Actor Jarod Joseph
It was just three years ago that actor Jarod Joseph made his professional debut in the big screen adventure Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. While his role might not have been an especially big one, the actual experience is one that he vividly remembers to this day.
“I’d performed in acting class and appeared in a play or two, but this was my first time doing anything on a big budget scale,” says Joseph. “I mean, Uma Thurman [Medusa] was on set along with several other very familiar faces. I was just amazed at the energy on set, and when it came time to do my scene, I thought I was the biggest star in the world. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is my time. I’m here playing with the big boys.’
“Realistically, that sense of naiveté is something I’ll never get back, but it was a terrific reminder that this [acting] was what I was going to do with my life, and it felt great. Everybody searches for a job that they’re not going to hate, but to find a job that you don’t want to leave is, I think, the ideal situation.”
That feeling of enthusiasm about his profession has remained with the actor since his first day of work on the Percy Jackson set. Since then, Joseph has had the opportunity in a relatively short space of time to portray a host of different characters in several made-for-TV movies and TV series. Currently, he can be seen playing Oakland, California rookie police detective Nicholas Fleming in DirecTV’s Rogue. Like the aforementioned film, the actor’s first day of work on this series is equally memorable to him.
“I was so nervous,” he recalls with a laugh. “It was my first time as a series regular, and my first day on the job was actually a week-and-a-half after most of the cast and crew had already begun working together. There was an established dynamic and rapport that I wasn’t privy to, so I was a little worried about blending in with everyone and doing my thing. To be honest with you, it was a pretty scary day for me because I hadn’t had many discussions with the producers and writers about the direction of my character. So I just tried a bunch of different things and we ended up deciding on one specific direction to take Nick in. I then stuck to that path for the rest of the [season one] episodes.
“Nick Hamm [executive producer/show runner] is a brilliant dude. He and Matthew Parkhill [series creator/head writer/executive producer] knew exactly what they wanted with my character, but there was also room to grow as well as breathe within the role. On my first day, Nick took me aside and said, ‘If you’re thinking it, the camera is going to see it.’ That’s something I generally take with me to each job, but, again, it was a good reminder. From that point on, I created the Fleming character on a lot of understated acting and low-key performance, I guess you would call it, but that was because Nick was very precise with what we were doing and gave me excellent direction.”
In Rogue, Nicholas Fleming and his fellow detectives are working on a case involving a powerful and dangerous local businessman and crime boss, Jimmy Laszlo (Martin Csokas) and his ambitious business-minded son Alec (Joshua Sasse). One of the detectives, Grace Travis (Thandie Newton), had been working undercover in Jimmy’s organization until her cover was blown, but instead of ending up dead, she “brokered” a deal. Grace would help Jimmy expose the traitor in his organization, if he helped her find out who shot her young son in cold blood. No matter which side you are on in this show, good or bad, there is plenty of risk to go around.
“There’s a scene in one of the early episodes where Fleming rescues the Sophia Hernandez [Claudia Ferri] character from a fire,” notes Joseph. “We filmed that on, I believe, my second day of work, and like I said, I was still trying to blend in with everyone around me. When I showed up on-set there was a stunt double ready to do the fire scene. I’d introduced myself to the director and we had shot some of the face shots and other footage involving my character. I asked him, ‘Can I do this? Can I run into the fire?’
“The director sort of looked around and then checked with a few people. It was more or less my way of saying to them, ‘Hey, I want to get down and dirty with you guys.’ Well, I’m pleased to say that I did a good portion of the actual fire sequence, so that was my big thrust forward into the series. Throughout Rogue’s first season, my character gets a few more ‘bones’ thrown at him and earns a great deal more respect within his department. I guess that’s part of the natural course of things for the young guy to eventually learn more and get the go-ahead to do more. It was pretty much like that for me as an actor, too. In my first episode I had a little bit to do, and then a bit more in the second one, etc. That worked perfectly with my character and his overall progression.”
Despite all the onscreen turmoil between and amongst the Rogue characters, things behind-the-scenes were nothing but congenial. “I made lifelong friends on this show, and we all became like a family,” says Joseph. “Because of the various storylines, you didn’t the chance to work with everyone, but whenever you crossed paths on-set, there was always time to chat and find out how everything was going. It was such a terrific ensemble and I call them all good friends."
Prior to signing up for duty as Detective Nicholas Fleming on Rogue, Joseph had the chance to add some additional credits to his resume with recurring or guest-star roles in Fringe, Arrow, Once Upon a Time and, most recently, Motive.
“Fringe was a pretty interesting situation,” he says. “I auditioned for that show seven or eight times and had been short-listed or had callbacks for a number of them. I thought I’d keep trying out for Fringe for as long as it was on the air, but then I went in for this one audition which essentially called for me to walk into a room, put down a box, deliver a line, and walk out. That turned into multiple episodes and I became a recurring character based on that one little scene. That’s kind of what happened on another show I worked on, Once Upon a Time, and it’s gone that way a few other times for me. I’m very fortunate in that regard.
“Working on Arrow was very interesting and it’s probably the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt onscreen or filming. There were a lot of emotions involved and at the end of shooting I was actually emotionally fatigued. I had never given that much on-camera. It was actually a huge challenge for me to be that revealing in front of 100 people on-set. It’s subjective as to whether or not my performance works, but I was very proud of it, and the fact that it was somewhat of a breakthrough acting-wise for me.
“As I previously mentioned, Once Upon a Time and my character of Billy was a one-scene, one-episode role that turned into more,” continues the actor. “They’re pretty tight-lipped on that show about what’s next, so with every new script I discovered more and more about what was going on with Billy and who he was. I particularly enjoyed the episode [Child of the Moon] that I did with a good friend of mine, Anthony Hemingway. We had worked together on Fringe, and he was in town and directed this Once Upon a Time episode.
“This was actually my character’s swansong episode. I had a nice scene with Megan Ory, who plays Ruby, and it was the first reveal of who my character was in the fantasy world. It turned out that Billy was, in fact, Gus [a mouse in the Enchanted Forest and presumably one of Cinderella’s only friends]. So it was great to be cemented forever in Disney history and to be working with my friend again.
“Last but not least, Motive. Man, oh, man, I was so excited to see this episode air. I played a paraplegic, which was challenging in and of itself, and those are the types of challenges that I live for as an actor. I’m very lucky to be as young as I am and getting to play as many quirky or unconventional roles that I have so far. That usually doesn’t come this early on.
“My character is the paraplegic brother of a slain boxer, and my work in this episode is the most I’ve done in a single episode of a TV show. I did a ton of research for this part because I didn’t want to disrespect it in any way or turn it into a caricature. I wanted to do the role justice. It was a demanding undertaking, but one that I think was a great example and, hopefully, a preview of what’s to come in the future for me as far as putting in a lot of work on a single character.”
As someone who is serious about his craft, Joseph appreciates knowing he is sticking to the right path when it comes to acting. “I’ve been really fortunate not only to work regularly, but also get constant verbal affirmation from my peers,” he says. “That’s something precious to me, because it’s not something that people have to do, but rather chose to do. Especially with the last group of projects I’ve done, people have taken that moment to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing good work.’ It’s that affirmation that helps make you feel like you truly belong and gives you the confidence to move forward. It’s also a nice reminder that I’m in the right place and might just be here to stay.”