You’ve probably seen actress Jasmin Savoy Brown from the comfort of your own home on your television screen as Evie Murphy on the HBO show, The Leftovers and Freeform’s Stitchers, but she has more success hidden beneath the realms of herself. Actress, Jasmin Savoy Brown discusses her personal life, acting career, and beyond.
Acting is a route most take with only some getting a fair opportunity of actually expanding. Some people have always wanted to be actors and others have recently started getting into acting as they’ve grown older. Was acting something you’ve always wanted to do?
JSB – Yes. I was always an actor, and knew from an early age I would be an actor professionally as an adult. Some of my earliest memories are making up stories and songs for whatever audience I could get a hold of – usually just my mom. I’d make her sit there as I came up with an entire dialogue or mini musical number, and most of the time she’d join in with me, validating that love and passion. Growing up she continued to support me as I began applying that passion and drive to local musicals and workshops. The only other things I seriously considered pursuing were teaching (I taught my first workshop last week!), becoming an international cheese tester (not sure if that’s a real thing but I eat cheese at least three times a day, so…), going to space (I will), and singing which I still do on a regular basis.
I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about acting throughout the coming years. In terms of learning, what have you picked up from acting that you’ve happened to use in the real world?
JSB – Acting has taught me a deeper level of empathy and understanding. Because of playing characters who think and exist in ways completely different from how I think and exist, I have learned that just because someone’s perspective is not the same as mine, does not mean they deserve my judgement or even that they are “wrong”. I suppose simpler words for this are empathy and understanding. I am most grateful for those right now, because of our political climate. The way some people are thinking and behaving have floored, shocked, and hurt me. But I am trying to be empathetic and understanding. It’s hard. I do not succeed all the time. But I succeed more than I would if I didn’t have acting.
Acting in a spectrum of variety only gives you the ability to grow because you’re constantly learning new things every day. I’m sure you process new ideas and acting abilities each day you’re set to act or perform. What is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring actors that are fresh into the scene and have no idea where to start?
JSB – Have a sense of humor. This industry is ridiculous, painful, and sometimes stupid. It is also beautiful, rewarding, and hilarious. More than anything though, it is a business and is not a reflection of your art or who you are. It can feel like the end of the world when trying to “book this job” or that “getting seen by this casting director” is the most important thing on the planet. It’s not. The US launched several missiles into Syria and Russia recently determined domestic violence is no longer a crime punishable by law. I have friends about to lose their health care and who as a result, will fall incredibly ill when they stop receiving their vital meds. Whether or not you book that job is not life or death, BUT, making art is. Go to class. Write a play. Write a song. Take a dance class. Tell a story. Do not stop creating, do not stop hustling do not stop creating art that can influence the world around you with your heart.
Besides acting, you’ve made it known that you’re quite fond of music and playing instruments. What is your favorite instrument to play and why?
JSB – I love to play my vocal chords more than any other instrument. That may sound silly, but what many people don’t realize is that the voice is an instrument! It is a muscle, several muscles actually, that take a lot of practice and work and TLC to function at their highest. Like a stringed instrument, they do not work as well if they are too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. I love singing so much because it is an expression that goes deeper than spoken words. There is this saying in the theater, I’m definitely botching it but it goes something like – “when words alone are not enough, we sing. When song is not enough, we dance.” There is something so true about that. Certain feelings can not be captured by spoken word alone. Take for instance the famous line “I wanna hold your hand.” The way that line is sung, the notes and the UMPH in the voice and the desperation, infatuation, and yearning truly captures the feeling. Way more than just saying, “I wanna hold your hand.” Singing is magical.
You play Evie Murphy on the HBO show, The Leftovers. She’s a teenager who is trying to figure out life in her own way. What was it like playing Evie?
JSB – Playing Evie was a blast. When we first meet her, she appears to be your average thriving teenager who is simply having the time of her life all the time with her friends. So, I had the time of my life! I got to just run around with some friends and have fun for a few weeks. Later in the season when she gets spiritually and emotionally darker and needs to find and express herself in ways completely juxtaposed to the first episode, I also had a blast, because it was challenging. And I love to be challenged in my work.
Being able to play different characters on different shows gives you the ultimate cool badge. You learn about your character’s mannerisms, their way of thinking, and much more. Do you bear any similarities to Evie Murphy? If so, what makes you two alike?
JSB – Evie and I are alike because neither of us will take no for an answer. When I believe in something, much like Evie, I do not care one bit who tries to stop me or who gets in my way. I keep right on marching until what I desire has been accomplished, or until my voice has been heard. That can be interpreted as defiance, but defiance has been the leader of every revolution. So I’m ok with that.
What was the hardest role you’ve ever had to play? Why?
JSB – That’s tough to say. I think the hardest work I’ve done has been hard for reasons of failure and learning, which is actually a very wonderful thing. All of that takes place in study, and although it’s difficult, I cherish it. The hardest role I’ve had to play is myself, not truthfully. Only recently have I began to understand, exist, and love myself for who I am. It’s hard to live a lie. It’s also hard to actually be yourself. I find being myself a little bit easier, and much more fun.
You’ve opened up about how passionate you are about the non-profit organization, Peace Over Violence, which is a charity dedicated to building healthy relationships free from any sort of violence. Being a supporter of the organization, why do you think it’s important for people to understand living in a violent-free community?
JSB – I think it’s important for people to understanding living in a violent-free community is possible. It seems impossible right now because the world and the media are saturated with violence and terror. But that’s a direct reflection of a lack of love, and a reflection of our communities. Every single huge thing started small. McDonald’s began a humble single restaurant. Harry Potter started as a great book. Hamilton started with an idea. A world free of terror and death must begin with communities free from violence, which must begin from conversations and learning to ask questions when we’re scared and have tough conversations. Everything starts small, and it’s up to us to see that change take place.
You’ve appeared on countless shows like Stitchers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and more. How has it been to play so many different characters?
JSB – A dream come true. I think that’s something every actor wants – to play a bunch of different roles. I’m very lucky.
You have a new show approaching on TNT called Will, in which you play Emilia Bassano, a free-spirited woman who also happens to be the first female professional English poet. It tells the story of young Shakespeare’s arrival in punk-rock theater scene in the 16th century London. What is your favorite part about playing Emilia?
JSB – Oh there are so many! One of my favorite parts about playing Emilia is her accent. I was lucky enough to have one of the best accent coaches in the world – Jan Haydn Rowles, and we worked every day for hours. It was fun and tough. In terms of Emilia’s character, I loved that I could draw from her actual poems. She was a real person, and she published a book of poems, so I could actually sit and read those and learn so much about her from her own words. It was an honor and very spiritual.
You were born in California but raised in Oregon. How different were the two environments for you?
JSB – I left California when I was three months old, so I had no comparison at all while growing up. Now, I need both. I yearn for Oregon. I miss the green, trees, vast bodies of water, wildlife, clean fresh air… and I love LA for the sunshine and the vibe. Oregon’s vibe calms me down and heals me, LA’s vibe inspires and motivates me. I love being able to go back and forth.
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