Pop-Culturalist Chats with James Freedson-Jackson
Meet James Freedson-Jackson, Hollywood’s newest breakout star, and proof that talent knows no age. In 2015, he made his theatrical debut as Travis in Jon Watts’ acclaimed thriller, Cop Car. And critics and audiences agreed, James Freedson-Jackson is a commanding presence. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the fifteen-year-old recently won “Best Breakthrough Performance” at this year’s SXSW Film Awards for his portrayal as Sam in the eerie, coming-of-age story, The Strange Ones. In the film, he stars alongside Alex Pettyfer as two brothers who flee their home following an incident involving their father. Pop-Culturalist was lucky enough to chat with James about the project, how his career started, and what it was like to work with Alex Pettyfer.
The Strange Ones Questions
P-C: What drew you to the project?
James: When I initially read the script, it was something I’ve never seen before. It was a different kind of film and there was something really special about it. Lauren and Chris, our directors, had this specific image in their heads and I wanted to see where they wanted to go with it. It got me really intrigued.
P-C: Were you familiar with the short before you auditioned?
James: I knew of the short. I heard about all the accolades it received. But I didn’t watch it until after filming because I wanted to do my own take on the role and I didn’t want to pick up anything from the previous actor.
P-C: Why do you think the story lends itself to a feature film adaptation?
James: It’s a really interesting story. In both the short and the feature film, there’s the same element of curiosity but in the feature film it’s more expanded.
P-C: You give a very nuanced performance in The Strange Ones. Was it challenging or difficult to play a character that shows a lot of his emotions through expressions and not words?
James: When I filmed The Strange Ones, I was still a pretty new actor. I felt an obligation to the character and I felt like I owed it to Sam to tell his story. And with him, a lot of it is internal. Sam is a complex and conflicted character and he thinks before he acts. In a lot of the scenes, it’s more facial expressions and less about the dialogue.
P-C: How did you approach shaping and creating your character, Sam?
James: Lauren and Chris really helped out. They helped me understand what happened to Sam in the past, which made it easier to portray.
P-C: In the film, you star alongside Alex Pettyfer as brothers, how did you two build that bond?
James: It happened very naturally. Alex is one of the nicest guys and he’s so much fun to hang out with. Plus, we both like pranking people.
P-C: Do you have a favorite on or off set moment?
James: Oh, yeah! I’m only allowed to work a few hours because of my age. So I always hated when Alex got to work longer than me. There was this one time he hid me in his backseat. No one knew I was there until we arrived on set.
P-C: What do you hope audiences take away from seeing the film?
James: The Strange Ones is a really heavy, powerful film. It has a lot of important messages. I think it’s up to the audience to pick the one that resonates with them the most.
P-C: You were recently recognized as the “Breakout Performance” at SXSW. How does that feel?
James: I found out while I was in Los Angeles. One of my friends on set called me and said “You won!” I was so excited and asked “What did the film win for?” They were like “No, you don’t understand. You won!” I absolutely freaked out. It was such an honor.
P-C: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
James: When I was growing up, I loved watching Alfred Hitchcock films. Even at the age of twelve, I was obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock. When I was alone, I would try mimicking the actors and their lines. When I told my dad that I wanted to be an actor, he was on board. I went out for a few films and then Cop Car came along. After acting on that set, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
P-C: Is there someone who you would love to work with in the future?
James: Sandra Bullock!
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
P-C: Guilty pleasure TV show?
P-C: Guilty pleasure movie?
James: The Heat
P-C: Favorite book?
James: To Kill A Mockingbird
P-C: Favorite play or musical?
James: Dear Evan Hansen
P-C: Favorite social media platform?
P-C: Hidden talent?
James: Before I became an actor, I was actually a dancer!