Monday, October 28, 2013

The trained martial artist and stuntman is fighting his way into Hollywood, booking roles in eight feature films since 2012.
The trained martial artist and stuntman is fighting his way into Hollywood, booking roles in eight feature films since 2012.

Jaylen Moore: Actor-Stuntman-Dancer-Extraordinaire

It's been a busy year for the actor, who will next appear on Homeland.

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"If I could go back in time, I’d tell the 19-year-old in LA to shut your mouth and enjoy the ride and don’t worry so much, because what turns out to happen for you as you get older and into your thirties is going to be amazing."--Jaylen Moore

reaking into the entertainment industry is like trying to enter a medieval fortress — nestled high atop a hill, it overlooks the masses struggling to climb their way up. It takes a warrior with perseverance, a thick skin, and more perseverance to break through its sturdy barriers.
Jaylen Moore is an up-and-coming actor who is fighting his way into Hollywood, literally — he’s a trained martial artist and stuntman along with a multitude of other talents. As Moore put it, he’s living the “hyphen-life” as an actor-singer-dancer-stuntman-martial-artist-personal trainer. Oh, and he plays the drums, tablas (India drums), guitar, and piano and speaks Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Pashto, and Spanish — sorry ladies he’s happily married.
He’s the action hero meets Renaissance man with an ethnically ambiguous look that’s helped him book various roles in big-name films from The Host to Oblivion to Escape Plan, and now his latest stint as a guest-star on Showtime’s Homeland. Moore’s been a busy man the
Jaylen Moore
past year and a half, appearing in eight feature films since 2012 in “South Hollywood” — i.e. Louisiana, Atlanta, North Carolina, etc. where many runaway productions are filming for better tax breaks.
I had the pleasure of talking to Moore, whose passion and exuberance carried through even over the phone. He’s a lover of live, grateful for every moment of his journey, which began in California, carried him to Omaha and Chicago, and finally to the actor’s mecca — Los Angeles.
Where did you grow up as a child?I grew up in the Bay Area, in Oakland. I lived on Fruitvale, so homage to that film Fruitvale Station, it’s like my hometown. It got pretty bad in my area when I was 10, so we moved to a better area — a safer area — in Dublin, California. I was there until I was 15, and then I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, can you believe that? And everyone’s like “why did you go to Omaha?” I’m like “you know, just to change up the scenery, why not?” (Laughs)
But, what really happened is my father worked for Kellogg’s and they had shut down in northern California, so we moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where I spent my last two years of high school — and became a Husker fan for life. You have no choice, you must bleed red and white. I was a big football player too, and I wanted to play for the Huskers, until I blew out my knee senior year, and then my whole life changed.
So what did that mean for you?Well, when you blow out your knee and you have to have ACL surgery, one, it changes your life, and two, instead of wanting to go into sports and become a professional athlete — which every kid pretty much dreams of — knowing that I had two pins in my knee I was like “you know what? I guess it’s not meant for me to be in football.”
It turns out, right after that happened, there was an audition in Omaha my senior year of high school for a teen soap opera called In Our Lifetime. That was created and written by a woman named Tari Robinson. She used to write for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and she was from Nebraska, so she wanted to come back and do a local teen soap. And this is like the Dawson’s Creek days and all that stuff, so it was exciting — word spread pretty fast in Omaha.
I checked it out and it was hilarious because I was in this long line of people — it looked like anAmerican Idol casting — and everyone had these headshots, and then I come with my senior wallet picture thinking I’m so cool (laughts). I walked in with that, and a resume that my older sister had helped me type, and I ended up booking one of the lead roles — just like that. Little did I know, that’s what sparked it all. We filmed it. It didn’t end up selling, and got shelved, but Tari Robinson saw something in me and spoke to my parents. She said “I think your son wants to pursue acting.” And they told her “yeah, he had the bug when he was little.”
When I was a kid I used to be part of Fox Kids. To be honest, I was a little kid with a temper, and I would tease my little sister and my older sister, and my parents are like “okay, you’re letting the TV stuff get in the way of school and focus, and you need to get in martial arts and sports.”
To have another outlet for your energy.Yeah, and thank God they did. So they took me out of that, and I immediately went into martial arts, sports, dance, you name it: tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, basketball, baseball, football, soccer. So that’s what I jumped into and kind of forgot about the industry, but always wanted to be in it, of course, loving acting and the arts.
You’ve always had a passion for acting.Remember Batman when it first came out with Jack Nicholson? That was the day my dad realized I’m probably going to be an artist — but never mentioned it other than nowadays when I’m doing what I’m doing. After I saw that movie — I must have been around six or seven — I came home, went to the bathroom, and grabbed either my mom or sister’s makeup and put white powder on my face and lipstick. My dad’s like “what are you doing?” I found a purple hat that was in the costume closet that my older sister had used for dance recitals and acted like I was the Joker.
After Omaha, what brought you to Chicago.I went to Chicago because Tari suggested it. It’s only a six-hour drive from Omaha, and she said “you’re such a nice guy, I think LA is going to eat you alive.” So I went to Chicago, lived in Rogers Park, which we all know wasn’t the best area back then. Talk about being a kid, she’s like “LA is going to eat you alive,” but I was in Chicago where I was like “oh my god, I’m going to get eaten alive!” And I tell you it was a blessing. I have angels protecting me, because when my parents weren’t around or anybody else who was visiting me … I didn’t need a TV, I had a live show out front, I felt like I was back in Oakland.
There were a lot of drugs, violence, shootings, and then whenever my parents would visit it was like the most peaceful neighborhood. My mom and dad are like “it’s such a great neighborhood.” Of course I didn’t tell them any of this because you don’t want them worrying about their son, who’s 18-years-old, living on his own. It changed my life. I was out there and I went to Second City and Act One studios and pursued the arts, worked two waiting jobs at Rainforest Café and Bakers Square, and just did what every other actor does: dive in. After a year there of booking some work, I came to LA.
Los Angeles
What made you decide to make that leap to LA?It’s the hub. Everybody knows that if you want to make it in this industry you need to be in Los Angeles. Although nowadays it looks like it’s changing. There’s so much local hires in other states and other countries, but for the most part it’s the hub — it’s Hollywood land. You come here, the new kid with all the stuff in your car, and you drive down like, “oh my god this is amazing, I’m so going to be the next Dawson’s Creek (lauging).”  It’s just so funny what you think. It never turns out that way, but it ends up happening in a better way I would say.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell the 19-year-old in LA to shut your mouth and enjoy the ride and don’t worry so much, because what turns out to happen for you as you get older and into your thirties is going to be amazing. I would have been a little more calm, however; the way everything led up to it, that’s what brought me to where I am today, and I’m very grateful for that.
When you first went out there to LA was it at all like you pictured?Nope! C’mon Lindsay, there’s no trumpets and people singing Prince Ali arrives (laughs).
Of course not, you’re the starved artist who is struggling to make ends meet.I got out here and I had one contact, my cousin, who went to UC Riverside. So, the first six months I lived in Riverside and was driving over 150 miles a day going back and forth doing agency drop-offs. I was just walking in and saying “hey, I’m the new guy in town, I’m going to be your new star. What’s up?” They’re like “oh you’re from Chicago?” Because it sounded edgier if you were from Chicago, so I wouldn’t even talk about Nebraska or the Bay Area.
It was very fun and exciting, with the new highs of moving into a big city. When I got here — it’s crazy, all the experience I had as a server, you’d think it’d be easy for me to get a job as a server — all the restaurants I went to, especially the high-end ones, were like “oh, well you have to have ten years of experience.” It was weird, but I think the universe was assisting, me and here’s why. I couldn’t get a job as a waiter, and so I’m talking to my mom and dad and my older sister, and she’s like “bro, you are so into fitness and martial arts, why don’t you become a personal trainer?” I hadn’t thought about that, but when I blew out my knee [in high school] I stayed on the football team and would help my coach develop different fitness programs for my team.
I went into a Bally’s, a 19-year-old kid, and I got hired the day of. I walked in there and said “I have extensive background in fitness, martial arts, and dance, and I feel like I would be a great trainer. I’m a people person and I think it would be a mistake if you don’t hire me.” And the manager looked at me and said “dude, you’re hired.”
Moore eventually went private and had his own training business for 12 years before slowing down about a year-and-a-half ago when his acting career took off.
Jaylen Moore and wife Britt Logan
Moore with his wife Brit Logan.
What was your big break in acting?There are always different points in your career. So for example, years ago I booked a huge feature on That’s So Raven, and I played the character of Eric. I had fun, but that was it. You go through all these phases. The real big leap for me was about a year-and-a-half ago.
I’m married, my wife and I had our 1st year anniversary last Sunday, September 29. She is my rock. Her name is Britt Logan and she’s a screenwriter and actress. We met on a musical six years ago, and I’m that lucky guy where my wedding date and my actual anniversary with her are the same day. I can’t fail (laughs).
The reason I brought that up was because a year before we got married, we’re saving money, it’s a big collaboration between what we’re earning and our parents. And I was just a little depressed; I hit a little stint in my acting career. I had some good projects under me, but nothing was consistent. I was getting burned out from training, and my passion for art wasn’t fulfilled. A friend of mine called me who was in New Orleans. He said “look we’ve been our here and this market is funny, they’re short on actors who are ethnically ambiguous” — which is basically my category — “who can also do their own stunts.” He’s like, “if you come out here you’ll be a shark in a pond.” What was happening was all the A-list parts we’re being cast out of LA, and all the other juicy parts and film were locally searched, to get the tax break. Louisiana was offering I believe up to a 35% tax break. I tell Brittany I want to do this, and she’s like “okay.”
Reinvention, work in “South Hollywood,” and marriage
New Year’s 2012 I shaved my head, literally reinvented my look. I felt like a new man. I said “I’m getting married to you this year, but I don’t want to get married regretting that I didn’t give it one last extra push just for acting.” And she totally supported me. She took over my clientele — she’s a trainer as well. As actors we're hyphens, you’re a personal trainer-DJ-MC-waiter-dancer. Living the “hyphen life” she was so wonderful and completely supported me, and I took off.
I went to New Orleans January 2012 and immediately booked a part on the film called The Host, where they were looking for actors who could do their own stunts because there was a big fighting scene. I booked character Seeker Song. Unfortunately, in the film a lot of the scenes we did were cut out, but one of mine remained in there. And then it started snowballing for me. It went from The Host toOblivion, where I got to work with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. The part I booked was actually written in for me. The director was so cool, and when I met him, he interviewed me and said, “I’m impressed with your audition and the fact that you can speak different languages, and you have a cool look. I don’t really have this in the script, but I want to write in the role of the radio operator because I think we’re missing some things in the story. I can’t promise you it will make the final cut but you’ll be working with the leads.”
I got on set and he improved everything. And then there were five scenes we shot, and inside I’m like “wow! I love these actors.” Of course on the outside I have to play it cool and calm. And then I booked the film called The Tomb, now changed to Escape Plan, with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jaylen Moore
Those were the three films at the beginning of the year, and then summertime I was back in California. Then, I went back to New Orleans to be present for more auditions and I booked a film called Aztec Warrior. That was amazing; it’s going to be a big one for me! I can’t tell you too much detail about it, but it’s a comedy-action film.
So after Aztec Warrior, I came home and got married. It was the best day of my life. And then right before my wedding I got a call from my agent and she said, “Hey, you get insurance on that honey moon?” (My wife and I were going to go to Fiji right after the wedding) “Because, you just booked a film called Sons of Liberty, which is an indie film that they’re going to push for film festivals. You booked a co-lead, and you need to be in Mobile, Alabama, for six weeks right after your wedding." Thank god my wife is in the industry — she understands.
I just drilled it and worked hard for six weeks. Then, I get home and we’re getting ready for Fiji — this is December now, 2012. I get a call from Brenda [his agent] again and she’s like “So, um, do you want to move that honeymoon again?” I’m like “what now?” She said I'd booked the film called Ladies Man: A Made Movie, it’s on MTV. I play the character Phil Palmer, and I’m like the ethnic Stifler meets Magic Mike.
So I fly back out to New Orleans and I shoot that. Luckily the people that we were registered with through American Express Travel were so cool, and they’re like, “Look we know you’ve had trouble, we can move this for you just one more time, what month do you want?” My wife’s like, "We’re going to do this on May 27, because I turn 27 on May 27, my golden birthday, you can’t book anything that week.”
So the New Year hits, 2013, I fly back out to New Orleans again for a film called Random, where I played a killer. It's fun playing these evil menacing roles, because it’s something I would never do out in real life. In between that, while I was in Alabama, I got a call from Sam Hargrave, who is the awesome stunt coordinator that I got to work with on The Host, and he said, “Hey! There’s another acting/stunt role for Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The director likes your stuff can you do it?” I’m like “I’m on set right now in Alabama.” He’s like, “Here’s the open window of time, can you make it?” And, it worked out with my schedule, so I shot to Atlanta and worked there for a week.
Now I’m back home, I’ve been in LA and the latest thing for me, besides going to Mexico City in May for Aztec Warrior and then going on my honeymoon — we finally made it — was I booked Homeland, and that is a game changer for me. On Homeland now I’m guest-starring on two episodes as Eric Faraz. I had a blast — no pun intended. I got to work very closely with Damian Lewis and Claire Danes. And they are just beasts when it comes to being an artist. All of them are so phenomenal. They can go one minute from laughing, and then action, and just turn it on. They really breathe every word they said. You learn best on the job from experience, and thus far in my acting career, this has been the best experience.
Sons of Liberty
Jaylen Moore on "Sons of Liberty"
What is it like for you watching your movies and seeing yourself on the big screen?
It’s not that bad to be honest. Some actors are like “I can’t watch myself.” For me, I can watch myself, and sometimes I’ll view it and I’m like, “I’m proud of that, wow! You worked so hard, you deserved this.” And then other times I’ll look at it and go, “Oh shit! What were you thinking on that note?” I’m very hard on myself, but I don’t mind it. For me it’s not weird, it’s a good way to learn and grow. I see myself on tape and I’m like “oh, I didn’t know I had that kick or that movement, maybe I shouldn’t do that, it’s kind of distracting on film.”
Switching gears here, we’re also an auto site. Do you have any favorite car memories you can share?I never was really a fan of Jaguars, until I was on Homeland and I saw Damian pull up in this orange convertible sports Jaguar and I’m like, “Dude, what is that?” And he’s like, “Yeah, Jaguar gave it to me, they’re sponsoring me.” I'm like “ummm, can I have one?” So we all got a ride in it — it’s awesome. Although, before that, and even to this day, I’m a huge fan of Tesla. I have a Tesla little model that I put together that my wife calls me a nerd for, but I would love a Tesla car one day if they’d like to sponsor me — that would be amazing.
Since I was a child I’ve always loved Ferraris, and there was a silver Ferrari that Will Smith drove inBad Boys 2 and that was like my dream Ferrari. I’m not really big into wanting fancy cars, but just for like the child in me, I think I need to lease a Ferrari for a year.
And your first car?My first car was actually a Toyota Celica GT  ’91. It was white, stick shift, convertible, white with a black top. And Lindsay, I thought I was so cool. I’m a California kid living in Omaha, Nebraska, and senior year I’m rolling around Nebraska in a Toyota Celica convertible. Now remember it snows there, but I didn’t care, I was so cool during summer and spring and fall. My parents still have it to this day. Toyotas don’t die. It’s got over 200,000 miles and it still runs like it’s brand new. My mom and dad love it, they’ll put the top down and drive up the coast.
Any final thoughts or parting advice?I want to tell you one thing that I thought was really funny. My father, being from Afghanistan, doesn’t really know the industry, but always wanted to be an actor as well when he was a kid so he’s kind of living vicariously through me. He loves to give advice, so he’d say bachem — bachem means my son — “Bachim, (imitating accent)  you know what you have to do? I saw John Travolta on Oprah and he said he wears black V-neck. When he used to go to auditions, he wears black V-neck, show his muscles, tight shirt, shows the arms, biceps. I think you should also wear black V-neck, you’ll get the role, 100%” (laughs).
Did you take his advice?You know it’s funny, I did wear a black V-neck to one of my castings and I did get the role, so it’s funny now he’s like, “Hey, look it worked.”
I’ve been blessed with a great acting and career coach. Barbara has been with me for the past 5 years and from when I was down and depressed — because it happens to us actors — she would find ways to invigorate the light within. She would call it my pilot light as an actor, and her motto is “I’m going to teach you that when you hit the ceiling, we’re going to make the ceiling the floor, and recreate, reinvent and keep going.” And so I just wanted to give that shout out because that woman has saved my life.
She’s the one who pushed me to teach self-defense to kids and women. I donate time teaching women who are in a shelter from domestic violence. The thing is, I work different. It’s not about teaching them how to defend themselves and kick ass with elbows and knees — okay part of it is about that — but I try to instill in them confidence, and knowing that you’re a strong spirit, man or woman. And, if you walk with love and confidence, that, 99% of the time, will radiate and keep danger away, because most robbers, rapists, they’re looking for easy victims, no one who wants to put up a fight. That confidence alone will pretty much keep that away, but unfortunately if stuff does go down, then you have to turn it up a little bit and that’s when the tiger within you has to come out to get you home safe to your family. I tell people just get into a self-defense class, take a couple, you’ll notice a difference in your walk and your day-to-day job. That’s the whole point. The art will take over in a way that reflects in your everyday life, not just the danger part. I’ll leave that with you.

Stay up-to-date on Moore's projects via Twitter.

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