Killjoys' Khlyen (Rob Stewart). Photo copyright of Bell Media/SPACE.
When it comes to playing a villain, Rob Stewart has all the proverbial ducks lined up in a row. As Khlyen on TV’s Killjoys, the Canadian-born actor is, among other things, highly intelligent, sophisticated, cunning, physically adept, and one heck of a snazzy dresser, When the show’s heroine, Dutch, was a mere child of eight years old, Khlyen began training her to be an expert assassin and covert intelligence agent. In order to hone her skills, he forced Dutch more than once to kill in cold blood, and if she failed, it would mean her own death at the hands of her target. In addition to serving as Dutch’s tutor, Khlyen also became her surrogate father.
It was Dutch’s real father who sent Khlyen to instruct his daughter, who was being raised in a royal harem. However, this enigmatic stranger has also always had his own private agenda with regard to his young protégé. Khlyen has played his cards close to his chest ever since viewers were introduced to him in Killjoys’ first season. That air of mystery surrounded the character when Stewart originally tried out for the role, and the actor was none the wiser about Khlyen’s true motives when first stepping into his boots.
“My first audition was rather strange,” recalls Stewart with a grin, sitting down for a chat in The Royale bar on the show’s Toronto set. “The casting agent actually stopped me in the middle of it and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ That had never happened to me before. At the time, I had no idea what the show was about. I was given audition sides with scenes between Khlyen and Yalena [young Dutch] from episodes one and two [Bangarang and The Sugar Point Run]. I was miming something to do with a knife, which apparently didn’t make a lot of sense to the casting agent.
“They must have, however, either seen something in me or had an idea beforehand that they wanted to cast me, because I can’t imagine my first audition was good enough for me to get the part. I didn’t find out, though, until a month later. I was in Ottawa working on a movie when I got the call telling me I had the job. I’m not entirely sure what happened in the meantime to convince them, but I’m thankful that things worked out.
“Of course, I still had precious little about Khlyen to go on when filming began on Killjoys, which ended up being a good thing. Two interesting things happened. First off, I’m a father myself, so I feel very comfortable playing a father/child dynamic. Even though this is a twisted version of parenthood, I played Khlyen as a father because I didn’t know any better, right? Obviously, back then we didn’t know what he was to Yalena. Secondly, and this is quite curious, Michelle Lovretta’s [series creator/executive producer/writer] words just made me feel the character as soon as I opened my mouth and spoke them. In that respect, it was almost a subconscious thing with me and Khlyen.
“The wardrobe also contributed a great deal to my performance. I spent three hours in the initial wardrobe fitting, which is something else I’d never done before in my career. Trysha Bakker [costumer designer] and Donna Butt [assistant costume designer] were having me try on all sorts of things, and we really built Khlyen’s look organically from the ground up. By the time I was fully clothed, there were no more questions. I had found the character. The first half of the process involved the words coming out; I used a deeper voice and a sort of sonorous rhythm when speaking the dialogue that Michelle had written. The costume then clicked into place the other half of my character. The icing on the cake subsequently just came from looking in Hannah John-Kamen’s [the adult Dutch] eyes and developing our characters’ onscreen relationship.”
When Dutch grew older, she married a prince, which had no place in Khlyen’s plans for her, so he killed her husband. She was able to later escape from Khlyen and eventually joined the RAC (Reclamation Apprehension Coalition), where she became a bounty hunter or “killjoy.” Currently a Level 5 RAC agent, she works alongside her longtime partner Johnny Jaqobis (Aaron Ashmore) and his brother D’avin (Luke Macfarlane). While Dutch thought she left Khlyen in her past, he resurfaced at the start of Killjoys’ first season. Khlyen still has plans for her, not the least of which involves her skills as an assassin. During season one, he occasionally left Dutch a red box along with a weapon, which was his subtle way of ordering her to kill someone. While Khlyen was initially tagged as a cold blooded calculating murderer, Stewart has been able to decipher hints that his character might not be totally bad to the bone.
“I think episode six [One Blood] from last year started to turn the tide a bit with Khlyen,” muses the actor. “It was directed by Michael Nankin, a wonderful director who I had the pleasure of working with on Defiance. He gave me a little note when I was doing a scene with Hannah, which I didn’t expect, which read, ‘You love her.’ I was playing that in my own way, but wasn’t sure how strong and clear I should be. That was a great note, and Michael’s advice took me all the way through to the end of season one and Khlyen feeling that way. So I feel like my character went from being this ominous, sinister captor who tortured a child, to a person who loves her more than anything in the world and for reasons that we don’t know completely yet, and won’t until the end of season two. Again, though, Khlyen’s feelings for Dutch shifted from a dark place to one of pure love, and I think this year you’re going to see that develop more and more.”
Last season on Killjoys it was revealed that Khlyen is a Level 6 RAC agent, which Dutch always believed to be nothing but an urban myth. In the first season finale Escape Velocity, Khlyen kidnapped D’avin with the intent of transforming him into a Level 6 by means of a bizarre medical procedure using “green goo.” However, as fans saw, that plan backfired in the season two opener Dutch and the Real Girl, with D’avin’s body rejecting the process. Khlyen ultimately let him go, much to the chagrin of his higher-ups, who zapped Khlyen and put him on ice, literally. At the end of last week’s Shaft, RAC agent Fancy Lee (Sean Baek) liberated Khlyen from stasis, and he is sure to cross paths again with Dutch and company in the upcoming weeks.
“My character only interacted with Dutch until the very end of last year, and then with D’avin, where Khlyen basically spoke about how he feels about him,” says Stewart. “D’avin is the ‘boyfriend,’ and Khlyen has precious little time for someone he considers a child coming into his little Yalena’s life. However, that changes in a hurry. I had a wonderful scene with Luke in the second season opener. He and I did a fight scene last year, but this was the first time the two of us got to work together as fellow actors, and it was a pleasure. Luke is a great actor and I had a fun time with him.
“Getting back to Khlyen, I think he has a more profound sense of jealousy towards Johnny than he does D’avin. After two years, I’m actually doing my first scene later today with Aaron Ashmore. We’ve seen each other outside of work, but the two of us have never been on-set together, so I really can’t wait. Aaron is an amazing actor and there is such a quiet truth to him. Although Khlyen calls D’avin the boyfriend, he’s far more jealous of Dutch’s and Johnny’s relationship, which is pure as well as platonic. Because of that, Khlyen knows that Dutch would choose Johnny over him.”
Along with Killjoys and the aforementioned Defiance, Stewart’s other TV genre credits include The Collector, Highlander, Lost Girl, Beauty and the Beast, Nikita, Dark Matter and Painkiller Jane, in which he played the series regular role of Andre McBride. He was also recently seen as Alan Henry in the Canadian-made horror series Slasher, which aired earlier this year on the Chiller Network, and is currently streaming on Netflix US.
“Aaron Martin, who was a consulting producer and writer last year here on Killjoys, went off and created his own very unique thing in Slasher,” says the actor. “He wrote eight episodes all at once, which we then block-shot. It was a crazy, crazy idea, but it turned out very well. My character is a priest who has a little bit of a kink, both of which were on my bucket list, so I killed two birds with one stone playing a kinky priest,” jokes Stewart. “Patrick Garrow, who plays Turin in Killjoys, is also in Slasher, along with Mayko Nguyen [Delle Seyah Kendry] and a few other familiar faces. So I think Killjoys fans might enjoy checking it out.”
Killjoys airs Fridays @ 9:00 p.m EST on Syfy US and Canada's SPACE Channel (check local listings for other days and times). As noted above, photo copyright of Bell Media/SPACE, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any kind. Thanks!