10 Things with Isaiah John
From an early age, you knew that entertaining was your way of life. How did you transition this into an actual career?
Growing up, my sister and I would perform dance routines and sing in front of our parents every weekend. When I was about thirteen, I asked my mom if I could pursue acting and she told me no, because my sister and I were always shy around people that we really didn’t know. So after a year of trying to convince her that I really wanted to act, she finally said yes. Soon after I got her ‘okay’, I booked a lead role in a short film with absolutely no training. This experience sparked the passion in me instantly.
Which actors work inspired you the most and which ones have had influence on your career thus far?
In my household, we are the definition of movie buffs. I watched so many different movies growing up, but one that stood out to me performance wise was Denzel Washington in ‘Training Day’. As I grew older and viewed acting in a more complex way, I continued my research to find great films. Another film that has influenced my career, was Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’. This movie just amazed me. Watching Leo transform in this way just made me take my craft even more serious, and also gave me a new respect for the craft.
You’re on a new series, Snowfall on the FX Network. How were you first introduced to the show and what was it about the script that got you so excited to join?
I learned about the project through my manager back in 2015. She told me there was a character that she thought would be fitting for me. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to get any leeway on it and the entire project was cast. Eight months or so later, she told me that they were recasting the project, and that she was going to try and get me an audition. I did not think anything of it because as an actor you do not get excited about projects when you learn of them. During the time when she told me I had an audition, I already had at least 15 or more auditions that year and I came close, but did not make it. When you have so many auditions, most actors experience a little discouragement. Initially I told her I wasn’t going to do the audition, because I did not think I would even come close. Of course, that did not sit right with my manager, and she said yes you are going to do the audition. She always wins, and that’s why I have her as my manager. (Props to RBJ Talent Management). Apparently, she felt strong about me taking on this character and felt that I could do this, so I taped the audition, and it was sent to the casting director, Kim Coleman by my LA Rep, Leroy Simmons. A week later or so, my manager followed up and next thing I know, I got an invite to fly out to L.A. for a chemistry read. I got to L.A. and saw that there were two other actors going for the same role. It didn’t bother me because I am a believer that what God has for you, is for you. I did not have time to be nervous. I had come this far and I was going to do my best, and I did just that. During the chemistry read, I was asked to improv (actors make sure your improv skills are on point because you never know when you will need to use those skills). I did everything they asked of me and went back to the hotel and waited. The afternoon came and then, the phone calls started coming in. Producers were asking for a high resolution picture of me (no answer yet) but my mom told me ‘that’s a good sign’ and then, it just felt like forever. I also missed work to fly out to Los Angeles. Prior to Snowfall, I was a janitor for almost two years, and if I did not work I did not get paid. Later on, I get another phone call to tell me I was being pinned to the project. Then, an hour later, I got the best phone call of my career. I was booked and my three-day trip to L.A. turned into 5 weeks of filming a pilot as a series regular. I had only packed for 3 days, but I made it through and had a blast! I was excited, but did not know how to feel because I could not believe this was actually happening.
On the show, you play the role of Leon Simmons. What are the many facets of Leon’s personality and what pivotal moments does he have on the series?
Leon Simmons is lifelong friends with Franklin Saint who is played by Damson Idris. Leon Simmons has currently served time in juvenile hall for assault. So, by that, you’ll see that Leon is hot tempered and demands respect from everyone. I would say Leon is hungry to be at the top of the world and will do anything necessary to get there, even if it could potentially cost him his freedom. He is definitely someone who is a product of his environment.
What did you enjoy most about playing Leon on screen?
What I enjoyed most about playing Leon was being able to bring him to life. The fact that I’m from Atlanta and I’m portraying someone from South Central, L.A. was really fun because of the process. Doing the research and having real life conversations with people who were acting from the area and experienced things through this era was one of the best parts. Learning how to talk with a different dialect and even learning a different stance, was all a part of the process which made this experience enjoyable.
The content of the show is something that may strike a sensitive chord with many who lived through that era. Were there any challenges to keeping this authentic?
Not at all. The fact that we have the legendary John Singleton behind this project gives me the most confidence that this story is both authentic and also entertaining.
What can viewers expect to see from Leon and the rest of the cast in this season of Snowfall?
You can expect to see people really transform. You will be able to watch the growth of the characters and watch how their lives change and unfold due to their life circumstances.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t focused on your acting career?
I also have a strong love for music. I would definitely be pursuing music full time. I’m a person that’s all about the arts and self-expression.
What styles do you gravitate to and which fashion designers do you like the most?
For everyday casual clothes I like to wear Zara. As far as fashion designers, I love Ted Baker suits.
We look forward to seeing how things develop on Snowfall this season. What other projects do you have coming up?
I recently filmed a movie with Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker called ‘Downsized’. This was an amazing experience as well. You can catch Downsized airing on TV One sometime in August 2017.
Facebook: Isaiah K John
Photos: DeWayne Rogers