the very last scene I shot and wrap was really emotional. Even though it was FREEZING that night, everyone waited until the very end of all the coverage so that all the characters killed off could say their goodbyes in a big circle; some people who have been involved in the show for a long time gave speeches… it was really intense and so sad!”
I have spoken to Avi Nash (Siddiq) recently about having Dante forcing Siddiq to watch his friends getting killed by Alpha. How did it feel for you when you seen that play out on television this season?
KM: “Well it was heartbreaking, of course! I get completely wrapped up in character stories, and when one is killed off in such a brutal and unimaginable way, it hits you. And also, from an acting perspective, the actors I admire & respect are truly feeling the emotions the character is going through on screen (in one way or another), so seeing someone experience loss, pain, etc. really reveals parts of that actor as a human-being. And that’s just so touching to be let into that person’s psyche a little bit and be able to connect with them on an emotional level, even if it’s via a television screen.”
Another film you have been part of is Profile and being that I am into the horror genre of that movie type (Other examples such as The Den, Unfriended, etc), I am intrigued to see it. Do you know when it will be available here in the United States?
KM: “I actually don’t! I know it has done quite well overseas in various festivals, but I haven’t even seen it myself yet!”
What are your upcoming projects that you would like to share?
KM: “I recently shot a film in Chicago called Broadcast Signal Intrusion, with Harry Shum Jr. and Chris Sullivan. I was hooked on the story and my character from the moment I got the audition. It could be described as a technological conspiracy thriller, and was inspired by actual broadcast signal hijackings in 1980s Chicago (the Max Headroom Incidents), which were never solved by the FBI. My character Alice is kind of a lost soul on a string of terrible luck, all while being a total street-smart badass. It was a super fun & challenging character to play, and I’m excited for the movie to come out, probably in late 2020!”
What are some of your hobbies that you enjoy outside of acting and producing film?
KM: “I played tennis competitively from age 8 through college, and now, I enjoy playing for fun when I can find someone to hit with. I also play piano and have a keyboard in my bedroom. I mostly play 90’s pop ballads and classical music haha, with some movie scores mixed in there. And of course reading, watching tv & movies, and I love hiking!”
What are some goals that you would like to accomplish within the next few years?
KM: “I would love to be part of producing a feature in the next few years. I’ve produced several shorts, but want to find the right script that I’m passionate about to make the jump to full-length film. Also, personally, I have a pretty long bucket list, so I’m planning to cross more of those off – hopefully several of the ones that involve traveling!”
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