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Performers of The Month - Readers' Choice Most Outstanding Performer of August - Hannah John-Kamen



The article was written by Aimee Hicks, Ellys Cartin, Kollin Lore, and Gina Kern. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRiter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

Acting is the art of breathing life and soul into written words to give life to a character. Usually, an actor is only tasked with one character at a time and that can be a big challenge in and of itself. But there are rare occasions where the writers see and realize that a performer can handle more. Those performers are few and far between, but luckily for Syfy's Killjoys they had at the helm of their cast the incomparable Hannah John-Kamen. After two seasons of just playing Dutch, the writers saw the opportunity to give John-Kamen another character to portray in Aneela. Dutch and Aneela are cut from the same cloth but are such drastically different characters. John-Kamen changed everything about her performance when she embodied Aneela making the two characters distinguishably different. That was critically important in Three Mutineers (5x6) where both Aneela and Dutch were front and center in both main storylines of the episode. This is also the episode that John-Kamen won the title of SpoilerTV's Readers' Choice Performer of the Month of August. It is a well-earned title not only for all the reasons noted above but for all the vast reasons noted below.

From the earliest episodes of Killjoys, you could tune in to any scene with Dutch and know right away that she was the toughest player in the room. John-Kamen's demeanor when playing Dutch is rooted in a steely swagger that ensures her character always leaves the first and last impression. In the opening scene, when Dutch walks into the room littered with the aftermath of Coren's chaos, we see she is already evaluating every part of her surroundings, wary but calm. Coren mentions that he may kill her and D'avin (Luke MacFarlane), but Dutch is silent, her refusal to react its own cautious defiance indicating her level of skill handling explosive situations. When Coren and Sparlo's argument results in them putting guns in each other's faces, Dutch positions herself in front of D'avin, an almost subconscious gesture that John-Kamen makes because she's so in tune with Dutch as a leader and a fighter. Dutch will always protect her partner. She waits until there is a lull in the argument before speaking up unexpectedly taking Coren's side. The gravelly undertone to her voice is a familiar one to viewers. Dutch uses it when she's most in control of a situation, and she's persuading her opponent to adopt a course of action. The secret weapon to the conversation here is that she's being completely truthful. It's why she steps right up to stare Coren in the face without so much as a twitch in her eyes. There has always been something of a Wild West gunslinger in John-Kamen's portrayal of Dutch, with the glint in her eye that tells you she knows she can draw first.

Dutch's plan required her to pose as the Warden of the prison ship and contact the Qresh to set up the ransom negotiation. She takes advantage of this lull to try to sway Sparlo away from supporting Coren. Instead of adopting the authoritative stance she used on Coren, Dutch shifts into a more concerned, more equal approach. Her eye contact this time is friendlier. She still weaves an appealing story for him, though, and John-Kamen sells the moment with a conspiratorial smile. She makes him be the first one to break eye contact. When the Qresh call comes in, John-Kamen slips right into Dutch-playing-a-character. She answers the call with a stern formal manner that is almost comically strange so foreign is it to how Dutch herself would speak. Throughout Killjoy's run John-Kamen's versatility as an actress has been on full display, displaying not one, but two characters. First, is, of course, the self-assured and kick-ass, Dutch, but then in later seasons, also her clone, the scheming, snake-like, Aneela. In this final season, the actress trades away the leather for formal wear and brings to life a third character, albeit very briefly, in the authoritative and deep-voiced Warden of the prison. In this scene, she not only shows her versatility, but her natural comedic timing, as she just completely hams it up, without overdoing it. It is clear that John-Kamen is having so much fun with the brief role, and the scene is so much fun to watch.

Later, walking back with Sparlo, who has received a transfusion of confidence from Dutch's support, Dutch encourages him to act quickly. She has positioned herself behind his shoulder, to allow him to appear as the one leading the interaction. He doesn't take her advice and chooses to posture, giving Coren an opening to kill him. Dutch is forced to continue with the charade of negotiation. She takes a moment to get into character before walking to meet the Qresh representatives. She flexes her wrists behind her back and extends her arms a bit straighter. The death of Sparlo has her trying to readjust and formulate another angle, Dutch's performance is thus off-balance, her manner too stilted and lacking a sense of urgency that the character she is playing requires. John-Kamen subsequently is playing Dutch evaluating her own performance as the Warden while giving the performance. Dutch isn't thrilled with how she falls short but recognizing that she didn't do a stellar presentation clues her in faster to the fact that the Qresh don't seem to care if she appears to be the real Warden or not.

Dutch confronts the Qresh directly and reveals she knows they aren't going to pay the ransom. Coren breaks into the conversation as Johnny's warning comes over the intercom. As Coren and the Qresh trade shots, Dutch slides out of the line of the fire in an exquisite piece of stunt choreography before re-emerging to fight Coren hand-to-hand. John-Kamen often does her own stunts, and her zeal for being fully engaged with the fight scenes makes them some of the most exciting to watch. She is almost a human whip, coiled one minute and lashing out in one long curling sweep the next. When she has Coren subdued, his henchman Mace approaches with his gun raised. In the second Dutch thinks he might shoot her instead, she's not fearful but angry, and Mace shoots Coren.

Proceeding alone to the Warden's office in search of Johnny (Aaron Ashmore), Dutch moves like a ghost through the hallways. She creates tension in the scene with precise, quick movements. She hurries down a corridor, stepping very lightly, and quietly flattens her back against the wall, her head on a swivel the entire time, before hurling herself around the corner to catch the approaching party off guard. When she sees Johnny and the Warden, Dutch is the one frozen for a second as she looks at Johnny. She then immediately turns her attention to insisting the Warden put down her weapon. Everything in this scene is secondary to what is happening between Johnny and Dutch. There is a wall between them, a discomfort so solid it almost makes that wall visible. Neither can bridge it yet, so they just stare at each other forlornly long enough for the Warden to get the drop on them both if she wanted. When Dutch asks Johnny how he can be sure they can trust the Warden, he retorts that at least the Warden didn't try to kick him off the ship. Dutch drops all pretense of guarding the Warden and lashes out at him. Ashmore and John-Kamen man the pump that keeps the show's heart beating and the disconnect they have created between their characters here stretches the space between the beats out to where we can feel the ache. There may be bombs to deactivate and assassins to thwart, but that barely matters compared to the need the audience has at this moment for Johnny and Dutch to reconcile. John-Kamen proves in this scene that silence can carry a thousand words. The subsequent reunion with D'avin provides some temporary relief from the immense heartache of the Johnny-Dutch rift. As the brothers smother each other in hugs and head rubs, Dutch beams nearby. She greets D'avin with an affectionate salutation, welcoming his casual humor as the balm it is. John-Kamen adds another layer to this scene by letting Dutch just bask in the reunion for a moment. She is just an observer, absorbing the happiness of them all being together before a new peril pushes in.

With The Lady's ship approaching, Dutch attempts to convince the Warden to let her and the Jaqobis go to fend for themselves. There's that tenacious, scrappy side of Dutch that John-Kamen is showing again here, the one that would take a big risk if it meant protecting others. Johnny's alternate plan is both a smaller and larger gamble. Dutch paces a little before stopping in front of the window to take in what she's seeing. She very contentedly observes The Lady's ship sitting still out in space, having fallen for the Killjoys' ruse. Speaking in a triumphant hush, she notes to Johnny and D'avin that they may have earned themselves the advantage they needed. It's in these moments that Dutch reassembles her team, drawing them back together as a unit, although there's still some unfinished business with Johnny.

The last scene of the episode finally allowed Ashmore and John-Kamen to mend the fence between Johnny and Dutch. They sit together on a cot, and he spills his heart, admitting the Killjoy life might not be his future. In John-Kamen’s face, you see Dutch’s emotions beautifully in conflict. His words are heavy for her to hear, but she’s also relaxed and very happy to be there with him confiding in her again. Their chemistry, their friendship, is the cornerstone of the show. Every ounce of their affectionate history comes through in this scene. Dutch’s manner here is very different from the commanding, assertive behavior she demonstrated throughout the episode. She is hanging on his every word and gathering her own thoughts to respond. When Johnny finishes speaking, Dutch takes his hand in hers and proposes. The lump in his throat is the lump in ours as she proposes he take one year off from being a Killjoy to explore his other interests. She ties a piece of string to his index finger as a reminder of her promise to fire him if he does find he wants another life. She tells him he’ll never lose her, with a smile that stretches into a joyful grin, and we swallow the lump in our throat just as Johnny does the one in his. Dutch wipes away her own tears, and they walk out with D’avin to be recognized by the Warden for saving the ship. Johnny and Dutch exchange thrilled smiles at the cheers. The shot lingers on Dutch’s exuberant smile as she lifts her head a little higher.

John-Kamen’s performance as Aneela also draws strength from a love story, albeit a romantic one. After an extended separation, Aneela was finally reunited with the love of her life, Delle Seyah Kendry (Mayko Nguyen), as well as their son Jaq (Jaeden Noel). Aneela and Kendry spent a very long time separated wherein they both changed and evolved. The prior episode ended with the initial reunion that brought Kendry to her knees and left Aneela appearing almost as overwhelmed. They both wanted that moment for so long with no expectation of it happening that when it did it was a lot for them both to process. Aneela didn't have as physical a reaction as Kendry did, but John-Kamen's flawless performance ensured that the audience knew exactly what she was thinking and feeling. When this episode rejoined the trio, Aneela was getting to know her son. John-Kamen has worked with Noel many times, but she brought a fresh new energy to the way she had Aneela interact with Jaq. This was a completely new dynamic and it felt like that. John-Kamen brought nervous energy to the way she allowed Aneela to act around Jaq. It was clear that she wanted to impress her son, but also that she had no idea how to be a mother and not knowing is something Aneela is not comfortable with.

The scene then pivoted to addressing where the prior episode had ended, allowing Aneela time to reconnect with Kendry. From the first moment John-Kamen worked with Nguyen, back in Season One as Dutch, the chemistry between the performers was palpable. They were amazing together. Then Aneela came into existence and the two actresses took their built-in chemistry up several notches. They were allowed to lean more into the flirty nature of their characters and play to the sexual side of them both. The attraction between the characters was clear from the very early scenes. Together and independently they have nurtured and built the dynamic into something truly special. It was all the work they put into these characters and this relationship that made this reunion so meaningful. The moment Jaq walked away and Aneela was alone with Kendry, John-Kamen completely changed Aneela's tone and her energy level shifted to confident and in control. She had Aneela eye Kendry in a very sexual "I want you" sort of way and the way she touched her screamed the same desire. It all led to a long-awaited much-anticipated kiss that temporarily shook both of their worlds when they each realized how fundamentally they had changed. A moment into the kiss John-Kamen's eyes shot open and when the kiss abruptly ended it was clear that Aneela was stunned, and not necessarily in a good way. She isn't easy phased, but when it happens it is usually because of Kendry and this was no exception. However, in this case, John-Kamen made sure the audience understood this was not a good sort of shock. Aneela realized Kendry was now human and that meant they spent the rest of the episode on uneven and uncertain ground as she tried to reconcile that fact and what it meant for them as a couple.

Despite the uncertain status of their relationship, Aneela and Kendry still had a mission to continue. While Kendry and Jaq were busy swindling the locals, Aneela was trying to obtain just two tickets off-planet. That is something that didn't sit well with Kendry when she found out, believing she was the one that would be left behind, which led to a tense confrontation between the two lovers. This is where John-Kamen brilliantly got to show off both sides of Aneela, the defensive protector and the frustrated partner. There is no question that it's not a good idea to be on the bad side of either Aneela or Kendry, both have proven that they are more than happy to kill in the name of their own survival, or just for fun. Though, to a certain degree, they have both toned down over the seasons thanks to brilliant character development by the writers and performers. They are not the people that one wants to cross, yet they allow each other to get away with more than any other living being would survive. When Kendry approached her to foil Aneela's plan there was a softness in Aneela's eyes. It was blatantly clear that she was annoyed at the interruption. John-Kamen has given Aneela what can only be described as crazy eyes when she is really angry, it's really how the audience knows bad things are about to happen, but it's a look that she has smartly chosen to not use even when Aneela is annoyed with Kendry. She keeps Aneela's eyes softened and, in this case, looking exhausted. She is dealing with a lot while trying to understand all the changes that happened while she was away.

It's clear that Aneela didn't want to fight with Kendry, but the one thing that makes this relationship work is that neither will ever back down to the other. They are truly equal. So, when Kendry went on the defensive there was no way Aneela was going to back down. Even in this confrontation, John-Kamen kept Aneela's voice softer than usual. The relationship between Aneela and Kendry has often been told between the lines, it has always been what wasn't being said that spoke the loudest. Aneela isn't good at expressing emotions, so everything about their love story has been told in what wasn't being said, yet it was all clearly understood because the emotions were beautifully expressed into the world through John-Kamen's eyes and body language. That was well on display here as they were having a disagreement. Everything about the way John-Kamen handled Aneela screamed of the love she still has for the character despite her human status. It really is quite amazing what this talented actress can do with and without words. She knows how to build upon what isn't written while elevating what was.

Then, on a dime, the frustrated partner switched over to the defensive protector. For a moment she stood back and tried to allow Kendry to handle business with the disgruntled local. But the moment the man grabbed Kendry's arm and acted aggressively towards her and their son all bets were off for his survival. John-Kamen took Aneela's eyes from soft to intense in a flash and her entire posture changed. Even through the screen, she made the audience physical feel the change in the air. In a flash she had her hand protectively on Kendry's shoulder, pushing her back to safety, while her boot introduced itself to the foolish man. When Aneela put herself between her family and this man one could feel that one wrong move and every living soul in that encampment would be in danger. When John-Kamen delivered Aneela's lines about not touching her family all the softness from moments ago was gone and replaced by unbridled rage. It was a fast pivot that required precision acting because for the moment to have the full impact John-Kamen couldn't act too soon or too late after Aneela saw Kendry in danger. The moment had to hit right on point for the shift to have the maximum impact and that it did. She hit the mark at the exact right second and the rest of the scene played out with a brilliantly elevated air of electricity because of it.

Everything between Aneela and Kendry led to this definitive scene in the woods. Both were holding back and not saying everything they wanted or needed to say. They both had made a lot of assumptions that mostly proved inaccurate. John-Kamen really got to show a different vulnerable side to Aneela in this scene. Aneela had been keeping Kendry at arm's length ever since the big human reveal earlier in the episode. She played it in such a way that the audience was as conflicted about it as Kendry was. She kept Aneela's feelings very close to the proverbial vest and was treating Kendry different overall. They were still fundamentally connected, that never faltered, but Aneela was acting differently. Even when Kendry was throwing dirt at her all Aneela did was throw up her arms to protect herself. In this situation, Aneela would have normally charged forward and physically grabbed Kendry's arms to stop her, but she didn't. In fact, Aneela looked genuinely uncertain what to do when Kendry was going off on her. John-Kamen played Aneela genuinely confused and then this shift started to occur as Kendry proved that she wasn't just a normal frail human but still, in essence, the Kendry that was once Hullen. The more confident and in charge Nguyen was portraying Kendry the more relieved John-Kamen allowed Aneela to appear. The hesitation and uncertainty that had befallen Aneela weren't out of hatred for Kendry's human status, but for fear of her own status as Hullen. She genuinely had spent the episode fearful that Kendry could no longer love her and that was slowly breaking Aneela's normally cold green heart. It's at this point where it was obvious that Kendry's earlier realization that Aneela was still Hullen had a much larger impact than the reveal that Kendry was now human. Kendry knew how to handle Aneela as a Hullen, but Aneela didn't know how to handle Kendry as human. Through John-Kamen's performance, the audience got to see an incredible amount of vulnerability. Aneela was holding back because she couldn't handle the thought of Kendry seeing her as a monster. Even the way John-Kamen ever so gently had Aneela touch Kendry's face spoke to the fact that Aneela was afraid to break Kendry's heart. It was just a beautiful moment of open honesty between the two.

The two women quickly got back into sync. As Nguyen played to Kendry's darker fiercer side that allowed John-Kamen to sink back into Aneela's normal self. Aneela needed to see the fire back in the eyes of her lover. She needed to see that Kendry didn't see her any differently and once Nguyen got Kendry back to that place she pounced, and a spark came back to Aneela's eyes. Even before she spoke that she wanted to sex it was obvious that Aneela wanted to latch onto Kendry and reclaim her lover. For the first time since the kiss, they were back on the same page as two fierce Queen's ready to rule over the Universe together. John-Kamen always had electric chemistry with Nguyen, but she had that same strong connection to Ashmore and Macfarlane as well. She knows how to connect each of her characters with all the other characters in unique and dynamically different ways. So, while it has been a true joy to watch the journey of Aneela and Kendry unfold it has been equally meaningful to watch Dutch's relationships unfold as well in such different ways. That is the ultimate mark of a powerhouse performer when they can make the audience feel a very real connection to every unique bond his or her character shares with another character. The audience can feel the love and hate between the characters.

The goodbye scene with Jaq was a hard one. The prior scene with this trio established the return of the fiery fierceness of Aneela and Kendry yet having to say goodbye to their son heavily impacted them both. There was genuine sadness and melancholy as they had to say goodbye to their only child with no idea of how or when they would be together again. John-Kamen played Aneela in a very somber way in this scene. Her eyes lost the spark they had in the prior scene and she made the audience feel the burden Aneela was carrying in having to do this in order to protect her son. She kept Aneela's voice soft and even seeded in some tinges of emotion that Aneela usually tries to avoid. When she stated that Jaq had rescued her there was an abundance of pride in the way John-Kamen delivered the line. Aneela may have only just met her son, but she was already very proud of him.

Then the trio hugged their final goodbye. When Aneela shut her eyes and fell into the group embrace, it showed a very maternal side of her. John-Kamen allowed, at least temporarily, for many of Aneela's walls to fall, and at that moment Aneela was just like any other mother sending her child away into an uncertain future. She made the audience feel the ache in Aneela's heart. After Jaq was securely in the cube, Aneela had to confess to Kendry that she didn't actually know how to stop the Lady. She isn't one to give up easily, so the audience knew the fight was just beginning, but in that moment of truthful vulnerability she did look worried and if Aneela is worried everyone else should be as well.

This was an incredible episode fueled by John-Kame’s power. She headlined both main storylines and took great measures to advance both Dutch and Aneela's core storylines. This entire episode from the planet to the prison ship all rested squarely on her shoulders. She was surrounded by her gifted co-stars, but the episode was either going to succeed or fail on her shoulders and she rose to the challenge. She was given two compelling storylines and she turned them both into grand moments of strength and heart for her characters. Even while she was showing the vulnerabilities of both women, she also tapped into their strengths making sure that no one ever forgets that these two are the strongest and fiercest women in the universe. She also allowed the audience to see into the hearts of both. Whether it was highlighting Aneela's love for Kendry and their son or Dutch's affinity for D'av and friendship with Johnny the audience felt it all. While Killjoys is now over, Hannah John-Kamen's star status will only continue to grow. An actress that can flawlessly handle two characters at once along with everything else thrown at her on this show is one that will have a very successful and long-lasting career. For all these reasons and so many not mentioned here, Hannah John-Kamen is SpoilerTV's Readers' Choice Performer of August.

Please use the comments section to discuss anything this article didn't cover about her performance in this episode and throughout the series.

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