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Rising Star Petrice Jones: “Let’s start a movement about taking responsibility when no one is looking”

I think the idea of taking responsibility when no one is looking. The idea that even if one else knows, you know, and that’s still a compromise of your integrity to not to the right thing. In Judaism, there are 8 different levels of giving called Tzedakah. Directly translated it means “justice” or “righteousness” Tzedakah […]


I think the idea of taking responsibility when no one is looking. The idea that even if one else knows, you know, and that’s still a compromise of your integrity to not to the right thing. In Judaism, there are 8 different levels of giving called Tzedakah. Directly translated it means “justice” or “righteousness” Tzedakah is the obligation to do what is right. The second highest level of giving is the giving when you don’t know the recipient and the recipient doesn’t know you. And the highest is giving someone the means to become someone to become self sufficient. Now whilst I can’t say the philanthropic concept is necessarily aimed at exactly what I’m saying I think the sentiments still apply; We have new and unprecedented problems coming around the bend every single day with regards to consumerism and climate changed stemming from our expansion as a species and how we relate to the environment in which we live. (I think we feel somewhat separated or detached from our environment as though we are, in some way, foreign entities that just kind of landed here. When in truth we are actually just as much a part of the environment as a tree or a waterfall despite us not being routed to the ground.) Doing the right thing and making sacrifices even when it’s not convenient, when you know you won’t personally have to pay a price for not doing it, when the people/environment you help to support may never actually be something you personally come into contact with is, I think, a huge sign of commitment and loyalty to truth, honesty and collectivism. I think I would just love to make it cool and desirable to be responsible for and well thought out. I think we could maybe do with a little less drive fast live young approach to life and have a little more longevity in mind if want to thrive for millennia to come.


As a part of my series about the rising stars in popular culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Petrice Jones. Petrice is the star of the YouTube Premium series Step Up: High Water. He was recently seen opposite Bill Milner and Maisie Williams in the British thriller iBOY. He was previously seen as the lead of Maria Govan’s feature PLAY THE DEVIL which premiered at last year’s LA Film Festival. Additional credits include Anchor Bay’s crime-thriller WE STILL KILL THE OLD WAY and a guest star role on SKY 1’s STAN LEE’S LUCKY MAN. A graduate of the National Youth Theatre, Petrice has trained at the Kevin Spacey Foundation and the 1623 Shakespearean Theatre Company.


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

I grew up in a Town just outside of London called Milton Keynes from “humble beginnings” as they say. I kind of grew up without much specificity with regards to the direction my life was supposed to take in the early years. I went to a good first, middle and secondary but, despite being forced to do my applications by my school, I knew university was not where I wanted to spend the next 3 years of my life, nor did I necessarily have a taste for drama school (Secret time, even though I have auditioned for huge casting directors, directors and producers in throughout my career, for some strange reason the thought of auditioning for drama school still scares the living hell out of me.) I actually really enjoyed school and whilst I was keen to get out into the world I didn’t see it as the most painful experience of my life like so many do. More just something I had to do to do what I wanted to do.

I grew up with my mother in a small 2 bedroom house and shared a bedroom with my 2 elder brothers and would visit my dad every other weekend. Like most small towns, vision and scope for what one could do generally felt quite limited. I was very fortunate to be gifted with some blinders when I discovered acting. I originally wanted to be a preschool teacher and even had done work experience at a preschool. I had my heart set on it. But once the acting bug came into the picture, I quickly developed a tunnel vision towards that and that only.

Looking back right now I actually have to acknowledge the role of having direction in my life played and how finding it was a pivotal moment that altered how I saw the world. The saying “don’t know which way is up” comes to mind. If you don’t know which way is which or which way to go it tends to be much safer to just stand still. Once I knew where I really wanted to go, the only way I could see was up. And so began my career.

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

I pretty much owe this whole answer to family friend, Pete, who became much like another father to me…

I actually used to hate performing altogether. I used to fake some sort of headache or sickness every Thursday afternoon in middle school to get out of performing in front of the class in music.

Little did I know, I’d been performing all my life and wasn’t aware of it. I used to watch Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Friends religiously and could recite entire scenes off the top of my head. Until finally one day Pete pulled me to the side, looked me in the eye and told me very poignantly that I had to be an actor or, at the very least, I had to give it a go in some capacity. So I auditioned for the school musical that year, they were doing Little Shop of Horrors. I got the role of Orin the dentist. I think Jamie Bell summed up the feeling of how I felt when I got on stage in Billy Elliot when he was asked how dancing made him feel: “like electricity…” And that was that. That was a feeling I wanted to for the years to come. Thus was born my love for art which turned in to a love for the craft. So needless to say, leaving out everything he has done for me between that point and now I owe a lot to the man.

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

I guess the story of how I booked Step Up is pretty interesting… My life as an actor right now and over the last 18 months is the pinnacle of one of the main reasons we live to do what we do; You go through an endless amount of rejection loneliness, poverty, solitude, false hope and empty promises because any day can be the day that your entire life changes. For me it was three. Three life changing days in 9 days total.

After living in London for 4 years and coming to the realisation that while it will always be my true home, was not the place where I was going to really make my mark (or at least right now). So I decided to move back my home town Milton Keynes in order to save money to buy my US working visa and everything I would need to get to the West Coast. I’d created a business plan in which I was able to put together £15,000 of investment from businesses and business people offering a healthy return of 200% as well as a ton of appreciation…

I’d audition for Step Up via Self-Tape over a month before I was set to fly out and had heard nothing. I’d booked a 1- way ticket to LAX for 7th May. I don’t know if you’ve ever booked a ticket to a new life, but it’s a pretty incredible and unique feeling… I’d spent most of the week before seeing friends and family around the country and planning how with my mother how she and I were going to spend our last 3 days together before I left. My mother is my world and the idea of my living on the other side of the planet was all starting to get very real for her. Little did either of us know it was about it get a lot more real very quickly.

On the 4th May around 8pm my manager in LA called me and told me Step Up had come back and said they were very interested in seeing me again for the role of TAL. (I auditioned for the role and one other over a month before and like with many of my submissions had heard absolutely nothing and subsequently completely forgotten about it.) However, they were interested in seeing me as soon as humanly possible. Meaning, in reality, I had to fly tomorrow. I told him I hadn’t packed or said goodbye to my mum properly and had to call him back. Truthfully I knew it was a no brainer but equally was still a tough decision to make. I went for a walk and made some phone calls to some people in the industry that I respected and asked them what they think I should do. The answer was unanimous….. “Go with your gut”. Each told me I should do what my instincts were telling me to do. I said, “My gut is telling me to get on the next flight out.” “then that’s what you should do, ” I told my mum and all the blood drained from her face and she wore a tearful smile knowing she had to support this, even at the expense of the long goodbye we had both planned for…

I changed my flight, squeezed my entire life into 2 suitcases and about 12 hours later after a heartbreaking goodbye I left my mother at the door step and was sat in a taxi on my way to a new life. I landed in LA with the understanding that I really may not even get this role and was ready to spend the next few years hustling to make it through the door (and breaking them down if need be). Luckily that wasn’t the case; After 2 chemistry sessions and a dance audition (In which I actually went down in absolute flames), I by some miracle booked the job.

I and anyone in the performing arts can tell you, the feeling of booking a job is almost unbeatable. The feeling of booking a job that you know is going to change your and your family’s lives… Well, that’s as close to magic as you can get.

4 days later I was on a flight to Atlanta and the rest is history…

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

Acting wise, I just finished shooting my second season of Step Up: High water and I think it’s going to be a great season. It comes out on March 20th and I’m excited for everyone to see it.

I’m currently shooting a new Netflix Original called Locke & key up in Toronto, we just went into production last week, and I’m playing the role of Scot Cavendish. I’m really excited this one too.

On the other side of the camera, I just moved into the producing space and just co-produced my first short film called ‘Issac and Emma’ that was written, directed and produced by Andrew Schneider. Who, by the way, is definitely one to watch out for over the next few years!

I’m also looking into some branding stuff as well getting my feet wet in the world of entrepreneurship too; I’m working on a few business endeavours with my business partner, Jade Sehbat and equally so looking for new endeavours to get involved with. Will have some very exciting things in the pipeline over the next couple of years.

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

I think inspiration is a huge one. Everyone need people to they can look to, someone to set an example for them. Someone to show them what is possible in this world. But Inspiration goes hand in hand with relatability. If you don’t feel you understand someone or they would understand you it’s usually unlikely that you will really be inspired by them. Now relatability isn’t always a question of race or creed, but what someone that looks like you doing great things particularly in the space that you are interested it breeds a pathway in one’s head suggesting that things seemly unattainable may not be so far away after all.

Storytelling. Telling stories is something that lays close to the heart of every human being on the planet, whether they know it or not. There is little more cathartic than hearing a story that you believes is in some way, your story.

That’s why I felt Tal was such an important role. There are few black gay men portrayed on TV. So to be young gay man where the focal point of his story was not his sexuality was a big deal I believe. The response I got from so many in the LGBTQ community was incredible. I received numerous messages from young men (particularly black and mixed) telling me how I was telling their story and how much they appreciate having someone actually represented them as they see themselves. I already was aware that this role was going to be important for some people, but the response and appreciation absolutely filled my heart. Having someone tell your story is the best way to be reminded you are not alone that there is someone that contrary to the expectation, in a world with 8 billion people and the technological means to communicate with just about every one of them, so many feel so very lonely. The feeling of loneliness often stems from not feeling understood, not simply by yourself.

Equally so, I think telling stories about people who you don’t typically see in a particular circumstance is a great way of using the world of make believe to affect and how individuals see a certain type of person. For example, Gina Torres in Suits. She plays the highly powerful and highly calculated Jessica Pearson, who is head of a top law firm in New York City. As a black woman, this is a most unlikely place many would imagine to see her. However, she is not only there but she is the master puppeteer in the show; She uses her keen sense of character and understanding of individual tenancies to quietly pull the strings on everyone working for and with her to guide everyone to a better path then finishes off with an explanation of her decisions to her peers and her subordinates passing one the wisdom she’s accumulated to them.

She is hardworking, intelligent and exceptionally rational. Which for so many are not words generally associated in with a black woman in America. I think characters like Jessica Pearson help us to move away from the quiet indoctrination that the colour of your skin or any other variable that you don’t have control over, have anything to do with you have anything meaningful or useful to say and contribute.

From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

For starters let me say I didn’t necessarily grow up with the understanding that my complexion was going to be something that stopped me having or being what or who I wanted to be. More to the point in my latter years still don’t think that. Which is not to say that I wasn’t aware of how the industry worked or that the colour of my skin wasn’t something that was going to play a role in my life. In fact, in my opinion, there are a lot fewer opportunities (or rather interesting opportunities) in England for non-white actors than the is in there US (even though I’m half white; in the Western world there’s white and then there’s everything else; what’s now been coined in the industry as “going diverse” with a role which basically means not white) I just didn’t see it the thing that was going to be the deciding factor in my career. I say all that to say I think one of the first things to think about from a performers perspective is to understand and accept that there will be obstacles that come your way based off what you look like and to get over it. Get over it so you can get around it. Being aware and reciting the fact that there is a problem is important but it’s not how you actually achieve the solutions themselves. As far as industry goes I believe focusing on being the best at what you do and ceasing the most opportunities to do it is the best to ensure you blaze the path you wish to walk. Interestingly enough, it seems to be white actors that are struggling to get seen right now. So the pendulum may be swinging. It used to be when trying to get signed you would hear things like “I already have someone like you on my books” from agents. As if having 2 black or Asian actors we’re going to automatically bring the exact same essence and skill set to the table on a production. Now its feels like it’s fashionable to be mixed. But at the end of it, you can always go and create your own work and tell your own stories. Question is, are you willing to do the additional work that requires.

Stephen Covey said in his book ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ “first seek to understand, then to be understood.”; I think we could all work on not automatically crucifying people for doing or saying something controversial people for thinking or voicing opinions that we don’t agree with or we feel degrade things we hold dear to us. Which is not say that we should let ANYONE say things to make others feel bad or less than they are or be okay with people who actively want to hurt or degrade another human being. However, in the mitts of being outraged, we may lose sight of the bigger picture. After spending some time in the south, primarily Georgia, over the last couple of years, some things become abundantly clear to me. Chiefly, not every Trump supporter is automatically full of hate or despises other races or religions. And secondly, many people are receiving an entirely different set of information from the residents of say LA or NYC. And I think understanding that plays a big part in the perpetual difference in opinion we see. Realising that peoples echo chambers are providing the basis for a lot of what one believes. So I believe it’s wise for us all to take a step back and take action with a little more of a macroscopic thought process; ask ourselves the question “what am I actually trying to achieve?” (or is being offended and victimised the final outcome) “Is this choice or the way I’m dealing with this situation actually going to make my life better?” I guess this point didn’t necessarily apply directly to the entertainment industry but I think the idea goes full circle. The more we understand about each other the creatively versatile projects we’ll be able to create. Leaving room for more diversity.

And finally, I guess I would just encourage everyone as a society to do their research. Question things. Find out if the stories you’ve heard are true and to what degree. We’ve been gifted with the internet and if used correctly can often stop you for misinforming people and stop you being misinformed by others. Just last year I was told by a friend in a clothing shop that Tommy Hilfiger was an open racist and then went on Oprah and said he didn’t want black people wearing his clothes and she kicked him off his show. It was the first time I’d heard the rumour. He told me as though he’d seen this interview himself. Which is impossible because it never happened. 10 years later Oprah had Tommy on the show to clear things up in which she branded the story a BFL; A Big Fat Lie. Tommy explained to Oprah that the rumour not only hurt him financially but affected the personal life of him and his family of 4 children. Which is not to say I know anything about Tommy Hilfiger and his character personally or if there is some truth to that being his thought process in actuality, but all this happened because so many did exactly what my friend did to me; received some phoney information and couldn’t be bothered to go and look it up to before he started passing this information on. That is a VERY dangerous trait that I believe too many of us possess. We have the means to fact check our information before we start offering it up to others and we have a responsibility to do so. I was disappointed to have been so badly misinformed about such a harsh allegation but luckily was able to look into it myself and set things straight. Again I don’t know if this exactly addresses diversity issues in the entertainment business but it all these things play a factor in the stories that get told and understanding some things are true and some are just stories.

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

  • The Journey is everything — Find a way to fall in love with the dirt, the grind. Because truly the greatest part of the job. Putting the building blocks together of your own career is one of the fulfilling of the process. But you don’t always realise that until you’ve made some tangible progress and have the opportunity to look back on far you’ve come.
  • Run your own race — Its skill you have to practise. Everyone one will have one or two people in their life specifically whose career they follow and compare to their own. It’s natural. Best way to get past that is to one, remember that their success isn’t coming out of your pocket and two if that person is in your life personally, find a way to help that person move forward. Because come a part of what they are doing then their success becomes your success too.
  • Evaluate and elevate the people around you, chase the relationships you want and axe the ones you don’t. I’m somewhat ruthless with this. I’m about the people I let into my inner circle, but if someone is one my inner circle I love being a person that others can come to for help or advice or just for consolation. Finding your people and helping to bring them up is going to play a part in who you are surrounded as your career progresses. Equally so, deciding if someone is good for you is an important part and I have very okay letting people go form my life if it fit.
  • Take time to breathe and look inward. Work your ass off. But when it’s time to take a moment, take a moment! This is one that I’m still trying to get a good grasp on myself.
  • Your integrity is all that you have… Figure out what is integral to you and do not compromise it for anything. There will be times you’ll be asked to support something that you don’t believe in for money of some form of prosperity… It’s simply not worth giving a piece of yourself that you can’t take back.

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

Business is about people- learning to navigate people is everything. It’s a beautiful thing for people to want for you what you want for yourself. From my experience, you’re ability to make people like you plays a huge role in the opportunities that come your way. Or don’t. The more people who are on your side the less energy getting things like access to people and opportunities will take. I’m actually writing a short piece now on likability and how I learned to cultivate relationships. It honestly makes the ride up so so so much smoother when people like you and want you to win.

Let gratitude for the opportunity to chase down your dreams be the thing that keeps you going and understand that by the very nature of moving towards that thing you want, is quite literally living it. That by itself can give you an abundance of energy and fire to keep going. The money is good and helps no doubt. But putting down the building blocks of your own career and watching it unfold little by little… That’s Gold-dust.

Burning out is usually not down to just working too hard. It’s usually down to becoming disheartened for too long. Rejection is a part of the game, and you have to move past it quickly. Rejection for a role is NOT a rejection of you as a human being. Unless you’re a dick, then maybe it’s that specifically.

Become really self-aware of and play to your strengths. My strength was always communication. So I would take a general meeting or a coffee with anyone and everyone in my early years. I knew how to make people like me and cultivate that into real friendships. So that’s what I did and now those relationships are materialising into offers and opportunities. If you can write, go write something then pitch it. Whatever your bag is, lean into what you’re best at. Also, get your friends into a position where they comfortable telling you what they really think about you and how you operate. You could be approaching something very wrong and your friends might be too nice or too afraid to tell you so.

Knock on every door. Don’t be precious about it. Meet everyone everywhere and hustle for everything. The little meetings and connections you develop will serve you in the short and the long run in so many ways. From improving your interaction and first impressions to meeting the person that had the perfect thing for you possibly making a friend for life. Those small but notable successes really keep you going and help you generate the key ingredient; Momentum.

Even as an actor, I would say don’t watch too much TV. It’s not all worth your time. Choose wisely.

Most importantly. Make sure you REALLY love this shit. Make sure you’re doing it for all the right reasons. Love your craft and know that that’s why you’re doing it because if you do it for the fame or the money and care nothing for the art you might just find you never get either of those and didn’t even have a good time in the process. Time is all you really have, don’t forget that. This career path is a rollercoaster, emotionally, mentally and financially so make sure this is what you really want. Because if not you’ll give your life to something for next to nothing in return. And understand that there’s a difference between deciding this isn’t what you really want and quitting are not the same thing. You have to ask yourself on a regular basis if you’re happy. Like, really happy. It’s an important question that can go both unasked and unanswered for far too long.

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. 🙂

I think the idea of taking responsibility when no one is looking. The idea that even if one else knows, you know, and that’s still a compromise of your integrity to not to the right thing. In Judaism, there are 8 different levels of giving called Tzedakah. Directly translated it means “justice” or “righteousness” Tzedakah is the obligation to do what is right. The second highest level of giving is the giving when you don’t know the recipient and the recipient doesn’t know you. And the highest is giving someone the means to become someone to become self sufficient. Now whilst I can’t say the philanthropic concept is necessarily aimed at exactly what I’m saying I think the sentiments still apply; We have new and unprecedented problems coming around the bend every single day with regards to consumerism and climate changed stemming from our expansion as a species and how we relate to the environment in which we live. (I think we feel somewhat separated or detached from our environment as though we are, in some way, foreign entities that just kind of landed here. When in truth we are actually just as much a part of the environment as a tree or a waterfall despite us not being routed to the ground.) Doing the right thing and making sacrifices even when it’s not convenient, when you know you won’t personally have to pay a price for not doing it, when the people/environment you help to support may never actually be something you personally come into contact with is, I think, a huge sign of commitment and loyalty to truth, honesty and collectivism. I think I would just love to make it cool and desirable to be responsible for and well thought out. I think we could maybe do with a little less drive fast live young approach to life and have a little more longevity in mind if want to thrive for millennia to come.

None of us 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?

There are a number of people that are my day ones who have stuck with me through thick and thin so that’s tough.

Personally, my family have been down for me and my career choice from the jump. But if I had to choose one it really was Pete who not only turned me onto this path but has been the spearhead in keeping me focused and pushing me to become all he believed I could be. I would say I’ve always had a lot of self-belief. But I don’t think I’ve ever believed in myself as much as that man believes in me so I would like to dedicate this moment to him and thank him for everything he has done to get me where I am today and continues to do for me. Thank you, Pete, I’m so lucky to have you.

And Professionally, I have to say, my manager, Peter McGrath. I signed with him about 5 years ago when I had next to no credits and very little experience and he has been laying the bricks for me to climb since the day we started working together. He guided me through my entire transition into the America industry and has been my safety net and first port of call for just about everything career related. It’s a great feeling to know you have someone who truly has your best interest at heart and is also great at what they do. So I would like to take this moment to say thank you to the other Peter in my life. I am so very lucky to have you too.

Would also like to thank the National Youth Theatre of GB for supplying me with the incredible group of talented individuals to surround and elevate myself with. If you are an English actor trying to get into the business I thoroughly recommend going and trying out for NYT. You will not only get the opportunity to be part of great productions by you’ll meet friends for life…

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

”There are those whom the world happens to, and there are those who happen to the world…”

All the times in my life I’ve ever felt down, I’ve equally felt helpless. It’s the time when things don’t go right and it feels like the trajectory of your life isn’t something you have control over. Once I understood that that’s a decision I get to make. The whole landscape shifted. It’s a decision you get to make every morning when you wake up. You’re not bound to anything or anyone. You can stand up and walk away from just about anything, accept the truth and your responsibilities.

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. 🙂

Will Smith — Without a doubt. Mostly just to thank him for what his words, his wisdom, and his light did for me in my early years all the way through to now. He’s been at the epicentre of so much of the way I chose to live my life every day. He’s been a pivotal aspect of the man I am right now.

I had friends involved in the Aladdin production and I low-key almost flew back to London last year while they were shooting on the off chance that he might be shooting and I would get the chance to thank him. But my shoot schedule didn’t work out. I have another friend working on the Bad Boys For Life so I’m debating it again. Damn, I sound like a real stalker right now. But I guess you have to take the opportunities when they come.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Social media you can get me on Instagram: @petricej

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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