Interviewed by: Jason Kennedy, CSA
INTRO: One of the remarkable things about Kurt Yaeger is his ambition and follow-through to be successful in everything he does; from being a professional X Games athlete to making a name for himself as an actor and filmmaker, even completely remodeling his bathroom on his own! I’ve had the privilege of watching Kurt grow since first meeting him for a role on NCIS in 2007. He’s always been so much more than that actor with the amputated leg, although it took Hollywood some time to see it. And while his uniqueness allows him to authentically tell stories other actors can’t, he has the talent and work ethic to play all sorts of roles that have nothing to do with his disability. Kurt’s career has taken off with recurring roles on Sons of Anarchy, NCIS: Los Angeles, L.A.’s Finest, Tell Me a Story, Quarry, and Another Life, just to name a few. I’m so thrilled to introduce Kurt as our Actor of the Month.
- In addition to making a name for yourself as a performer, writer, and director, you are a respected advocate for performers with disabilities. What work do we have ahead of us and what is your vision for a more inclusive Hollywood?
A more inclusive Hollywood looks like a place where performers of all types are given authentically written characters to embody. For performers with disabilities, most characters we audition for and play are wholly about their disability. The characters are sad because of their disability, happy because of their disability, angry because of their disability, or their disability is a plot point to overcome.
An amputated leg didn’t make me into the person I am; it amplified it the person I already was. A character should be the same. For instance, a wheelchair is not a character trait, it’s a mode of transportation. A disability isn’t a character trait, it’s an amplifier that elevates or detracts from elements of a character, and sometimes a disability does nothing. Sometimes it just is.
- Has there been a Casting Director that has encouraged and/or supported you in your career?
I’ve been very lucky to have the support of many casting directors and I can’t tell you how much it means to have that support. Alexa Fogel, Jason Kennedy, Robert Ulrich, Meg Liberman, Mike Page, Monica Mikkelsen and so many others have stepped out of their way to help me. Others have written me nice notes after I was so close to roles. Still, other casting directors have just been kind enough to see me and my work. We’re all in this together, they want a great performance, I want to give a great performance… it’s symbiotic.
- What work are you most proud of?
Honestly, I love it all. Quarry with Greg Yaitanes was one of my favorites. Who doesn’t love being a contract killer in the 1970’s?! In Another Life I get to be in space and that makes my inner sci-fi nerd happy. I loved being in the feature The Festival, directed by Iain Morris, because I got to play a solid comedic role and enjoyed every minute of it. Of course, there’s Sons Of Anarchy, which was special to me because I’ve ridden motorcycles since I was three and it’s how I lost my leg, so it’s kind of full circle.
- What or who inspired you to pursue acting as a career?
The two people who inspired me were Mike Nichols and Jessica Denning. Mike was a powerhouse in the entertainment business and I listened when he told me I needed to do this line of work. Jessica has been my friend since around the 5th or 6th grade. She’s the only one who came from where I’m from who told me to go for it, and I deeply love her for it. She’s always been in my corner.
- What was your first IMDbPro credit and how did you feel when you saw it?
I didn’t remember, so I looked it up. It was some part in a fake news TV show out of Japan that was filmed in San Francisco. I have no idea what I did on it! Ha. I do remember thinking it made me a legitimate actor, to have a credit somewhere that I could point my family too. I had made it!!!
- How has IMDbPro helped you market yourself to filmmakers?
To have all your work on display in one location makes it easy for people to see the work you’ve done. People always comment to me, “I didn’t know you were in my favorite show!” It’s a great feeling. Plus, no one in our industry has the time to search all over the internet for an actor, or their work. It’s a great resource I use on a regular basis for contacts, information and news too.
- Any funny casting room stories?
At an audition many years ago I was supposed to be a farmer who walks into the scene, sticks my hands into Miracle Grow and say a line. Something about sticking my hands into the dirt they had in the room sent my mind completely blank and all I could think was, “dirt”. I tried three more times, was in my head, and just couldn’t do it. I walked out feeling like absolute shit. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever been back into that casting office either. Hahaha. Oh well, live and learn. Don’t audition with dirt!
- Tell us a fun fact about you outside of acting:
I ran up the Empire State Building in twenty minutes and nineteen seconds. I’ve ridden adventure motorcycles through Madagascar, Thailand, Africa and around the world. Did the first adaptive back flip on a bmx bike at the X-Games. I was working on my master’s degree in Hydrogeology and doing fluvial experimentations at Berkeley Labs when I ripped my leg off. I’ve been on the cover of Catster, a cat magazine because I prefer cats over dogs (yup, just lost a couple of jobs over that one). Having one leg is the least interesting thing about me.
View on IMDbPro More Actors of the Month