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“I’d like to start a movement where kids all around the country agree to donate one holiday gift to children battling serious illness” With Actor Jesse Ray Sheps

This past year I did a lot of research about St Jude’s Children’s Hospital after watching a short infomercial about the amazing care they…


This past year I did a lot of research about St Jude’s Children’s Hospital after watching a short infomercial about the amazing care they provide for a lot of very sick young kids. The kids who are treated there are suffering tremendously painful and serious medical conditions but each and every-one of them are so strong, so brave. To be honest, to me they are the real superheroes out there not the guys we see on screen in the movies. Anyway, last Holiday Season I decided to start working to donate to help purchase gifts for those children for the Holidays so they had something fun to look forward to. I want to get even more involved. I would love to try to run a program where kids all around the country agree to donate one Holiday gift- let’s say from their Uncle Joe for example to be able to send that same gift directly to those kids and to other similar great hospitals serving children battling serious illness. I think it would really be great to show them support in a way we can. I would love to work with someone to try to create a program that can get this actually done, maybe with the help of Amazon or something. I kind of envision something where you put the gift you choose in the online cart, Uncle Joe pays for it, and it goes straight to the hospital in time for the Holidays.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Ray Sheps. Jesse is a thirteen year old actor who started his career doing international modeling for companies such as H&M. He played the voice of Fluffy the Hedgehog for two seasons on Nick Jr.’s show Zack and Quack. In the last couple of years he has focused on film and television role with guest appearances on shows like Blue Bloods and Bull. You can now catch him playing the leading role of Brian in the newly released movie All Square, starring opposite Michael Kelly and Pamela Adlon.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My older sister was doing some modeling work and my mom brought me with her to her agent where I was sitting in the waiting room. I was four years old. Her agent walked out and saw me outside and signed me up too! I first started modeling doing print work, then a bunch of commercials, and voice-over work for different cartoons on Nickelodeon and Disney. Eventually, I really wanted to do more on screen television and film work which has been my true passion. It’s been a really fun ride so far and I have been fortunate to have met some truly amazing people.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Well a couple of years ago there was a particular role l was being discussed for playing a role that ultimately never materialized starring opposite Robert De Niro. I had already been to Los Angeles meeting with the Producers for the film and the studio arranged for a meeting with me in New York with the Director. The next day they told me I was going to actually meet Mr. De Niro. Well I was just so excited getting to meet such a legend and during that day I spent almost two hours with him reading a bunch of scripts going over lines. I was obviously super nervous about meeting him. It turned out that he was just so amazingly nice and made me so comfortable so when I was there working I never really had it in my mind that this was “the legendary Robert De Niro”. At one point during a break he was asking me about my love for playing the guitar and asked me about the last song I had just learned. I told him it was The Wanderer by Dion DiMucci. All of a sudden, he turns to me in the classic Robert De Niro voice turning his head slowly to me and says in his super cool way “oh yeah….sing it for me”. I chuckled for a second and started to sing it for him and all of a sudden he joins in on the chorus to sing the part with me snapping his fingers belting out “I’m the wanderer, yeah the wanderer…”. It was at that moment it finally all struck me that this amazingly nice guy I was singing a duet with out of the blue with was not just some guy but was “the legendary Robert DeNiro” and that this was pretty much the coolest moment that I can ever hope to have in my entire life! He was just so awesome and watching him read lines from that script with me was like getting to shoot hoops with Michael Jordan. I’ll never forget that day!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well it was one of the first roles I ever went for. The casting agent did not hand out scripts in advance. For whatever reason they were a bit secretive about the part- not even telling us about the name of the character. So I showed up to the casting office and grabbed one of the two scripts- the one that said “the role of Jordan.” I sat memorizing it for about a half hour, practiced it in the hallway and was ready to role for the audition. I walked in the room- and realized after starting my part that Jordan was the female role and that I was supposed to take the other script. I guess I was probably on the second line when I realized I did not have a very good shot of getting the role of the older sister.




What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am incredibly excited about the release of All Square. The movie was released on October 12th. It was such an amazing project with a deeply emotional and super funny script. I played the role of Brian who grew up to a single mom who really did not have enough time to spend with him. Although Brian loved playing little league baseball games, he was not really very good and befriended a local down on his luck bookie John, played brilliantly by Michael Kelly. As their friendship developed, John starts getting information from my character about who the good little league players are and starts to run betting lines on the local little league games. Brian’s role was really deep and complex, and I got the opportunity to teach the adult character of John some life’s lessons. I got to work with amazing actors like Michael Kelly, Pam Adlon, Isiah Whitlock and Tom Everett Scott. I have a couple of more projects in the works now but I am really excited to be putting together an album of songs I have written. I love composing music on my guitar and love singing. I need a couple of more love songs I think to round out the album. I am always looking for some good inspiration.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Well I mentioned my Robert De Niro story above. I have been so lucky that I even got to work couple of scenes for a film with Kate Winslet. She was such a warm, kind and friendly person. Of course, I am a big fan of hers but when I met her I kind of forgot she was British. So the first day of filming I was in the hair and make-up trailer on the set- and honestly never expected she would be in that same main makeup trailer at that time. Anyway there are three women standing across the trailer about 20 feet away and they all are so nice introducing themselves to me. The first one says “Hi Jesse, I am Debbie”. The second one says “Hi how are you-I am Jessica, etc.” All of a sudden the third super friendly woman says to me in a British accent “oh Hi Jesse I’m Kate so nice to meet you we will have fun today”. I was obviously friendly back and I couldn’t really get a full view of her from the angle of my seat and I thought she was just a super nice person saying hi as we continued our conversation for a minute. Because of her accent and my position, I really did not realize that the super nice British woman saying hello to me chatting away was KATE WINSLET! She was so friendly and inviting all the time to everyone including me. One thing I did notice and smile about since we were doing outdoor shoots by an ice skating rink that she did love her warm English tea!


Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think the number one rule is to always have fun. It is so incredibly important to be prepared and ready on the set as it is an incredibly important professional setting. However, what I learned from working with people like Donnie Wahlberg on Blue Bloods or Michael Kelly on All Square is that it’s also important to have a great time while you are working to reduce stress. They were always smiling, cracking jokes, and making it fun. This helps reduce stress and brings out a great performance. I think the same goes for your outside life. Although you must be driven and focused professionally, you have to make time to be with friends, get a different outside hobby that you can get lost in and never be afraid to just be silly with family and friends. For me, the ultimate recharge is writing music and playing my guitar.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).

This past year I did a lot of research about St Jude’s Children’s Hospital after watching a short infomercial about the amazing care they provide for a lot of very sick young kids. The kids who are treated there are suffering tremendously painful and serious medical conditions but each and every-one of them are so strong, so brave. To be honest, to me they are the real superheroes out there not the guys we see on screen in the movies. Anyway, last Holiday Season I decided to start working to donate to help purchase gifts for those children for the Holidays so they had something fun to look forward to. I want to get even more involved. I would love to try to run a program where kids all around the country agree to donate one Holiday gift- let’s say from their Uncle Joe for example to be able to send that same gift directly to those kids and to other similar great hospitals serving children battling serious illness. I think it would really be great to show them support in a way we can. I would love to work with someone to try to create a program that can get this actually done, maybe with the help of Amazon or something. I kind of envision something where you put the gift you choose in the online cart, Uncle Joe pays for it, and it goes straight to the hospital in time for the Holidays.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1). You can’t get every role: No matter how hard you try, no matter how good you may be for a particular part there is a very good chance you will never get it so never get upset or frustrated. Acting is a very competitive business and there are things outside of your control. You may have knocked the role out of the park but maybe you were just 2 years two young looking for that Director’s vision for the character. Just keep your head up high, lick your wounds and wait for the next audition.

2) Always come prepared but never over rehearse. It’s obviously super important to have all of your lines down, know the script’s tone and understanding. However, you need to always be relaxed and never rehearse the part so much that you become robotic in your delivery. It will be much more natural and comes across so much more realistic when you have mastered the material but not burned it like an overdone steak.

3) Beers on the set for scenes involving kids are fake.

So in my new movie All Square there is a super funny scene where I get to enter the bar and I am given a beer to drink by Michael Kelly’s character and then bet on some race horses. It was actually a ridiculously funny scene to film. However, I guess I must have not gotten the memo that the beer was fake. I was only going to have one sip so I figured it was ok to take one for the team to get the scene down since everyone seemed to be ok with it. It turns out it was fake and was really some weird tangy healthy ginger kale juice concoction that wasn’t really

something I could see the fans at Yankee Stadium drinking instead of a cold beer on a hot Sunday in August.

4) Never stop being more than just an actor. What I think gives you the ability to constantly take on new different roles and portraying their character is being well rounded. I love acting and it’s my greatest passion but I also make sure that I am always creating music and drawing too. I also study real hard and take school very seriously in different advanced classes and try to participate in local team sports. I think that when you are yourself, have a lot of interests and show passion in all areas of life you really can bring a lot to the table as an actor.

5) Always bring a bag of pretzels: Working on a set is hard work and it makes you super hungry. Even though they are always great scheduling lunch, things always can happen like the delivery guys get lost, the scene a little delayed or they have some weird gumbo for lunch you just don’t like. I learned to always bring a bag of pretzels to always tide you over.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I always loved the lyric from a Tom Petty song that says “Most things I worry about never happen anyway”. I think the lesson there is that you work as hard as you can at all times, love everyone in your life even harder, but never worry about things outside of your control. If you try in life as hard as you can eventually you will succeed but do not let the fear of failing ever hold you back because worrying about those things can’t help you achieve your goals. I try to always keep that in mind professionally and personally too. Tom Petty is also my dad’s favorite artist, and he has made my mom a big fan too, so it doesn’t hurt that my parent’s love and support are always with me.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

In terms of celebrities helping me I have to give a lot of credit to Donnie Wahlberg from Blue Bloods. I was working with Donnie on a guest starring role and he was just the coolest and funniest guy ever. He made filming so much fun. So when we were done for the week he told my mom very nice things and then asked her to take a picture of the two of us and tweet it. I guess I would have been super excited if a big star like him would have just “liked it” and that’s what I was hoping for. Well Donnie retweeted it to his 2 million followers and said the most amazingly wonderful kind things about my acting that you could never imagine anyone saying. Well that tweet got around to some people in casting who I guess took a closer look at me since he was so generous in his compliment. It really helped my career and I am very grateful to Donnie and I hope he hears how his niceness really helped me. With the exception of him being a diehard Boston fan (I am a Yankees fan) he is the best guy ever and I will always remember from him to pay it forward from his example to younger people trying to get their start.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-).

I think for me it would be Seth MacFarlane. I am a huge fan of Family Guy. It’s just the one thing that always gets me dying of laughter every time. But I know that Seth started drawing and creating animated characters when he was younger, and I have a similar passion having been on an animated show and actually created a cartoon that I am still trying to finalize and have produced. Seth has the kind of amazing diverse career which I want . He is funny, he is a filmmaker, he acts, he sings, he creates. There are not a lot of guys who can write so wickedly funny, create legendary material, be able to act, sing and even host the Oscars. I want to try to be like Seth and do it all. I would love to sit with him and learn more and maybe show him my cartoon ideas.

How can our readers follow you on social media? On Instagram it is @jesserayofficial. On twitter it is @jesseraysheps. On Facebook it is @JesseRSheps

Originally published at medium.com

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