Kai Wener – Shining Star
Q&A By Tyrone Davis
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Kai Wener and I’m pretty much your average 10 year old in the 5th grade that has been lucky enough to work with some really cool people and on some really cool projects. I’m from Southern California and I live with my parents, my big sister, our family dog and my pet tortoise.
How do you balance school and work?
I still attend public school where I’ve had a great group of friends since Kindergarten. Balancing acting, school and other extracurricular activities takes a lot of work, but with the support of my parents they tend to work all of the details and scheduling out for me. On the other hand, I make sure that my academics come first. There are so many hours of schooling I must put in before I can even step foot on set. My teachers at school and my set teachers have been really great in working together which makes things a lot easier for me to be able to do both, as well as transitioning back and forth between filming and non-filming days.
How did you feel when you landed the role of Ty Finn in FOX’s “The Orville”?
Booking any role is exciting and gives you such a happy rush, but knowing this role was to work on a FOX network show created by Mr. Seth MacFarlane was the icing on the cake for me. Words can’t even describe how excited and happy I was when I found out but let’s just say there was a lot of screaming and dancing going on.
What is “The Orville” about?
The Orville is a Science Fiction show on FOX that was created by and stars Mr. Seth MacFarlane. It takes place 400 years into the future and is about a space ship called “The Orville” and it’s crew. I play “Ty Finn” who is the youngest son of the ship’s head medical doctor, “Dr. Claire Finn”, played by Penny Johnson-Jerald.
In what ways has actress Penny Johnson Jerald been helpful to you while working with her on the show?
Oh my gosh, I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful she’s been to me while working on the show! Miss Penny is such a “Mama Bear” and always makes sure that my on screen brother and I are having fun more than anything else. Filming on set can get pretty long sometimes, so she keeps our energy up by dancing with us, playing games and being silly. On top of that, Miss Penny will even take the time to pull me aside to help me get into character for our dramatic and emotional scenes. But, my favorite thing of all to do with her is when she helps me raid craft services for snacks!
Have you learned anything from her in particular that stands out to you?
Yes! I learned that being nice and welcoming can go a long way! My first day on set was for a table read with the whole cast, producers, writers, etc. I was so nervous because I found out I would be working with actors like Adrienne Palicki, who I always watched on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Scott Grimes, who I know started out as a kid actor like me, and not to mention Mr. Seth MacFarlane.
On top of that, this was a huge episode for me too! Miss Penny was so welcoming and treated me like one of her own kids from the first minute we met that I immediately felt comfortable and my nerves began to go away. So to this day because of Miss Penny, I always try to make it a point to introduce myself and welcome new people on set, especially when they are kids.
Have you had an opportunity to watch anyone go through the make-up process to become an alien? If so, what did you think?
Yes! I have been lucky enough to sit next to some of the cast while their special effects makeup is being applied and the transformation is unreal. Some cast consists of Peter Macon, who plays Bortus, Halston Sage, who plays Alara Kitan, and Jessica Szohr, who plays Talla Keyali. Howard Berger and his team are amazing! So amazing that one day, I had to go into the make-up trailer to have some special effects make-up taken off. I sat next to Howard and someone he was applying blue make-up on. After having a long conversation with both Howard and the blue alien, I get up to leave and the blue alien shakes my hand and introduces himself as “Rob.” I didn’t realize the blue alien was Rob Lowe until after I left the makeup trailer. I wanted to scream!
The show reminds me of a comedic version of “Star Trek”. I know that show is before your time, but has anyone ever shown it to you?
Yes, as a matter of fact after working with Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis my parents showed me some episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine so that I can understand the inspiration behind The Orville.
What is your favorite scene from the show and why?
I think my favorite scene from the show has been Episode 8 from Season 1, “Into the Fold” where my family’s shuttle crashed on an alien planet. The crew set up one of the shuttles on this huge mechanical lift that shook the shuttle back and forth like it was out of control! We were inside and it threw all of us around like we were really crashing. On top of that, I got to do all of my own stunts in the scene!
Name a moment on set that made you laugh hysterically.
When we were shooting the last episode for this Season 2, J. Lee, who plays John Lamar on the show, decided to make a workout video using things that we had around the set, like wood boxes and sandbags. While J. Lee was filming the video, Scott Grimes, who plays Gordon Malloy on the show, walks by and J. Lee asked Scott to hold his feet while he does some kind of hand stand push up. Long story short, I don’t think Scott knew exactly what he needed to do, but he agreed to help and the next thing you know, there were a lot of feet flying around while J. Lee tried to catch his balance. I don’t think J. Lee ever posted the video, but those two together are just as funny off screen as they are on screen!
What do you enjoy most about being an actor?
The coolest thing for me is meeting so many creative actors, directors, and fans. I also get to travel to places I’ve never been before. Being an actor has also given me the chance to work on a spaceship with all kinds of different Aliens. It’s a 10 year old’s dream!
You met the legend, Steven Spielberg recently. How was it?
I was so star struck that nothing would come out of my mouth for the longest time! But, I was finally able to tell him how big of a fan I am of so many of his films! I even told him how when my Dad coached my sister’s softball team, we named the team, “The Goonies.” Most of all though, I felt that it was so cool that someone as big as Steven Spielberg is still down to earth enough to take the time to stop and talk to little ole’ me! Definitely made my day!
What is your “Top 5” favorite films that he has created?
The Goonies, E.T., Jurassic Park, Gremlins and Back to the Future.
How long have you been playing the keyboard and what is your favorite song to play?
I’ve been learning to play classical piano now for about one year. I even try to teach myself to play songs by ear. My favorite song to play is John Legend’s, All of Me.
What do you like to do when you aren’t acting?
When I’m not acting, I like to play my favorite game which right now is, Fortnite. My family and I are also huge Disney fans, so you can almost guarantee that if I’m not auditions for a new project, that I’m standing I line for a ride or churro at Disneyland.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
My fingers are always crossed that you’ll be able to see me on a third season of The Orville, but I would also love to be able to work on a feature film in the future. Other than that, you can always expect me to be practicing, working hard and doing my best to be involved in more projects.
Follow Kai on IG @kai.wener and Twitter @kaiwener and tune in to “The Orville”, Thursdays @9pm on FOX!
Photo of Kai By Birdie Thompson.