Northern Secondary grad Jonathan Keltz on his leap from Ari Gold’s assistant on Entourage to heartthrob Leith on Reign
When Jonathan Keltz was a child, he used to go about his family’s home putting on a British accent.
It was an early sign of the love for playing roles that would eventually lead him to a career as an actor.
Now, aged 26, he is getting to put that much-practised accent into effect on TV.
Keltz plays the character of Leith Bayard, a servant turned nobleman, on CTV Two’s Thursday night historical drama
The show focuses on the young Mary Queen of Scots during her time living at the French royal court, and though a British accent isn’t strictly necessary for a show set in France, it’s what the laws of the TV universe call for.
When Reign returns in October, it will do so with Keltz, who spent his teen years in midtown Toronto, promoted from a recurring role to the main cast.
It’s Keltz’s most high-profile part since he played Ari Gold’s assistant on HBO’s hit show Entourage, and he’s clearly thrilled about the chance to spend a second season with his character.
“It feels great to be part of the main cast,” he says during a phone interview the day after he began filming for the upcoming season. “I’m really excited about it.”
Reign is an unusual mix of period drama, teen angst, sex and romance that has divided critics (and given historical purists heart attacks at
the fictions it liberally sprinkles onto events of the past) but is fun to watch and has found a sizable audience and been sold around the world.
Essentially, it’s the good hair and love triangles of a teen drama, with
the corsets and costumes of Game
Keltz believes audiences find the show relatable, and its breakneck narrative speed “sweeps people up.”
That frenetic pace extends to the production itself where each episode is shot in around eight days.
Despite being set in 16thcentury France, Reign is almost entirely filmed in and around Toronto, mainly at a studio in Etobicoke that houses sets that mimic the interior of a Renaissance castle.
Outdoors action is shot at several conservation areas outside the city, and footage of historic buildings in Ireland is interspersed to set the period tone.
For Keltz, filming in Toronto is a homecoming of sorts. He was born in New York City and spent his childhood in the artsy town of Woodstock, N.Y., before moving to Toronto at age 14, where he enrolled at Northern Secondary School.
Having been bitten by the acting bug while at a Woodstock school with a strong drama program — he recalls one of his teachers giving him Hamlet to read at age 10 — he says his family’s move to Toronto was “instrumental” in his development as an actor.
With a mother in public relations and a father in educational productions, Keltz had a feel for the industry, and Toronto, being a burgeoning centre for film and television production, presented an abundance of opportunities for a young actor.
Keltz began booking small parts on shows like Degrassi: The Next
Generation, and two weeks before his 19th birthday, he decided to move to Los Angeles and pursue acting full-time.
Perhaps surprisingly, Keltz wasn’t hugely integrated in the arts and drama scene at Northern Secondary School. Having arrived there as what he calls a “loud, boisterous New Yorker” in school, he gravitated toward sports rather than the arts.
“I wasn’t really involved in the extracurricular arts program because I was already very much engaged in doing stuff outside of school. It was nice to be in a balanced school and education system,” he says.
If such a thing as Hollywood stardust exists, it’s also possible that Keltz’s move to Toronto caused a little to rub off on him.
The apartment that his parents moved to on the edge of Forest Hill, and which they still live in, was once home to Keanu Reeves’ mother. Meaning it’s probable that
The Matrix star was kicking around there quite a lot.
Having a show like Entourage on his resumé also adds a touch of sparkle to Keltz. The actor played Jake Steinberg, a character brought in during the show’s sixth season as an assistant to L.A. agent Ari Gold.
Originally, his stint on the show was supposed to be short-lived, arriving mainly so his character could be fired in short order by Gold, but Steinberg ended up sticking around for 15 episodes, including the series’ finale in 2011.
Keltz calls the show an “unbelievable experience” and one
“It feels great to be part of the main cast. I’m really excited about it.”
that gave him the opportunity to meet big-name actors like Mark Wahlberg.
“For an entire generation, [ Entourage] was a lifestyle fitting their dreams, and it did an amazing job of reflecting that with relish,” he says.
Today, Keltz shares an apartment in Toronto with his girlfriend. Having bounced between Canada and Los Angeles a lot — as an actor, he says, you have to go where the work takes you — he’s enjoying spending some time in Toronto.
It’s giving him time to involve himself in some projects outside of acting.
He is currently helping his father, who is spearheading a project called CritterKin that aims to teach children social skills, like empathy and kindness, through books involving animals.
At the not-so-cuddly end of the charitable spectrum, he will also be a part of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Fearless campaign, which will ask well-known figures to try something they are scared of.
Unfortunately for the CCS, Keltz says most of the go-to ideas, like heights or skydiving, don’t really scare him. Apparently, staffers are having to be quite inventive with his task, but he won’t give any details on what that might be.
Currently, Keltz is focused on his role in Reign, but the actor says he is at an exciting moment in his career.
He is blessed with genes that have given him a fresh-faced look, and so he has often been asked to play roles younger than his actual age. Now in his mid-20s, he says he is getting the chance to play a broader range.
“It’s exciting to begin to play young men and older characters,” he says.
Whether any of those will call for that British accent again, only time will tell.
Reign returns to CTV Two in October. Catch the season premiere on Thursday, Oct. 2, at 9 p.m.
Jonathan Keltz was promoted to a regular cast member for the second season of ‘Reign’