Ten Minutes With R.J. Kelly
If you see R.J. Kelly around town, you might think he looks familiar because you’ve noticed him on the soccer sidelines or at the grocery store. But more likely, he looks familiar because you’ve seen him on TV. He is a successful actor with many national commercials, as well as some theater and TV shows to his credit. Kelly, who lives in Wilton with his wife, Jackie, and their two young children, talks about his career.
How long have you lived in Wilton?
My wife and I moved here five years ago. We were living in LA, but my mother was sick and we decided it was time to move back East to be near her. I grew up in Darien so I knew the area. We had some good friends living in Wilton. They raved about what a great place it was to raise a family. While in LA, I started looking at properties over the Internet, and we ended up buying a great house, with a big level back yard for the kids, in a South Wilton cul-de-sac. I love that when we are home it feels so far away, when in fact, everything is so close and accessible.
How did you get into commercials?
At my father’s insistence, I majored in business, but I always knew I wanted to do something creative. After college, I had a lot of different jobs including working as a carpenter. Some friends were into acting and I thought it seemed like fun, so I took acting classes. It’s a really tough business, but I found a great agent. In the beginning, I did regional commercials, minor soap opera roles, and voiceover work.
Where might we have seen you recently?
I have appeared in national commercials for Lowe’s, Trident Layers, Ally Bank, and Certain Dri Antiperspirant. Many of the jobs I do have an element of comedy. I love to make people laugh. Occasionally I have the chance to improvise on set. I enjoy that.
What is your typical week?
My wife teaches English at Middlesex Middle School in Darien. She leaves early in the morning, so I play Mr. Mom. I get our two children up, ready, and off to school. One or two days a week I head into New York City for auditions—some national, but many more regional ones. To survive in this business, you have to have a thick skin. You can go on many auditions with no results. But it’s worth it when you get that call from your agent saying “Congratulations.”
What do you do when you aren’t acting?
A few years ago, the acting business was slow and I wasn’t getting many jobs, so I decided to start a landscaping business. I began with just three clients, but over the last three years I have grown the business to over 30 clients. I have a great crew working for me; they do a great job and are very dependable. It keeps me busy between acting jobs.
I’d like to get more TV roles and break into movie acting, so I go back to LA several times a year to meet with TV and movie producers. Like every business, it can be hard to switch once you have been pigeon-holed into a category, but I have a lot of friends in the industry and something is bound to break my way soon.