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Jason Collett: “Don’t follow instructions”

Interesting question! It would most likely have to do with the housing crisis currently going on in the world right now. In the past I’ve done mission work in which we’d repair roofs and homes for the less fortunate. I’ve also always been fascinated by the concept of tiny house communities as a solution to […]

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Interesting question! It would most likely have to do with the housing crisis currently going on in the world right now. In the past I’ve done mission work in which we’d repair roofs and homes for the less fortunate. I’ve also always been fascinated by the concept of tiny house communities as a solution to this crisis. It’s interesting that people who have “downsized” their lives and in turn create a smaller carbon footprint, have reported having fuller, stress-free lifestyles as a result of living in these types of homes/communities. These homes are relatively cheap to build as well and could provide shelter to millions of people living on the streets right now.


As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jason Collett, a breakout movie star who makes a statement in the upcoming star-packed gothic noir drama THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME opposite Tom Holland, Haley Bennett, Robert Pattison, Bill Skarsgård, Jason Clarke and Riley Keough, written and directed by Antonio Campos (THE SINNER), premiering on Netflix later this year.

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, takes place in the 1960s after World War II in Southern Ohio amongst a group of bizarre, compelling and disturbed people who suffer from the war’s psychological damages. Collett plays Gary Matthew Bryson, a naïve partner-in-crime to husband and wife team of serial killers, Carl and Sandy Henderson (played by Clarke & Keough, respectively), who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. Executive produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, the dark and gritty film intersects storylines with a sickly and unsettling ability to entangle viewers into its spell. A colorful array of delightfully nasty, dirty and chaotic characters awaits you upon your first watch, and while each person has their own story, characters are inexplicably linked in the most peculiar of circumstances. The highly anticipated psychological thriller is scheduled to be released on Netflix later this year.

Collett has been acting on film and stage for over 15 years and is also a trained stunt professional. His appearances in television include HBO’s “Watchmen,” and HBO’s “Hung.” His film credits include “Stay at Condor Beach,” the action-thriller “Military State,” and the faith-based film “Inheritance”, starring alongside legendary actor Robert Miano. Jason also played the lead role of Jamie Nabozny in the documentary “Bullied: A Student, A School, and a Case That Made History” for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program. Jason has studied under some of the most influential teachers in Hollywood, including Alice Carter, Joseph Pearlman, Robert D’Avanzo, and most recently, famed teacher Terry Knickerbocker.”

Collett also has extensive stunt experience and has trained in pole climbing, weapons, hand-to-hand fighting, pratfalling, bungee harness, high falling and ATV riding. Some of his stunt experience has helped him not only in the acting industry, but he also does character appearances in and around Atlanta, GA to help bring some simple joy to the children who need it most.

When Collett is not busy on set, he enjoys ultimate sports including rock climbing, jet skiing, playing ultimate frisbee, sky diving, and ATVs. He also enjoys painting and building projects. An avid traveler as well, Collett enjoyed a recent trip backpacking in Machu Picchu, Peru and before that, spent time in Positano, Italy. Collett currently resides in Atlanta, GA.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Absolutely! I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta. My childhood consisted of going out with friends in the morning, and not coming back in until sundown. We would play in the woods, swim in creeks, and fall out of trees. If you did not come home with some sort of scratch or bruise from the day’s activities, then you weren’t doing it right!

As a young child, I was always performing, even before I even understood what acting was. I would watch comedies from my favorite 90’s actors (Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, etc.), memorize the films from start to finish, then reenact the scenes on the playground with friends. My mother would joke that when her friends came over to visit, they would have no shortage of entertainment. I loved making people laugh.

In high school, I turned this passion into creating content with friends. I enrolled in a drama class and started writing sketches, plays, short films, and performing in one-act shows. In 9th grade, I got my first camera: a bulky shoulder-weight VHS camcorder. The first movie I made. A 30-minute James Bond 007 spoof called “GoldHamster” that I wrote, directed and starred in. It was terrible, but the catchy theme song we made for the opening credits still rings in my head like it was yesterday.

I made many more short films throughout my high school career, and some longer features as well. While I was directing and acting outside of classes, I was also performing plays for my school’s drama program. My senior play was basically a “Weekend at Bernie’s” musical rip-off called “Lucky Stiff” (to this day I’m still not sure which came first). I even got to play the leading role- well, ONE of the leading roles. I was the dead guy!

College brought forth new projects for me to get involved with in the world of entertainment. I started doing community theatre and continued making short films in my free time. I was working with a church youth program at the time, so I wrote, directed, and starred in a 7-episode mini-series of films that were intended to teach young kids bible stories and life principles. It was called “Light In A Dark World” and was a major hit with kids. We only finished 4 episodes though, due to my ambition stalling production because the budget spiraled out of control and couldn’t keep up with all the effects, sets, and production value I wanted.

I also single-handedly kickstarted my college’s dinner theatre program with a murder mystery whodunnit that I wrote, directed, cast, and built the sets for. It ended up bringing in so much fundraising money that to this day, the Collegiate Ministries at my college still puts on a dinner theatre show every year.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I came to pursue acting professionally in the spring of 2007. I was enrolled in my third year at the University of West Ga, trying to determine what I wanted to major in, and I was having trouble deciding. I knew I wanted to be an actor, but at the time you had to be in either Los Angeles or New York to be taken seriously as an actor, so it seemed like an unattainable pipe dream. After switching majors three times (and driving my guidance counselor crazy in the process) I decided that Georgia simply wasn’t where I needed to be at that time, and I had to go to LA. So, I packed my bags up, and started driving. It was crazy because all this happened within the span of a two-week period. I remember the look on my roommates’ faces when I walked into the living room and said, “Hey I think I’m moving to Los Angeles… and I think I’m gonna leave next week.”

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Well, one of the craziest stories happened when I first got to Los Angeles and had nowhere to live. I found an ad on Craigslist advertising a room for rent in an “Entertainment-Friendly” home. When I drove out to meet the guy about the room, I found out that not only were there already 4 other guys living inside the house (2 in the master, one in the guest, and one in the living room) I found out that the room for rent wasn’t actually a room at all, but It was the front porch! The 5×10 porch had been carpeted, walled in, and a front door with a small lock placed at the front. The owner wanted 375 dollars/mo for that room and NO lease…. how could I pass up a deal like that?

I had many fun stories during the 3 months I lived on that porch, which I’ll save for another day. But I WILL say this: You don’t know fear until you wake up in the morning covered in wasps from a hive in the corner of your “room”. Talk about traumatizing!

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?

The very first audition I ever got with my first agent in Los Angeles was for the lead in a film. I remember I was on the Santa Monica Pier with a friend when I got the email, and my excitement couldn’t be contained.

I showed up to the audition nervous as hell but playing it cool as I sat in the waiting room with the other actors. Eventually, my name was called, and I approached the door of the audition room, and the conversation went like this:

Casting director: Jason, are you ready?

Jason: Let’s do this!

CD: Great, can I have your headshot?

J: Ummm what?

CD: Headshot, you DID bring it right?

J: Oh. I didn’t know I needed it.

CD: This is an audition, WHY wouldn’t you bring it???

J: I’m sorry…

CD: Ugh. It’s fine. I see you aren’t holding the script. Do you have the scene memorized?

J: (pause) There was a script??

CD: WHAT DID YOU THINK THIS WAS?

So yes, you read that right. For my first audition, I not only forgot to bring my headshot, but I didn’t even check to see if there was a script for the role. It was the most embarrassing moment in my professional career.

That story has a happy ending, however. That casting director (Susan Turner with Burbank Casting) allowed me to borrow a script from an actor in the waiting room, and I proceeded to nail the audition by doing a cold read in the room with her and director Bill Brummel. They were so impressed with my read, they offered me the role on the spot. This was for the film “Bullied” based on the life of Jamie Nabozny, which went on to garner great praise for its message on bullying within schools.

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

The most exciting project I have coming up by far is The Devil All the Time, directed by Antonio Campos. The film stars a slew of celebrity talent, including Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, and Jason Clarke. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, and takes place in the 1960s after World War II in Southern Ohio amongst a group of bizarre, compelling and disturbed people who suffer from the war’s psychological damages. I like to refer to it as an intense gothic drama.

In the film I play Gary Matthew Bryson; a young man drafted into the Vietnam war. I’d love to say more but I would hate to spoil what’s in store for you when you watch this incredible film. The film will be available to stream on Netflix, September 16th.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

In recent years we’ve been seeing so much more diversity represented in film and tv. These stories are important because:

  1. It gives us ways to connect with one another, to understand each other, which in turn only encourages love towards one another.
  2. It’s important for people to see themselves in these characters, to feel inspired by others paving the way, and to know that their stories matter, and
  3. It can only strengthen us as a whole and give us more authentic, interesting, and entertaining stories. The entertainment industry is in such a wonderful place right now to initiate change in how we learn about and view diversity and race within our own history. And in recent years there appears to be such a massive shift in what audiences are demanding. I can only see this as a good thing. I truly hope this opens the door even wider to more understanding as we celebrate other cultures in film and TV.

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. It’s not a race: when I moved to LA, I wanted to find success as soon as possible, hoping I would have a miraculous “discovered” story. These stories do happen, but they are rare, and are a waste of your time to daydream about them. A career as an actor is a tumultuous one, and you have to have the right mindset going into it or else you are already setting yourself up for failure. It took me 13 years of hard work to get to where I am now, and it’s because I eventually realized that everyone’s career is different, and it’s ok if you aren’t famous by year 2, or 5, or even 10. Go at your own pace and be content with the journey.

2. Don’t focus on the money: For the longest time, I had defined my success as an actor by how much money I had in the bank or how much I was making for a role, which I know now isn’t remotely true. If you’re doing this for the money, then you are in the wrong career.

3. Do what inspires you: Take on projects and roles that fuel your creativity and inspire you to create something unique and discover something new about yourself. These are the roles where you will shine the most. If you’re offered a role that you don’t feel connected to, then it’s most likely not the role for you, and it’s meant for someone else. I’ve been a part of projects that didn’t “feed” my soul and fulfill my passion for entertaining, and I look back on those roles regretting them.

4. Don’t follow instructions: People in this industry like to tell you what you “can” and “can’t” do when pursuing a career as an actor. Truth is, there are no rules! Make that unique choice! Go with your gut interpretation of a character. Don’t just do what you think they want. Nobody knows what they want until they see it!

5. Getting the job isn’t the goal: I would get so upset when I didn’t book a role. I kept attaching expectations to an end result and it was causing me great anxiety. As long as you are fulfilling your need to create something authentic and exciting to you, then you are succeeding. That’s the goal! That’s what you need to be doing! Don’t concern yourself with why you didn’t get it because it’s outside of your control.

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

Find things to pursue outside of acting. For me, it’s traveling. It’s building. It’s painting. It’s writing. Don’t focus all your energy on acting because it robs you of other joy that life has to offer.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire 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.

Interesting question! It would most likely have to do with the housing crisis currently going on in the world right now. In the past I’ve done mission work in which we’d repair roofs and homes for the less fortunate. I’ve also always been fascinated by the concept of tiny house communities as a solution to this crisis. It’s interesting that people who have “downsized” their lives and in turn create a smaller carbon footprint, have reported having fuller, stress-free lifestyles as a result of living in these types of homes/communities. These homes are relatively cheap to build as well and could provide shelter to millions of people living on the streets right now.

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?

This is going to be incredibly random, but that person, for me, was the actor Michael Buscemi. When planning to leave for Los Angeles, my dad met someone who had a connection with him. Since he was the only working actor, I’ve ever had a link to, I asked my dad to arrange a phone conversation with him to discuss the entertainment industry and life as an actor.

This conversation was about two hours long and during that time Michael shared his story with me, as well as any tips he had on how to succeed in the business. That was over 13 years ago, and I haven’t spoken to Michael since. I would love to meet and thank him in person someday. If it wasn’t for his advice and encouragement to follow my dreams, I’m not sure where I would be. He deserves to know that his advice was never taken for granted.

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

The best life lesson I ever learned was from a good friend of mine, named Sakura. When working my first serving job in Los Angeles trying to make rent, I stressed constantly about the job. I tried so hard, but I was probably the worst server in the history of serving. I got constant complaints, I sweat profusely running around, and I could never get one step ahead of my duties.

But there was this one server… her name was Sakura. She was THE server. Never got complaints, always calm, collected, never even broke a sweat when doing her job. She was the best server I’d ever worked with. One day, after a particular stressful shift, I had enough. I had to know her secret. I flagged her down and said “Sakura! Every day I watch you and you never seem stressed, you’re always in control, yet all I do is fail at this job. What is your secret?!”

“You want to know my secret?” She said.

“Yes. I’ll do anything. Please tell me!” I responded.

“It’s very simple…” this tiny, sweet and innocent 5’2 girl said. “I’ll tell you.”

Sakura leaned forward, ready to impart her wisdom. I leaned in, ready to receive it.

“I DON’T GIVE A F____K!” She exclaimed. “I don’t care if someone complains! I don’t care if they have to wait a little longer to get what they need! I don’t care about any of it! Because in the end, none of this matters. Life is too short to stress about things that are inconsequential to the big picture.”

And then she smiled and walked off.

To this day, I constantly remind myself to be more like Sakura. And it’s honestly helped me sleep better at night.

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 just see this, especially if we tag them.

It would definitely be Jim Carrey. His films inspired the child in me to never cease playing, regardless of age. I had the pleasure of working with him on the film YES MAN, in a deleted sequence that got cut from the final movie, and was by far the highlight of my life, although I doubt he remembers it. I have greatly admired his work, his journey, and in recent years, his outlook on life and spirituality. I can honestly say I would not be who I am without his work shaping my creativity and inspiring me to always think outside the box.

How can our readers follow you online?

You’re welcome to follow me on Instagram @actor_jmc. I like to post pictures of other people’s dogs as if they were mine, random places I travel to on impulse, as well as any work I am doing both in my professional and personal life.

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