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Jake Lockett interview

Jake Lockett is a rising actor that is starting to make waves in the US.

The talented Texas native has been working hard to perfect his craft and has landed guest spots in shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Hawaii 5-0 and Mob City. He’ll next be seen in Scorpion (airing in the US on 23rd March) and an episode of the upcoming sixth season of Community (airing on the 24th of March).

We gave Jake a call to find out about his career to date, find out how he moved from engineering to acting, and to discuss what he’s got coming up in the rest of 2015.

You had a really interesting time growing up. Tell us what your childhood was like.

I grew up in a big family, in a really small town. I grew up in rural Texas where people just learn to get by. My town was 136 people when I was there in the city limits. Some of the great things about that was my family were really surrounding me so I had a lot of people to enjoy and congregate with. It was nice to have the intimacy that you have with a small town and you know everyone but there was the reverse of that where everyone knows you and knows your business. They are great, but I’ve been able to manoeuvre away from that be a bit more progressive, which I like.

I grew up doing farm work and chopping cotton. For those that don’t know it’s when you’re in the field with a hoe and you chop weeds out of the cotton field. Me and my cousin did that for the farmer that my grandfather worked for, and we did that for our summers when we were 12 and 13. Then I started working for a metal shop company and they built metal building. My grandfather, because I was so close to him and he was like a second father to me, taught me how to weld. I would weld metal buildings in the summer then go to school and play sports.

I love playing sports. It’s just another option for me to perform and it’s a different kind of performance than the arts but the same kind of mental focus that I think you have to have to be really successful in the arts. It’s such a singular minded thing to be an expert at any art form that you have to be super focused.

I played semi-pro baseball right after high school. Before that I was playing football, basketball and baseball. Sports were like one of the things that I was able to do. My father said, ‘you can do this (sports), or you can hunt during your off time but you can’t do everything. You need to be focused on a few things’. Sports were my biggest thing. I’ve played football since I was able to play football, baseball since I was 5, golf…everything. It’s just fun to get out there and perform athletically like that. After high school I was good at math, I was advanced in high school, and I like to build things so my parents said ‘you should be an engineer’ so that’s what I went to school for. I went to Texas A&M and got my degree in engineering. I played rugby for three years while I was getting my degree. I wish people would get into it more here. It’s much more fast-paced than football is and it’s such an exciting sport. Whilst I was in college I became fluent in German so I lived in Germany for a little bit. I studied there for a summer and lived with a family that owned a wine restaurant. We lived above it and I got really immersed in a culture that was completely different than what I grew up in. It was awesome!

Jake Lockett

You had a really packed and varied childhood. How did you make the move from sports and engineering into acting?

Some of the first times I ever acted were in church Christmas plays (laughs). My first real performance was in The Importance of Being Earnest in high school where I played the Reverend.

I loved watching TV and stories. Both of my grandfathers were/are great storytellers and I could sit there for hours and just listen. In high school I wasn’t really into acting because I felt it was something that was out of grasp. It wasn’t something that was put forward as option that one could do, be successful and make it your job so I really never thought about it in that way. But my senior year in high school the play needed some more people and my principal was a big fan of mine because of sports, he was a coach and a thespian, and he said ‘why don’t you does this?’ and I really enjoyed it. This was my senior year and by the end of it I was already accepted to Texas A&M and acting wasn’t something I thought was an option.

In college I started playing music; learning guitar and singing. When I got out of college and was in Seattle I knew I needed another outlet. I was realising that although my job – a stress analyst for Boeing – was cool, I just wasn’t fulfilled. I was waking up and thinking about what I was going to do after work to be happy. That’s when I started performing. I started doing music, open mics and things like that. I fell back into the acting and a few months in I got a student film in Seattle. In the student film were two other actors that had a manager, his name was Sean Kurzweil, and they said that I should meet him because they thought he would like me. I started working with Sean, he’s still my manager today, and we became really good, even best friends right away. He told me ‘if you really want to do this, the only way is being in L.A.’. Once I had to decide to go for it , I had talked to my parents and tell them I was going to be quitting engineering, moving to L.A. and becoming an actor. I did that and I have to give it to them because it probably wasn’t something they were happy about but they’ve been really supportive. I’m sure it’s hard and they may not understand it but they’ve been awesome about it.

I think the biggest pitfall in L.A. is limiting your distractions. I’ve just been plugging away days a week. I would work at night so I could do the acting during the day and that’s what I’ve been doing. It seems to work.

It’s definitely working for you. You’ve landed roles on some of the biggest shows on TV including Hawaii 5-0 and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. What’s it like to get roles on such huge shows?

It’s funny. When I was in college my flight instructor said to me ‘you don’t get worried, you don’t get stressed and you don’t get heightened’. I don’t know if I haven’t let it hit me yet or if I don’t want to let it hit me because then it becomes too real but for me to do something I love, get paid for it and not have to worry about things, it’s just fun. I think it’s good to respect the position you’re in because there’s so many people here working the same thing that I’m doing and it’s so hard. You have to be extremely singular minded otherwise you flounder.

Hawaii 5-0 was my first big guest star and the same people cast me on Scorpion. The scene was great and had such a great arc on it. It was an excitement that was hard to put into words. It really set the tone for how I’ve approached everything else I’ve done since then. Now it’s not quite the same excitement to get those roles but I’m sure if I get a pilot or a bigger role in a movie I’ll be even more pumped again. For now this is what I need to do to get to the next step and it’s even more in reach, becoming really successful at this. When I get these new roles it’s just confirmation that I’m on the right track.

How did you feel walking into an established cast of a long running show like Hawaii 5-0? Is it quite an intimidating experience?

Outwardly it probably didn’t seem like that as I have a tendency to have a calm demeanor. One of my favourite movies growing up was Varsity Blues and Scott Caan was in it. Working across from him was interesting. But I felt like I’d earned that at that point because I work really hard at what I do. I just focused on the work and that allowed everything to be ok so I didn’t get too nervous.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of the funniest shows at the moment. What was your experience on that show like?

I had a great time on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It was a nice little week long shoot as well. I got to meet Craig Robinson who is hilarious and a super genuine dude. I think that’s what’s been the nicest. Even on Hawaii 5-0 with Scott and Alex (O’Loughlin), everybody was really nice. I haven’t met anyone yet who was rude or thought they were better. Everyone is extremely respectful. If you’re getting there it means you’re doing something right. Alex called the people who were looking after me in Hawaii and said ‘he wants to stay for the weekend’ and I got to stay for the weekend, surf and enjoy Hawaii.

When I was on Brooklyn Nine-Nine Andy (Samberg), Stephanie (Beatriz) and Craig were awesome. Craig and I were playing around when we were in the car at the end. We were driving in this old T-Bird just joking and figuring out what we wanted to do at the end and how to reveal me. They’re really about the collaboration and it’s nice for me to see that because it confirms the hopes that when you get to those positions people really want to work and enjoy creating something together and not just by themselves.

Jake Lockett and Joel Hale
Jake Lockett and Joel McHale on the Community set.

That show is very much a team effort isn’t it?

It’s an important ensemble. Andy is leading it but everyone is important. It’s a family. Even on Scorpion, once everyone gets comfortable, it’s a family dynamic. Everyone knows each other and what to expect when their in-front of the camera, and when they’re off-camera. It’s a nice thing to come into that and to see that. It gives you more motivation to be there.

Do you watch yourself in the projects you’re part of you?

It’s hard. I feel like I can always find something that I would have rather done different. You have to just let it be what it is. I think of it like an audition; you can’t go in there, leave and then sit there and focus on how it went. You have to go in there, be present and be real. It’s the same with watching myself – I think I’ll stop. Right now I like doing it because I’m a perfectionist. I think it’s good to evaluate yourself.

You’ve got a guest spot coming up in Community. How did you land that one?

That was good. The phenomenal lady who cast me on Brooklyn Nine-Nine pulled me in for that one too. That show is so epic in its following and there are huge people doing one-liners just because they love the show. She told me it wasn’t a huge role but they liked me and they know I liked the show. I went in and did it, and when I got to the set they added three or four scenes. It ended up being a nicer role. I can’t say too much about the role but it’s really fun. The people on that show are just so awesome and really genuinely interested in talking to you.

You recently shot horror movie Talbot County with Devious Maids star Dania Ramirez. What was that like?

It was fun! The shoot was a little harder because you’re very much limited by weather. This was in Georgia. Dania’s husband Bev Land (the co-writer and director) owns a huge property down there. Luckily we got to use that. I tend to play certain characters and the character in this couldn’t lose his façade or his cool. The hardest part about that was balancing between him being a little too naïve and him over-reacting and getting intense with people. There’s a really fine line and if the character was ever an asshole then the audience wouldn’t like him and they wouldn’t want him to succeed or live. Me and Bev worked hard keeping him really specific so Dania’s character Isabella was really able to be the hero of the film.

Getting out there in the middle of nowhere…the atmosphere is set for you. We did shoots in the middle of the night, they puts the lights out and you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face. It really allowed you to be in the moment and have your skin tingling. It was a fun shoot.

The premise of the film is lycanthropy, which is the psychosis of thinking you are a werewolf. It’s a legend out of Georgia called the Legend of Talbot County. There’s actually a tombstone with Isabella’s name on and you can go and see it. The idea is that there’s a family with this psychosis and they were killing people in the early 1900s. They didn’t think that lycanthropy was real so they sent this girl to Paris to a mental institution and when she came back this is where the film picks up in the 80s with one of her descendants.

Jake Lockett
Jake Lockett, Elyes Gabel and Katharine McPhee on the set of Scorpion

What else do you have coming up this year?

I have a flick that I’m on with… potentially. Even if I don’t get it I think it’s going to be awesome. It’s called The Dying Art and it’s about snuff films. I have some pilots I’m up for but I don’t know what’s going to happen there.

You’re musical too? Is that something you’re going to pursue?

I would love to do more music but it’s hard. Until you’re more established as an actor it’s hard to do both. Once again, you need to be singular minded so people know what you’re about and that they can trust you. If you’re doing all this stuff then you’re a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none. Yet, in still, I’m learning piano and I’m working on guitar. When the opportunity comes I’ll be able to do whatever I want. I’m relearning German too and learning Spanish. I’m working on my accents. One of my career goals is to be the first American James Bond. I grew up watching it and I’ve seen all of Sean’s, all of Roger Moore’s and all of the new ones. I think it would be fun to be the first American to play that role.

You can connect with Jake on Twitter @LocktDown and on Facebook www.facebook.com/jakerlockett. Watch Jake in action with his reel below:

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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