Wesley Jonathan talks about the film, the good times on the set and future projects
Wesley Jonathan might not be an actor you know by name now, but he's certainly poised to change that in the future. The young actor has a few projects in the works right now and his latest film, Remember the Daze, was just released on DVD on June 3. I had a chance to speak with Jonathan over the phone, and here's what he had to say about the film and more.
How did you first become involved in this? Was this something you pursued or did they come to you?
Wesley Jonathan: Well, it was the typical, my agent calling saying, 'Wesley, you've got to audition for this movie called The Beautiful Ordinary,' at the time. You go in, do the reading, do the callback, but I went straight to the producers, Jesse Manafort and Jerry Naughton and I had no idea what the film was about. I hardly got the auditioning piece, and I didn't know what I got from it. Next thing I knew, I'm in this movie. I didn't know anything about Jesse Manafort and my agent said, 'Look, this young lady, she's good man. Check out her short.' So I checked out her stuff and it was cool so we flew out to Wilmington, North Carolina and shot this movie. It's great, man. She's got a vision like no other.
I interviewed Lyndsy Fonseca for this a few days ago and I told her it sounded like this movie had sort of a Dazed and Confused, American Graffiti sort of feel to it, for this generation. Did you get the same sort of feel when you first read this?
Wesley Jonathan: When I read it, to be honest, I didn't know what the heck it was. I didn't get that because things read different from on paper than on camera. Myself, when I jumped aboard, I went strictly on the fact that my agent talked so well about this young lady and I saw a little bit of what they were talking about, but I still didn't understand the actual film, what it was all about. When we started filming, and meeting the cast and bonding with them, I started to understand what she was shooting. It reminded me of Dazed and Confused, it reminded me of |Kids in some ways. I was like, 'Ohh this is what you're doing.' I thought it was very cool, so once I had an idea of what it was, I was really tapped into it.
Yeah, that sounds like an interesting way to get into a movie, when you're not really sure where you're going.
Wesley Jonathan: Well, it's not really unusual. A lot of times, people want to front and act like they knew. No, but sometimes you get into some stuff and you don't know exactly where it's going to go. Then sometimes, as an actor and you're growing, you go, 'Oh my gosh, I should've left this one alone' (Laughs). That's what this is, it's about picking and choosing. I had no idea, I just happened to land on a great project. It's probably one of my favorites out of all the 20 years I've been in this business, small or big films, this is definitely a favorite of mine... and I'm not even in it enough. But I love it. It has nothing to do with me, but I love it as a project.
The movie was based off Jess Manafort's personal high school experiences. Was your character based off an actual acquaintance of hers from back then?
Wesley Jonathan: You know what? She knew a guy that was like my character. I play a character by the name of Biz. She said that there was a guy. I asked her if this was a fictional character or was it a guy she knew and just changed the name. She said, 'Yeah, exactly. I knew someone just like this. This is how I saw them.' Me personally, I was never like that in school. I didn't smoke cigarettes in school, the ladies thing... you're gonna have skeletons of course, but not as raw as him. I mean, I didn't start cursing until I was 18. (Laughs) Yeah, I'm like a sailor now, but at the time, my language was nowhere near my character.
Since you're 29 years old and playing a 17-year-old, is it at all a challenge to get back into that mindset?
Wesley Jonathan: Not for me, because I've played younger my whole life. Everything that I do is high school/college range so it's not that hard for me. Now, with the scent of a little immaturity and a wannabe bad boy, how my character was in this movie, yeah. I kind of just had to feel youthful, but not really. I'm an old man but I'm still young at heart.
Is it easier playing a younger character or an older character?
Wesley Jonathan: For me, right now, it's easier playing younger. I want to (play older), lets get that right. I would rather play older but if you need me to play younger, yeah.
So this is Jess' feature writing and directing debut. What is that experience like working with a first-time writer-director?
Wesley Jonathan: Oh yeah. That was a concern of mine because I had no idea who she was or what she's done. She was just great, she was absolutely wonderful. She's very easy-going, very open to letting you try things, as well as, if there's something she's adamant about that she really really wants in, she'll let you know. It was very cool and I respected her for that. She was cool, very laid-pack. It was a pleasure to work with her. No problems at all.
With this kind of material, were there a lot of crazy stories from the set? I heard about one where there was a duck in a car, or something like that.
Wesley Jonathan: Oh man! We've got tons of crazy stories, half of them were drinking (Laughs). Let's just say that, all right? That's all I'll say.
So I see you have a few movies in post-production like B-Girl. Can you tell us anything about that?
Wesley Jonathan:B-Girl is a great film. It's the art of hip-hop breakdance that I respect and love, so that's one thing to look out for.
What about The Black Man's Guide to Understanding Black Women?
Wesley Jonathan: I haven't started that film yet, so I can't tell you anything about that one yet.
When do you start shooting that?
Wesley Jonathan: You know, I don't know. They keep doing the whole thing where, 'We're ready... we're not.' At this point I'm off doing other things. Right now I'm getting ready to do a Wal-Mart ad. I've done a national Foot Locker ad, where it's myself being a hero, that's running during the NBA Playoffs. I did that during the strike. I also just executive produced my first film, it's not really my film but I'm a part of it. It's called 1100 and the writer-director is the writer-director who did my movie Crossover.
Lydnsy (Fonseca) was also saying you were a rapper as well. Are you pursuing that avenue?
Wesley Jonathan: Nah, I rap for fun. Those are some of my memories too, just getting a little tipsy, having rapping sessions in the middle of the night. As a group, we'd all just sit there and rap or hang out with one another. It helped on screen because we're all friends. We all, literally, hung out. If it wasn't one night, it was the next. There were so many of us. If there were four people in my room, there were eight people in Jess' room, just all talking and politicking.
Finally, this didn't get a wide theatrical release, so now that this is on DVD, do you think this could become another cult classic?
Wesley Jonathan: I think if it gets in the right people's hands, and the word of mouth is on point, I absolutely think so. It'd be a great underground classic because young people understand it. You put it in this tweaked form of Jess Manafort's little vision, it has a whole other little spin to it as well. If you have any sort of sense of humor, you'll get this movie, but if you don't get it you'll still laugh at the moments you do get.
Excellent. That's all I have, Wesley. Thanks a lot for your time.
Wesley Jonathan: Hey man, no problem. Thanks.
Remember the Daze is on the DVD shelves now.