Jay Kristopher: An Inside Look
Okay, I have typed out about 6.3 versions of the opening introduction to this interview. I attempted to pump it full of accolades for our interviewee as well as tried to talk about the vision of Greenlit. I really tried to incorporate how “it’s awesome to have such a great actor to open the window into the industry so we all could see,” since getting an inside look into the industry is Greenlit’s main purpose. But then I found myself just wanting to get you, the reader, to the interview. Jay Kristopher is an up-and-coming actor taking the industry by force. He has a lot of great things to say… Okay then… Enjoy…
What made you want to start acting?
JK: Funny thing is I can’t remember. It’s something that I always wanted to do. I remember my mother taking me to see plays when I was a kid. I also remember writing a note to my teacher saying I wanted to be an actor when I grew up. So practically all my life.
What was one thing that surprised you when you first got into acting? Something you didn’t expect.
JK: That I was good enough. One of the first auditions I had outside of college was for To Kill a Mockingbird. I was late and the door was cracked so I could hear the director giving the actor praise. I thought to myself, “I should just go home. I’m already late and this guy sounds like he got the part.” I went in and did my audition to the best of my ability. After we were done, the director didn’t say a word. She just asked me if I could sing. I went home and thought, “at least it was good practice.” A few days later, I got the email saying they wanted me for the part. I asked the director, “why did she ask me if I could sing?” She said, “I was already thinking about casting you as Judd Fry in Oklahoma next year.”
Give us an idea of some of the experiences you have had so far. Give us your worst experience and then your best experience.
JK: Worst experience. I was in a film recently that took about 6-8 months to shoot. I sacrificed vacation days, traveled to different places (more than an hour away), kept the same look and endured a schedule that would change daily because it was going to be a great supporting role. I did all of this for free. After it was over, I found out at the cast party that my part was almost completely cut out of the film. I go from pages of dialogue to being a featured extra in a montage. And the worse thing is, I found out from a drunk guy at the bar where it was screening. So here I am at this cast party, not really being part of the actual cast. It was pretty embarrassing. But I know I did good work and it’s just something that I can talk about on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” one day.
Best experience: I auditioned for a well known casting director back in Texas. I must’ve been something awful. They turned my headshot over and wrote on the back “Needs work” in a red pen. That’s all the notes I got, LOL. So five years later now living in L.A., they called me in again to audition for a project. I booked it. They didn’t remember me from the next guy. I didn’t remind them either but it was a personal victory to show how much I’ve grown as an artist.
What’s your process like when you are getting into character?
JK: Some people call me a method actor. I hate rehearsals. I understand they are needed because it’s much easier when the productions take place. I like keeping things fresh especially if it is a dramatic scene. I try to stay present at all times. That way if the actor in the scene gives me some improvisation, I could react to it. When you rehearse, sometimes it takes away from the performance because you know what’s about to happen. I don’t ever want my scenes to appear fake or like “I’ve been there before.” I think I learned how to keep things fresh in theater. You’re the same character for 9 shows with the same lines and the same situations. So to keep things fresh, you do things a little differently each night. It works in film as well when you are doing different takes.
What are some tips and tricks for auditions?
JK: I’m not sure I’m an authority on this but I can do my best. Be prepared. Know the material. Even if you don’t know the script 100%, you know the situation. You can always stay present with a goal in mind. Be on time. First impressions are key. If you are late to the audition, they may think you will be late to the production. Also, it will put you in a better place. If I’m late, it adds to my stress level which makes me more tense when it is time to perform. Have a good attitude. Be in a good place when you hit the door. That doesn’t mean “be fake”. I see some people go into auditions “kissing a**”. It’s not about that. It’s about being genuine. You should know that you control the atmosphere in the room when you are in it. Take your beats, take your time, taste the words. A lot of people look for what you can bring to the character. Anyone can memorize the lines and deliver them. They want to see how you made this material yours, even if you’re making the wrong choices. Last but not least, treat the audition like the performance. Be the part. Act as if you were already on that production and your scene was up. It’s a privilege to act so whenever you are afforded the opportunity take advantage.
Okay truth time… There has to be a role that you really wanted but didn’t get, is there?
JK: Absolutely, every role I try out for lol. However, if you need one circumstance, I can say I auditioned for True Blood one time. I was so nervous. The material was easy but since I watch the show, it magnified my intensity. I walked in the room thinking it was going to be someone’s assistant and a camera. I walk in, Alan Ball is sitting there with about 7 other execs. Holy bajolies!!! All he said was “Go!” So I did it. I bombed the first two lines from nerves and aced the second part. I was so nervous, I busted out laughing hysterically before I even left the parking lot. I felt silly but I needed that experience. Now that I know what it’s like to be in a room with the top dogs, I can feel more at ease for future auditions. Now it’s just fun for me.
Tell us your biggest defining moment as an Actor.
JK: The Rally. I remember going to the auditions in the rain. I was sitting on the freeway for two hours. I called some of my friends to let them know, so they can try out. All of them said, “it’s raining” or “I don’t know if I want to travel that far for an audition.” That got me thinking, “what if I’m the fool?” lol. “What if they got it right and I’m wearing myself out for no reason.” However, something got me to that audition that day. Once I got there, I read for one part. I didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I turned to my co-worker and said, “well I really wanted to do that movie. It’s Christian based. It would have been the perfect movie to combine my dream and my faith.” As I said that sentence literally the phone rang and it was Rick Reyna. He said, “I’ve got a part for you. God put it on my heart to give it to you. I prayed about all of my cast members. It’s actually a bigger role. It’s a lead. It’s actually supposed to be a 50 something Hispanic guy but God said you are it. Do you want it?” This is a tough business. Every now and then, you feel alone. But it’s instances like these that materialize my faith. When another person that barely knows me tells me, God has this for you. It makes me feel like the Creator of the universe is not an absentee Father. He delights in every detail of our lives. It’s just affirmation and it allows me to keep going even when times get rough.
Tell us a bit about your experience working on Conan.
JK: Conan has been an absolute joy. The sketches are always cool. 99% of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing until I’m actually doing it. I remember being on the Tonight show with him and walking through the studio doors for the first time to the roar of the live audience. It was my first time being in something of that magnitude. It was awesome! Lots of sketches followed including a lot of people’s favorite, Porn Andy. When I did the dance, we didn’t rehearse that. It was part of a joke that my cousin told me a long time ago. So I guess I pulled that move out in honor of him. It worked. I love everyone there. They treat me like part of the family everytime I’m there. I never got a chance to meet Conan face-to-face. It’s crazy cause I’ve been with him on the show about 20 times. One day, I was sitting in the massage chair. I had my eyes closed and I felt someone lean over me. They said “be at one with yourself.” I opened my eyes and I saw it was him walking off lol. I was like “DANG! There was my opportunity.” Oh well, I am sure I will see him again.
Your advice for someone that wants to get into acting…
JK: Get ready for the business. The art and the business are two completely different things. You can love acting but not be prepared for the business. There is a LOT of politics involved. Most of the time, it’s nothing personal. You have to believe that if you keep doing what you are doing, you will be successful. You have to be on 24/7. For example, you can’t just blurt out “this movie sucks.” You never know who’s around and if they control whether or not you get your next gig. If you don’t have anything good to say, keep it to yourself. Above all, be yourself. No one can be you like you. God made you unique, use that to your advantage.
Okay… here is a moment to talk about your upcoming project. What should we keep our eyes open for?
JK: Make Love Not War – web series was just selected to the LA Web Festival. Season 2 starts soon. Radio America is a feature film that debuted in LA cinemas. America’s Most Wanted is still on the air on Lifetime, covering the Texas Rapist. IJE: Journey is coming to DVD in July. I’m sure you will see me on Conan soon. I’ve got about 5 feature films in post production and shooting another 6 during the year. So things are poppin’. I count it all joy. Thanks for your reading about me and thanks for your support.