Local News

Michael Kelly in “House of Cards” scene with actor Kevin Spacey.

Brookwood grad Michael Kelly’s acting career surging forward

With two major movies showing last summer and a current TV hit, 1989 Brookwood High School grad, Michael Kelly’s career as an actor continues to surge forward and upward.

To back that up, he had his first experience on the red carpet at the Emmys last month when House of Cards, in which he plays a major role, was nominated for 10 different awards. The series took home three awards, including Outstanding Director and Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series.

“It was so amazing to be invited to the Emmys and to the parties afterward,” Kelly beamed. “So many of my peers came up to me and told me how much they loved the show and how well I did.

“It was great to be admired by people you admire.”

Kelly said it was a full weekend of events in LA with meetings, night before parties and the big event itself. When it was time to go back, Spacey and the lead actress Robin Wright asked him if he wanted to jet back with them so they could get to New York early to start work on Monday.

On top of it all, Kelly’s wife Karyn Mendel was one of the most attractive women and most exquisitely dressed on the red carpet. “I was so proud of her,” Kelly said. “She did her clothes on her own, unlike the actresses on the show, and looked gorgeous!” Kelly plays Doug Stamper, Kevin Spacey’s U.S. Congressman character’s chief of staff on the Netflix show. “It’s the best exposure of anything I’ve done in the past,” Kelly explained. “The storyline is so relevant and of course, it broke barriers in being nominated since it’s not traditional television.

“It’s just such a treat working on the show. It’s so rare to be on something so good with so much talent. The writing and directing are outstanding.”

Kelly’s appearance in Superman, a top ten film for 2013, was another plus for his career, especially getting to work with the director, Zach Snyder who also directed 300. In the summer’s second movie, Now You See Me he worked with stars such as Woody Harrelson and Morgan Freeman.

Kelly says House of Cards keeps him busy during the May to October filming year but he managed to squeeze in some work this year. “We film in Baltimore so I do a lot of driving back and forth to NYC, where we live.”

Kelly and Mendel live with their two children Franke, 4 and Clinton, 1 in a 20th floor apartment on the Lower East End that they renovated while they lived in their 18th floor apartment in the same building. It was their second renovation. The first one he did almost all the work but this time, with his busy schedule, they subbed it out.

While House is his favorite overall role, Kelly says his most rewarding professionally was Changeling which was directed by Clint Eastwood. The most fun was his first film Dawn of the Dead. “There was a lot of running, jumping and shooting,” he laughed. Kelly says he and his family enjoy visits back to Gwinnett with his parents and siblings once or twice a year and will be home for Thanksgiving this year. “It’s always great to come back,” he said, adding that even after 20 years as a New Yorker he is still an Atlanta Braves fan.

“I watch every game unless I’m working,” he said, adding that it was an exciting year to be a Braves fan.

Kelly’s mom and dad, Maureen and Mike Kelly subbed for their son at a Brookwood High School ceremony when the school added him to their Wall of Fame this year. “He had his plane ticket to come but at the last minute work interfered,” Maureen Kelly said adding that Michael’s name is up there with other Brookwood grads who have achieved success, including former Today Show personality, Amy Robach and retired Denver Broncos placekicker, Jason Elam.

Kelly hopes that his Gwinnett County friends and fans will follow him on Twitter at @michaelkkellyjr. “I only started recently and already have 3000 followers,” he said. “Facebook was constant and overwhelming but Twitter is specific, so it’s much easier.”

Life is good for the former Lawrenceville resident. There is plenty of work that he loves and he has a wonderful family. He loves seeing how excited the children get when he comes home after working away for several days.

“It’s the best having children,” he said. “We’re more tied down but they make life worthwhile.”

Maureen and Mike Kelly are proud of their son, as any parent would be. “He set out to do it (become an actor),’ Maureen Kelly said. “And he has not only done it, he has done it well.”

Jan King, Cannon UMC Cancer Ministry’s “Momma Bear” works on sewing a Prayer Bearer. Photo by Emmett Clower

Not unlike Corduroy in the beloved children’s book of the same name, the Cannon UMC Prayer Bearers are ministers in miniature. These handmade, multi-colored, adorable and cuddly bears are sent out into the world to bring comfort to those who need it at the most vulnerable of times. For cancer patients, hope is found in many forms, but having something to hug can bring a different type of hope, something simple and innocent.. a teddy bear.

Founded in 2002 by Carole Shepherd, a cancer survivor herself, the Prayer Bearers are a product of the loving hands and blessings of the cancer ministry at Cannon United Methodist Church in Snellville. The first year, Carole had plans to make 100-200 bears to be given to area children’s hospitals as a means to show her gratitude for having survived cancer. As often comes of a plan to minister, God had bigger plans for the Prayer Bearers. By the end of the first year, over 1000 bears had been made and delivered.

The group refers to their leader as “Momma Bear” and more than one person has fulfilled this role. Currently, Jan King serves as the “Momma Bear” and facilitates donations, workshops and the annual fundraiser that is lovingly referred to as “Adoption”. “We arrange the bears in the sanctuary and they are prayed over and blessed,” says Jan. “People can obtain a certificate and either take their bear with them to give to someone who needs it or they can allow us to take the bear to the hospital.” Either way, a nominal $20-$25 donation is used for materials to keep the bears in production. “The polyfil is the most expensive item,” says Jan. “We get material on sale and several people watch for those opportunities.” The different materials really make each bear unique. There are colleges represented, holidays and all sorts of interesting patterns. This year’s “Adoption” will take place on Sunday, November 23rd at Cannon UMC.

The bears themselves are the “bearers” of prayers for the returned health of those who have become ill and come with a prayer that was written by one of the wonderful women who bring these creatures to “life”. Diane Cline describes the process by which the Prayer Bearer Prayer was “scribed”. “I was taking a walk one day and the words just worked themselves into my thoughts,” says Cline. “It really just wrote itself.” The prayer may be found at http://www.cannoncancerministry.org, but includes the words:

Lord, may this bear be an instrument of Your peace. May this bear be a blessing to the person who receives it. May this bear bring hope to someone who has given up on hope… May this bear bring the love of the people who had a part in making it…

It is very evident that lots of love goes into making each bear. The basement room that serves the ministry looked a bit like Santa’s workshop with many elves sipping coffee, chatting and having a taste of homemade coffee cake while their fingers stitched away closing up the stuffed bears, adding smiling faces and cutting patterns for future projects. “We are approaching 10,000 bears,” says Jan.

“Unfortunately, there will never not be a need; so we will continue to make them.” The bears are given to local children’s hospitals, Hospice, Ronald McDonald House, nursing homes and local hospitals. About once a month, one of the women from the “Bear Den” takes “Bear Skins” to a local assisted living facility where the residents place the stuffing and love into the bears. It takes many hands and a great deal of donated material to create the Prayer Bearers. “Any amount is important,” says Kathleen Torrance. “All of the people involved keep an eye out for a good bargain and they just grab it.”

“We have never had anyone refuse a bear,” says Jan. “From little children to grown men, the bears provide ‘something to hold onto’.” According to Kathleen, the bears have been carefully planned for “huggability.” “This size has been fully tested and found to be the perfect holdable size.”

Rows and rows of “holdable” bears line the “Bear Den” ready to be placed in a good home. Just like Corduroy, they have a mission in life and will wait patiently until their time to be held comes up. In the meantime… it seems like a few of them had a glint in their eyes…like maybe, just maybe, they climb down from those shelves at night and poke around the workshop to visit with one another and say a little prayer for each bearer’s very special mission.

To offer donations or learn more about the Cannon UMC Cancer Ministry: http://www.cannoncancerministry.org.  

Harry Khachadourian, Veteran

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Mackenzie Britt, Drum Major for George Walton Academy Band, at a recent competition at University of Tennessee, Chattanooga November 2, 2013.

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