WORDS BY IRVIN RIVERA
There’s something special about actor, songwriter and activist Jacques Colimon. He currently stars as the level headed Will LeClair from Netflix’s teen drama The Society. Despite his young age, Jacques’s burning passion in acting and music is evident in his craft. He is vocal about human rights and is not afraid to use his platform to spread awareness about it.
He takes strides one beat at a time. For Colimon, Rhythm is essential. He is a man who figured out his rhythm and understands how to flow with it.
In this exclusive interview, read through the promising actor’s acting journey, his unique approach to getting into character, his character in The Society, and why he would be The Alchemist as a book.
Tell us about yourself. Who is Jacques Colimon.
Who am I. I’m a human being I got two ears, one mouth; so I try to listen twice as much as I talk. I am quick to listen. Slow to judge, slow to speak. I’m an artist. I play a lot of roles and wear a lot of hats.
When did acting start for you?
Acting started for me when I was 12 years old. I played Dr. Burt in flowers for Algernon, which is a very beautiful and also intense play about an autistic patient that develops a relationship with a rat in a mental institution. And this role that I was playing at 12 years old in eighth grade was a lab coat, technician, and doctor that had to divulge the news of this patience passing to his love interest. So, I have been doing acting for a long time.
Rhythm is the base of everything for me. That is the essential tapping point. That is the central fuse, the catalyst where getting a character is like understanding the heartbeat. Heartbeats have rhythm. Music has rhythm. Transitive property, it just makes sense.
Yeah, I came from theater roots. And that was the first show that I did that actually scared me away from acting for a second. At 12 years old you get this intense role and you- you're delivering this kind of news. And you’re like Whoa! That’s a lot of responsibility. It took me a while. It actually wasn’t until about the time when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, when I began to dig into the philosophy of Atticus and being able to step into people’s shoes and walk around that I truly understood how people felt.
That’s when it clicked in me- that’s what acting is.
It’s like “oh cool” so when I play this doctor it's kind of scary and it should be because I am taking on the responsibilities in some kind of fictional setting where this whole audience is holding space and this suspension of disbelief. And we are grappling with what it is to really be a person that holds the weight of something as universally accessible as death itself, which was intense as a kid.
What is your process when you take on a role?
I get nerdy; I get nerdy with it. For just about every audition that I've ever done I give a character a theme song. It could be anything. It could be Simba’s “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” Or it could take on a Mac Miller song, or a Katy Perry song. It comes across the entire spectrum. But I start with a playlist for every character and then that starts to reveal information to me that then puts me in this rabbit hole of research that I end up doing at home by myself. I usually end up with a whole binder of stuff, if I am really focused on doing a project I will really go to the lengths to pragmatically find the rational logos of any person and then start to like to tease things out of that fictional brain that then jives with who I am. Or I start a discussion with this person that's in this script because they are alive to me. So then I need to make sure they know I am alive to them.
And has it always been music and acting going hand in hand?
Yeah, yeah. It’s funny you say that actually. I have a lot of musical influences growing up. For instance, me and my best friend Aaron Childs, whose dad is an incredible Grammy award winning artist, and comes from a very musical house, would spend so much time at their place. We would be messing around on his piano, or going back and kicking around in his studio. When I started doing musicals, like I played Chino in West Side Story, there was this connection; where rhythm is the base of everything for me. That is the essential tapping point. That is the central fuse, the catalyst where getting a character is like understanding the heartbeat. Heartbeats have rhythm. Music has rhythm. Transitive property, it just makes sense.
I think there is grace in empathy.
Did you come from any music background?
I would say that was my musical background. But beyond that, I come from musical tradition. And I think music is in everyone; but it especially came out in my grandmother. My grandmother is Haitian and she would always sing me to sleep with Haitian lullabies and folk songs. And there is this one that she sang to me and all my little cousins and it would be about lobsters and crabs coming to nibble at your toes if you didn’t go to sleep. You know, goofy stuff like that. But there was a lot of stuff that was imbued with a sense of mysticism that she would sing to. So a lot of that is stuff I tapped into at a very early age, and I didn’t really understand them until adulthood. But it’s about rhythm and when it’s in family it accesses you even when you're not accessing it.
Let’s talk about The Society, tell us about your character Will.
He’s a real one. Will is the only character that had to struggle to survive. He is a foster kid and he hasn't had it easy like a lot of the other characters. The story is set in a privileged New England suburb and when all of those privileges are suddenly lost, people have to scramble and figure out what to do to survive and Will is definitely one of the exceptions to the status quo. That begins to unfold when he has kind of lived that life in a lot of ways. That they are slowly coming to learn about, he has already figured out how to be calm and be like a chameleon in a space without having a dad or a mom to teach him life skills. Nobody is teaching him how to open up a bank account, or drive a car, or all these things that the other kids got to do.
There is this background that Will pertains to that is very neat. I think he is strong because despite those natural disadvantages he finds a way to maintain himself among this hurricane of chaos. He is the level headed one.
What would you say is the best part about being Will?
Well, it’s interesting because I think my answer to that involves a lot of what I have been thinking about in terms of career goals. I think the best part is getting an opportunity to really dive into something that in a way is seemingly disparate but by the end of it we are connected. Like I am not trying to understand to the core of my being of what it means to be a foster kid. That would be ignorant of me. But, I think artists have a responsibility to try. Not to exude sympathy but I think there is grace in empathy. And that is what I see in Will. And it is an opportunity to talk about what foster kids face. I love doing that. I love talking to people that organize foster care organizations. It gave me various narratives that I won’t disclose about kids of theirs that have gone through all sorts of things that have inevitably formed their character. And it’s illuminating. Will, in particular, puts me in a very special place because it’s a character about a kid’s life. I have a little brother who is 13 years old, it’s a chance to maybe teach him a thing or two about his neighbors or maybe kids that go to school.
If you were a book what book would you be and why?
Ooh. The Alchemist. Because I would love to have the privilege and honor to be the Alchemist if I was a book personified because I want to be a wish granter. You can take someone who says I want to do this, I want to be a social justice organizer in Austin Texas for Black Lives Matter and I can be like “Great. I’ll connect you with this person and then let’s organize it.” I will know that something beautiful is going to happen. Or if someone wrote a script about their childhood growing up in Jamaica and then immigrating to the United States. And all the barriers about relating to other black people in Brooklyn. And just being like “Cool, let's do that. Let’s follow it.” It’s like you get to play your own secret agent, which is a lot of the story of The Alchemist; this dude following his greatest story and bringing everyone along the way, following the love.
Making shit happen.
Making shit happen, yeah. Like this right here. You all are making shit happen by giving me the opportunity to talk about myself, vainly by the way. But, I don’t get to do it too often and it’s a big deal to me and I appreciate it. So, you’re kind of like The Alchemist in a way.
See Jacques as Will LeClair on Netflix’s hottest new series, The Society.