Jonathan Kite has been performing for as long as he can remember.
"My dad and I would watch old movies so I would do old movie impressions," said Kite, who plays lecherous Ukrainian short-order cook Oleg on the sitcom "2 Broke Girls" (7:30 p.m. Mondays, CBS). "I loved running around and doing funny voices. I liked to make people laugh."
Kite went on to wow his parents' friends and co-workers, his classmates and people in grocery stores in Chicago and Skokie, where he grew up. "I would just be silly," he told me in Chicago over his Thanksgiving break. "My parents allowed me to enjoy that part of my personality."
Afters studying theater at the University of Illinois, he took time off from acting to raise money by working at Cheesecake Factory. Contrary to some reports, he wasn't part of Second City, but he saw plenty of the theater's shows.
"I saw a [bleep]-ton of Chicago theater and I love the scene, but I never really auditioned for it," he said. "I had my sights set on LA."
Kite’s knack for doing dialects and impersonations—Tom Hanks, Vince Vaughn, Nicholas Cage and about 45 others—led to work in commercials and voice-over jobs, and quite accidentally to "2 Broke Girls."
His character Oleg was originally supposed to be a 45-year-old bald guy. Then creators Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings met then 30-year-old Kite, who auditioned because he thought he might be able to land a guest role at some point.
He wore white sweat socks, nasty brown flip-flops, a stained undershirt, a hair net and tiger print Lycra pants that he found at Goodwill and hemmed to be clam-diggers to the audition. Before beginning, Kite complimented Cummings but none of the other producers assembled. When he realized what he'd done, he turned to the group and said, “I only said that to Whitney. That’s because I haven’t heard of the rest of you. I’m Jonathan Kite; IMDB me and let’s start this audition.”
“Michael Patrick King started laughing,” Kite said. “He told me [after I was hired] that’s when the job was mine.”
He’s been having fun being lewd and crude ever since (Sample Oleg line: “Once you go Ukraine, you will scream in sex pain!”)
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s so much fun to play a guy who gets away with all the stuff Oleg does.”
Watch Kite's impersonations in the video above, and read more about his take on Oleg, and Chicago's famous Wiener's Circle, below.
Is it fun to be on a hit sitcom?
It’s like every day get up and make the world laugh. Give me a second to breathe! No, it’s awesome. It’s so much fun to play a guy who gets away with all the stuff Oleg does.
Yes, Oleg does like to hit on the ladies.
People will forgive Europeans and South Americans because they’re looser with their sexuality. ... I look at him as not perverted, but much looser with his sexuality.
Has playing Oleg given you game at the bars?
Or did you already have game?
Well, no. Yes. You know what it is; he does it in such a charming way. The writers give him charm. I try to add a physicality to smooth him over. He was actually written for a 45-year-old bald guy. But I think when a lot of those guys got into the [audition] room, they turned into what I call “sweaty uncle,” because you have these guys who are 45 or 50 hitting on thses gorgeous 25-year-olds, it looks a little Penn State-ish. I think that’s one of the reasons I was called back; I am young.
How was it an accident you auditioned?
It was an accident because I had booked this thing [in 2010] and I had met the casting director and we became friends. She called me for this last-minute thing ... and while I was there I asked if she was doing anything else. She told me about this, but said I wasn’t right for any of the parts ... She said come in anyway and maybe I’d get a guest role.
So I went to Goodwill and I bought these lycra-cotton blend like “clubbing” pants, tiger print, and I hemmed them up like kind of the way the Euro-pants are, like clam-diggers. And they had really sad glitter on the thigh and on the butt cheeks. It was like glitter that had been very popular in high school but now was still living at home with its mom. I wore white sweat socks and these old brown nasty leather flip-flops. I had an undershirt on and I smeared it with mustard. And I had a hair net.
The audition process was long, so I was able to grow my hair out and my beard. When I got into the room, they reacted like, “Who the hell is this guy?” I shook all their hands. It was Michael Patrick King and Whitney Cummings and others. When I got to Whitney I told her it was an honor to meet her. ... I realized I didn’t say anything nice to anyone else.