Q: Dear White People series has met critical success and fans are looking forward to Season 3. Has it been renewed? Describe your experience working with the cast and what drew you to the project initially?
A: DWP has been renewed for a third season. It really has been a very positive experience working with this cast. Every day on set is always so much fun because everyone is grateful and excited to be there. I was sent an audition appointment through my reps, but I was drawn to the character of Rashid because he is a great challenge and opportunity for me as an actor to transform.
Q: Your character Andrew, has recently been introduced on season 4 of HBO's Ballers, can you tell us more about your character and preparing for the role.
A: What’s interesting about Andrew is that he is dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which sometimes manifests in the twitching of his eye. I wanted to be sensitive to the realities of people who actually deal with this in order to make it authentic and not simply a comedic choice. I did some research on the condition and worked on the actual twitching. It was tricky doing it big enough for the camera to pick up, but the director, Julian Farino, loved it.
Q: What was it like working with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and what were your
experiences like on set?
A: While I didn’t have scenes with Dwayne Johnson, I did get to meet him and talk for a bit on set one day. I grew up watching him and he was one of my childhood heroes. I let him know that. He was very cool, very humble. His energy and professionalism sets the tone for the show. HBO recently announce that Ballers has been renewed for a fifth season, so I hope to be back.
Q: Another big project you have coming up is your role as Night Thrasher on the new show, Marvel’s New Warriors. What was it like having the chance to work on a big superhero project like this? Were you a fan of superheros or comic books as a kid and if so, were you able to take some of that childhood influence and utilize it for this role?
A: Working on New Warriors is an incredible opportunity and definitely my favorite experience working on TV. Night Thrasher is really a dream role. I was a huge X-men fan growing up. I read every Uncanny X-men comic from it’s start in the early 60’s until around ’05. Since booking the role I’ve read most of the New Warriors comics as well as Night Thrasher’s solo comic series. Naturally, there is an incredible amount of pressure. Being able to play a superhero is something I dreamed about when I was a kid. I remember seeing Blade for the first time. Watching Wesley Snipes’ amazing work in it was pretty mind-blowing, especially since he is a highly trained martial artist. I was deeply inspired by his work. I’ve been training in Kung Fu and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 2 years, and I’ve been training hard in preparation for this role.
Q: Speaking of your younger years, did you play any sports growing up? Do you have any particular sports you enjoy watching/playing the most? What particular teams and/or athlete's do you follow the most?
A: I only played sports with my brothers and uncles growing up. One of my uncles made one of those basketball hoops from a milk crate that he cut the bottom out of and hung up on one of the wooden beams in the alley. We would play in the alley or sometimes go to the park. We played football in the backyard or in the middle of the street. Thinking about all that makes me laugh. I don’t follow sports very much these days, but I grew up a Packers fan. I love watching boxing, though. Growing up seeing Tyson or Holyfield and even Mayweather has always been cool to watch. I even watch old Ali fights at home on my projector. The best was Ali v. Frasier III.
Q: The NFL and politics has been the news a lot as of late, what are your thoughts?
Any thoughts on the continuous Colin Kaepernick situation and his recent Nike ads?
A: I am in full support of Colin Kaepernick. He sacrificed a lot by opting out of saluting the flag during the national anthem. I love that Nike chose to support him and the movement. Rarely do corporations get behind something as contentious as this. I’ll be proudly wearing my Nikes.
Q: How did you go from struggling in grade school, dodging the path your peers were on to Julliard? What did you do different? What areas did you excel in?
A: I was always on a different path than my peers. When I was growing up in Milwaukee there was a very limited perception of basically three options for young black men to grow up and become: a professional athlete, a rapper or a drug dealer. Since I was 5 years old I knew that I wanted to be a professional actor, but many of my peers thought it was strange or unrealistic. I thank God for my mother who always believed in me and enrolled me in an arts elementary school. Though I didn’t know how it would all happen, throughout my childhood and early teens I was hyper-aware of my choices and did as much as possible to advance toward my goal of being on TV and in movies. I did everything from school plays, forensics, professional theater, monologue/scene competitions, and I was always careful not to do anything that would jeopardize the dreams of my future. It was in my junior year of high school that a friend, who just happened to be in my study hall one day, heard I had won a Shakespeare competition in Utah. He said, “You must be pretty good. You should try out for Juilliard.” I had never heard of Juilliard before that. As I reflect now, I didn’t have any serious plans for college. I didn’t even know what an arts conservatory was. So I auditioned for Juilliard with no back up plan whatsoever. By the grace of God I was accepted.
Q: As an actor, what performers or films/television shows have influenced you the most in your own professional endeavors? Are there any types of projects you hope to work on one day?
A: Denzel Washington and Al Pacino have been my biggest influences as an actor. They transform in their work and that is something I’ve always worked to emulate, transformation. Malcolm X and The Godfather are some of my favorite movies. I love martial arts movies, too. Donnie Yen and Jet Li are some of the best in the business and I am training to be able to work at the level that they do on screen. Jet Li’s Fearless is also one of my favorite movies.
Q: What do you enjoy doing the most during your free time away from work? Any hobbies or outside interests? Anything people would be surprised to know?
A: I’m an avid reader, I devour books. I love music. I love discovering new music and new sounds. People who know me know that I listen to all kinds of music, everything from Slick Rick to Frederic Chopin, Kathleen Battle or Manu Chau. I play piano, too. One of the purest joys in my life is playing the music I love. People might be surprised to know that I’m a surfer. I have a 6’7” board and I try to go out as much as possible.
Q: Sometimes you can be seen wearing more culture driven looks on the red carpet, what inspires you to choose that traditional attire? What is the everyday style for ‘Jeremy Tardy’?
A: I love wearing traditional attire from Africa, India or Asia on the carpet because they look regal. Everybody can wear a suit and tie, but I prefer other elegant styles. It’s a great way of standing out from the crowd without being a spectacle. My everyday style is “Athleisure”. I like to be comfortable in my clothes so I usually wear track suits. I almost never wear jeans.
Q: Are there any other projects in the works you can tell us about? More shameless plugs.
A: I’m currently producing a documentary by filmmaker James Gilmore, which explores consent and toxic masculinity. It’s a timely and important project that I am proud to be a part of. There’ll be more news about this soon.
Photography: Curtis Taylor Jr.
Follow Jeremy Tardy: @jeremytardy