Kyle Bornheimer Looks Back on ‘Will & Grace,’ ‘Westworld’ & More
Most recently, you probably recognize Kyle Bornheimer from his roles on Avenue 5 (one half of the bickering couple, Doug and Mia, with Jessica St. Clair) or Brooklyn Nine-Nine (the boring ex-boyfriend who keeps proposing to Amy, played by Melissa Fumero).
The types of roles he’s drawn to changes depending on where he is in his career, he told TV Insider. “I came up in comedy. That was my sweet spot and my strength and where I felt the most comfortable. That was really where casting directors saw me, and I felt if a role was in my comedic range that I could really make it sing and do something special with it,” he said.
“When it’s something outside of that box, that can be often a conscious decision to experiment or to push myself,” Bornheimer added before admitting that he has “an affinity for innocent lugs, people who are positive but not always the brightest light in the room.” That kind of character is one he has fun playing.
As for what he’s watching, he just caught up on the “masterful” Better Call Saul and urges everyone to watch The Mandalorian and its behind-the-scenes docuseries. “[Creator Jon] Favreau and the technicians behind that have really reinvented in many ways how we’re going to make movies,” he said.
Here, he looks back on some of his TV roles.
Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul
Bornheimer debuted as Ken in Breaking Bad‘s fourth episode in 2008, and eight years later, he returned as the businessman for a Season 2 episode of the prequel. (Both were one episode appearances.) “For whatever reason, that kind of jackass is possibly the easiest character I can slide into,” the actor said, speculating that the writers and producers noticed that when he auditioned and he’d probably seen guys like that over the years.
He likened it to playing the innocent lug, only less innocent. “It’s become even more of a commentary on toxic masculinity, when I play it a little bit,” he continued. “You can tell in what he says and how he behaves and how he leers. There’s a sort of old school backwards chauvinism that he has.”
“I don’t always give it this much thought, but it’s definitely stuff I’m drawing on with that kind of character — how the world creates that kind of toxic masculinity in a person,” he added. “I love that he gets bested every time.”
Furthermore, Bornheimer enjoys the mix of comedy and drama on those two shows. That “mix of tones is always a good challenge,” he explained. There’s a difference in what actors bring to a sitcom and to something like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul.
Marvel’s Agent Carter
While Bornheimer’s character on the much too short-lived Marvel series was killed off, he’s not ready to completely say goodbye to that world. “I have been keeping my fingers crossed for a long time on [returning to the Marvel universe],” he said. Being part of it (and having a trading card) is something he loves to tell his kids and brag about.
His work on Agent Carter as Ray Krzeminski came the first year he did a period piece, which he found he liked. He played a character similar to Ken and others in modern-day works at a time “where unfortunately that kind of guy was the norm,” he explained. Dressing up to fit that time “does most of the work for you,” plus he was able to “see humanity through the eyes of somebody 70 years ago.” Playing that kind of overblown chauvinistic macho jerk in different eras is “quite a lesson and quite a challenge and quite fun.”
Bornheimer played a guest, Clarence, at the futuristic park in the first episode of the HBO drama. “I remember putting on that western outfit and immediately walking in a different way and behaving in a different way,” he said. When he walked on set, they were set up for wide and very long shots, so he didn’t see the camera or many members of the crew.
“Most of the background artists had already been set in their positions. We were coming on being placed to do our scene, and I had a very gleeful, nerdy kid smile on my face, like being in one of the worlds at Disneyland, feeling like I had literally stepped back in time,” he recalled. And as a fan of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie, he “had some film geek love for that material and enough of a sense from what I was reading that they were taking very modern, really neat takes on it.”
He has watched the series since his appearance and become a fan. “I was very impressed with how they updated it and made it more complex and took the AI point of view,” he shared. “It was a fascinating, thought-provoking approach about technology and sentience and I remember from the get-go knowing they were onto something with that.”
Will & Grace
The NBC comedy ran a total of 11 seasons, eight in its original run and then three more, and Bornheimer appeared in both, in 2006’s “Cop to It” episode and the revival’s premiere “11 Years Later.”
“I always remember hoping that they didn’t remember that I had been on the original one,” he laughed. “But it was quite conceivable that the waiter that I played 20 years ago could have made his way up to be a secret service agent.”
While he noticed all four actors’ work ethic, he singled out Sean Hayes’, with whom he mainly worked in his second appearance. “I think he’s one of the great physical comedians we’ve seen on TV ever and underrated, actually, as a physical comic,” he said. “I remember thinking that that wasn’t something that was talking about a lot with Will & Grace.”
Overall, he praised the show’s writing and performances, calling it “the ’90s Bulls of comedy week in and week out.” “You would not find four finer comedy sitcom actors that can make sitcom dialogue sing in such a unique way that hits so well,” he stressed of Hayes, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, and Megan Mullally. “I can’t do that as well on a consistent basis as those four can. They’re four of the best that have ever done it.”