Interview #26: Jonathan Jude

Jonathan Jude is an English actor. Most notably known for his role as Dylan in Sky’s Living the Dream as well as his roles in Netflix film Close and award winning film Him and Her.

Jonathan stars in the upcoming Netflix series Bridgerton produced by ShondaLand. Jude is set to star in Indie Film ‘Here’s To Life’ by META Films as well as Red Snow and Faculty Films ‘Untitled’ Mini series.

Who or what was it that inspired you to become an actor?   

I have always been in my element playing dress up. As a kid it would most likely be Spiderman, James Bond and specifically the Red Power Ranger (who doesn’t want to be the leader). My mom literally couldn’t get me into any normal clothes….As I got older, maybe a little older than I should have been – I was a late bloomer – I realised that my heroes on the screen, they were actually actors, and all of that fun they were having, that was their job. I was sold!

Are there any actors that influenced your approach or style?

I think I’m influenced by everyone all the time. At the moment I’m in love with watching Sam Rockwell in anything, I’m not sure how he affects my style or approach, I just know I want to be as honest as he is. Of course, the greats, like Brando in ‘Streetcar’ and Streep in virtually everything, had a profound effect when I saw them. Jim Carrey is my favourite actor of all time. I still don’t know if that affects my style but all of them have one thing in common, well two. They are all masters, yes. But the most important thing is authenticity, they are so them selves in every moment, in their unique weird and quirky ways. That is how I try to work: be true to the circumstances and see where my honest impulses take me.

In 2019 you wrote the short Him and Her, how did that come about and have you always been interested in writing?
Jonathan Jude and Aude des Pallieres in ‘Him and Her’

I have never been as obsessed with writing as I am now. Him and Her was the start of that obsession. Writing is a tricky thing. Like acting, you are exposing your thoughts and ideas, which is very vulnerable. But that’s why I think some of us are drawn to it. Not only can you create your own work – which as an actor is life changing – you can also invent a new world, a world you have an opinion on. Him and Her came out of the blue when Aude des Pallieres and I read ‘She’s not there’ by Jennifer Boylan. After reading the book we were so inspired we really wanted to write something about that story, that life. I posed a question to Aude ‘What would you do for love’ — That line catapulted us into Him and Her.

Another project you wrote is Happy Epidemic, a web series made during self-isolation which has already had over 2k views on Youtube and IGTV. How long did the series take to develop/shoot and where there any benefits to taking a zero budget approach?

As soon as the virus started impacting our daily lives, I knew that I wanted to make something about it. I had no idea what! I started on a pilot, based around a character called ‘Jake’, and the main concept was: A show set in real time. That part fascinated me. A show that could be developed alongside the events happening right now. I sent the pilot to a couple of friends I trust and they loved it. That was the encouragement I needed. Initially I approached some crew to collaborate with; I had a bigger scale production in mind. Then the virus got a lot worse and we had to pull the plug for safety reasons. So I turned to Aude and said maybe we can do this here at home. We looked at our kit, 1 camera, 1 lens and 1 light. And I thought, we have to try. The pilot had to be adapted to our abilities behind the camera (which are basically zero). And the rest is history.

How did you approach writing a screenplay knowing you have limited locations, cast and crew?

Each episode is made in real time, so after the first episode was released I was met by a blank page. I write all the episodes the same week they’re released. That way we can keep the stories relevant and in real time . It’s exciting to release the episode and have no idea where the story will go next. The writing, re-writing and story boarding takes up most of the week, maybe 3-4 days and then it takes one day to shoot the entire episode. Finally editing normally takes 3 days, maybe longer if there are other actors sending me their bits. Episode 4 ’Therapy’ has 11 actors in it… it has stretched my very limited editing skill-set to say the least! Having said that, receiving clips from the likes of Kerry Shale, Lucy Russell and Julian Kostov, not only are they incredibly talented people, the clips are hilarious!!! From Kerry’s Habanera dance to Julian playing Scooby Dude. I have a great gag reel!!! The collaboration part has been my favourite thing about the entire process. All the actors I have collaborated with in the series are incredible at what they do and I’m so grateful for their time and willingness to jump on board.

What difficulties have you encountered shooting footage during the Covid-19 lockdown?

We have one camera, one lens and one light. You’d think that would be the problem but that’s actually more of a blessing. The real problem is that Aude and myself are not cinematographers, far from it! We don’t really know what we are doing behind the camera or with lighting, let alone sound! We are learning, slowly! Side note… Him and Her is an example of the genius we don’t possess. It really is a beautiful film thanks to Jaryl Lim, our cinematographer. He had a profound effect on the short. Getting back to the question though….. Options are also very limiting in a lockdown. It really squeezes your creativity in new ways. You have to come up with new, innovative ideas to progress the story while remaining in the same place. For example it would be amazing to shoot something in a supermarket with Jake social distancing and making his way through the empty shelves but that would be insane right now when in the real world people are queuing for hours just to get essentials. I think a touch of consideration goes along way. Considering the mood of your audience is important, the news consists of constant bad stuff, we have taken the approach of it being lighter than life in stark contrast to the daily news. That way, hopefully we can make people laugh and have fun during this time.

You’ve also worked in Theatre, TV and in 2019 you worked on the Netflix original film ‘Close’ alongside Noomi Rapace. How was the experience of working on a film with such a diverse cast and locations?

Working with Noomie was a joy. She is so professional and accommodating.  The whole film was so much fun to be a part of. I owe a big thanks to Olivia Jewson for recommending me to play Zack. I feel very lucky to have worked with so many great people this year. Working on Shonda Rhimes’ new series “Bridgerton” with Julie Ann Robinson was such a blast and Shooting “Living The Dream” in the sun with some of the most genuine people was also a delight. 

Is there anything you’d change about the film industry?

Of course!! There are so many things that need to change. Casting diversity and gender balance in the industry has come a long way but this is really just the beginning. Parasite has only just smashed the door open for foreign films. Sustainability in the industry has only just come to the surface amid the climate crisis. We cannot pretend our industry is perfect. The #metoo movement proved it’s far from that. People look to film, TV and art in general as an affirmation of themselves and the world. Take this pandemic for example and how we’ve all gravitated to content to help us feel inspired, make us laugh or cry. It’s hugely significant and there’s a responsibility that comes with it.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out as an actor?

The best advice I was ever given was ‘ No one knows what they are doing, especially in the arts’. Every time I get on set, really, it’s just a bunch of people figuring out how to do it. Whatever it is. Another good one for new actors is just know there are going to be good days and bad days. Try not to compare yourself with other people your age. For a long time I was caught up in the mindset that my art is only important if it’s recognised by awards and accolades… It’s really not about that! It actually stops you doing good honest work, instead of being in the moment you’re worried about the outcome. Films that are my favourite like Bruce Almighty and Interstellar didn’t win any oscars or golden globes. Let go of an outcome and create the story/character you want to make, it doesn’t matter what people out there think.

What’s next for Jonathan Jude?

Short term, I’m staying inside and trying not to eat my weight in bread. But looking to the end of global lockdown – I’m super excited to be shooting an Indie Film called ‘Here’s to Life’ that has an incredible cast attached, produced by Meta Films. I’m really looking forward to working on that later in the year. There’s also a brand new mini-series that has been developed by Faculty Films and our Red Snow Productions team, which is shaping up to be a fantastic project. That will start pre-production in October. Both projects are really exciting and I can’t wait for lockdown to finally end and get back to work, for the bread’s sake!!!

Episode 4 of ‘Happy Epidemic’ has just been released. Check it out below…

Jonathan Jude and ‘Happy Epidemic’ can also be found on Instagram

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