Interview: Jake T. Austin

From the interview archive.

You know Jake T. Austin as the loveable young Max Russo from Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place and Jesus Adams Foster on ABC Sparks’ The Fosters. VULKAN caught up with Jake to talk about his upcoming voiceover appearance in The Emoji Movie and his aspirations as a writer going forward.

You’ve written and sold a screenplay. Are you hoping to do more writing and explore that side of the industry more?

100%. I think it’s really important to stretch your skill set beyond what you know and try new things. I’ve always wanted to be on the other side of the camera telling stories that way, too. I’ve been working on some stuff that I hope my fans will see soon.

Who’s your favourite writer?

Leo Tolstoy and Robert Frost are my favorite writers.

You’ve been acting for more than 14 years now, what has been your favourite role, if you had to pick one?

I probably say it’s a close tie between Max on Wizards of Waverly Place or Bruce in Hotel for Dogs. Both sets were a dream to work on and I absolutely loved each cast. We really supported each other in the work that we did both on and off which made it such a safe place and I feel the best work comes from a safe place. I really think the audience could tell could tell we enjoyed making it as much as they enjoyed watching.

You do a lot of voice acting. Do you face any particular challenges in that realm that differs from live action acting? 

Yeah, absolutely. Voice acting is really challenging because you have to rely on your voice to get the character’s message across which can be ironically physical. It was pretty cool because while recording in the booth they had cameras surrounding me to make Alex, (the character I play in the emoji movie) as much like me as possible. The Emoji Movie has definitely been one of my favorite voiceover roles so far and that’s in no small part because of this all-star cast. They’re all so funny.

A lot of young people struggle with the pressures of social media and the bullying it sometimes inspires. As a public figure do you let those same pressures get to you, and if so, how do you cope with it?

Oh yeah for sure! It can be really hard out there. Especially because people get such courage being faceless behind a keyboard, not realizing there’s a real person being affected by those words online. Luckily, I have a pretty thick skin but there definitely have been points where I’ve been the subject of a lot of mean comments about my life, many of which were lies online and it hurt and wasn’t fair. But you have to remember that people saying these terrible things don’t actually know or care about you at all and suddenly their opinion doesn’t even matter.

What advice might you give someone struggling with online acceptance?

Don’t buy into the haters. If I took to heart everything I read about myself online, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning and that’s no way to live. Knowing yourself and loving who that is, is so important when it comes to acceptance. People are always going to try to knock you down and hold you back, but it’s about being having the determination and resilience to not let that keep you down.

When you were first starting out with acting, social media and apps and all these new technologies we utilize today weren’t as prominent, you yourself have an app now. How do you feel it has helped your career? Do you like the freedom of communication it enables for you to your fans?

I definitely feel like social media has helped my career in unmeasurable ways, mainly because I have the opportunity to communicate with my fans across the world directly. Social media gives me the chance to share my truth, it also gives fans a chance to tell me how they’re feeling and that really helps me gauge what my fans want. When I left my last show, my fans made it clear that they wanted to see me acting more and that will be happening more very soon!

You mentioned earlier you voice a character in the new Emoji Movie. Does it surprise you that aspects of social media, like emoji’s, have become so popular that it has warranted its own film? When you started out in the industry, did you ever foresee yourself being involved in a film like this?

No, not at all haha. The concept of emojis is so unique because technology is something we all use and has been moving so fast, especially social media. So it makes perfect sense that a movie like this was bound to happen and I’m so glad that I get to be apart it. Emoji’s are this new thing that’s taken our world by storm in helping people express themselves. Which is exactly what I do as an actor. Tony (Leonidas) and Sony animation did such a brilliant job with the way they tell this story that really makes you think and totally relate no matter who you are or how old you are.

What’s your go-to emoji? I’m a big fan of the monkey covering its eyes, personally.

My go to emojis are actually really funny. I love some of the new hands ones, I’d have to say the guy with his tongue out and looks kinda crazy 😜 and also the monkey face emoji covering his eyes! 🙈

You’re a dog lover, I hear. Are your pups well behaved? What was the biggest difficulty you faced while training them?

Haha my dogs are interesting to say the least. They’re both rescues which is something I have a real weak spot for. I just love animals. Hobo, he’s chill but my other dog Fugi is a bit more problematic. He definitely has a little complex which we all find pretty funny considering his size in comparison to my other dog. He’s feisty but that’s kinda why we love him. He’s also a rescue.

Do you have any other projects in the works currently you’d like to tell us about?

Yeah, during my time away from the camera I’ve been able to spend a lot of time working my writing partner, developing some of my own content. We’re in a time where original content is more important than ever and especially as a Latino I almost feel like it’s my duty to create roles that reflect life for real people of all different ethnicities. I’m looking forward to doing more projects in animation, live action as well as TV and creating more of my own content. My fans should definitely be on the lookout some cool stuff and check out my app for all the behind the scenes fun exclusive updates!  

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