Kato Kaelin Says O.J. Simpson Trial Derailed Acting Career: 'I Became Famous for All the Wrong Reasons' (Exclusive)

The actor tells PEOPLE he feels his career was negatively impacted by becoming famous as a witness in O.J. Simpson's murder trial

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty; Isaac Brekken-Pool/Getty</p> Kato Kaelin and O.J. Simpson

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty; Isaac Brekken-Pool/Getty

Kato Kaelin and O.J. Simpson

Kato Kaelin felt like everything was looking up for his career around the time he began living in a guest house on O.J. Simpson’s estate in the early 1990s.

That was until Simpson was arrested in 1994 following the killings of his ex-wife — and Kaelin’s close friend — Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

Kaelin, who was home on the night of the killings, became a witness in the former NFL star’s 11-month murder trial. His involvement in the trial made him famous, the actor tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview following Simpson’s death earlier in April.

But Kaelin laments in the new interview, “I became famous for all the wrong reasons.”

“I was getting auditions,” the actor and television host says. “Then the trial happened. Would I have been a star? I don’t know. I doubt it. But maybe I would have been a working actor.”

Related: Kato Kaelin Was with Barbara Walters When O.J. Verdict Was Read: 'I Think the Jury Made a Mistake' (Exclusive)

<p>POOL/AFP via Getty</p> Kato Kaelin

POOL/AFP via Getty

Kato Kaelin

The Wisconsin native had moved to Los Angeles to become an actor before meeting Nicole during an Aspen vacation with their mutual friend and General Hospital actor Grant Cramer.

Kaelin continued to grow even closer to Nicole after she began dating one of his friends, and eventually she invited him to stay on her and O.J. 's property in an extra guest house, where he even began helping take care of their children Sydney and Justin Simpson.

“I was never the babysitter, but if Nicole needed a helping hand, of course I’d help,” Kaelin recalls. “And they trusted me 100 percent with Sydney and Justin, and they were terrific kids. So that’s how it all started, me being kind of a friend to them.”

Related: Lawyer Says O.J. Simpson Got 'Angry' and Confronted Him Over Confiscated Golf Clubs: 'I Saw the Rage' (Exclusive)

Prior to the trial, Kaelin had landed several film roles, including a small role in the 1994 movie Hail Caesar alongside megastars like Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. He also appeared in films like 1987’s Beach Fever, 1989’s Night Shadow, and 1992’s Prototype.

After the infamous 1995 trial, however, Kaelin says his auditions became few and far between. Many of the ones he did get were for cameos where he’d play himself. “I became famous and too hot, because I was a character of myself,” Kaelin says, describing how he felt others in the industry viewed him after the trial.

One role — which he still feels he lost out on because of his involvement in Simpson’s trial — was for the original 1994 Dumb and Dumber movie, which starred Jeff Daniels alongside Jim Carrey. “I’ll never forget that reading for Dumb and Dumber,” Kaelin says.

Related: O.J. Simpson Dead at 76 From Cancer, Family Announces

<p>Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty</p> Kato Kaelin

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Kato Kaelin

Kaelin has made dozens of appearances in film and television since the 1995 trial, which found Simpson not guilty. Largely, though, Kaelin has appeared as a cameo or a minor background character.

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Outside of the big screen, Kaelin has found work as a podcaster and entertainment host. He co-hosts the podcast, One Degree of Scandalous with Tom Zenner, and recently filmed a true crime pilot. He’s also hosted Ice Wars, a series of combat entertainment pay per view events that plays off ice hockey fights, and spent four years hosting Wizard World traveling conventions (now known as “Fan Expo”).

Related: ‘Dreams of Killing Her’: Friend Recounts Disturbing Talk with O.J. Simpson the Day After Murder of Ex-Wife

<p>Barry King/WireImage</p> Kato Kaelin

Barry King/WireImage

Kato Kaelin

Kaelin also spent two years as EmCee for KiCaSS (Kingdoms, Clans and Swords ‘n Shields) fan conventions with stars of shows like Outlander and The Last Kingdom.

But Kaelin still thinks back to the momentum he feels he lost because of the Simpson trial.

“I thought getting a reading for an A-list film [Dumb and Dumber] was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m getting in on these great opportunities and castings and someone’s going to notice me soon,’ “ Kaelin says. “And I was getting auditions all the time, and then it just stopped.”

"I know that I"m always going to be part of the O.J. trial. I'll always be Kato, the witness and house guest, but I'm older now and I embrace it," he adds. "I can't change the past. I can only live for the moment and make the future better for myself and for everybody around me."

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