Though being 25 usually means the starting point of a career to most of us, this assumption radically changes when you talk to such an experienced actor like Jake T. Austin. With key roles throughout his life in the animated series Go Diego Go!, movies like Hotel For Dogs and New Years Eve and TV series like The Wizards of Waverly Place, Jake has already appeared in 30 film and television productions altogether. He’s been nominated five times nominated to the Young Artist Awards and twice to the Teen Choice Awards. Now, as the lockdown begins to be lifted worldwide, we get the chance to chat about his acting background, as well as his interest in theatre and the importance of the arts in our lives.
Most of the world has been on a ‘lock down’ due to the pandemic, what did you do with so much time at home.
These have certainly been challenging and difficult times for so many throughout the world and so many people and their families have been affected. I hope everyone is trying to stay positive and healthy. During the past few months I’ve been watching a lot of films, also doing a lot of cooking at home, I recently I made my own pasta sauce from scratch and it actually turned out pretty well!
How did you get started in show business?
My extended family has been in the performing arts, in a behind the scenes capacity, so fo me, being in show business is manifestation of that. My grandfather began working as a stage-hand/prop-master for the Broadway Theaters as well as for various networks such as CBS and NBC. My grandmother also worked as an usher on Broadway as well, she had the benefit of seeing live performances almost every night. When my father and uncles grew older they followed in grandpa’s footsteps. They worked for shows such as Saturday Night Live and 60 Minutes. Even as a small child, I loved the energy of a set and it was on The David Letterman Show that I got my first opportunity at doing a live-action skit for a studio audience. From that point I, the world of performing was always a part of my life: auditioning for commercials and print modeling for kids clothing, family products, etc. Being on a set, on camera and embodying a character was something I always wanted to do and it took flight when I stepped on the set at the Ed Sullivan Theater to do Letterman.
You have been a professional actor from a very young age. Has performing always been what you wanted to do?
As long as I can remember I have always enjoyed the adrenaline rush one gets from performing, especially when in front of an audience of some sort. Good acting is something that can be spontaneous and unpredictable and it is definitely a rush that one feels when they are doing a scene. I’m a fan of great actors and film-makers, too many to list, and of all writers and story-tellers….I am constantly being inspired by different artists. Creativity is essential for me and I’ve been immersed in the craft of acting and of storytelling for so long I couldn’t see myself doing any other career.
When you’re in a movie, its contained to be just the cast and crew, but you’ve been on TV shows with a a live studio audience. How is the shooting different between a movie and show and how does the live audience change things?
Working on film-sets is an entirely different experience than doing a performance for a live-audience, wether it’s for a television series. On a film-set, you show up Monday morning, go through hair, makeup and wardrobe and then prepare to shoot for the day with the cast and crew. The schedule stays pretty much consistent throughout the week. On a television set where a studio audience is present, actors typically rehearse Monday through Wednesday and shoot approximately half of the entire shooting script Thursday without audience in attendance. On Friday an audience will be present and the actors will perform the remaining scripted material. The thrill of acting in front of an audience is very euphoric. You dont know how the audience will react and there is definitely an element of suspense as you wait to see how they engaged with the dialogue, character, etc. The greatest satisfaction comes when the audience reacts positively and you see the joy that acting brings into people’s lives.
Would you like to star in a play or stage show?
I have aways been attracted to plays as a medium for story-telling, beginning when I was a child actor. The first live theater I acted in was an interpretation of the musical Anything Goes at the Helen Hayes Theater in New York. Growing up I was always influenced by classical playwrights such as Shakespeare and Ibsen as well as Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill among many others. Lin Manuel Miranda did an excellent job reimagining the inception of the U.S.A with Hamilton and there are just so many exciting opportunities to tell stories on stage in general.
What are some great performances from plays that standout?
Some of my personal favorite performances from plays that stand out to me are Broderick Crawford as “Willie Stark” in Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men, a role he originated on Broadway and subsequently the 1949 film adaptation in which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Another fine performance from a play that stands out to me is Walter Matthau as “Oscar Madison” in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. He too starred in the original Broadway productions as well as the 1968 film adaptation. There are so many great roles and actors have done amazing things with them. Jake Gyllenhaal was in Proof in which he was a college scholar affirming the origins of a math proof and what character was written for the stage by David Auburn and it won a Pulitzer Prize. Denzel Washington was in Fences which ran on Broadway and he starred opposite Viola Davis. It was written by August Wilson and also won a Pulitzer Prize. It was made into a movie with Denzel directing and the movie was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, as was Denzel’s acting and Viola Davis’ won for her acting, so its pretty incredible. Too many to name them all, but those are four that standout.
How important do you think that the arts will be to people as we come out of lockdown and return to normal?
That’s a great question and like many people, I look forward to the future. I think this question has two parts: I think people are looking forward to the act of going to the theater: whether its the movie theater or live theater, the idea of being able to sit together and watch a performance and see, hear and experience a story unfolding. I shot a movie last year called Adverse, which is a present day story set in Los Angeles about substance abuse and adversity. It opened the Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal, which is near Spain. And I think people are looking forward to being able to go to the theater and experience new stories. The second part is how it inspires the creation of stories not yet told: how people’s lives change when their school, job, gym, church; all the things that you experience in “normal life” has all of the sudden been restricted. And how does restricting their access to that affects them. There are so many ways one could explore that on stage or on the screen.
Jake T. Austin also took place on our special 2020 Pride Video. Watch it now here!