Kelly McCormack Explains Why She’s Perfect for Her Role in ‘A League of Their Own’

In baseball terms, Kelly McCormack booking the role of Jess McCready — the “furiously smoking, spitting, gnarly shortstop” in Prime Video’s “A League of Their Own” — was tantamount to hitting a home run in his first at stick.

The Canadian actor had just moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2019 and the first audition sent by his new manager was for the TV version of the beloved 1992 film about an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League team at the time. of war.

As soon as McCormack read a description of Jess, “I was like, ‘Who else is going to play this role?’ And it’s not because of ego or arrogance” — in fact, McCormack said she was “swimming in a pool of self-doubt” — “it was just, ‘It’s me . I will do it.’ ”

She explained that she was “excited by characters who live outside of various mainstream ideas of femininity, where their calling and passion is the most prevalent aspect of who they are as people.”

“After I booked (‘A League of Their Own’), there was a lot of ‘His batting average is amazing,’ like one for one,” McCormack added in a Toronto hotel interview.

Sticking with the baseball analogy, McCormack really impressed the coaches, i.e. series creators Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham – not least because she created a 40-page biography for Jess and sent them videos of baseball games she practiced on the weekends to incorporate into the show.

“I was kind of impressed with her,” Jacobson, who also stars on the show, said in a video interview. “During the production process, as an actor, I feel like I learned a lot from Kelly.”

“She’s amazing,” Graham added.

McCormack has drawn kudos from this side of the border for characters like tough hockey player Betty-Anne in “Letterkenny” and science nerd Zeph in “Killjoys.” She has also written several films, including the award-winning “Sugar Daddy”.

But now she’s making a name for herself in a highly anticipated television series that, as of Friday, airs in 240 countries and territories.

Jacobson (“Broad City”) and Graham (“Mozart in the Jungle”) said their goal in reimagining one of the most beloved sports movies of all time was to tell stories the movie didn’t.

These include the stories of black players locked out of the league – represented on the show by pitcher Max (Chanté Adams) – and queer players, of which there were many, albeit locked down.

For McCormack, 31, it was important not just to tell weird stories, but to tell them as mundane tales that weren’t about hardship.

“There were times on set where we were kind of, like you do when they internalize years of homophobia and misogyny… ‘Is this show, are we making it too gay?’ And then we thought, what an absurd thing because no one ever questions – I mean, I do question – hegemonic love affairs between a man and a woman. And hopefully the way we’ve presented these gay stories, straight people can see themselves in these stories because we’ve been asked to see ourselves in straight stories for so long.

It’s ironic that McCormack began performing through an art form that has traditionally adhered to rigid heterosexual gender roles: musical theatre.

She was seven years old when her mother took her to the Harold Prince revival of the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical “Show Boat” in Vancouver.

“I had never seen a play or a musical before, and Lonette McKee came out in the second act, sat down in a chair and sang the song ‘Bill,’ which I think is the one of the most exquisite pieces of music ever written.

“And I had a panic attack at seven, like my hair was standing on end, I was sweating,” McCormack recalled. “And at that time, nothing could stop me from being on stage.”

She immediately asked her mother to enroll her in acting and singing lessons. “All I ever wanted to do was be on Broadway.”

McCormack eventually arrived in New York, where she joined the experimental Flea Theater company.

“It wasn’t really until I moved to Toronto about seven or eight years ago that I started making movies myself and then working in film, but I never expected that. . I really wanted to be like a complete experimental theater nerd, musical theater nerd, opera nerd (nerd).

But whether it’s TV, film, theater or music (she’s working on an album), “at the end of the day, it’s all about storytelling and I’m addicted to it.”

It is also essential that, whatever his work, “he tries to get things done on behalf of women, who are my muse, my religion, my love. So the idea that I got to play that, like, cool, swagger…shortstop and gotta be in a show that was politically in the right direction, I mean it feels very surreal.

McCormack is also thrilled that Jess is from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, which was her idea.

Not only were there plenty of Canadian women in the real All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, established in 1943 to entertain Major League Baseball fans while male players were away during World War II, Moose Jaw was a relatively open mind. town.

Although surrounded by farmland, the town was involved in smuggling during Prohibition, had many brothels and bars and even held a lesbian parade in the 1940s, McCormack said.

She described Jess as “a farm boy,” but doesn’t necessarily view the character as non-binary. “There (are) people who may not want to identify with anything; they just want to be themselves and maybe be a baseball player or an artist in my case.

Jess is a member of the Rockford Peaches, the most successful team in the real league, which was also the focus of the movie ‘A League of Their Own’.

Luckily, McCormack didn’t have to lie during her audition when asked if she played baseball. She played while growing up, with volleyball, some hockey and was a nationally competitive synchronized swimmer.

But all of the TV Peaches practiced for a few months with players like pitcher Kelsie Whitmore, catcher Beth Greenwood and Justine Siegal, the first female coach of a professional men’s team.

And yes, McCormack and Lena Park, the show’s baseball coordinator, spent time between shoots filming plays to show Graham and Jacobson and the cinematographer.

“In the end, (the actors) were like ballplayers who had to act,” McCormack said.

“Hopefully in the second season, fingers crossed, we can do a lot more baseball.”

“A League of Their Own” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Debra Yeo is an associate editor and contributor to Star’s Entertainment section. She is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @realityeo

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