Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Interview: Actor John Donchak on Playing Sam in the new Flick Killian and the Comeback Kids, Being on the Set of The Tick and Following "Da Bears"

John Donchak Photo by Gabe Boucher
Interview by Suzanne Ordas Curry

Meet John Donchak, an up and coming actor out of New York City imported from Chicago. Coming soon you'll see him in the new film Killian and the Comeback Kids, in which he stars along with Taylor Purdee as a millenial seeking to find purpose, and a job in this stage of his life. But in addition to being in front of the camera, John also works behind the scenes as a stunt coordinator, fight choreographer and stunt performer, most recently on the show The Tick. Get to know him with this interview:

Tell me about your role in Killian and the Comeback Kids.

            John Donchak: I play Sam Amico: a classmate from Killian’s High School days.  Sam has no real experience of life outside his small town except from what he’s read and seen on TV.  Through the movie he earns the title ‘Band Manager’ of the Comeback Kids.  Although he’s by no means the prodigal ‘talent’ of the group, he cares about everyone in it and finds his unique ways to best support the band.

John Donchak, Taylor Purdee and David Bruson

What did you add to this character? Your character is quite kirky.  
Was that easy or hard for you to do?

            John Donchak: Through the movie, we learn Sam was a bit of an outsider during high school.  There were also hints in the script that Sam’s still not totally adept at little social cues, sometimes it comes through in his mechanic speech pattern, maybe he stares a little longer in conversation than other people tend to, but there’s a timidness to him, a uniquely sincere frankness that seems misunderstood by his peers. 
Finding that vulnerability as the truth behind every little mannerism we see in him was important for me.  I related to Sam and sympathized with him, so those acting choices came from that deeper place as opposed to just pulling 
a card out of a deck of quirks. 

Note: Killian and the Comeback Kids is coming soon. For updates visit:

Tell me about an acting job you had in the past...
what was your favorite so far or most interesting? 

John Donchak: Working on The Tick has definitely been the most informative and interesting experience yet.   I began as a production assistant for the costume department (a Costume PA) on Season 1, and worked as a stunt double for one of the main characters in Season 2.  Working behind the scenes was an eye opening experience to how much work is involved on any given day not only on location, but also back at the studio where everyone’s preparing for the next day of filming. 
Plus the whole team has been super friendly and supportive.  

From the Costume Designer who first hired me, to the Stunt Coordinator who brought me on for season 2, even the show’s creator would always take the time to shake my hand and greet me on set.  That kindness trickled down to everyone, the cast, crew, teamsters, craft services, etc. you really couldn’t ask for a better team to be a part of and learn from.  It continues to be a great branching off pint, the experience and connections I’ve made in the past 2 seasons have led to work on many other great projects. The Tick Season 2 is now streaming on Amazon! 

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Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your childhood.

            John Donchak: I’m a Chicago kid through and through, so deep dish pizza, hot dogs with everything on them, playing basketball in alleys, following ‘da Bears’ and all that Jazz was just a day in the life. 

More specifically, I grew up in the south loop but went to a public school in Old Town called LaSalle Language Academy.  One of the great things about it was that you were taught a foreign language from kindergarten onwards.  I took French, and it really stuck with me.  I continued to study it through High School and College, and still use it to this day, whether it’s watching French movies without subtitles, listening to French music, or re-reading some poems by Jacques Prévert. 

Why do you think your character will resonate with people?

John Donchak: I think Sam has a lot of heart.  He grew up an outsider and he sees this band as a chance to break that pattern, a place to belong.  He’s really invested himself in it, and maybe this time around they’ll receive him differently.  Sometimes it’s not so much about that one person who’s ‘being weird’ as much as it is about everyone else being quick to judge.  I think seeing Sam and the people around him grow through the arc of the movie will definitely have its resonance with the audience.  Although Sam’s not fighting Apollo Creed, there’s still an underdog element to him, and don’t we all love to see the underdog try and shine?

Why do you think people will like this movie or what do you like about it?

John Donchak: What I love about this movie is it’s can-do spirit.  I think this movie will appeal to a lot of people, whether you’re fresh out of school and trying to make sense of the outside world, or you’ve been a longstanding member of the outside world, it still flips on you.  And when it does, it’s important to find a community to belong to.  That feeling of solidarity really helps, and I think this movie’s a gentle reminder of the importance in daring to be bold with the right people by your side. 

Top Five Fave Flicks

The Great Beauty
John Wick
Children of Paradise
For a Few Dollars More

Something you would binge on if you had time.

            For better or worse, I generally find or make the time for things I feel worth binging.  I’m super late to the game but I just watched The Haunting of Hill House in almost one sitting.  Loved it, it’s a show you start for the scares, but by the end you’re so invested in how this family comes together in the face of loss that the scares become an afterthought.

            There’s still a lot of anime for me to catch up on.  I loved watching anime on Cartoon Network’s Toonami and Adult Swim.  My favorites were Cowboy Bebop followed closely by Yu-Yu Hakusho and Rurouni Kensin.  I recently finished Samurai Champloo, and working my way through Naruto, but the ‘Gundam’ canon keeps expanding, so I have to catch up on that sometime… but me talking anime is a whole other can of worms, so I’ll just cut my rambling off for now, haha.  

Taylor Purdee and John Donchak piling it on.
Food you would eat while binging.

            Ooh, I have a big sweet tooth.  Especially for anything chocolate or cookie dough related. In an ideal world my freezer would always have a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie, or Phish Food in stock. 
If I’m feeling fancy and going out, I’m all about 16 handles’ Graham Cracker, flavor with a side of Mango and chocolate.  (Toppings include but are not limited to: Cookie Dough bites, Brownie bites, Cheesecake Bites, Chocolate Chips, Crushed Oreo’s, with Nutella and marshmallow spread… and a lychee to top it off.)
Your idea of a perfect day. 
            Waking up early in the morning, going for a ‘wake me up jog’ then heading to set with sides in hand, eating breakfast with a crew I’m close to, and getting underway on filming for the day.  Maybe my character has a stunt, maybe he speaks French, maybe he gets to fall in love with someone in a scene, and at the end of a long day, hearing the director yell ‘that’s a wrap!’  We’re all tired, but we’re fulfilled.  I had a taste of that perfect day feeling for 2 months working on this movie, and I look forward to a life spent in that same vein. 

To Connect with John:

Instagram:  jdonchak
Personal website: