An Interview with Don Jon's Jeremy Luke

By , Contributor

Marc Cartwright

Actor Jeremy Luke

When he was ten years old, Jeremy Luke begged his mother to let him take an acting class. She finally relented and agreed, but the summer class he signed up for was not exactly what he expected. "It wound up being more of a singing type of class and I was the only boy there along with all these girls who were two or three years older than me," says Luke. "I looked around and thought, ‘This isn’t really what I thought it would be like.’"

Fortunately, this initial little setback did not dissuade Luke from continuing to pursue his interest. "When I was around 19, I stated making home movies with friends and learning about how to work a camera as well as acting in these little films," recalls the actor. "I was promoting nightclubs at the time and was stressed out, so this was a little diversion for me. I eventually wound up taking a couple of semesters of college, which included acting classes. A friend of mine had moved out to Los Angeles and suggested that I come there as well. So I took all my savings and, at 22 years old, moved to L.A. When I got there I spent the next seven years continuing to study acting. I figured if I was going to do this [acting], then I’d better do it right. This is one of those businesses where you can’t do half-ass work."

The actor’s perseverance paid off. Since making his professional debut as Murph in the 2001 feature film The Myersons, the Staten Island, New York native has appeared in several short movies as well as a variety of made-for-TV movies and guest-starred on numerous TV series including Judging Amy, NYPD Blue, Bones, ER, Touch, and Desperate Housewives. Currently, he can be seen once again on the big screen in Don Jon. His character of Danny is best friends with Jon “Don Jon” Martello, Jr. (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film). Don’s obsession with porn leads him to search out a more satisfying sex life in the real world.

"Danny has his job, drives a hot BMW, lives in his parents’ basement, and doesn’t have too much cooking upstairs, if you know what I mean," says Luke. "He’ll also have sex with pretty much any woman. She doesn’t have to talk or even say a single word. My character doesn’t really grow much in the film, which can happen. Some characters don’t grow in movies, they stay the same, but that’s so the main character can develop. Joseph’s character has a big arc in this film, whereas Danny just kind of sticks around. Maybe he’ll catch up to Don maturity-wise in a few years," he jokes. "As far as their relationship, Don is a very selfish guy who’s into himself and tends to give my character crap. Overall, though, I think Danny has a lot of love for Don and always will, even though he steals the girls from Danny and stuff like that.

"I originally heard about this part because I know the movie’s assistant director. At the time I was working on a web series called Turbo and Joey, and I think he may have sent a tape of my work to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I went in for an audition, did my thing and the casting director said to me, ‘We’d like you to come back tomorrow to meet Joe,’ so I did. I ended up being the last person to see him that day. I spent an hour-and-a-half sitting there in the waiting room, but as the other actors came out of the audition room, I realized that Joe was taking his time and working with each of them. I think it’s really cool when somebody does something like that, especially a well-known actor like Joe. When it was my turn, I went in there and it was no-holds barred. Joe and I hit it off and I had a lot of fun."

When it comes to his fellow Don Jon castmates, Luke cannot say enough good things about them. "The only people I really got to work with were Joe and Rob Brown [Bobby], who is awesome," says the actor. "I did do a scene with Scarlett Johansson [Barbara Sugarman] and her character’s friends, and they were great. Scarlett is really sweet and does a fantastic job in this movie. I’m from Staten Island, so I know this culture fairly well and she just slipped right into it, which was terrific. I met Tony Danza [Jon Martello, Sr.] as well while I was shooting this movie and he’s a class act.

"I have to mention, too, that Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rob Brown, and I got to rehearse quite a bit. I’ve done a ton of theatre in the past and I like to rehearse. Sometimes when you get on a film or TV set, your rehearsal is actually the camera rehearsal and you’re running lines with other actors for the first time. That wasn’t true with Don Jon. In fact, the three of us—me, Joe, and Rob—got some nice compliments as scene partners. People asked me in person and on the Internet, ‘Were they improvised?’ I told them, ‘Nope, we did the scenes line by line as written.’ So it was pretty neat that they came across as being so natural when people watched the movie."

From contemporary sexcapades to life as a mobster, Luke’s next TV role is that of Mickey Cohen in the upcoming TNT drama series Mob City. Developed and executive produced by Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead), it is based on real-life accounts of the cops and gangsters written in the book LA Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City by John Buntin. The actor cannot help but be excited when talking about this particular job.

"Not only did I book a series, but I booked a really good series," explains Luke. "My character is based on a real person, Mickey Cohen, who pretty much ran the Los Angeles underworld during the '40s and '50s. In the first season of Mob City he spends most of his time with Bugsy Siegel, played by Ed Burns, who is an awesome actor and a phenomenal human being. Mickey is a volatile guy, but he’s fair, too, I think. When you play these types of individuals, you have to look at the positives as opposed to just the negatives and figure out why he’s doing what he does.

"The thing is, Bugsy is mentoring my character. Mickey is like his bulldog, but my character has his own business. Mickey Cohen pretty much owned the Sunset Strip, and believe it or not, had OCD—obsessive compulsive disorder. He would wash his hands 50 times a day, which was insane, but it actually saved his life. People would come to kill Cohen and he’d be in the bathroom washing his hands like he always was. He had a bit of a Napoleonic complex, too, and was a boxer as well and a real badass dude. I’m having such a good time with this role," enthuses the actor, "and to top it off, my character gets 'blinged out.' The real Mickey Cohen had 300 suits in his closet, so our costume designer puts me in the nicest suits and hats. Hopefully we’ll be on the air for multiple seasons, and as the time passes, Frank will have more fun writing for the character and I’ll have more and more fun playing him."

The past year-and-a-half has provided the actor with a number of fulfilling projects as well as characters to play. In addition to Don Jon and the upcoming Mob City, which is set to debut in December, he is currently shooting Jersey Boys and has roles in two other films, ETXR and The Fix.

"I had a scene the other day for Jersey Boys with Christopher Walken, which was crazy and a blast to do," says Luke with a laugh. "Clint Eastwood is the movie’s director, and when I met him for the first time I thought, ‘OK, now I can scratch that off my bucket list.’

"You know, I’m not going to lie. Getting a paycheck and being able to pay my bills by acting as opposed to running around doing this and that and working 15 other jobs while trying to book an acting gig is the best feeling in the world. It’s also incredibly rewarding to be given really well-written material to do. When you get a good script it’s like rowing a boat downstream, and when you get a bad one it’s like struggling to swim upstream. So whenever you get those good scripts, they truly are a gift.”

Please note, all photos from Don Jon copyright of Relativity Media.

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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