Actor/Athlete Kurt Yaeger: Playing A Rebel With Heart on Season 2 of Netflix’s ANOTHER LIFE
With his memorable portrayal of “Greg the Peg” in FX’s long-running drama Sons of Anarchy as just one of the great characters he’s played across film and TV, actor and disability rights advocate Kurt Yaeger (NCIS: Los Angeles, Tell Me A Story, Quarry, Shameless) has added what promises to be another outstanding role to his growing resume: that of a rebellious yet resilient alien fighter in season 2 of Netflix’s sci-fi thriller Another Life.
The series, which will premiere its second season later this year (date to be announced), stars Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) as the captain of a spaceship crew whose quest to find the source of a strange alien structure is jeopardized by unforeseen dangers from the far reaches of the galaxy.
Four years after having his left leg amputated in the aftermath of a devastating motorcycle accident, Yaeger — a longtime BMX biker/motorcycle enthusiast — competed in the 2010 X-Games. There, Yaeger made history by becoming the first adaptive athlete to pull a backflip. Yet his entrance into the Hollywood community came not long after his recovery from that 2006 accident ended.
In 2007, Yaeger landed his first on-screen role as an Afghani refugee in the Tom Hanks drama Charlie Wilson’s War. That small part would ultimately lead to even more work for the athlete-turned actor in films like Dolphin Tale (co-starring Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Harry Connick, Jr.) and The Festival, plus TV series like NCIS: New Orleans, L.A.’s Finest, and Paradise Lost. Having also served on the Writers Guild of America’s Disability Committee and SAG/AFTRA’s Performers with Disabilities Committee, Yaeger has fought for equal opportunities and representation for amputees in Hollywood.
As season 2 of Another Life will show, Yaeger plays a man whose integrity and humanity — and not his physical limitations — make him whole. Yaeger, who put in an extraordinary level of physical preparation for his role on Another Life, tells me more about how his latest character may ultimately be the most realistic depiction of a disabled person ever created for a mainstream audience.
Chris Hadley: Talk about the character you’ll be playing in season 2 of Another Life, Dillon Conner, and how he will factor into the storyline of the show’s upcoming arc.
Kurt Yaeger (co-star, “Dillon Conner”, Another Life): Dillon is a hell of a soldier who has gone through several wars, nearly died multiple times, had his leg blown off in one battle and has had a lot of his friends die. So you’d think he’s a miserable person but no, he’s done the work of self-healing, with therapists and made it through to the other side. Imagine how bringing a character like that into season 2 of Another Life would affect the outcomes of fighting an alien enemy. No bullsh*t.
CH: In what ways will Dillon relate to — or clash with — the other characters in season 2 of Another Life?
KY: I think Dillon clashes with authority, with people who aren’t giving good advice and with anyone who he thinks is a threat to his friends. I think of him as a guard dog; nice to its owners but vicious to anyone who is a threat.
CH: Physically and emotionally, how did you prepare for playing Dillon?
KY: I put a lot of time into the physicality of the character because for the first time in TV history, as far as I know, a character with a disability is being portrayed as sexually attractive, fully capable and not hindered by his disability in any way. It’s a huge testament to the writers and I take off my hat to them for writing Dillon this way.
It’s pretty amazing that I get to do something for the first time in TV history. Will it make a big splash? Maybe. Maybe no one will notice. I don’t know. However, I worked my ass off to get six-to-eight pack abs and (to get) jacked for the role. (That involved) lots of dieting, working out twice a day, tons of cardio and a brutal amount of sit-ups.
CH: You did another sci-fi series, Personal Space (itself set on a spaceship, but more tongue-in-cheek compared to the serious nature of Another Life). What is it about the sci-fi genre that fascinates you as both an actor and a viewer?
KY: Viewer first, I’m just a nerd. I was working on my Masters’ degree in hydrogeology (from San Francisco State University), so applied calculus and physics is fun for me. (I) probably will get my doctorate someday, too. Anything sci-fi I just gravitate to.
If you said I could be the first to go to Mars, and the round trip would take ten years, I’d go! So being a viewer, pretending to be on missions in space is a dream of mine. As an actor, well, it’s just fun as hell because I’m living out my fantasies. I took so many pictures and videos of the ship and locations because I’m just having fun!
CH: Of all the characters you’ve portrayed over your career, what do you feel makes Dillon in Another Life unique?
KY: He’s one of the first characters with a disability that isn’t defined by his disability. An organization called RespectAbility has been working hard to get this message across to executives in Hollywood, and other organizations like Easter Seals Los Angeles and The Ruderman Foundation have been pushing for the same. My buddy, (actor) Nic Novicki, created the very successful Easter Seals Disability Film Challenge and they address this issue every single year in their film festival.
It’s about opening up the eyes of the writers and creators to the fact that people with disabilities live very complete lives that often have nothing to do with their disability. For instance: a wheelchair is a mode of transportation not a character trait, yet it’s virtually never written that way. I think Dillon is written in a way that also supports this idea; that disabilities (are) just a part of someone’s life, not the totality of it.
CH: As an actor, what are some of the biggest rewards — and challenges — that you’ve found in playing Dillon on Another Life?
KY: The challenges are normal actor stuff: long hours, being away from friends and family for six months, living out of a suitcase, etc. The rewards have been outside of the character as well, but has to do with the cast. I really like this cast and we’re sort of like a family. Usually you work with other actors, hang out on set and go your own way for the most part.
The cast on this show is really a good group of people, and I usually like all the actors I work with but this group seems more like friends, and not just people I work with. (Note: production of Another Life’s second season was paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and later resumed before finally being completed on December 9th, 2020).
CH: Overall, what can viewers expect from your character on Another Life — and what do you hope they take away from seeing Dillon in action on the show?
KY: I can’t say much but I do know that people are going to be in for a bit of a surprise with this next season. So much is overturned and pushed forward. It’s like last season was a whole setup for this season, which I think will be the same for our next season. I think they’re going to get some stability from my character. (He’s) someone who knows what the f*ck (he’s) doing, has the experience to back it up, yet knows his place in the pecking order.
CH: Besides Another Life, what other projects are you working on at the moment?
KY: I’m in post-production on a show I wrote and created with (actor) Alex Barone called Tommy n Bobby. (It’s) a buddy skit comedy about two guys who drink beers in their mom’s basement from Boston and do sh*tty beer reviews. Think SNL/Wayne’s World brought into a modern era. I just finished with (the Fox crime drama) L.A.’s Finest which also just came out, (and I’m) getting a lot of love from that.
I’ll be filming a couple (of) shows here in the near future, one of them being (the ABC medical drama) The Good Doctor. I hope to get another project off the ground too: a docu-series/film about motorcycles, amputees, what it means to be disabled in the film business and (it features) an inspired ride across our country meeting these types of people. I do enjoy the work I do, and it’s more like hard work mixed with a lot of reward.
As a disabled actor swimming against the tide of Hollywood perfectionism, I would appreciate everyone following me on social media to help me push for more inclusion.
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