Profile: Kelly McCormack

Keats  from Kelly’s -  #sickinexile  series

Keats from Kelly’s - #sickinexile series

When I was cast as co-captain of the Letterkenny Women’s Hockey Team, I immediately asked my agent with whom I would have the pleasure of coaching this fictitiously epic team with (I swear I was mouthing her name when he said it) none other than- Kelly Mc-goddamn-Cormack. I’ve been geeking, crushing, creepin’ on this brilliant artist for awhile. The instagram posts of her in silk pajamas on the Cannes red carpet stole my heart, and when I saw her at TIFF adorning a similarly androgenous, haute-couture-seeming-yet-a-total-ironical-slap-in-the-face-outfit: I was smitten. Kelly and I have since done 3 seasons of the show together and our six hour car drives to Sudbury has become a huge highlight of the gig for me.

Kelly is a quintuple threat. A brilliant actor, singer, writer, producer, hockey player (she’s gonna kill me for that one). She seems to do it all and in such a thoughtful, authentic and honest way. She is a revelation to me and someone whom I consistently reference as a beautiful beacon of integrity.

Growing up, did you have anyone in your life or did you look to anyone in the media that modeled a “powerful woman” to you? Can you describe what their power looked like and why it attracted you?

Joni Mitchell. I didn’t know women were allowed to be as free as she was. The fact that she was able to articulate it so masterfully in her music just amplified her power and blew my mind.

What does power mean to you now?

In an abstract sense, I could boil it down to four words: Silence, Solitude, Anonymity and Androgyny. It’s taken me my entire life to dwindle down a personal feeling of power to these four terms. They seem simple enough, but fuck me if I haven’t worked my ass off for them. Together they mean freedom to me, which I think is the ultimate expression of power

Carvaggio  from  #sickinexile

Carvaggio from #sickinexile

In what moments do you feel most powerful?

I feel the most powerful when I’ve emptied my bank account, and hopped on a plane to a different country without telling anyone, stayed up until 4am writing in an Airbnb alone, when no one knows where in the world I am, no one is awake, and no one knows what’s in my head. Whatever I’m writing down I haven’t even spoken out loud, not even to myself. That’s when I feel like I could burn down the fucking world. In the dead of those nights, all possibilities are open to me. It’s magic. Think evil male sorcerer on top of a dark mountain in a every fantasy book sorta vibes. I’ll even put on a well healed shoe and slowly pace around the apartment like a tortured French poet.

Perhaps this habit explains the four words above? As long as I can remember, I’ve hated sleep, and I would fake going to bed as a child just to stay up late to do work. Don’t ask me what. Crafts? beading? title pages? What do seven year olds do at night? I just wanted to sit at my desk when everyone was asleep and feel its power. I would make lists of all the things I wanted to do tomorrow, that weekend, in the summer, in my lifetime. I haven’t stopped. But this habit has a tendency to bother people. Especially - you guessed it - when it’s a woman’s habit. The amount of work, heartache and pain that has gone into carving out this time for myself, and what it means to me, this silence, this solitude, probably explains that it is now always accompanied by wine. Like the long silences a revered man can put between each word as he stands behind a podium because he knows people will wait for what will come out of his mouth next. I find silence a formidable, hard earned power.

Do you find yourself re-examining the ways in which you source your power ?

I find myself distilling it, looking for the common denominators so I can get to the source faster [see the four words above]. What has been special about this last year, and something I’ve never felt before, is a collective power, the collective power of women. We can all feel it. I get crazy images of vast barren landscapes being pulverized by a loud rolling storm when I’m making coffee in the morning, listening to the news. Something brutal in our vast shared history is coming to a head. Then the word Mother is spoken in my mind, with the lowest possible voice and I cry and tremble at the power of it. For someone who has learned to source power solo at night like some weirdo loner dandy sorcerer, it’s pretty awe inspiring. I can’t believe I’m alive for it. I can feel the army. Yes, “Mother” is the surprise fifth power word. Time to give my dark garnet rosary a new bead yeah?

Do you have an example of a hard lesson or a failure of yours on a quest to source power?

Any moment in my life when I put on mascara, honestly. I’ve been on stage since I was seven years old, starting in musical theatre, opera, classical music etc. All I wanted was to be on stage, to sing, to sing the most crushingly beautiful solos the medium has to offer. But there was a very clear algorithm before me: look like a leading lady = become a leading lady. I didn’t even question an alternative. And for a blonde soprano, that meant one thing; you dress like a capital G.I.R.L. Not just any girl. An Ingenue. A virgin ingenue. I thought my ticket to success was my femininity, or my “fuckability” as one director in New York said. And since I’m a driven mother fucker, I went HARD. I ignored the fact that I’ve always felt the most myself when I wore “boy clothes” and wished I was a dude and hated my feminine body. When I was sixteen, this drunk hairstylist accidentally cut my hair short, and I felt like someone had miraculously removed snakes off my neck while simultaneously feeling like I was letting everyone down. I don’t fault myself for feeling that, cause [see any play/movie/painting/art/planet Earth],

Death in Venice  from  #sickinexile

Death in Venice from #sickinexile

but it took me too long to realize that every time I tried to be a desirable *woman*, people didn’t see me, which totally makes sense. How could they? They saw a performance on top of a performance. Any time in my life where I gained a inch of power, it was because I ditched the feminine fuckability, and every time I failed, it was directly because of it. I couldn’t be what people wanted, and be myself at the same time. The math would never check out. It was the greatest failure of my life and I’m very thankful for it.

If you could tell your 18 year old self one piece of advice what would it be? Also can you give us context as to where you were at that point in your life?

I’m addicted to change and shedding skin, and neither happens without failure and being stupid and doing things the hard way, so I’d be a dick and not tell my 18 year-old self shit. Nothing that would sideline potential growth. I’d probably just tell her to CALL YOUR MOTHER FOR FUCK SAKE YOU SELFISH YOUNG PERSON and stay on top of flossing. For a quick glimpse - at 18 I had just finished my first year of university in the south of England where I was studying literature at an exchange school on a scholarship I worked my ass off for. I was quoting Jonathan Swift like an idiot, working as a gardener at a castle (Herstmonceux. Just google it for fun) for the summer while all my friends went off traveling cause I was too broke to join. I thought I was in loooove with this 25 year old alcoholic bass player from Dublin who I met only a couple times so I took a 1 euro flight sale on RyanAir to Sardinia to go on a solo adventure to “find myself” without telling my Mom (such a jerk move) and ended up getting stuck there, working at a bed and breakfast for a few months, getting into precarious dangerous situations with older Italian men, met a 14 year Moroccan kid named Yuness who sold towels on the beach and we became best friends. We rode bikes around, not understanding each others language. I was struggling with whether or not I should just move to New York and get onstage as fast as I could which was all my heart desired or finish my degree first so people would think I was smart and I wouldn’t let anybody down. I eventually got back to Canada, and started working at a dental office to pay for school. I think I also wore a pair of dog tags around my neck with the words ARTEMIS scratched on them which is so try-hard it hurts.

You can watch Kelly on SyFy’s Killjoys, Hulu/CraveTV’s Letterkenny and soon in her new feature “Sugar Daddy” in which she wrote and is starring. Please do yourself a favour and check out her #sickinexile series on instagram. Kelly recently took a trip to Italy to cure her undiagnosed tuberculosis; she was inspired by the many stories of wealthy scholars and poets who went down to Italy for healing and were overwhelmed with a renewal of health inspired by beauty. Follow her on insta @kellyandphillis, check her site at

Jessica Salgueiro