Pop-Culturalist Chats with Jason Genao
Jason Genao is off to a wonderful start with his career. Not only is he Napolean, a gang leader in Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed television show The Get Down, but he’s also fresh off a stint in the box office hit, Logan. As Rictor, Jason plays the leader of a group of young mutants being helped by Logan (Hugh Jackman). With these two stellar roles under his belt, Jason Genao will definitely be a name we hear more frequently. We were able to chat with him about his path to acting, the great advice he’s received, and how he wants to inspire a younger generation of actors.
P-C: Let’s talk a little bit about how you started out in acting and why you wanted to make that a career for yourself.
Jason: I had wanted to act since I was a little kid. I have this recollection of watching a really bad movie. The people were bad actors, and I was like, “That’s not how you do it! I think I can do it better than them.” So I did school plays and stuff like that. I just thought acting as a career, though, was a bit unrealistic because of the opportunities that I got. Like, I got into a couple acting schools, but I had no one to take me there so I let it go. Then, when I was 15 or 16 years old, I saw La Vie en Rose with Marion Cotillard. That really re-ignited the acting spark. I looked online for the cheapest acting school in New York. My brother and my father each gave me half the tuition to attend, and that’s how it got started.
P-C: What has been the most challenging thing you’ve encountered on your acting journey?
Jason: I think I’ve had a pretty good stroke of luck. I just happened to attend a school where at the end of the semester, we got to audition for a manager. If it wasn’t for that, I’d still be doing local theater or whatever it was. I’d be so lost. I was lucky.
P-C: You were in The Get Down. That was obviously a really talked-about and popular show. What was it like being a part of something like that—that was such a phenomena?
Jason: It was insane. I mean, I remember when I had auditioned for the part, I was also being called back for another thing. It was between The Get Down and a play at Lincoln Center. I told my manager, “Which one should I take?” because I’m a really big fan of theater. She has this poster in her office, and it’s one of the plays that Baz [Luhrmann] has produced. She pointed to the poster and said, “Are you kidding me? If you don’t do this Baz Luhrmann show….” So, I did the show. I had no idea what it was going to be, but the writing was just so good, you know? I’m not too big of a fan of TV unless it’s really well-written—I never wanted to commit to something for so long. I knew it would be really big, but I didn’t know how big.
P-C: So, since you’ve done film and theater, do you have a favorite medium?
Jason: I definitely gravitate to film more. Then, theater, because I think that’s where you really act. Then, TV.
P-C: How did you prepare for Logan?
Jason: They were really secretive with Logan. They were were keeping the scripts from everyone. I had gotten the part maybe two to three months before I got to set, and it wasn’t until three days before that I actually received the script. So, I read up on Rictor to get a sense of who he was. In the comic books, Rictor is this more mature teenager, and they speak a lot about his sexuality and how he’s one of the gay Marvel characters. That wasn’t in Logan. He is younger [in it], and I had to roll with what the script was telling me. In acting school they teach you to see where you’re at. As an actor I have to take the script and work with what I have. There wasn’t much time for preparation.
P-C: With the other actors who played the other young mutants, did you guys do anything off set to create the connections and chemistry?
Jason: We all definitely connected. You know, you’re there with a bunch of random people for a few weeks at a time. You get to know each other because there is no one else around. I’m from New Jersey, and they sent me all the way to New Mexico. I had to talk to someone. We all became friends. I think that really helped create a sense of comfort. I think James [James Mangold] is just such a good director that he really helps you with what the character has to be.
P-C: What was it like performing in the scenes that required more post-production special effects?
Jason: As an actor, those big super dramatic scenes are the things you prepare for in your bedroom. When it came to doing those, those were the easiest. The more difficult ones were the more intimate ones, like the ones between Rictor and Logan, or Rictor and Laura. Those are the ones you don’t really prepare for, well for me, because I was a young kid thinking of all the big scenes I’d one day get, not the smaller ones.
P-C: Since this was a huge film, did you feel any pressure?
Jason: Yeah. Most of the cast—Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart—are huge actors. I think this was one of the first films where they wanted to take the characters and throw in some people who weren’t really known at the time. I think it was immense pressure to work with these people at that caliber. Like when you’re standing next to Hugh Jackman and have to give the same performance that they have to give, and they have no idea who you are or what you’re exactly capable of. So, there was huge pressure to show them that you were capable.
P-C: Did you come away from filming with any lessons learned? Or any advice that you’ll carry with you as you continue acting?
Jason: Yeah, I talked to Hugh about his preperation, and you’d see him—even when it was time to cut—still in character. I think the way he stays in character for the duration…it really helps to be that person. We talked about his time at the Sydney Theater Company, and he was just really good at advice. He was amazing.
P-C: Where do you see your career going in the future? Do you have a dream role? Or will you branch out from acting and try other things in the industry?
Jason: It’s really hard to ask for, but I want to do the same movies that made me want to act: All About Eve and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Young Frankenstein. I don’t want to be a big blockbuster person. i want to do the films that inspired me to act. That’s really all I’m aiming for—really well-written pieces that inspired me to act and that will inspire other people.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
Guilty pleasure movie
The Dark Knight
Favorite musician or band
Amy Whinehouse or Kanye West
The Catcher in the Rye
Favorite Play or Musical
I can dance pretty well!
Photo Credit: Michael Creagh