Interview by Paul Salfen
Making the transition from being a child star into a serious actor hasn’t always been the easiest transition for a lot of young actors, but for Jake T. Austin, it’s been just a natural progression, as he grows up along with his audience. Now 26, Austin gets a chance to shine alongside the legendary Mickey Rourke and Thomas Nicholas in Adverse, a gitty revenge thriller about a rideshare driver that finds out that his sister is deep in debt to a drug dealer and becomes the driver for the big boss to get close to what happened when his sister goes missing. Also starring Sean Astin, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Penelope Ann Miller, this one puts him alongside a great cast and in a role like we haven’t seen him in before. It’s quite a long way from voicing Diego on Dora The Explorer and Go, Diego, Go and starring alongside Selena Gomez in Wizards of Waverly Place, but that’s exactly where he wants to be.
AMFM Magazine: It’s great to see you in a such a gritty thriller. Tell us a little bit about your role this one.
Jake T. Austin: Adverse is a movie set in present day – well, nearly present because it’s “pre-COVID” Los Angeles. I play a guy named Lars who is involved in narcotics and it has a twisted outcome. Substance abuse is something that has affected so many people, especially with the opioid epidemic that’s sweeping across the United States. Adverse shows that a person’s drug use can affect the people around them and while my heart goes out to anyone that’s battling substance abuse, after working on this project, I have a better understanding of how their loved ones are affected, too.
AMFM: What was special to you about this one? Was there a moment on the set that stood out to you that you’ll always remember?
JTA: As far as being on set, the movie also stars Mickey Rourke and Sean Astin and seeing how they work and being a part of a production with them was a great experience. And there were a lot of nighttime scenes and instances of shooting on location, which is different from the TV series I’ve been a part of, as those were primarily on sound stages. As far as something I’ll always remember, of course, I would have to say that the release of this movie is happening during the pandemic that’s been such an issue throughout the US. Every life lost is a tragedy but it’s also been great to see people coming together to provide support to each other during these trying times. I’m hopeful that we’ll soon be able to return to normal, especially for people who haven’t been able to go to school or participate in extracurricular activities.
AMFM: There are a lot of kids that look up to you. What advice do you give to those that want to do what you do?
JTA: First of all, thank you because it’s a compliment to think that people would look to me for advice. I’ve done philanthropy on behalf of The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, they operate over 4,000 clubs nationwide and provide after-school programs, homework tutoring, career and life mentoring in their facilities. The times I’ve spent with the kids at the clubs – they’re so happy to be there. My advice is applicable to acting, but it applies to a person who’s trying to make headway in any industry they’re in: work hard, do your best, try to expand your skill set to adjacent professions and keep an open mind so you don’t close yourself off to opportunities. For example, say you’re a rideshare driver (a central job for one of the characters in Adverse): learn to change the oil in your car, check the tire pressure, and keep your wheel rotation schedule. You may find that you want to move into being a mechanic and the spark for that may’ve been related to your adjacent profession.
AMFM: Since we’re stuck at home, we’ve been appreciating the entertainment given to us. How have you been passing the time and what have you been enjoying?
JTA: I’ve been trying to stay productive and create as much structure in my day while we stay at home more. I’ve done fitness sessions on Zoom, which is a great way to stay motivated to workout and also support trainers/instructors. When it comes to appreciating entertainment, one of the great things about streaming apps is the accessibility we have to movies. I recently watched The War of the Roses, which is a comedy classic from the ‘80s starring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. Danny DeVito has a supporting role – and he also directed the movie.
AMFM: I love asking people about their Hail Mary Moment: the moment in their life or career where they just had to go for it and it worked out for them. What do you suppose that was for you?
JTA: You know, I feel like I’m at the apex of one of those moments right now. I’ve always loved reading books and I recently read an autobiography that was published independently and I think it would make a great movie. One of my goals is to develop the novel into a movie and I would act in it as well.
AMFM: What do you keep in mind to keep yourself in a successful mindset?
JTA: You should speak things into manifestation and express gratitude when positive things happen that lead you towards that outcome. But also prepare yourself for disappointment and if/when it happens, allow yourself to process and then get up and move forward. We will have disappointments, so we need to allow ourselves to feel/think in those instances and then pick ourselves up to grow in a positive way.
AMFM: What was the first show or movie that you saw that made you want to get into acting?
JTA: Well, I’ve been performing since a young age, so I’ve been auditioning, acting, doing voice work basically my whole life. I’ve been doing rehearsals, on sets, or in the recording booth and then creating awareness for those projects for as long as I can remember. I was fortunate to have been in the movie Hotel for Dogs, the TV show The Wizards of Waverly Place, the voice of animated characters in Go Diego Go! and Rio & Rio 2 and all of those projects (and a few more) happened before I was 18 years old. So I can’t remember a time in my life prior to acting, but if I can answer that more broadly, I can tell you something that keeps me motivated in my acting career are the great movies in American cinema during the 1970s: The Godfather, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown. While those were released before I was born, seeing the performances in those movies inspire me to keep working so I can hopefully be in projects like those one day.
AMFM: We’re excited to see what you’re doing next now. What will that be?
JTA: I’m attached to two projects, one is a TV series and the other is a movie. There have been delays/complications with the productions due to the pandemic, but I’m hopeful that we will be able to commence soon and do so in a way that will be safe for the other cast members as well as the crew. And there’s another project on the horizon and I’m really excited about it. As my acting career grows, I have exposure to many different shows and movies and I’ve recently been introduced to a project that I think is really great. I can’t talk too much about it, but I can tell you it involves college, athletics, and there’s a great message about overcoming a tragic situation. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @jaketaustin and I’ll keep you in the loop about what’s next.
ADVERSE is available on Digital, On Demand and DVD on March 9th by Lionsgate.