Everyone loves a rags to riches story, you know the one that follows a handsome gentleman’s journey to securing a future, and a love to last him a lifetime. Leith Bayard, once a kitchen servant for the king and his court, did the unimaginable. He set his sights on a woman— but not just any woman, one who was vastly out of his league. This woman not only captured his heart but turned out to be one of Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) Ladies in Waiting. Jonathan Keltz, who plays the lovestruck gent on the 16th century series Reign, has does a brilliant job of bringing to life an extremely relatable and lovable character on the hit CW series.
Keltz, whose character overcame many obstacles and ultimately found himself on the receiving end of King Francis’ (Toby Regbo) gratitude after saving his life in battle, has quickly become a fan favorite on the history themed show. And although he has yet to land his one true love, Leith is dedicated to living a long, prosperous life– with or without Greer (Celina Sinden). Who can we mention has denied two, count ‘em two marriage proposals from the handsome soldier. Hey Leith, I volunteer as tribute– I’ll marry you and your mad cooking skills.
Keltz not only spoke with me about the future of Greer and Leith, but also about the arrival of his talented friend Rachel Skarsten, who plays Queen Elizabeth I, aka Mary’s untimely rival. We even got to chat about potential guest stars, and all of the amazing projects he has coming up.
Now kitchen boy, don’t you ever forget that you’re our first choice!
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Reign recently returned and this break seemed extra long. Can you give us a run down about your character, Leith and what sparked your interest in this show in the beginning.
JK: I’m a history fan and I was really excited that the CW was making a show like this. I had met with them for the pilot and once they got picked up, they asked me to come on board and play Leith. It’s been a great ride. It’s been a lot of fun just getting to ride Leith throughout the class climbing journey he’s been on and obviously Mary Queen of Scots and now Queen Elizabeth, they’re such prominent, strong women in history so it’s exciting to be a part of a show that showcases that.
MM: Your character went from being a kitchen boy to a respectable member of court and the king’s friend. What was your reaction playing that shift or evolution? It’s definitely a take on the rags to riches story.
JK: I’ve been very fortunate with the arch I’ve gotten on the show. It’s crazy. We’re on our third year so it’s three years now that I’ve been able to live this live. It’s brought a lot of shifts in terms of his lifestyle, even down to the everyday functions of court. He used to have to serve all of these events that I’m not attending. It’s I sort of hopped around and got the job and now I’m bodyguard to the Prince which is a job I wouldn’t have even been considered for before. It’s great that my friendship with Francis has been able to do so much and gain me so much respect at court. It’s fun getting to see and explore the different avenues around that.
MM: It’s awesome to see that character grow and step up the ladder. Obviously, the show is a period drama and your character has an accent. Initially, how did you get prepared for a role like this and did you find any words to be particularly challenging to say?
JK: I’m lucky that I’d sort of been working the accent already so that sort of was good practice. Then, once we got into it, we have had dialect coaches and stuff helping on the show, and being around the cast, staying in it for so long is hugely beneficial. I did as much research as I could into the time and these women and the functions of court, the behaviors of court, what would be the operating factors. Obviously we have our own modernized take on this story and on these people but we try to take as much of the broad strokes and functions of court as we can even though we take our creative liberties. We got to establish this world. Leith was there from the beginning and we were there figuring out what it was we wanted to be the boundaries of this sort of make believe take on history we have. It’s been fun to test the boundaries on that and play with it.
MM: It’s a really great show. I personally love it. So now, let’s talk Leith and Greer. What’s on the horizon for these two love birds? They definitely had a rocky start but is there hope for happiness? There’s so much happening and things changing.
JK: Things do change. The thing I’ll say is Greer has now turned Leith down from marriage twice. That’s a pretty hard thing to come back from. I think that we have potentially seen the last of these two love bird’s foray into romance. Greer is very committed to her career path and her business and being the independent woman she now is. Leith is, although in a very new stage in his life, still committed to wanting a traditional and conventional family that he imagines for himself. I don’t know if I see the two of them compromising on those two visions and dreams any time soon. We may have seen the end of Greith.
MM: I’m going to throw a wrench in this interview and ask if you were asked to choose between love and wealth which would you go with and do you think you’d react more like Leith or Greer?
JK: I would choose love, for sure. God, I think that Leith — I don’t think that Greer is choosing wealth. I don’t think that’s — in the reinventing of herself, she has tapped into a strong independence and that’s what she’s really attached to. It’s not the money. It’s being in control of one’s own life and destiny and having to rely only on herself. I think that’s made her stubborn and proud in terms of not being willing to accept a man as a partner in all of that and Leith Is having his own pride issues in terms of wanting to be the provider and protector and the one who can solve all of her problems and wants her to depend on him. It isn’t the battle of love vs. wealth for the two of them but not being able to get past their pride and their visions of what their lives are in the 1500’s. I would choose love, personally.
MM: And we’re finally bringing in Queen Elizabeth this season which should be an awesome storyline. Were you able to work with Rachel Skarsten at all or will that give something for the new season away?
JK: We’re only about half way through the season so anything that hasn’t happened in what we’ve shot yet, I have no idea what’s to come. I know barely more than you. I actually have known Rachel for years. We did the American Pie movie back in 2007. So I was thrilled that she was the one coming on to play Queen Elizabeth. Such a wonderful dynamic to the show and I think it adds an interesting dynamic to have the two, simultaneous courts and to have these two women at odds with each other. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Leith probably will stay in France. I can’t confirm or deny anything but I am a member of the royal guard so I would be surprised if I get there. I’d have to screw up pretty bad, I think.
MM: Or who knows, maybe Queen Elizabeth will show up in France.
JK: Who knows. I’d say Leith, right now is trying as hard as he can not to get in trouble. That’s what I’m trying not to do is get myself in trouble with the girl, the job, anything.
MM: Which probably means you’re going to get into some trouble. If Greer was no longer in the picture, what other character on the show would you set him up with?
JK: Oh that’s a pretty tough question. There’s probably some old storyline somewhere about Leith and Clarissa — no I’m kidding. I’m not sure. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll say that Leith would be lucky to be with any of the wonderful, beautiful, talented and strong women at French court or english court.
MM: That is a very vague answer. But we’ll take it. Obviously the show has had its hiccups in terms of graphic content but despite some fan outrage about where the show is headed, people are still watching and loving the show. What do you think sets this show apart from others in the same category?
JK: I think we’ve got our own category. We are a period drama but we are taking that in a different direction than others. Our show is really meant to be fun to watch. It’s not a history lesson. Although, there are historical elements to be taken from the show, we are really trying to look at these women as people and see them through the lens of 2015 humanity. That’s what the show does well is trying to relate these times and adapt it to a bit of a modernized feel. This season, I’m very excited about. I think the first season began in a light and fun place about these girls trying to be regular girls in a challenging place. We had a lot of dark, political and religious intrigue last year and I think this season is a nice blending of the two. There are some wonderful, light moments. There are some heartbreaking moments. There is some tense, political drama but it’s brought a little more fun back to the show and added some exciting stuff. I mean, we have a tiger in the premiere on Friday.It’s awesome. I can only say that because it’s in the trailer.
MM: Right, or else they would sic that tiger on you. You know, the costumes are pretty awesome on the show but not something you’d see in the US in 2015. How would you describe your sense of style in real life?
JK: Oh, my sense of style, I’m generally in a tee shirt and jeans or a three piece suit. That’s the options. I’m a big fan of suits. There’s a Toronto company that I’m a big fan of their suits. I love them. They’re great. A lot of nice, modernized, vintage, retro suits.
MM: Who would you say pulls the most pranks while filming?
JK: It’s so funny. People are convinced actors are just these perpetual pranksters. I think the person who has me laughing the most is Torrance [Coombs]. He’s absolutely hysterical. I’d say he’s definitely the one making me laugh but we’re not pantsing each other or throwing pies in each other’s faces or anything like that. A lot of the time when actors are on a set or anyone is on a set, the only real focus is making the day. I feel like Oceans 11 made it seem like all actors are trying to constantly pull one over on each other. I don’t know. Maybe I should be causing more pranks.
MM: I had the pleasure of speaking with him not too long ago and he seemed like he’d be fun to be around.
JK: Oh yeah, Torrance is awesome.
MM: Is there anyone you’d like to see guest star on Reign? Sky’s the limit. You can pick anyone.
JK: That’s– oh man — I would love to have Mark Pedowitz guest star on Reign. That would be awesome. He should definitely come play my father. Like the father I didn’t know I had who is a secret royal. That’s what should happen for sure. I’m going to call Laurie [McCarthy] right now.
MM: Do you have any hidden or unusual talents that the fans might not know about?
JK: I think this one is out there but I’ll say it again, I’m actually quite hilariously good at origami and I actually used to teach it when I was in fifth and sixth grade.
MM: Do you have a favorite thing you can make?
JK: Cranes are generally the thing. I had an hour and a half bus ride to and from school so you picked up lots of strange little hobbies. Origami was my thing.
MM: That is so cool I can’t do Origami so one day you will have to teach me. Now we’ll enter our rapid fire round so I’ll ask you some questions and whatever pops into your head, you have to go with it.
JK: You got it.
MM: Queen Elizabeth or Queen Mary?
JK: Queen Mary.
MM: Winter or summer?
MM: Night in with Netflix or night out with friends?
JK: Depends on the day of the week.
MM: Donuts or Muffins?
MM: Zombies or Aliens?
MM: Giants or Jets?
JK: Giants. Oh yeah. I was wearing my jersey during the game.
MM: Lastly can you talk about any projects you have coming up. You seem to be a very busy guy which is awesome.
JK: Yeah. I actually just did an episode of Man Seeking Woman, the FX show. I got to work with Jay Baruchel which was great and Simon [Rich], the writer producer, creator of the show is just a genius. I enjoyed working on that. I have a Canadian indie I just did called White Knight which takes place at a Street Art festival that happens here in town. We were shooting with four, simultaneous shooting units throughout the festival. It was hectic and crazy. There’s also a movie called Acquainted that I’m producing that’ll be shooting next year. That will be with my producing partner, Giacomo Giannotti who was on Reign the first season and is now on Grey’s Anatomy.
MM: Wow, that’s awesome. You have some great things coming up and we can not wait for everything. I wanted to thank you for chatting with me, I know you’re busy but this has been wonderful.
JK: My pleasure, of course.