Mercedes Kilmer is the daughter of actor Val Kilmer and English actress Joanne Whalley, who recently made her feature film debut, starring opposite her father in the heist film Paydirt. Val, who has endured a two-year battle with throat cancer that resulted in a tracheotomy and reduced his voice to a rasp, had his voice dubbed in the movie, but still gave an incredible performance. It was working with her father in this state that opened Mercedes’ eyes to the need for better accessibility and more representation of actors with disabilities.
“I was really appalled at the lack of disability being in the conversation, of the lack of disabled people and disability in my training and in even in my own thoughts about acting,” she told HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE podcast interview. “I try to read a lot and I will always try to be aware of identity in art and within labor, but I was really shocked. It seems to be a conversation that’s kind of absent.”
The young star continued, “My dad is so talented naturally and he’s trained so much, so he’s able to really skillfully work around his disability of speech. Just watching him communicate and how he does it with his face and with his physicality, I learned really to not take for granted my speech in my acting, and not to rely on it.”
In Paydirt, Mercedes plays Jamie, who is on her way to becoming the district attorney, while her father, played by Val, is a retired police officer who returns to work for one last showdown. A neo-western of sorts, as the movie takes place in the Coachella valley, the movie was Mercedes’ first major role and one she was excited to do with her dad. “I really always tried to keep my family separate from me when it comes to my work, especially my acting. I’ve always been reticent to be in the public and especially to be boldly associated with my family,” she explained. “I think this film was really healthy to actually finally integrate my family and my personal life and the public.”
However, Mercedes said that once she got on set with the infamous Top Gun actor, she ended up feeling really nervous and shy. “I think that it was really hard for me to act with my dad because I’ve never done it before,” she said. “It’s very intimate. I love my parents and I’m very close with with both my parents, but it’s still a just a different part of myself that I don’t really share with them, but it was really, really rewarding.”
Be sure to the listen to the full interview on the HollywoodLife podcast! PAYDIRT is available on VOD and Digital!