She played in Jeff Blankenship’s The Last Rung On The Ladder Dollar Baby Film as Kitty.
SKSM: Tell us about yourself, who is Kayla Kelly and what do you do or have you done?
Kayla Kelly: I was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I am a photographer, actor and writer. I began acting as a kid, and joined the community theater at age 13. I took a break from theater in my twenties to raise my children, but started again after a little encouragement in my early thirties. My first film role was in 2016, and since then I have worked on over 30 independent film productions.
SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become an actress?
Kayla Kelly: Since around the age of 10, I dreamed about acting for a living.
SKSM: What details define you the most as an actress?
Kayla Kelly: Honestly, the fact that I can problem solve and improvise on a set is probably a great feature to have as an actor. And I’m going to take the liberty of claiming that it’s the writer within me that allows me to add to what I already have in front of me. By the time I get to set, I know where the character grew up, where she’s been, where she currently lives, and what drives her to do the things she does, and half the time I’ve made it all up in my head. The magic really happens when I meet my costars and director. They fill in the rest of the story. It truly is a team effort. I don’t really think I’m type cast a whole lot, as I have been fortunate to play a slew of different character types.
SKSM: How did you become involved in The Last Rung On The Ladder Dollar Baby film?
Kayla Kelly: The director, Jeff Blankenship, reached out to me in 2022 about the film project, and after my audition, he cast me as Kitty.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Kayla Kelly: The story holds a very valuable life lesson: Time is not guaranteed. Hold your loved ones close to your heart, even though they may be physically distant.
SKSM: Mental illness is what’s going on. What were your thoughts after reading the script?
Kayla Kelly: Well, sadly Kitty always depended on her “favorite” person; her brother, Larry. When someone with a mental illness loses touch with their favorite person, who is more like a security blanket than anything, they feel like they are losing a part of themselves. Kitty lost touch with the one person who seemed to care about her and she did what she had to do to survive, while using pills and alcohol to numb the pain.
SKSM: Your character unfolds in an interesting way. What effect do you think it will have on the audience when they see the film?
Kayla Kelly: I was hoping for the audience to see that she chose her path out of desperation. Her poor life choices led to her losing everything and surviving on peanut butter, crackers and alcohol, while living in a hotel and earning money as a cam girl.
SKSM: You worked with Jeff Blankenship on this film, how was that?
Kayla Kelly: He was quite easy going and really values the input of all the creative efforts within the crew. We even had the writers on set with us the whole time! I actually had a large part in creating Kitty’s montage/ backstory and her downfall. I wanted to show as much as possible in a short amount of time in order to get the viewers to feel heavy- hearted during her final scene.
SKSM: Was there any funny or special moment when they made the movie that you would like to tell me about?
Kayla Kelly: Well there was a moment where we could not find our producer and we were worried that something terrible had happened to him. Kurt Krauss had gone home after the first night of filming in Oshkosh, and then was nowhere to be seen or heard from on day two. Everyone was so worried that we thought we were going to have to contact the authorities. Turns out, he was so exhausted that he had pulled over to take a nap in his vehicle and just overslept. His phone either died or was off, but eventually he made it to set. In the end, we just chalked it up to another “Kurt-fuffle” HAHA!
SKSM: Kitty indicates that Stephen King is her favorite writer, do you share this opinion, are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Kayla Kelly: Yes. I improvised that line, actually. I have read and watched more Stephen King works than that of any other. I LOVE his storytelling!
SKSM: Everyone recognizes themselves in Kitty at some point. How could that happen, do you think?
Kayla Kelly: I think everyone knows what being let down by a loved one feels like. Kitty only had one important person in her life, and it was her brother. But he was ashamed of her; couldn’t bear to see her living her life distastefully. He didn’t realize that it was a cry for help. I believe we’ve all been on the other side too, where we feel like we could have perhaps done more to help someone in need.
SKSM: Teddygirl_<3 chat, do we see visitors, do you know who these were?
Kayla Kelly: I believe Jeff and / or Max made up the typical sleazeball characters, posting comments one would typically see on livestream account
SKSM: There are several easter eggs in the film, the elevator scene is a reference to the Shinning. How did you feel about your own performance in this, looking at the original?
Kayla Kelly: Well, if we are comparing the original short story to the way we told “The Last Rung on the Ladder”, I really like what we came up with for Kitty’s character. In King’s version, Kitty is basically a memory of Larry’s. In our adaptation, you see them fall apart in real time. The elevator was a secondary extension on how we saw Kitty’s demise. Initially, Max had come up with a really poetic and beautiful, yet gruesome ending. But our time and resources wouldn’t allow for that ending, so we changed the plan on the fly, therefore adding the elevator. I was attempting to give the Kubrick stare, but the camera angle didn’t quite give that in the end. Kitty looked sad and lost, which actually fits better overall with the story.
SKSM: What are you thinking of the end result of the film?
Kayla Kelly: I think it turned out pretty great! I like the way they edited the climax of the film… I think it’s unique. The closeups of the unraveling really hits hard. The Carnival Barker of Despair… Can we take a moment to just sit with that character? We all know him. He may look different to every single person, but we all have one. That voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough. You’re doing things wrong, you should’ve done this or should’ve done that. That character is VERY real. And that, in and of itself, is the scariest thing about this story. Kitty also had that voice in her head- you just never saw it on film.
SKSM: Are there any points that you now think in retrospect that I could or could have done differently?
Kayla Kelly: Yeah, I mean, having a lot more time and resources would have given us the free reign to add more detail, but I am happy with what we’ve come up with.
SKSM: Before you were acting, you were on stage. Do you ever miss that?
Kayla Kelly: Yes. Stage performing is a feeling like no other. For almost two years, I was the lead singer in a rock cover band. Even that was less daunting than a stage performance. What can I say… theater is a ridiculous mix of time, dedication and talent. Live… where you can’t yell, “cut” and start over. It’s equal parts exhilaration and anxiety, oh and talent, of course. Theater actors do not get enough credit.
SKSM: You already have quite an acting history, is there a role you would like to play if it comes your way, and what would it be?
Kayla Kelly: Oh yes. I would LOVE to play a deranged character. I do get a lot of regular people roles, but character acting is honestly my favorite. Awkward, eccentric, fun accents… those are my favorite. That’s how you can tell I came from theater. HaHa!
SKSM: What is in the top 5 on your bucket list?
Kayla Kelly: Top 5 on my (acting) bucket list. 5.) Direct and distribute at least one of my screenplays. 4.) Win a best actress in a feature film award. 3.) Get a series regular role on a popular series 2.) Work on a studio feature with one of my comedy heroes, like Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Dan Levy or Dwayne Johnson. I don’t know any of these people, but they’ve gotten me through some rough times in my life. 1.) Being an actor as my only source of income
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Kayla Kelly: Recently, I’ve had the urge to write a script for one of my dream characters… the deranged type. I love writing comedy, but I will set it aside for this next venture. I would love to bring one of my screenplays to life! Another goal of mine is to make it onto network television.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Kayla Kelly: I used to work for an ophthalmologist and prescribe glasses for a living. My “party trick” that I retained from those days is putting in or taking out cosmetic contact lenses on set and guessing people’s glasses prescription by looking through their lenses.
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Kayla Kelly: I hope everyone enjoys what we’ve adapted from Stephen King’s work. Nothing would please me more than to actually hear his thoughts on the film.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Thank you for your interest, Bernd!