Amadeus Jones ’21 and Toni Gangi ’21 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writers
This past Friday, Emertainment Monthly, along with several other student-run publications from across the nation, were given the opportunity to attend a conference call held by Sony Pictures. The purpose of the call was to ask actor/singer-songwriter Nick Jonas questions related to his upcoming role in the film Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. In the film, Jonas, as shown above, stars alongside other famous actors and actresses such as Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Kevin Hart in an action-adventure picture that continues the story of the first Jumanji movie from 1995, which starred the late Robin Williams. While Jonas is more well-known for his musical talents, his past work in the film industry includes acting in such projects as Goat, and Careful What You Wish For. During the call, Jonas answered several questions with some pertaining directly towards his experiences while shooting the film, some talking about his transition from making music to making movies, and some simply asking him what video game he would like to be “stuck” in. Below you will find the full text of Jonas’ tales about making this action-packed flick:
Do you feel any kind of pressure being taken seriously in this transition from music to making major movies?
Nick Jonas: I try not to stress about perception, you know. I think, for me, it’s just about taking strides to grow. That sort of drives the conversation and not the idea that I’m working against people’s idea of what I’m trying to accomplish. And, you know, what’s been great is that there’s been a really warm welcome to the acting side and I think because the steps taken have been sort of thought out and I’ve been patient with it and I’ve tried to make some good choices and find some great roles but, you know, this next step with Jumanji and the projects I have going on feels really exciting.
In the video game Jumanji, the high school kids get to pick another character to be in the game. If you could pick anyone at all to be, who would you pick and why?
NJ: Anyone that even wasn’t in that cast? In the whole world?
In the whole world.
NJ: I would probably go with Jordan Spieth. I’m a big golf fan and to be able to hit a golf ball like him would be very fun, just for a day at least. So, yeah, Jordan Spieth.
Was it stressful making this movie knowing that it was a classic back when the first one came out?
NJ: You know, I think that, for all of us, that was something to keep in mind just to find a way to pay homage to the original one, to Robin Williams’ performance, obviously, which was truly incredible. You know, I think from there it was about finding a way to tell a new Jumanji adventure. A new story. Something that felt fresh and something that was able to take this beloved classic and introduce it to a brand new audience. You know, that’s challenging… but if you get it right I think it can be incredibly rewarding. What people are already seeing with this movie is that audiences are really loving it and young people that were not familiar with the original are loving this on it’s own and probably are going to go back and rediscover the first one now. I think as a fan of the original myself I was thrilled to get the chance to take a title like this that people love so much and, you know, find a way to give it a new and exciting edge. It’s been a great process.
A few days ago, you received a Golden Globe nomination and went to the premiere of Jumanji, your first Hollywood blockbuster, in the same day. Can you give us a glimpse on what that experience was like for you?
NJ: Yeah, I will say that that day, you know, last monday, was one of the craziest days of my life. What’s incredible about this moment that I’m in right now is that, you know, thirteen, fourteen years into my career at this point, I’m still having new experiences and days like that where I wake up to a dream of mine come true and close the day with another dream come true with the premiere of the movie as well. I think it’s about stepping back and looking at moments like that and really just expressing gratitude and taking a minute to think about all the steps that it takes to get there as well and I’m really proud and humbled and thrilled to be in a spot to get to keep this thing rollin as well.
How does the dynamic between working with castmates and directors and film compare to working in the studio on an album with producers and co-writers?
NJ: In some ways they’re similar. I think that, you know, the fun of making an album is that you get to tell your stories, to go on your journey creatively, and it’s really, I think, individual to you. Where’s with the film, you challenge somebody else’s story and working with a group and it’s really a team effort, you know, all hands on deck are required to make it happen. I really love both. I love the fact that I get to switch it up and jump between the two. I think that I find inspiration from being around all the creative minds that go into making a film happen. Also, being able to jump back into my music side of things, create and kind of still my heart and my music. Having both is kind of the greatest gift.
The 1995 film Jumanji has a huge fan base that will come to see the 2017 sequel. We understand it’s a sequel and not a remake, but what parallels or key characteristics can those classic Jumanji fans look for to see in the film besides plot continuation?
NJ: I think that they did a really brilliant job in the writing that basically you feel some of that Jumanji energy. Even just the dialogue and some of the references that are in there, you know, Alan Parrish and there’s pieces that are part of the fabric of our movie that I think really stem from the original. In addition to that, I actually think my character is the emotional anchor to the film in a sense. He is the most connected to Robin Williams’ character, Alan Parrish. Then there’s classic Jumanji elements, you know, that I think fans will love. You know, the animals and the getting sucked into the game, although this time it’s a video game, it’s a similar way that it goes down. I think there are elements that are really frightening. The thing that stood out to me about the original when I was young was that, you know, there were these moments where you really felt the danger and it was scary. I think, as well, the comedy and the action scenes. They did a really good job in the writing with this to give it that edge, to keep audiences on their toes.
Jumanji is one of our favorite films because of the expression of imagination and the experiences Robin Williams brings the characters through. How did you incorporate your personal imagination and the experiences you have had traveling the world with your career while playing Alex, your character?
NJ: Well, I think one of the big similarities between me and my character is that although he’s a pilot, we’re both afraid of flying. So, I think it was kind of easy to tap into that part of the brain when I had those scenes when he’d be really nervous about getting back in the helicopter and saving the group because I’ve had some frightening flying experiences the last couple years. In addition to that, I think with every character I’ve played now, going back to things like Kingdom, a TV show I did the last couple years, Goat, and Scream Queens, even, I try to take something from my life, my personal life, and infuse it into the character. My way is to feel more connected to the character and story through my own experiences. I think it’s the best way on the songwriting side for me to connect the dots creatively and it really does kind of apply on the acting side of things as well. Real life really does inform the choices I make within a scene and it’s a fun process. With this one, a big piece to it as well is working with these really talented actors and hilarious people.
All the characters in the film have weaknesses. What about Alex? How do you relate to that?
NJ: Alex has a couple weaknesses. Mosquitos are one of them. Then his strengths are making margaritas, which is not the most useful tool in the jungle, as well as flying, although that’s been challenging for him as well. In my own life, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses would be if I had to categorize it like a video game. I would say my strengths would be that I’m very driven and very focused. My weakness would probably be, you know, I get in my head sometimes. I get in my own head and kind of overthink things and I think I could just learn to chill out a little bit.
Many members of the cast and crew, like Matt Tolmach and Dwayne Johnson, have expressed a certain love or past connection with the original film with Robin Williams. What does the first Jumanji film mean to you and what did it seem to mean to the people you were working with?
NJ: I was a huge fan of the original. I think I first watched it at about five or six years old. I was in a video store with my dad and we went and picked it up and rented it for about a week. I think I watched it three or four times in that week, mostly because I had to break it up in parts because I was so scared at different moments at five years old. Then, as I grew up, it was always on TV. It was really a huge part of my childhood and my brothers’ childhood as well. You know, my connection, too, I think, goes real deep and so when I got the call that I got the role I was kind of blown away when I turned on the TV and Jumanji was on. So, it’s kind of been following me, looming over me for my whole life and to be a part of this new Jumanji adventure is really incredible. I think, you know, you talk about Matt Tolmach and Jake Kasdan, our director, and Dwayne and the rest of the cast, everyone has a connection to it and to Robin Williams and to his legacy, his brilliance. I think that’s why we really approached this with a lot of care and with a real focus on having that moment, or moments, to pay homage but also finding a way to give the audience something really fresh.
You’ve had a lot of involvement with the arts over your career with theater, shows and music. How did all of these experiences in the arts help you with the way you were filming Jumanji and how you look at other projects you’ve worked on?
NJ: Well, I think my theater background, my love for the theater, it really has been a big driver for me on all fronts because I was kind of spoiled at an early age to get to do acting and singing all in one place on the stage. That instant reaction from the audience is unlike anything in the world. So, as I’ve grown both as an actor and a musician I think that I really look back at the time growing up and doing musical theater as the best training and the greatest gift as a performer, to have had that. I really do hope that I can go back one day and perhaps do something that I write myself which would be incredible. As far as how it has, you know, affected me now, I think that it just helps to have started at an eight show a week schedule because as far as stamina and overall work ethic goes, it’s really a good thing.
,Could you explain a bit about filming the helicopter scene and what that experience was like for you?
NJ: It was a fun scene to shoot. Challenging, because it’s all green screen and you really have to use your imagination but I think our director, Jake, did an amazing job of helping us all stay in the moment, giving us an understanding of what the post-production world around us was going to be. Basically what happened in that scene is that the four main heros in the film, they kind of come to a pivotal moment and they need to escape and so my character, who’s been so kind of crippled by fear because of his past attempts not going as planned, he has to get in this helicopter and go. Obviously, craziness ensues. A fun thing to shoot and looking back on it, it’s kind of one of those things you dream about being able to do as an actor, to have one of those cool, sort of movie star shots putting your sunglasses on, ripping a helicopter around. I’m pumped about that.
What was your favorite part about shooting in Hawaii and getting to shoot in a jungle location?
NJ: My favorite part about shooting in Hawaii was just being on that island, you know. The beauty of the island is really incredible and hard to put into words, just how amazing it is. And, also, the people are so kind. They were so gracious with all of us and our shooting schedule and I think when you look at the film, it’s almost a character in the film. The locations are such a huge part of the storytelling and the jungle was, you know, it was real, we were literally in the middle of the jungle of Hawaii and it was a fun time. A great experience and I’ll just remember for next time to bring some more bug spray.
There were a few cast encounters with some Hawaiian wildlife. Do you have any personal stories about that or any funny stories from set that you’d like to share with us?
NJ: The insects were really the main deal. There was a lot of centipedes and mosquitoes which maybe don’t sound that threatening but the centipedes can be poisonous and very dangerous, so you got to look out for those. But then in addition to that, the funny thing was basically Dwayne caught wind pretty quick that Kevin Hart was not a fan of the bugs and so he made sure to plant a bunch of bugs everywhere that Kevin was, even if they were, you know, not real, he’d find some fake ones. And still, Kevin’s reaction, always gives a good laugh and, thankfully, they’re filmed so I’m sure you can find them online somewhere. But good times all around.
Were you a fan of video games growing up? If you could be stuck inside of a video game, which game would you choose?
NJ: I was a fan of video games. I’m more of the old school video games side of thing, that was kind of my deal. My favorite game was the Aladdin game on Sega. So, I would probably go with that as far as being stuck in a game. If not that, Super Smash Bros. was also pretty awesome and I could be down to jump in that game.
What attracted you to the role of Alex? How does this role fit into your artistic vision as an actor and for where you see yourself going in the future?
NJ: I think the thing that I was drawn to about this role was that within this really funny film that also has some amazing action, it’s giving me the opportunity to bring some emotional ground into it with this character. So far, most of my acting roles the last couple of years have been more on the dramatic side of things so it was a comfort zone. And then the chance to get to work with these actors, you know. This is really an incredible group of people all at the top of their game and Jake Kasdan, as well, is truly brilliant and I think it was really an exciting opportunity to take that next step into big studio pictures as well. That’s the dream scenario, to be able to be in films like that as well as the more eye-level, indie filmmaking. Movies like this, of this scale, it’s just the world that I’d like to be able to jump into as well and with this one and then Chaos Walking, the movie that we just finished up in Montreal, a Doug Liman film, directed by Doug Liman and with Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, it’s an exciting moment, of momentum on the acting side that I’m just trying to basically ride the wave and continue to grow and have fun in the process.
If you were to play another character in the film, who would it be and why?
NJ: That’s tough to say. I think Dwayne’s character is pretty awesome, you know. He’s got all the coolest strengths and no weakness, basically. So, yeah. Probably would go with Dwayne. And also, being that big for a day would just be kind of fun.
Without giving anything away, what is your favorite line of dialogue?
NJ: I’ve got a few. I mean, there’s a scene that I have with Jack and Kevin and Dwayne where they kind of reveal a big storyline to me. I’m not going to tell you exactly what it said but there’s some references to the 90s in there that are pretty fun, specifically a line about Cindy Crawford being fly, which I think is just a very funny way of describing somebody. And Cindy Crawford is awesome. So, probably that line.
What was one of your favorite memories on set with Dwayne and the rest of the cast and crew? Was there anything that stood out to you the most?
NJ: Yeah, I mean, I think that this was a very frank-centric set and social media-friendly in the sense that everyone was calling each other out for things and messing with each other on social media. But my favorite thing about shooting and the whole process was my connection with Jack. We had a really great vibe both on-screen and off-screen and we would jump around on the weekend to different spots to go eat food and hang out. He’s just the best, one of my favorite guys and really someone I hope I get the chance to work with again.
This interview has been edited from its original form. ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ opens in theaters today, December 20th.