It was the first decent paycheck as an actor that launched Christian Kane’s culinary kick.
Kane is Oklahoma’s connection at the upcoming Wizard World Tulsa pop culture convention. He grew up in Norman, studied for a few years at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-’90s, and his parents now live in Tulsa. He was also nice enough to spend about an hour in the Tulsa World newsroom talking to a couple of writers about his career, side ventures and other favorite things.
For me, I was all about his taste in food and music.
After moving to Los Angeles to make a full-time go of acting, he landed a break with a recurring role on the popular “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spinoff “Angel.” From 2008-2012, he was the butt-kicking ex-black operative on the TNT series ”Leverage” and is currently starring in ”The Librarians” on that network.
“Leverage” writers worked in story lines to include Kane’s talent for cooking. In July, he started ”Kane’s Kitchen,” offering episodes on a website and through iTunes.
Cooking isn’t a skill he learned growing up. It’s one he learned after being a starving artist.
“I was eating a can of beans mixed with ramen noodles every day just because you are watching your money,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, I got a job. Instead of going out and buying a car like everybody else or spending it on clothes, I went to the grocery store and I was able to eat for the first time, so I started really falling in love with food.”
Shows on the Food Network became favorites, and Kane said chefs including Emeril Lagasse taught him to cook. It reignited Kane’s interest in art, which was his area of study at OU.
“I just let that go because I was an actor, but I found that this was my new art,” Kane said. “I found the presentation of food — it’s a painting. And it disappears, and somebody can eat your artwork, and they smile, then it was a masterpiece.”
Spicy selections: The episodes of “Kane’s Kitchen” are filmed in his kitchen featuring American classics with a twist. Usually, it’s about upping the spice, adding a little sexy and focusing on the plate presentation.
His palate is influenced by his mother, a native of New Orleans, and the flavors of Oklahoma and Texas. The family always grew peppers, including jalapenos and serranos, in their backyard.
“We would just go pick them from the garden, and they were always really fresh,” he said. “I find that the spice in food livens you up. It wakes you up. A little bit of sweat while you are eating is a good thing. I just feel that when you add heat to food it releases endorphins, and it just makes it more pleasurable for me.”
Most of his dishes — from pizza to breakfast — will call for some peppers. He also likes marionberry, which is a type of blackberry grown in Oregon.
The most important utensil?
“Knives. You always have to have a good knife,” he said. “I have tons of knives, and they are all on the wall. It depends on which one I am going to use and what I am feeling. It’s the paintbrush.”
Each year, Kane makes it home for the holidays, but he won’t be found at any local haunts.
“I stay at my mom’s house and eat her food. I don’t cook for myself. I sit on the couch and watch football with Dad,” Kane said. “I have never missed a Christmas. That was a promise I made to my mom. It’s good because in L.A. there are no Christmas trees, there is no snow. I usually drive. So I drive and it starts getting cold, then I get into the snow. Then, I get to Oklahoma and it smells like Christmas. There are cinnamon and apples at Mom’s house and pine from the Christmas tree you can smell, and all of a sudden I get to have Christmas because there is no Christmas in L.A.”
Country roots: Food isn’t the only side project for Kane, who simultaneously built a music career along with his acting resume. He and a friend, Steve Carlson, formed the Southern rock band Kane in 1998, touring the U.S. and Europe.
The band was signed by the independent record label Bigger Picture Group, and its first album, “The House Rules,” debuted in 2010 at No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers album chart and No. 25 on the Country Albums chart. Kane has a songwriting deal with EMI Music Publishing, and his song “Thinking of You,” which he co-wrote with Blair Daly, was featured on a “Leverage” episode.
Kane never intended to become a musician, however. His first role — on the 1997-98 television show “Fame L.A.” — was rewritten to make the character a singer. Because he was listening to Tracy Chapman before the audition, he chose to sing “Fast Car” on the spur of the moment.
“The day I got the role on ‘Fame L.A.’ I became an actor and I became a musician,” he said.
Prescott Niles, bassist for The Knack, gave him a crash course in playing a guitar. Even though Kane is a fan of rock, country is where his music lands.
“I’m from Oklahoma, and that’s what my voice allowed me to do,” he said. “I like to sing Garth Brooks, and I love to sing Alice in Chains. But the problem is when I sing Alice in Chains, it sounds like Garth Brooks.”
Kane’s band avoided playing country at venues in Los Angeles such as the Viper Room. They went on between hair metal groups and rock bands, so launching into a George Strait tune would have lost the room.
“So we figured out how to sing the songs we love and just amp them up into the rock world,” Kane said.
He’s swears I’d love his fast-paced version of Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas.” His fans, who call themselves the Kaniaks, fall into two groups.
“What I found is both of those put together have created a family out there for me,” he said. “Somebody either likes the acting or they like the music. But they all love each other, and they have done so many special things.
“They are fighting cancer. They are saving animals, and that’s way bigger than I am. I noticed that the music and the acting brought all those guys together ... which is nice to have that community out there.”