A Q&A with the Yellowjackets star before he heads back into the woods to shoot season two
Known for: Playing Travis in the mystery series Yellowjackets
Up next: Filming season two of Yellowjackets
Kevin Alves was six years old when he saw Kurt Browning figure skate in a clown costume. “It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen,” he says. “I told my mom, ‘I want to skate. Then I want to be an actor.’ ” Alves made good on his plan, competing at the World Junior Championships twice before hanging up his skates to focus on acting. We spoke to him as he was gearing up to head back to the woods to shoot the second season of the buzzy, dual-timeline, who-are-they-gonna-eat ’90s nostalgia fest Yellowjackets.
Yellowjackets is Showtime’s second-most streamed series ever, and it has a 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes. When did you first realize it was a huge deal?
It felt different from the get-go. The incredible cast—Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, Tawny Cypress and Juliette Lewis—drew me to it in the first place. Still, everyone was nervous to see how audiences would react. You never know. Then Reddit started going crazy, and it became a big thing on Twitter. To see the incredible Emmy push the show is doing is surreal.
Speaking of Twitter and Reddit, do you have any favourite Yellowjackets conspiracy theories?
From the beginning, I was a huge fan of the “Adam is Javi” theory [the belief that Travis’s younger brother grew up to be the character that woos Melanie Lynskey’s character in the 2021 timeline]. We all had that theory when we were shooting it, then we got faked out just like everybody else.
Travis is not the most likable dude. He lashes out at Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) when he can’t get it up, then, on learning she had sex with his middle-school bully, he sleeps with someone else. How did you approach playing a character like that?
The series’ creators, Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, helped me understand that Travis is just a flawed kid like most of us are at that age. He’s 17, stranded in the woods with all these girls around whom he doesn’t feel comfortable. And he lost his dad right in front of his eyes. Then you have to take into account the time period—it’s the mid-’90s. It’s the height of toxic masculinity, and I think he represents that in many ways. He’s not supposed to be very likable by 2022 standards.
What was it like shooting season one in the BC woods? Theatre camp, but in the rainforest?
Kinda! We had a very fun musical cast, so we’d sing together or play a game called Ninja on the beach. Everyone was so talented and professional too. That part was intimidating at times.
You mentioned the stacked cast of older Yellowjackets. Anyone you were particularly excited to meet?
I’m such a Melanie Lynskey fan. Her ability to create light out of heavy things—there’s only a handful of actors who can do that. But then, when you meet her, you understand, because she’s just one of the kindest people ever. She’s a shining light in this industry.
Shadowhunters, Locke & Key, Yellowjackets—and we can’t forget Degrassi. You’ve been part of a lot of ensembles. What have you learned about that process?
When I first started on Degrassi, I don’t think I understood how important it was to create friendships before you start shooting. There needs to be this nuanced energy in the group, and everyone should be in a good place. On Locke & Key, if someone had a movie coming out, we’d all go see it together. We went skating. Creating that energy between us just made work so much easier because, at the end of the day, it’s a job. And it gets taxing and tiring, so you want to enjoy those 16-hour days as much as you can.
You recently directed a horror short called Desolate. How long have you wanted to get behind the camera?
Since I was 17. I was nervous, but my friends finally convinced me to do a short film about seven years ago. It went horribly! I didn’t understand how a production comes together or all the parts involved. I vowed not to direct again until I had a better grasp of all the pieces. Over the past year or so, conversations started to come up—some of the directors on Yellowjackets were like, “When are you going to direct, Kevin?” Then finally we had the right group of people: Jesse Camacho from Locke & Key co-wrote it with writer Peter Roumeliotis. Now we’re in post-production and developing a few other projects. I’m hoping to shoot one before Yellowjackets starts filming again and another when I get a break during or after season two.
You know what “break” means, right?
I do! I had a long enough break after the first season of Yellowjackets—went to LA, Mexico, spent time in Toronto. But now I want to go. I want to make things.