Interview by: Ezzah Rafique | October 29, 2022
Photographer: Ryan West
Stylist: Veronica Graye
Groomer: Colleen Dominique
Hi! Thanks for your time, tell us a bit about who you are!
Hi, thank you for having me here. My name is Kieran Tamondong, I am twenty years old and I was born on the twenty-third of July in 2002. I grew up in a family of five with my loving parents and sisters. My life story typically begins at one pivotal moment in my performing career, the day I started taking up karate as my childhood sport and soon as my athletic identity. I competed for 12 years before I decided to pursue my goals of acting and college life. I am studying kinesiology and I have set my academic sights on getting a degree in physical therapy. I portray Konerak in the Dahmer series that came out this fall and I’m super proud of how far I have come.
Your most recent role stars you in Netflix’s new hit series, “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” What was your experience like filming this show?
The show came to me with great surprise as I did not know what I had gotten myself into getting to work on a serial killer series depicting Jeffrey Dahmer and the path of destruction he caused for families. I was filming for about two months out of the entire production and it was my highlight of last year for me as I literally stuck at home during peak pandemic. I knew I had a responsible role to enact and someone’s name to uphold so I took everything I could find about Konerak into consideration.
How did you prep for filming for such an intense show?
Well, once I discovered this would follow the trail left behind by Dahmer, I went to work studying scholarly articles dated back to the 1990s and early 2000s. Later on, I took on a public speaking class and chose to do my research and speech on Jeffrey Dahmer’s psychoanalysis of his upbringing and even the aftermath. Even if something appeared straight-up irrelevant to Dahmer and Konerak, I would jot it down in case it would come up again. By the time I got to the set on the first day of shooting, I was so nervous and worried that my preparation would not be up to the standards of what people were expecting of me. After all, I only had a couple of other roles I had done in the past. Even with the experience I already had, I never got to portray a real person who lived before, yet, everything washed away when it was me, Evan Peters, and the camera. Something just seemed to dissolve, either my state of anxiety or thoughts bouncing around in my head. I just took everything one moment at a time.
While filming the show, did you have a moment that really stuck with you whether it was during a scene or before filming?
I remember one moment where I witnessed the method acting of Evan Peters go to an extent that I’ve never seen in another actor. At this point in my preparation, there were still grey areas about Dahmer that I did not know. One thing I tell people who want to know what Evan was really like is how he is a polite and kind person but keeps everything professional including his method acting. He would say things, hit objects, and interact with me in ways that activated my sense of absolute terror for this man. Everything you saw on screen was a real reaction between us. The most terrifying experiences I had were from those couple of moments.
What's the best piece of advice you have been given by a fellow actor or director?
Resilience and acknowledgment that there will be setbacks and failures in my life or career. Those bumps along the path should not discourage me as they are a part of the path. He said they “are all just stutter steps on the way to your next success.” The director for Warrior, Brad Kane told me this when I asked him for advice regarding the longevity of my career and looking at the bigger picture. I keep that inspiration with me wherever I go now and so far I’ve been doing all right, I’m leaving no regrets.
What drove you into acting? And how do you balance it while pursuing to be a physical therapist?
Well it was sort of a slow progression from martial arts and wanting to do that in if front of the camera. Early on we were considering stunts, but I eventually I thought that working in front of the camera doing lines was more fitting for me than being a stuntman.Don’t get me wrong, I will gladly do my own stunts while I still have the skill to perform them, but martial arts definitely translated to being an actor more for me. Balancing acting with studies is another hurdle I had to learn to overcome. Managing my time and schedule is crucial, otherwise, I can burn out while working or lose sight of what goals I have set for myself. I love doing both and so I have to work on each one individually, intensely, for a specified period of time. I am an actor first, and a student second one day, but vice versa on midterm and finals week.
Out of all of the projects you have been a part of, which one had the most impact on you?
I love all the projects I’ve worked on because there are qualities that make each one memorable. Warrior was one of the first major productions that flew me out internationally to South Africa where I met a lot of amazing people like Andrew Koji and Brad Kane.The Paper Tigers is where I built and strengthened a lot of my connections with other martial artists on a well-developed and inspirational film with Yuji Okumoto and Bao Tran. Of course, Dahmer gave me the most exposure I have ever received as an actor but I learned so much that I thought I already knew about acting from witnessing Niecy Nash and Evan Peters do their part.
You're pretty extensively trained in martial arts, how did you get started in it?
When I was four years old, my parents wanted me to get into some type of physically active sport that I would always enjoy. We tried out soccer and swimming but they did not last for very long. As my parents were wondering what I was going to pursue outside of school, I was busy watching the original Ninja Turtles films from the nineties and the Power Rangers movies my dad bought me. It did not take long for them to notice how interested I was in the martial arts films that appealed to me so they enrolled me at a local dojo across the street from where I went to school. From the moment I had my first GI wrapped around my body, I (allegedly) could not stop smiling. Rising Sun Karate was like a second home to me. Randy Word (my sensei) and my dad worked together to give me the opportunities to do something great with my talent.
When you sent a tape of your martial arts skills, did you ever expect that you would land the role of 'Karate Kid' on NBC’s “Little Big Shots?”
I treated it like any other audition I had done before. I think that is the beauty of wanting to be a performer when you’re at that young age, I didn’t anticipate something as huge as NBC or someone as renowned as Steve Harvey as anything more than a new chance to do something fun and show my what I was capable of. Surprise, surprise when my parents get off the phone with one of the exectutives from the show saying they want to showcase my talent on national television.