'2 Broke Girls' actor learned accent in suburbs

  • Jonathan Kite, who grew up in Skokie, plays Oleg the cook on the CBS comedy "2 Broke Girls."

    Jonathan Kite, who grew up in Skokie, plays Oleg the cook on the CBS comedy "2 Broke Girls." Courtesy of CBS

  • Jonathan Kite, who grew up in Skokie, plays Oleg the cook on the CBS comedy, "2 Broke Girls."

    Jonathan Kite, who grew up in Skokie, plays Oleg the cook on the CBS comedy, "2 Broke Girls." Photo courtesy of CBS

  • Jonathan Kite, who grew up in Skokie, plays Oleg the cook on the CBS comedy, "2 Broke Girls."

    Jonathan Kite, who grew up in Skokie, plays Oleg the cook on the CBS comedy, "2 Broke Girls." Photo courtesy of CBS

 
 
Updated 7/6/2015 6:00 PM

The Ukrainian accent he uses to play a sex-crazed cook on the CBS comedy "2 Broke Girls" is something Jonathan Kite first learned in the suburbs.

Growing up in Skokie, Kite had many Russian and Eastern European friends. At their houses, he'd hear their parents talking and learned to mimic the dialect.

 

He draws from that now to play Oleg, a diner cook who makes flirty, heavily accented comments to co-stars Beth Behrs, Kat Dennings and Jennifer Coolidge. "2 Broke Girls" begins filming its fifth season next month.

"Sitcoms are fun," said Kite, an alumnus of Niles North High School and the University of Illinois. "You don't get bored. It's a different script every week, and an audience comes to see you."

Audiences come to see him do stand-up comedy now, too. Kite did a few shows at Zanies in Rosemont in May, where part of his act was doing celebrity impressions. He can do about 100 of them -- everyone from Vince Vaughn to Barack Obama.

"(Impressions) are a fun parlor trick, and I'm very happy I can do it," he said, noting it's a new but small part of his act. "Stand-up comedy is more involved than I ever understood. Acting and comedy are like two different skill sets. It's like, I'm a chef, but I also do real estate."

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The only impressions he won't do are Gilbert Gottfried and Russell Brand, both of whom he said have "unnaturally high voices for an adult male." Rather than do weak impressions of them, he opts not to do them at all.

Raised on Chicago theater and TV shows like "In Living Color" and "Saturday Night Live," Kite earned an acting degree from U of I and started doing improv comedy and small character acting parts in Chicago.

When he moved to Los Angeles, he immediately found work as a comedic actor -- starring in Muscle Milk commercials and doing sketch comedy on "The Jamie Foxx Show," among his jobs -- before being cast on "2 Broke Girls" for its 2011 debut.

Even though they designed the part of Oleg for a 45-year-old bald Russian man, American-born Kite walked into the audition wearing a hair net and a ridiculous outfit from Goodwill which he stained with mustard. The directors loved the character he created so much, they gave him the part.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kite attributes his success in Hollywood to meeting people face-to-face and building connections the old-fashioned way, the way people did pre-Internet. While he uses Twitter a lot for jokes and shout-outs (his handle is @jbkite), he says he's not much of a social media fan. He met the man he'd later hire as his business manager at a party, and still considers it a big moment in his career to meet comedian Max Alexander in person. They became friends, and Alexander gave Kite valuable feedback and professional support that he says helped him when he was starting out in L.A.

"It's all about these relationships. I don't judge my life and my success by the jobs, because relationships are more important than jobs," he said. "I'm only on Facebook so my mother can keep up with me. The way that I look at my life is the company I keep."

In his free time, Kite travels the world looking nothing like Oleg -- he trims his hair, shaves his beard and dresses fashionably, often in a suit and tie.

While "2 Broke Girls" takes up most of his time, he plans to continue doing standup comedy, and might release a comedy album later this year. Being on a hit show, Kite says, gives him the freedom to pick and choose his projects.

"I'm gonna keep plugging away, and doing stuff that makes sense to me," he said. "I just want to do projects I believe in."

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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