You play an up-and-coming jazz drummer in “Whiplash”. What kind of music are you into when you’re off-set?

Clapton. Hendrix. The Doors. I’m a pretty big [Grateful] Dead fan, I’m a Deadhead.

So you’re a classic rock guy?

Yeah, classic rock. I love Bob Seger. I think the last song I listened to was Bob Seger’s “Main Street” because every time I walk by Main Street [here in Park City] I think of that song.

Ten years ago when you dreamt about your future, was this a part of the plan?

Ten years ago I was 16 and I wanted to be a broadcast journalism major and sportscaster.

Who inspired you to get into acting?

When I was 16 we got a new drama teacher in high school. She was very young and excited and really re-invented the program and re-energized it. My buddy told me to audition for a play which I did and it was “Footloose”.

When did you realize this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

I remember getting my first laugh and that was pretty intoxicating. After that was when I started really getting involved in drama and thought, “Oh, this actually comes a lot easier to me than baseball,” which was my other passion.

Aside from acting, what else are you passionate about?

Music is a passion as well but there was always somebody who was better at music than me. Acting was really the first thing I did that really clicked instantly.

How do you prepare for a role?

It depends on what it is. For something like “Whiplash” I had to play the drums. I think everything that is required of you, you need to be able to do and any back story that’s going on with the character you have to build into that.

What is something that no one tells you about acting in a feature film?

The thing about acting is no one is coming to tell you how to do it. You can go to an acting coach but at that the end of the day it’s whatever you think this person [or character] is and you do whatever you need to do to get there.

Is it difficult to turn the character off when you go home after a long day on the set?

Certain characters are easier to turn off than others. We filmed this one in L.A. so that was tough because it was blood, sweat and tears everyday on that movie and then I’d finish set, go home and my roommates would be playing video games or drinking and playing music.

How do you stay focused?

I really had to cut myself off from everything. I wouldn’t even go drinking on the weekends because my character wouldn’t have done that. I’m not even a full-time method guy but I just didn’t even want to engage in that kind of social activity, it feels like you’re cheating on your character.

If you could have a drink with anyone at the Sundance Film Festival this year, who would it be?

I actually just saw him, Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was over there hanging out and I had to interrupt somebody he was talking to just because I didn’t know if it was going to be my only chance to tell him that he is one of my favorite actors. “Love Liza” is one of my all-time favorite movies.


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