Kevin Kane on Mining Trauma and Finding Laughs With Amy Schumer

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For Kevin Kane, the endgame never wavered once he set a goal to move to New York in the early aughts to pursue a career in acting. He’ll tell you that luck seemed to always be on his side, as the actor from Philadelphia found work soon after his arrival to the Big Apple.

Kane was soon thrusted into the world of Dick Wolf Entertainment with small roles on Law & Order and Chicago P.D. This would eventually lead to his current recurring role as Detective Terry Bruno on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which aired its season 25 finale on May 16.

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But early on, while studying acting at the William Esper Studio, Kane would formulate a lifelong bond and friendship with a fellow classmate named Amy Schumer. Together, they would not only hone their skills in drama and comedy, but also sharpen their writing, producing and whatever it would take to ensure they would find success in Hollywood. The results ended up becoming the Emmy-winning Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central, followed by one revival season for Paramount+), and more recently, the Hulu series Life & Beth, which recently completed its 10-episode second season in February.

The Hollywood Reporter recently caught up with Kane to talk wrapping up the finale of SVU; his unique partnership and friendship with Schumer throughout his career; how one of his real-life traumatic experiences became an episode of Life & Beth; and deep philosophical conservations on-set with Ice-T.

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What did you think about the season 25 finale of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, “Duty to Hope”?

It’s one of those finales that draws all the teams together to work as one, and there’s an action sequence and a lot gets tied up from all season long. So, it was one of those kind of culmination finales. It was fun to work on action-packed with Benson [Mariska Hargitay plays Captain Olivia “Liv” Benson], where we’re backing her up. It’s been a real fun ride.

It’s interesting how your career progressed as a regular on SVU when looking back at the many times you did guest appearances on Law & Order and SVU. And now, here you are, in a regular role as Detective Terry Bruno.

Honestly, man, pretty quick after getting off a bus here I was on a set with Jerry Orbach [one of the longest cast members of Law & Order from 1992 to 2004; Orbach died from cancer shortly after the 2003-2004 season ended] as my first time on a television set. So, yeah, I’ve run through the gamut of the Dick Wolf universe.

Tell me about The Collective NY. That’s where you and Amy Schumer first met, correct?

I’d been in New York for a couple of years and working a little bit. I had this girlfriend, all through my 20s, who did this Popstars (WB) show. She was in that group Eden’s Crush; so, her and I moved out to L.A. for a couple years, and I just wasn’t feeling my vibe with everything. I’m like, “I’m just gonna restart.” So, I went to the William Esper Studio back in New York, did the two-year program and there was my classmate, Amy Schumer. And we had a really special special class! Bill would tell us that all the time. He said, “Stick together, start making work together.” And we formed this theater company, which we didn’t really call a theater company; we were just going to do things together. We were going to do some theater; some short films and stuff like that.

And Amy sort of BS-ed her way into a beer sponsorship. She was doing standup at the time, and she was starting to get a little traction with it. And some guy who was like the CEO of Genesee Beer hired her for a backyard party. He was saying how kids downtown were drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and he was like, “Why not my beer?” So, Amy said, “Well, we have the hottest show downtown and you should send us beer.” So, at one of our theater company meetings — and this is classic Amy Schumer — she comes in and says, “Guys, we gotta come up with a show! We have 30 30-packs coming in on Sunday night!” So, that was my shotgun start in doing comedy with Amy Schumer. We did this comedy fundraiser; we would have standups and the audiences grew. We wanted to put our actors in front of it, so we started making sketches. That was kind of a precursor to working together on Inside Amy Schumer.

Kevin Kane with Amy Schumer in 'Life & Beth.'
Kevin Kane with Amy Schumer in Life & Beth.

So, you and the group would eventually get the deal with Comedy Central to create Inside Amy Schumer, which ran on the network from 2013 to 2022 (the show would win an Emmy in 2015 for outstanding scripted variety series). You were a producer for the show. Were you writing as well?

I was in the writers room. As a producer, we were pitching stuff. And there was a real good guy by the name of Daniel Powell who was the showrunner on, with Jessi Klein. And even though it was sketch comedy, it was like a real education on producing. Because for a sketch show, there was a day where we shoot a commercial in the morning, a Japanese horror movie in the afternoon — and you learn everything fast! I got to work with Judd Apatow years later, and he would say — because he did The Ben Stiller Show — “you never work as hard or learn as much than when you are doing a sketch show.”

Are any of those “behind-the-scenes” parts of the business you enjoy just as much, if not more, than acting?

I came into producing from the actor and director standpoint, because we were doing it on stage. And so, you learning everything that comes with this. As Amy says, we would fake it until we make it. So, we kind of learned the producing game that way.

Hulu released the entire second season of Life & Beth in February. Episode five, “Claire,” focused on your character, Matt, finding out 16 years later that he has a daughter and meeting her for the first time. I think I read somewhere that this is a true story.

This show is made with a lot of love, and it is about these things that happen in your life; these kinds of traumas that we can be ashamed of or upset about and how to work through them. And I think we make light of it. We show: Hey we’re all the same, we all have the same stuff. We’re asked to be semi-autobiographical. And so, Amy came to me for the second season and said, “Look, I think it’s time we tell this story.” It’s a true story. It’s like I used to say when I was a young actor in New York with our friends, and especially to annoy Amy or any other female actors we were tight with, they said, “do you have any kids,” and  I’ll go “I don’t know, maybe.” Then you get that phone call — you don’t joke about it anymore. And while it’s not the same exact story as in that episode, it has a lot of similar circumstances. Amy was the first person I ran to after I got that phone call; you know, grab a drink and like you’ll never believe this story. So, we sort of parodied that a little bit. But a lot of the actors on the show are all friends of ours, and we get to work with people we’ve worked with a long time.

Is it difficult to switch from comedy to drama, as you filmed Life & Beth and SVU at same time?

I feel why Amy and I work so well together is because we just approach it all the same. In fact, oftentimes, the stakes are higher in comedy; you just have to amp them up. But I think that was our approach to comedy, too. It was to try to ground it and make it as real as you can make it, then the laughs come up even harder when they’re ready.

In between these two jobs I was having at the same time, it actually became like a vacation. Because I got my role in SVU, and they’re like, “This is the script this week,” and I had nothing to say in it. But in Life & Beth, from the first day I’m in the writers room to pre-production, we’re scouting, we’re casting. There were days where I would have to take a van, I would be doing a scene with Amy Schumer and Cole Escola, and then popping in a van and doing a scene out in the street with Ice-T at night. It was kind of a bizarre experience, but they both made sense to each other.

The season finale of SVU is a wrap, and there’s no announcement yet on a third season of Life & Beth. What’s on the horizon for you?

I have a couple of film projects that are in the finalized stages of getting the green light. And the truth is, I got a big date that will be assisting with my daughter’s Field Day. I have to get back to that stuff. Because my wife was doing a play, she was on Broadway, and now she’s doing a new series for Netflix with Jason Bateman. So, I just tagged out, and now I’m in. I’m running the home show now. My daughter is 6. But I have a couple of things I can’t talk about yet, but they will be happening really soon.

Rene Castillo with Kane as Detective Terry Bruno and Ice T as Sgt. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola in the <em>Law & Order: SVU</em> season 25 finale “Duty to Hope.”
Rene Castillo with Kane as Detective Terry Bruno and Ice T as Sgt. Odafin “Fin” Tutuola in the Law & Order: SVU season 25 finale “Duty to Hope.”

One final thing, do you and Ice-T have deep philosophical conversations on set?

Let me tell you something, they’re all philosophical, even when you don’t think they are. (Laughs.) He lets you know that. I’ve never worked with anybody who is just 10 out of 10 times a great time on set. And that makes sense why he’s been doing it this long. He comes to work ready to work. He loves to work, he’s always in a good mood. He’s always with a joke, always with the story. And he has been one of the best parts of doing the show.

I will say this, he’s been really great with me and gives me advice to navigate through the show and all that stuff. And he always makes this joke, all the time, he says, “Kev, just make sure you’re not bleeding in the last episode! You never want to be bleeding in the last episode!” And it came back to bite him, because he was the only one bleeding in the last episode [Ice-T’s character gets accidentally shot in the arm by a pre-teen who is mad that the officer arrested his father on faulty evidence]. Of course, he’ll be back for season 26! (Laughs.)

Law & Order: SVU season 25 is streaming on Peacock; Life & Beth seasons one and two are streaming on Hulu.

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