Jasmin Savoy Brown: The Sudden Departure
Interview By: Tyrone Davis (Editor/Publisher)
What was it like growing up in Oregon?
Growing up in Oregon is absolutely ideal for a kid, especially before cell phones were around. There are endless rivers, lakes and waterfalls to swim in, trees to climb, and caves and forests to explore. In the summer, people pull off the side of the freeway and pick fresh berries. In the winter, the snow is superb and perfect for canceling school and taking a sled down the hill a few blocks up the street. Tie-dye parties are popular among the eight year olds. People are honest, friendly and giving. Growing up in Oregon is wonderful. Growing up black in Oregon is another experience entirely. If memory serves me correctly, there were only four black kids in my grade throughout middle school. Most of us lived with our single white parents. Racism is deeply embedded in Oregon’s history and it still has an extremely long way to go before it’s gone or even acknowledged. Most people won’t even admit it’s there, making it hard for it to go away. So for me, growing up in Oregon was an extremely beautiful, adventurous, confusing, identity-crisis inspiring experience.
What did you enjoy/dislike most about high school?
I loved high school. I was never popular per se…I wasn’t a cool kid and never went to a single party but I was well respected amongst my peers, which was much more important to me. For that reason I could kind of bounce from clique to clique and never had a problem. I’m sure that experience is part of the reason I’m so drawn to diversity in storytelling. My everyday life for four years was hearing stories from every level of the social hierarchy and relating to all of them. My senior year, with a group of students from each grade and some members of the school board, we used this rare insight to create and conduct a poll about the human experience among the student body. We complied the data and presented it to the students in an assembly pointing out that everyone, no matter where they fall on the social/economic scope, is vulnerable, scared and wants to be liked. It was a powerful day and is probably my high school accomplishment I take most pride in.
What I disliked most about high school was the ignorant racism. I can not tell you how many times my “friends” told me, “Jasmin, you are white.” or “You’re the whitest black person I know.” and so on and so forth. This ignorant talk was part of the reason I wanted to do that assembly so bad. It deeply angered and disturbed me and there was really nothing I could do about it because again, Oregonians don’t want to believe they could possibly be saying something wrong and therefore won’t hear it when you tell them.
When did you decide you wanted to act?
I’ve always known. From the time I could cry, I was singing, and then dancing and then performing for whoever would stop and listen. I knew deep in my bones that I was destined to perform. At eight years old I discovered acting was a career that I could be paid to do and that is when I committed myself to this career. But long before that, I wanted to act.
Tell us about HBO’s, “The Leftovers”.
The Leftovers will forever be near and dear to my heart. It was the first major job I booked and it came at the most stereotypical perfect time. I was working graveyard shift at a diner in Hollywood, in class every other day, rehearsing a play in the afternoon and auditioning in the mornings! I had less than $50 in my bank account, my roommate and I had bed bugs, so we’d just got rid of all of our furniture and my car was falling apart. I was exhausted, and broke, but also extremely happy. A voice deep inside me was telling me I was right where I needed to be and to cherish even this tough time because it was defining me and wouldn’t last forever. Then, I get an audition for “The Leftovers” and I have never had a stronger reaction to a piece of text in my entire life! I immediately broke down weeping. I knew even if I didn’t book it, I would be happy because I even had the chance to read for it. I auditioned, had a callback, and had a chemistry read with Jovan all over the course of about a month. I booked it on a Thursday and was on a plane to Texas that Saturday. It takes years for something to happen overnight.
What exactly is the “Sudden Departure” and what would you do if that were a real life event?
No one really knows what the Sudden Departure is. It is the title given to an event that takes place in the world of The Leftovers, where 2% of the world’s population simultaneously vanishes into thin air. Some people think it is the rapture, others believe it to be a government conspiracy and others can’t think it through at all and take their own lives. It’s a giant mystery and forces people to get real with themselves about who they are and what they want. If the Sudden Departure happened to us, I would be happy if Trump and his administration went with it. Just kidding. I mean, I’m not kidding, but for real, I would probably pray and then make my way to a compound in the Oregonian woods.
You are into music as well, correct?
Yes. My dad is a musician and I definitely inherited those genes. He is brilliant with the piano. Some of my youngest memories with him are me sitting next to him on the piano bench while he improvised the sounds of the ocean, or a forest or the wind. That experience taught me that every sound we hear is music. The wind is music, the dryer is music, me typing this interview is music, etc. He instilled in me a deep love and respect for music. I played the violin for many years and I still play the guitar and piano, as well as sing. In recent years I’ve been so focused on acting I’ve barely sung at all but I am changing that this summer. I just bought an electric piano and am soon going to get a mic. It’s time to start writing again.
Who is your favorite musician and why?
I don’t like this question. There are so many! The first that comes to mind is Sara Bareilles. I relate to her music on a deep soul level. My body aches when she sings, like we used to be the same person in another life. You can hear every heartbreak, every laugh, every lover and every ancestor in her voice when she sings. She is so raw and vulnerable just like Sia, and Alicia Keyes, Audra McDonald and Chance The Rapper…(See what I did there?)
The year you were born, I was in the 4th grade and was living in Germany. The experience shaped who I am today in understanding how much bigger the world is in comparison to where I was from. How did you end up in Wales and what was the experience like? Had you traveled abroad prior to?
Wow! That’s amazing you were able to study abroad at such a young age. I wish that was a federally funded educational requirement. So funny enough, I had actually been to Wales before. My high school had a “travel club” and through that I was able to travel to England, Ireland and Wales during my seventeenth birthday. I specifically remember that because on the morning of my seventeenth birthday we were in Ireland and after I showered I was flipping my hair back and forth to dry it and I slammed my head back onto the bathroom door by mistake. I saw stars like characters always do in cartoons and almost passed out. Brutal start to my day, but unforgettable nonetheless!
Anyway! I ended up in Wales because that is where we shot season one of “Will” (which airs July 10th at 9 pm on TNT). One of the great things about the UK is how many incredible cities are a quick train or plane ride away! I didn’t do too much traveling because I was working, but I was able to venture to London quite a bit and I went to Paris for a quick weekend. Wales is beautiful, although my biggest complaint is the lack of bacon!
How did you celebrate your recent birthday?
How did I celebrate? I swear my memory is lost these days… Ah yes! I had a small dinner a week prior to my actual birthday in Los Angeles at my favorite LA dinner restaurant, “Delancey” with some close friends. Then, I went to Austin and spent my actual birthday with my girlfriend and her friends. On the actual day, I took a dance class and had a nice simple dinner but for the weekend we stole away to Fredricksburg, a very cute Texan town. We ate barbecue, laid in a hammock, and listened to live music. It was simple and perfect.
I’m going to throw a few names out there. Say whatever comes to mind.
a) Chance the Rapper
YAASS! Not only is Chance a brilliant musician, he is a humble leader. He is using his voice and his money to fight for education. He champions other artists, is honest about his struggles and worships God in public. Nothing but respect.
b) Donald Trump
Hmm. EWW? The exact opposite of Chance. You know, I tried to be optimistic at first. I thought maybe, just MAYBE some good could come out of this, but no. My biggest problem with this guy isn’t his idiocy, inability to spell, tendency toward the dramatic, cowardice in general, blatant disrespect of women, offensive statements…but that everything he wants and works toward comes from a place of fear and hatred. No matter how much I disagree with someone, if what they are saying is coming from a genuine place of love, I will always listen. The vomit he spews comes from a horrific, selfish place that is more destructive in a place of leadership than we have even realized.
c) Regina King
Goddess. Mother. Queen. Also, she has given me brilliant hair care and skin care tips that I’ve finally implemented and both my skin and my hair are looking so fresh.
d) Violett Beane
My Violett!! She is on her way to pick me up as we speak. We are heading to Vegas for the weekend to celebrate her birthday! Woo! That pretty much sums up our relationship. Violett is the person who makes sure I’m having fun. I can get way too swept up and serious and focused, and she reminds me to take it easy and have a night out. That’s not to say she doesn’t also encourage and support me, but the main thing I look to her for is to help me wind down and to keep me young. Ha! She is one of the biggest blessings “The Leftovers” gave me.
Being a younger entertainer, what are your career goals over the next 10 years?
My ultimate goal has always been to originate a starring role on Broadway. That is definitely in line over the next ten years. I want to continue to make choices that surprise people and keep me from being put in a box. I am writing two scripts and would love to have them seen through to the end. I’d like to release a few albums and I very much want to be the lead in a studio level feature film.
What is the most important thing that you’ve learned while being an actor?
That every character I play has to come from a truthful place in me. I used to think of characters as putting them on – this person looks and behaves nothing like me, we have nothing in common, therefore I must make everything up and be disconnected. I’ve learned, for me at least, it is completely the opposite. Yes, this character may be starkly different from me, but my way in is through my history, my past, my opinions. There is no “putting on” of someone. I have to find my way in through myself.
What are your top 5 favorite films?
What A Girl Wants (Yes, the Amanda Bynes film. Love it.), Chicago, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, An Education, & Love and Basketball.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably when you’re alone?
I have a few saved videos on my phone that crack me UP. The main one is from last summer. My girlfriend was trying to make me laugh by doing a funky little dance on the top of a hill. She accidentally FELL DOWN THE HILL! If it weren’t for a random pole for her to grab onto at the bottom, this story probably would not have ended in laughter.
If you could take 1 person on a 100 day trip around the world, who would that be and why?
I would take my favorite kid, River. I was his nanny from the time he was four to five years old. Now he is NINE and we don’t see each other hardly as much, but I still think about him every single day and he has a special place in my heart. I would take him on a 100 day trip around the world just to spend time with him, but also because I would love to be there while he discovers new things, and his mind and heart are expanded. As you said before, traveling, especially while young, is a life shaping experience. I would want to share that with him.
Why is speaking to strangers important to you?
You’ve stalked me well. ; ) Last summer, I was shooting season three of “The Leftovers” in Australia and my girlfriend went with me. She pointed out that Australians are so much more friendly than Americans, they all make eye contact and smile with one another constantly and that their crime rate is far lower than ours. We observed this for almost two months. We came home and started making eye contact, smiling, and saying hi to more people. Yeah some people looked at us like we’re insane, but most we’re genuinely surprised and touched, and we could see their entire days change in that single moment. Kindness holds power.
What can we expect from TNT’s “Will”? How do you feel about this project overall?
I am in LOVE with this project. My high school theatre teacher, Mrs. Plumb is a true lover of Shakespeare and she instilled in me a deep respect and admiration for his work. What I love about Will is that it reveals to us how this brilliant mastermind became that way. I have always taken interest in how artists, stars or just successful people in general got that way. That’s why “Off Camera With Sam Jones” is my favorite podcast. Will explores just that and it is so fascinating and fulfilling to be a part of it, as I am sure it will be to watch. You can expect to be entertained, enlightened, surprised and angry. Some things that took place politically then match up pretty eerily to what is taking place now. That means the show is doing it’s job, right? Relevance.
How will you make summer 2017 the best ever?
Well, my boo is moving to LA, FINALLY so we’re going to spend some time just hanging out, exploring LA, doing nothing. I am very much looking forward to that. I’ll be working on music as well.
Social media: How can people contact you?
Twitter: @jasminsavoy and Instagram: @miss_jasmin_savoy. Also, thank you. It’s been my pleasure.