Montecito JOURNAL | Montecito's Emerging Movie Makers

J.J. Kandel is another MUS boy (what was in that water?). He arrived in Santa Barbara in the mid 1980's and attended Crane Country Day School before moving into the Montecito Union School District. After graduating from MUS, he went to Santa Barbara Middle School (there's something in the water there too), and then Santa Barbara High School (okay, okay). Unlike most of his classmates however, J.J. didn't go to college; he knew what he wanted to do and didn't believe didn't believe a college degree would be all that useful. He had been studying acting in Santa Barbara, but after spending six months in Los Angeles, headed for the place where real actors go: New York City. He wanted to do live theater, on stage, in front of an audience; and New York was the only place for that.

In New York, J.J. is both president and producing director at Throughline Artists, a non-profit that produces a theatrical festival at a small theater on East 59th Street between Park and Madison Avenues that has been going on for seven years. His first screen role was as a sentry in the six-time Oscar winner, Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

"I worked with a friend who was involved in [Hurt Locker] at theater retreat in upstate New York," J.J. says during a telephone conversation from his home, speculating on he got the role in the first place. The "friend" is a screenwriter who also happens to be Mark Boal's brother. Mark Boal was the writer-producer of Hurt Locker. "His brother, Chris, has seen my work at this retreat," recounts J.J. "They had some passing emergency with some cast members and sent out a mass e-mail looking to fill some of the roles and I responded."

J.J. spent a week in Jordan filming his brief role in Hurt Locker, and worked directly with Kathryn Bigelow during the filming. "She must have liked me," J.J. says, "because she hired me for her next film (Zero Dark Thirty). I'm assuming that she asked for me, because I got a phone call asking if I'd be interested in doing a line in this movie. The casting director, who I knew, said if I wanted the part I'd have to get a visa. I had to sign a bunch on things, got a visa, got on a plane again and went to India.

"It's a very nice scene," he continues, "It's at the beginning of the movie and I'm one of the CIA case officers that works at the embassy there in Islamabad. The character is credited as J.J., so there's J.J. playing J.J."

When asked weather he could sing of would consider a role that required singing, such as Russell Crowe in Les Miserables, he responded that he doesn't really sing and that "the idea of doing musical theater terrifies me. But," he adds, "if it scares me, there's a good chance I'm going to find a way to so it, just for that reason. But the idea certainly does terrify me a bit."

J.J.'s mom, Joyce, is a writer, his dad, Bob Kiken, is a Santa Barbara oral surgeon. As a side note, while attending MUS, J.J. wrote and directed and performed in an onstage skit with some of his classmates, including MJ publisher Tim Buckley. "I remember; in those days, in my early days of producing," J.J. says with a laugh, "I would put on little shows for the dinner guests. Little did I know what I was doing; it's just what I did and Tim was enrolled in one of them." For the record, Tim doesn't sing, and he whistles out of tune.

by James Buckley