Jayson Blair is one of those actors who you’ve probably seen in a lot of things but didn’t know it, because he’s so convincing when he transforms. He went from playing a 40-year-old Eastern European businessman on Entourage, to a 30-something paramedic on Heroes to his current role as teenage bully Max Owens on MTV’s hit series The Hard Times of RJ Berger.
VIBE caught up with the versatile actor to talk about what’s in store for the rest of RJ Berger’s season, his new Stephen Gaghan pilot and a forthcoming teen zombie comedy, Detention of the Dead. ⎯Starrene Rhett
Hi Jayson, how are you?
I feel like a 350-year-old man. I just got up to walk. I was doing my own stunts yesterday and I have splinters in my arm, I pulled my hip flexor, my legs are all sore, I’m a hot mess but it was a blast. I had the time of my life I’m shooting a pilot.
You can’t just leave me hanging, what’s the pilot?
Right now it’s called untitled Stephen Gaghan⎯the guy that wrote Traffic. He won an Academy Award for that. He also wrote and directed Syriana and he’s writing and directing this as well.
So, I take it this pilot is an action show.
It’s a crime, political, family drama about Los Angeles. It’s potentially one thing but it encompasses all things and all walks of life in Los Angeles. It’s a super multicultural show about Los Angeles it’s really cool.
Who do you play?
I play Tom G, a bad ass hitman.
Yep, it’s a lot of fun. It’s very different for me.
Is it that different because, your RJ Berger character is…never mind, he’s not a bad ass he’s just a jerk.
Yeah. I’m a jerk, totally. Like a childhood jerk⎯this is real deal sort of stuff. But [the pilot] has been the greatest thing ever I mean Stephen is so cool to work with. His caliber of skills is unbelievable.
You’re one of those actors who is very versatile. I mean, you would think that all actors are versatile but that’s not necessarily the case. But with you, one minute you’re a 40-year-old man and then you’re a high school kid and it’s all very convincing. So how did you become such a chameleon?
That’s the problem, everyone is like, the star that burns twice as bright burns out twice as fast but for me, I’m thinking about the future and what I want is to play different roles and expand myself as an artist and human and person, and the only way of doing that is taking on things where people look at you and say, “Never,” like this role that I’m playing now, but I think everybody has⎯no matter what the character calls for, whether it’s somebody that’s bipolar, somebody that’s gay or somebody that’s struggling with body dysmorphic or whatever, I think everybody has a touch of that inside of them. So you gotta dig deep and find out whatever qualities of yourself that are similar to that character and you completely magnify it through the work from the writer, and then you just expand on that. And by doing that you can create some extremely interesting characters and have a vast collection of things to show people.
What is your favorite type of role to play?
I like intense dark stuff because it’s super challenging and it’s a lot of work and when you are completely in the moment on something like that, where you’re challenging yourself emotionally, it’s a high that I can’t explain.
Let’s talk about your background. What life was like growing up and how you end up getting into acting?
I’m from Metro Detroit. I grew up in a city called East Detroit and I moved to the suburbs in the 6th grade to this place called Macomb and that’s where I finished up high school. Back then, I always wanted to model and ended up going to Barbizon modeling school and then I went to a competition in Chicago through them that I paid for, to meet some agents and stuff. That’s where I ended up getting my first agent. He was the one who got me really interested and excited about acting. So I moved out to LA shortly after and started an acting class and just pursued it. As a child, through my adolescence I was always the class clown. I was always having fun and just trying to make everybody⎯my family, my friends and people I never met before laugh. That was the biggest thing for me, was seeing the smiles on somebody’s face and when you make somebody smile you’re touching that person and If I can do that to as many people I can then that’s the greatest thing in the world for me.