Exclusive Interview with Kevin Dunigan

After a successful career in security in the entertainment industry protecting people like Arsenio Hall, En Vouge and Toni Braxton; he decided he wanted to give acting a chance, and fulfill a life long dream. On Sunday February 17th you can see him in the character of "Smoke" as part of an elite force trying to capture KITT

Continue to read our exclusive interview with him. Also be sure to check out our previous interviews with David Bartis and Sydney Tamiia Poitier.

KRO: Thank you for the interview

DUNIGAN: No problem!

KRO: Are you familiar with our site? You know who we are?

DUNIGAN: Yeah, I checked it out. It's pretty tight, I like it. How long has it been up?

KRO: About twelve years.

DUNIGAN: Wow, that's great. Well I tell you, you guys are gonna get a lot of great footage and a lot of great stuff from this new Knight Rider, man.

KRO: From what we've seen so far it looks great!

DUNIGAN: You guys have seen the trailers and stuff, right?

KRO: Yeah, we've posted the 2-minute trailer and the 30-second commercials.

DUNIGAN: Steve Schill, he's the director, he directed quite a few episodes of The Wire and some other top TV programs, and I'm telling you... he had a great eye, a great vision. There's a great script by Dave Andron. We just had a great production team. It was a lot of fun to do. And also a great cast. They really did their job casting everybody.

KRO: Looking at your bio, it says you started out in security?

DUNIGAN: Yeah, I started as a professional bodyguard. When I got started, I really had no idea or goal or a starting point as an actor. Or consciously having a plan. I was doing entertainment security and just because of my previous training and everything with DOJ and protection, I kind of stood out from the other bodyguards at that time. Rap was really big and it was new on the horizon. Most of their security or bodyguards were wearing warm-up suits and baseball caps and sneakers, and I was wearing a suit and tie or suit and a mock-neck, so I kind of stood out. And with that, a lot of the clients, especially Arsenio Hall, whenever we'd go to a function or an award show or whatever, they thought I was his actor friend. ANd I would have to say "no, I'm a bodyguard, his security."

But that planted the seed. It was like hey, if they think you have a certain look, take advantage of it because 70% of Hollywood is "look". You don't necessarily have to have talent or a whole lot of skill, you can get that as on-the-job-training. And I didn't think much of it because outside of maybe a play that I did in middle school or something like that, it was like nobody wants to hire me as an actor. But since he had a lot of actors and actresses on his show, I would pull them aside and say "hey, I'm thinking about getting into acting, what's the best direction to go." And the consensus I got was if you have any talent then get some skills- try stage, the theater first. I did that and the first couple of plays I auditioned for I booked them. They weren't major roles, they weren't leading roles but they were significant enough where I learned a lot, asked a lot of questions.

I think the first three commercials I went out for I booked two out of those three. And so it was like maybe there's something there. I was kind of bit by the acting bug, but at the same time my security business had evolved into being an independent contractor, all the way to now having a security company. It was kind of like a 50-50 thing as far as acting. I wouldn't even say 50-50. Acting was a "maybe", but the bodyguard security company, that was there. So I gave it up for 10 years and pursued that. And like around '92 I was still bit (laughs). So I said I'm trying to help other folks live their dreams, I'm going to go ahead and pursue my dream. It was real fortunate. Some good workshops that I went to. I never took a major acting class or studied acting in college or anything like that. It worked out well.

KRO: You worked on Raines?

DUNIGAN: Yeah, I was the technical advisor for Raines for all eight episodes.

KRO: That's great, because Dave Andron was a writer on that show.

DUNIGAN: Right, that's where we met actually. We worked on Raines together. He's a real cool guy. Let me say this: he's a real cool guy in the office and in the writer's room and everything. But we also started playing basketball
together. And he's like ultra-competitive, I'm ultra-competitive, so it was
a mesh of two - I won't say Type A personalities - but two similar
personalities. And it was funny because the first two games, it was like
Kobe and Shaq: the beginning (laughs). And I won't even say the beginning.
It was like Kobe and Shaq... He was doing things that he thought could help
us win. I was trying to do things I thought could help us win. But out of
that friction, we became great friends.

It was funny too because we were
playing in this league on the weekends, I was saying "hey, what are you up
to" and he was like "I'm working on this script, I'm working on this
script". I said "OK, cool. This went on for four or five months. And finally
he was like "you know that script i was working on, I'm finally finished and
I think NBC's gonna like it." I said "what is it?" He said "oh, it's Knight
Rider". I was like "WHAT?! You're writing Knight Rider? Cool." Because I was
a Knight Rider fan. And then we got to talking about it and my manager saw
it online and I said "hey I like that character and I want to audition for
it." The rest is history.

KRO: Did you have to go through a few rounds of auditions? Did you have to go through the network?

DUNIGAN: Well the cool thing about it is that my character "Smoke" originally wasn't
as significant as it ended up being so I didn't have to go. The series
regular roles, they basically have to go through network approval etcetera
etcetera. And then the smaller roles, they let the director and the
producers make the final decision. We all got together and they saw the
chemistry and everything it was kind of like "hey, these four bad guys, not
only are they mercenaries and killers but they work good together." And we
just had a nice little vibe. By the time we finished filming it was kind of
like they're all gonna stay alive, if we get the numbers maybe we'll bring
them back. Which I hope they get the numbers (laughs).

KRO: Everyone hopes that. So you were a fan of the original series.

DUNIGAN: Yes. It came out in the early 80s and I was in college at the time, I'm giving up my age, and that was one of the things. When you're in college, you always want to have a fly ride. What other car is better than KITT? (laughs)

KRO: Your character is one of the villains. What can you tell us about him?

DUNIGAN: I play one of the bad guys, Smoke. Part of the reason why they call me Smoke
is because that's what I do to people. They get Smoked (laughs). The
character is led by Ellis' character which is Welther. We're trying to get
this car, trying to get paid. Trying to kill the bad guys, doing what
private mercenary contractors do. Stick to the agenda. Accomplish the
mission, and get paid.

KRO: What was it like shooting?

DUNIGAN: It was great. Steve gave us a lot of room to play with the characters. One
of the things is that you very rarely - I don't think at all - you'll see
Smoke smiling in this. When the camera's not rolling, behind the scenes
we're always cracking up and laughing at each other's mistakes, and
out-takes. Greg... you can not keep a straight face around him because he
always has something going on. And between Jack and myself, because we're
both playful and mischievous, we were always having the crew crack up. But
Smoke's character never smiles. There's a few scenes in there that just kind
of shows his lack of regard for life, but the main thing is that Smoke stays
cool. He never loses his cool. And even when he's popping around at the good guys or pursuing them, he never loses his cool. And one of the things... have you interviewed Justin?

KRO: No, I haven't yet.

DUNIGAN: Justin Bruening who plays the new Knight Rider... I'm pretty sure you guys know about him hurting his knee right?

That was during a fight scene with me (laughs). I didn't hurt his knee, I didn't dislocate his knee or anything but we were doing this fight scene that's really choreographed and I'm doing my bit keeping from getting my butt kicked. And he just planted his foot in a wrong way after about the 3rd or 4th take and dislocated his knee. Almost right on top of me. We had gone over the scene 3 or 4 times and when he fell on top of me he was like "oh my gosh, my knee! my knee!" That's not in the script. Has there been a rewrite I don't know anything about? (laughs) Then I heard Steve yell "cut" and everybody started running over. This is serious. This isn't make-believe. This is for real.

KRO: We saw that clip on Access Hollywood. I didn't realize that was you there.

DUNIGAN: Yup that was me, getting the snot beaten out of me (laughs).

KRO: When we spoke to Sydney Potier and she spoke very highly of you.

DUNIGAN: I'm going to have to tell her thank you.

KRO: She said you taught her how to hold a gun properly and how to act like an FBI agent.

DUNIGAN: Sydney's a sweetheart. She was very receptive and just a joy to work with. I worked as a consultant on a TV show titled Boomtown, I think it was 2002, 2003. One of the things I got from a lot of people in the industry and a lot of people who work in law enforcement or the government, was that the gunplay and the situations look real. They look authentic. A lot of times if you watch cop shows you can kind of tell sometimes I've never seen a cop do that before. You can tell phony. When we were shooting a couple of scenes and Sydney grabbed her gun... she never had any major gun training or tactical gun training. I believe she had a .45. And the type of .45 she had you had to have the hammer back. So when she pulled her weapon when we were going through rehearsal, I was like wait a minute. There's something not right with that picture. I realized the hammer wasn't back. I told her hey, this is how your weapon would look once you pull it and I explained to her the reason why. It's not just as an actor to say "make it look like this" and not have a reason for it. So I gave her the reason for it and the practicality for it. And then showed her how to properly do a modified weaver as far as how to position your body and arms and everything just before you fire. Like I said, she was really cool and really receptive and she soaked it up like a sponge. It was cool.

KRO: Since you're a bad guy, is there a likelihood of your character returning?

DUNIGAN: The door is open to that. It would be great. I know with Kevin Christie and Jack Yang, those are the other two bad guys, there are four of us. And I know that in the original Knight Rider there were always bad guys that were trying to catch the car. The opportunity is there, I hope the network is receptive to it and we could have some fun in the fall.

KRO: Are there any other plans for you after Knight Rider?

DUNIGAN: I'm doing a pilot in about 2 weeks. It's a Sony/A&E, it's a cable pilot called Danny Sprint. 14:30 It's a pretty good pilot. It's about a L.A. Homicide detective, female homicide detective, who's like a maverick and a live wire. I read the script and from what I understand I'm in the running for one of the characters and it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.

KRO: Good luck with that.

DUNIGAN: Thanks. Oh, then there are a couple movies that are supposed to come out this year that I'm in. One is called The Take with John Leguizamo and Tyrese Gibson.

KRO: I like John Leguizamo.

DUNIGAN: Yeah, he's cool. He's a character too. He's funny. And another one that's a big independent film is Life is Hot in Cracktown which stars Evan Ross and Kerry Washington, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Brandon Routh.

KRO: On your IMDB page, you have this crazy shot of you with all these layers of clothing. What is that about?

DUNIGAN: (laughs) That was a Citibank commercial that I did about 3 years ago. In fact, if you go to MySpace and punch in my name you can go to my videos and see my demo reel and you can see the entire commercial. (Kevin Dunigan on MySpace) But it's basically they had a campaign going on that people.... One of the commercials where two guys were mountain biking and one guy was acting like he was mountain biking. And thing was that he didn't have what he wanted or he didn't have what he needed. In my case I was going on a plane trip or a business trip and I didn't have a suitcase so I had to wear all my clothes on the plane. So that's why I was putting on all those layers of clothes.

KRO: Looks pretty heavy.

DUNIGAN: Well actually it was probably 5 or 6 layers but I had a fat suit on under that. It made it look huge actually.

KRO: That's all the questions we have, unless there's any other things you want to talk about, otherwise thank you so much for your time!

DUNIGAN: Just tell everybody that you know, and make sure that they tell everybody that they know, to watch Knight Rider February 17th, 9pm NBC. And hopefully we'll get the numbers, and the audience is receptive to it, and the network picks it up for the fall season, and the writer's strike is over with so we can have many more interviews like this (laughs).

KRO: That's probably the biggest issue right there, the strike.

DUNIGAN: Exactly. Exactly. So I'm going to be visiting the website and you guys have the messageboard? So I'll hit that up and if I see anything, any questions that come up there that I can answer, I'll definitely hit it up.

KRO: Thank you so much, we really appreciate that.

DUNIGAN: No problem, anything I can do man.

Thanks to Kevin Dunigan for his time! You can also see Kevin in action in the commercial below. We'll be back soon with an interview with Deanna Russo - Sydney in the new Knight Rider - Airing Sunday February 17th on NBC