Art Imitates Life: Introducing Jake Allyn
Words + Interview By: Tyrone Davis
Jake Allyn is a budding young actor from Dallas who currently stars as the All-American quarterback BoJohn Folsom in the BET drama series “The Quad”. We learned a lot about him, including his background as a football player, his college experience, why diversity is important and his love for his hometown.
How was growing up in Dallas?
I grew up in Dallas playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the summer. I was a sports kid, Twenty4Seven. If I wasn’t playing sports I was probably playing in the creek by our house or making “World War II” home movies with my big brother.
I visited Dallas the year they hosted “Super Bowl XLV”. One thing that stood out to me most about the city was that there was a lot of diversity as a whole, especially between Blacks and Latinos. They were in a lot of the same places in groups bigger than I have ever seen anywhere in the Midwest. What was your experience like?
I would agree. Dallas isn’t a perfect city but it was a wonderful place to grow up and certainly provided a great deal of diversity. I’m very proud to have gone to Jesuit High School, which was the first school to integrate in Dallas in 1955. The Jesuit motto is “men for the others,” so it’d be pretty hypocritical to live by that oath and not also be a man that welcomes diversity.
I just wanted to throw out there that while on that trip, it snowed pretty hard and the city trucks were putting sand on the street instead of salt. It just made the snow and ice muddy, lol. Aside from that, it was one of my favorite cities I’ve been to.” What do you like most about Dallas?
When I first read the above question, I said “Uh Oh, I bet you dealt with that terrible ice storm”. On behalf of Dallas, I apologize. My favorite thing about Dallas are the memories, friends and family it gave me. No matter where I live now, whether it’s Los Angeles or Atlanta while I shoot BET’s The Quad, I will always call Dallas my home. It’s a part of what raised me, like a third parent or sometimes, a good buddy. My brother, dad and I have a production company and we named it “Margate House Films” because the street my brother and I grew up on was Margate Drive…That should put it into perspective for you how much home means to us.
You went to Cornell, correct? What were some of the pros and cons about college? Also, did you live on campus?
I did go to Cornell. I only lived on campus freshman year. The biggest con was just how far it was from Dallas. I definitely got homesick. I missed everything, from my hometown barbecue sauce to being unable to watch the Dallas Cowboys. But, once I realized I could stream Cowboys games and found a grocery store that carried by favorite BBQ sauce, everything got easier. I played football and was in a fraternity, so the pros were definitely all the amazing friendships I made. As much as I love playing football, there’s no doubt all my best football memories were in the locker room after a 5am practice or hanging in the hotel before an away game. I still live with one of my fraternity brothers in LA. Playing football all four years while at an Ivy League school was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but wow did it prepare me for how hard a career in acting would be!
For many Americans, student loan debt is a huge burden. What is your take on it?
I think for so many young people and especially considering how competitive the current US job market is, the burden of student loans really starts graduates in a hole. I was lucky to have family support which allowed me not to have such burdens right out of the gate, but even I took a steady job that wasn’t my absolute dream for the first year after college just because I was so worried about going into debt just as I started an acting career. So, I feel for graduates who step off the podium, throw their graduate cap in the air and then BAM, are immediately hit with student debt. It makes it really tough for young people to pursue passions and dreams when those type of loans hang over you so early.
How did you get into acting?
I should have known I wanted to be an actor when I was a young kid. I mean, I still remember watching Cool Hand Luke, Papillion, and On The Waterfront when I was maybe twelve years old. Who does that? That should have told me something but I really didn’t start studying acting until I was in college. My older brother, Conor is a film maker and I shadowed him one summer during pre-production of one of his films. By the end of the experience I knew I wanted to start taking acting classes back at college. So, I did!
Tell us about your character BoJohn Folsom in the BET series “The Quad”.
BoJohn is a very complicated kid on the interior of an incredible simple exterior. He is this All-American looking stud quarterback who loses all his college scholarships and must attend a historically black college on his last chance for a future in football. The amazingly great challenge with BoJohn is that aspect of being on his last chance Twenty4Seven. So, no matter who he is talking to, what’s happening on or off the field, no matter where he is, there is always that nagging feeling in him that at any one moment, one slip up could cost him his career. He has also come to school with an intense amount of pressure from his father and that also carries on BoJohn’s back no matter the circumstances. It’s a pressure that will either break BoJohn completely or turn him into a man so I really enjoy walking that tight rope and hope audiences do too.
What was the hardest scene you had to film during season 1 and why? What about season 2?
Episode 8, season 1. In the scene, my father tries to get me to transfer schools. It’s the first time BoJohn stands up to his bigoted father and tells him he wants to stay, but instead of his dad respecting my decision, he hits him for it. It was the hardest scene because I wanted to carry all that hope of a kid wanting his father to be proud of him and finally respect him as a man, but instead he gets smashed for it. It was about showing a lifetime’s worth of hope explode in a single moment.
In season 2, it was episode 9. Bo is on the brink of expulsion and feels like he has no one to trust at school so he turns to the only person in his life that, for better or worse, has always been by him, his dad. There’s one big rule in acting, “never judge your character”. I kept wanting to judge BoJohn. Obviously, I the actor know that Bo needs to trust the people at this school, the people that have become his friends and mentors and the people that never hit him but Bo’s not perfect and he makes mistakes like the rest of us. I can’t judge him for that. I just needed to understand why he might make that mistake. As hard as it was to shoot, I think when people see that scene and the material that follows after with my father, they will hopefully understand as well and carry some empathy for this struggling kid.
Being a minority (of any kind) in any situation can be awkward. Overall, what do you think we can do as humans to make life more peaceful between us?
Take the time to learn about each other before we judge each other. It is a lot easier to hate someone if you don’t know anything about them. I’ve been lucky in my life to have traveled, lived in many different places and interacted with people from all over the world. The one thing I’ve learned after I lived in Indonesia for a year, safaried in places like Botswana and spent tons of time in Central and South America is that all people laugh and cry the exact same way. I don’t care what color you are, what language you speak or wherever you are on the planet, everyone laughs and cries the same. So, I think if we all just spent a little more time getting to know each other, I bet we’d find out we have a lot more in common too.
Is there anything you learned about black people while filming the show that you may not have known prior to? Is there anything in particular that your co-stars learned about white people from you?
I don’t think I ever fully comprehended the idea of racism within race until my time on The Quad. Racism is not literally just a black and white thing. Both in the world of The Quad and through cast mates and friends I’ve met in the last two years, there can be serious racism within the black community over how dark or light your skin is or simply where you come from. There’s a wonderfully harsh line in the pilot referring to President Eva Fletcher’s (Anika Noni Rose)character as “not black black”, because she’s from a wealthy back East family as opposed to the deep South. There’s another line in the pilot when Cedric Hobbs (played by Peyton Alex Smith) gets into a fight outside a concert and gets called “a light skin”. Seeing how deep names like that can hurt someone really informed me on just how many layers there are to racism. On my end, I hope I illuminated that white people can have great sneaker game too. I take pride in my Jordan and Nike collection, so hopefully everyone on The Quad knows I’ve got some serious shoe swag.
Who is your funniest co-star and why?
Miles Stroter. He has already lived a million lives so nothing surprises him. He’s seen it all before. It makes for some pretty damn funny stories. The world moves slower for him as opposed to me where I can barely keep up, so his dialogue on circumstances on set or in the world comes from an enlightened and hilarious point of view. We also spend the most time together of anyone on set so once you get to know someone that well, you get to know each other’s ticks and what makes each other laugh.
What was your experience working with Jasmine Guy like and is there anything you picked up from her that will stay with you throughout your career?
I worked with her a few times during season 1 and it was always fantastic. She’s super easy and fun to work with. I picked just that up from her…acting can be fun! She always brings something fun and unexpected to her performances that I hope I can utilize in my own work.
Being a military brat, I remember going to the theater on the Army base I grew up on to see “Black Hawk Down”. There were a lot of soldiers there in uniform and I remember thinking, “Why would they want to see this?” being that this was right after 9-11 and the war was on at that point. What was your overall experience working on “Drone Wars” and what did you learn?
I learned to wear a mask at all times when you’re around a set of an apocalyptic movie. There was so much dust, I could feel it in my lungs for weeks after I wrapped.
Tell us about “Overexposed”.
Overexposed is a great pride in my life. Conor Allyn (my older brother) wrote, directed and produced the film and I acted in it. It’s a small-town murder mystery but at the heart is this very tough love story about two people enduring grief, guilt and massive secrets. I played a character dealing with the death of his younger brother and the deep guilt that comes with it. Obviously, I have a brother and to lose him would absolutely destroy me, so literally my only goal with my role was: if anyone who has actually lost a brother watches this movie, I want them to believe me on screen as someone who lost a brother too. It is so simple but it really gave me such a clear drive and through line.
When you’re not acting, what do you like to do?
I’m still big into sports so probably playing in a flag football league, working out at the gym or watching NFL or college football. I’m also an actor who got into this business because I absolutely loved movies and TV. So, if I’m not working, I’m usually catching up on recent movies or TV shows. I’m binging the mini-series WACO right now and it’s spectacular!
I grew up listening to a lot of Texas music and some of my favorite artists are from Houston and Dallas. Who are your “Top 5” favorite artists (any genre) from Dallas?
Hmm, my top five musicians from Dallas probably go 1. Steve Miller Band (Technically they formed in San Fran) 2. Stevie Ray Vaughn 3. The Dixie Chicks 4. Old 97s 5. I’ll throw Vanilla Ice on there for kicks.
I’m going to throw a few hashtags out there. Say whatever comes to mind:
A wonderful charity that helps strengthen kids physically and spiritually.
Acting O.G. I also read his book, “Michael Caine: Acting in Film”, and it really gave me a new evolved thought process on the craft.
A movement giving and showing the power that can come when a group bands together in full commitment against an injustice. I think it’s also a movement that showed how social media can give strong voices and a platform to people that may have felt alone before.
My absolute inspiration. Aidan is my two year-old nephew and he is a complete stud. His birth really drove me to work harder. I want him to grow up proud of his Uncle Jakey.
Tell us something about yourself that most don’t know.
I was named Jake after the Kevin Costner character in the Western, Silverado. The movie came out just before I was born and my parents were looking for a very all-American name. If they ever remake the movie or turn it into a TV show, I will probably hound the producers and Kevin until they let me read for that part.
What’s next for Jake Allyn?
I’m currently writing up a storm on some scripts. So hopefully the next feature that I act in is one I’ve written myself.
Any last words?
Follow Jake Allyn on Instagram and Twitter @JakeAllyn85.
Photo by: Tommy Dingwall