JAS ANDERSON DEFEATING THE ODDS
Interview Latoya P. Henry
Photography Kenneth Jones
Fashion Editor Renessta Olds
Tell us about your first big break?
My first big break, the biggest movie I’ve done to date was in 2009 when I did Brooklyn’s Finest. That was my first big, big roll, especially being opposite Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and Richard Gere and being directed by Antoine Fuqua, which was amazing as well. This led to things spiraling upward for me; I was able to walk the red carpet, be interviewed and attended Sundance Film Festival. It was also amazing to gain notoriety from people in general. That was such an incredible accomplishment. However, I guess I could say I got started with Law & Order and I ended up doing a couples of other shows including the Cosby's after signing with Shirley Faison’s agency at the age of thirteen, from there I’ve been working consistently.
So I had the opportunity to check out several of your reels, which consists of mixed roles. As an actor what is your favorite type of character to play and have you accepted a role that comes close to your personality?
Well, my mom said I play bad good, so I’m always great playing the villain. It’s always kind of funny to come across those kinds of characters, along with challenging characters. It makes me want to work harder to get into that particular character. Most of all, roles are from the heart, they’re easy and they come easily, but I haven’t come close to a character that is similar to me. I came across characters that I could play easily, because I may know someone who has lived that life. For example if it’s a street character, being that I’m from the hood, it won’t be hard to dive into one of those characters. I would love to be further challenged playing a role such as a lawyer, doctor or a paraplegic. I did a film about a person who suffered from a disorder, which was called “Hug” that got into Sundance and won an award. We got into four film festivals including Urban world and Tribeca. I played a character by the name of drew who is bipolar and that was my greatest character to date. To prep for the role I actually stayed in a halfway house, with kids who have disorders for about two weeks, my mom told me you’re crazy, like what are you doing? I told her I wanted to get into character. It was my first lead in a short film, being the lead I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be right, because you have to take a bit of responsibility on to your shoulders for the project, after all it’s about selling it.
One of the best moments about doing this film was when I was at Sundance and this lady came up to me after the screening crying profusely, I asked her if she was okay and she was like my son is bipolar and you portrayed that character so well. Thank you for playing it, and not having it display a bad perspective of people who suffer from disorders. She really appreciated the honesty and the realness that was played in the film and I think that made me cry. At this point I'm definitely ready for more challenging roles like that.
Do you feel you're normally type casted and if so, how do you manage to avoid specific rolls?
I guess I used to think that way before, when I was working on Brooklyn’s Finest. I was talking to Don Cheadle, expressing my concerns about that. He told me, “Listen brother you take the roles that you are given until you could take the roles that you want, you shouldn’t turn down work”. So I took it as, I’m never going to turn down work. So no one could type cast me because I’m such a unique individual and I won’t allow myself to be type casted. I always take the time to ask specific details towards every character I play. I stopped looking at being type casted and focus on being humble to work. Plus my rolls are progressing and getting much better as far as what I can do, talent wise. I have an amazing team who is supportive and carefully select roles where I could acquire a great recurring role.
I’ve noticed you done a lot of work on officer and detective series and films, aside from acting would you ever consider being a detective?
I do have a lot of respect for the officers who work hard and do their jobs correctly. Who actually serve and protect, not the ones who abuse the badge. There are officers who really make a difference. As for me, that’s something I wouldn’t consider. I would play it on television and I would love to go through the training, because I love to train my body, but as a career no. I think that it takes a unique type of individual who is able to put their life on the line each and every day. That’s why I feel I have a lot of respect for those people who put their lives on the line.
Most people would look at a scene of a film or series and say, “ Hey I could do that, way better than he or she can?” how would you describe the most difficult part of acting when it comes down to preparing for a new roll and how would you like to shed light on those, who think preforming is simple?
People could think a lot of things are easy by boxing it. You could look at a cooking show and say hey that’s simple I could do that. However there are tasks and challenges when you’re really doing it, so if you’re not going to put your money where your mouth is, its just talk. Most of the time I tell people including my son, if you think you could do it, just do it, then you will find out how difficult the task really is. That’s just life in general. For the most part, I'm not really concerned with how other people feel. I never compare my roles or even myself to other actors, I just take what I do and give 125%.
For you, is working on a series more difficult than working on a movie role? If the opportunity comes along would you ever consider Broadway theatre?
Well I’ve done theatre; I have my equity cards, through my college. I’ve done a play at the new school theatre with Woody King Jr. I was also nominated for an Audelco award for best male musical. So I would definitely do it again, the only thing that is different between television and the stage is that on the stage you have to be in that moment consistently. It’s not all about you, so you need to make sure you follow through with your lines and stay on cue. There have been cases that I missed a line and someone would step in where I messed up, and I’ve done the same thing for other people. It's very live and direct; there are no stops or someone aiming to capture things from a different angle like when shooting a movie. It’s almost as if you’re just living it, that energy and that rush is different compared to film. With a movie it’s filmed over five months or more, things are continuous, you work with one character and you deal with different ups and downs.
So you’re guest- starring for “Blue Bloods” could you tell us a bit about your character and the most interesting aspects about it?
I play a character named Rainey; he’s a slumlord who wants to kick these tenants out of the building. Rainey is a funny dude; he's cool and collective yet dangerous. In fact, he’s someone you don’t want to meet in a dark alley. I think that everyone will be entertained by his antics because he’s a great character. I enjoyed playing this character and I can’t wait to play him again. That’s only if it’s what God permits. It was an amazing experience, probably one of the best I’ve had.
The most positive experience you've gained through your career and has this affected your outlook compared to the early stages of your career?
The most positive is just seeing the growth. Knowing the direction that I’m traveling in, and seeing how far I came from up until this point. People are respecting the craft; they know who I am and calling me in. So I’m really building a solid career. You figure it takes ten to twenty years to build a lasting career. I’m twenty plus in this game, so just to see the fact that I’m still here and still working is a blessing. I’ve been through several agents and managers, now I have a strong team and I know all parts of the film industry, aside from just acting. The main thing is growth and solidifying the next 20 years of my career to become a veteran. So it just the learning lessons that I’ve endeavored throughout my years.
Once you’ve hit your peak at your career do you feel that there is more room for improvement and how do you manage to stay above water? (Meaning to stay on top of your career)
GOD! I can’t say anymore than that. That’s the only way to stay above water along with the support of my family and friends. As for the peak of my career, there is always room for improvement; even the greatest actors take acting classes. That means you're improving and honing your skills. Anyone who says there is no room for improvement, eh… I don’t know. There is always room for growth; you grow each and every day. You will never come to a place where you stop improving and growing for yourself that could never happen because that’s life.
We're all about inspiring the creative community, is there a specific piece of advice you would like to offer aspiring actors and actresses, who desire the ability to walk in your footsteps?
Do the work, everything else will come in place but if you don’t do the work you won’t receive the benefits from it and never give up no matter how hard or difficult. Find something to put your faith in that is higher than you cause that is going to get you through tough times. I’m not a religious person I’m more of a Godly/spiritual person, so for me it might be different from someone else. Know your business and know your craft. Study and learn the other side of the business. Know who are the casting directors and producers. Overall just knowing the business because this is not just a job it’s a business. So you must treat yourself accordingly. Don’t complain when you’re not doing the work or putting in those hours. You have to sacrifice for what you want. Go out and take great headshots or attend a great acting class. What you put in you will receive in return. If you want to put in 50% percent then expect that to come back to you. I can’t stress enough that you have to put in the work, don’t stress over other people’s travels or what they’re doing, you will drive yourself crazy. Just focus on what you’re doing and worry about you. I am also going to do a few seminars to help up and coming creatives to get excited and to focus on their craft.
Remember that Acting is not your life!! You make your life; Outside of acting have a social life, friends, family and hobbies, because what happens if you don’t have these things and you lose acting? you will be a very miserable person.
So Jas Anderson 2016, what should we look forward to and are you considering any new ventures?
This year for me will be the year of gatherings. Where I could feel even more excited about where I am in my life. I’m at a place where I feel that God will keep the evil away. I want to stay on a positive path and eliminating anything that is aimed to bring me down. People fail to understand that sometimes you may have people in your life that are really miserable and you need to learn to let them go, in order to maintain your happiness and the coming of your gathering and what God has in stored for you. Blessings come when you give back to others.
Photography Ken Jones
Fashion Editor Renessta Olds
Grooming T. Cooper using Marrakesh for Men
Assistant Stylist Natoya P. and Sheiba Indya Burroughs