Kenton Duty’s turn as a bully in the film “Contest” has helped create a dialogue with children and caretakers about school bullying and how to combat it. ShockYa was happy to be able to talk with Duty about the role, the film’s part in Cartoon Network’s anti-bullying campaign and Duty’s future projects. “Contest,” written and directed by Anthony Joseph Giunta and also starring Mary Beth Peil, Katherine McNamara and Kyle Dean Massey, will be available on DVD and VOD Dec. 17.
What can you tell me about your character?
Kenton Duty: Well, Matt is a bully, but he’s also an all-star swimmer. He’s the head of the school, if you will. He’s going through a lot in his home life and his school life and he takes that out on a character played by Danny Flaherty named Tommy. Tommy’s a cook and he gets himself into this cooking contest. Matt finds himself needing to also be a part of it and be on Tommy’s team and film plotlines ensue [laughs]
What was it like working with the cast?
Kenton Duty: Oh, it was awesome! I brought my guitar and a few others brought their guitars and inbetween scenes, we would sit around and jam out…It was good because it helped us build chemistry with that on a musical level. A lot of us were able to bring our musical abilities to the soundtrack, me being one of them. That was fun too, because we were able to touch people in a different way through the same production piece other than just acting.
Cartoon Network used the film for its “Stop Bullying, Speak Up” Campaign. How did it feel to have the film used in conjunction with Cartoon Network’s campaign?
Kenton Duty: I think it was a match made in Heaven, if you will. Everything we initially talked about when we were filming the film was exactly what Cartoon Network wanted to do with it. I don’t think we could have asked for a better match. It was able to reach so many children and so many families. I’ve seen the Facebook page and my pages…and the response has been phenomenal. Everyone’s asking questions and figuring out what they’re going through. They feel that we understand and we’ve been able to give advice and give resources…it’s been nice to be able to do that.
You don’t sound like a bully, so how did you get into the mindset of this character who has to change from a bully to a more mature person?
Kenton Duty: [Laughs] I guess I connected with him on a different level than I would have initially thought I would have. I wasn’t a bully, I was bullied. I was usually on the other side of it. I guess I…sensed what [Matt] was going through rather than how he acted towards Tommy. I liked being able to play him and being on that other side because it gave me a chance to really understand what the other side is thinking and what they’re going through and why they were the way the were. It showed me that there’s always something going on on the other side that pushing someone on the direction they’re going.
What do you hope people take away from this movie?
Kenton Duty: What I hope is that they’re going to…feel open to talking about whatever side they’re on and that they’re going to feel it’s okay…for you to go to someone for help. You don’t have to do it alone. I’ve seen that already, even among my sister’s friends…just sort of seeing how people have reacted, even those close to me…they see it in a different light. It’s definitely what I wanted to happen. You want to bring a spotlight to the issue so that people don’t shy away from the conversation…that’s what I wanted.
When I [was] reading the script, [I thought] ‘This is something that would really get people talking if we do this right.’ And I think we did and it has gotten people talking. That excites me because you’re building a conversation, a foundation for people…who are being bullied, who are the bullies [and] the bystanders. You’re making it easier, I think, for those mentors and guardians and older siblings [kids] get advice from to talk to them and really get on their level and understand what’s really going on.
What other projects are you working on?
Kenton Duty: Well, I promised them at 350,000 [followers] on Twitter that I would put out a cover [performance] and now I’m at 370,000–it just suddenly burst. Now I’m scrambling to pull together the cover that I’ve been working on, that I’ve promised them [laughs]. I’m glad to see that they’re excited, because I’m excited for it. I’m going to be a little bit more involved in my music. I’ve got two movies coming out and I’ve got a couple of projects. 2014 is going to be very exciting.