Jay Reeves is a prolific actor, producer, and musician who has just completed filming his latest movie, “Safety.” We caught up with him to talk about his work on the movie and how he got into the film and music industries.
The Knockturnal: How did you get your start in the film industry?
Jay Reeves: The acting bug bit early; thinking back, I remembered my uncle and I writing scripts and putting on shows for my family and friends. At 16, I moved to California with my dad. I knew California would be the catalyst to my acting career. My dad’s in show business, he’s a stunt man and successful in his rights. My formal introduction came when he signed me up for background work on the Nickelodeon network. In a relatively short period, I began doing background work on shows like iCarly and Victorious. I took advantage of those opportunities and soaked in the lessons of the business. In the three years or more working background, I’ve rubbed the elbows of some famous actresses like Ariana Grande and Miranda Cosgrove. The lessons on those sets were invaluable. It was like getting free masterclasses, and for that I am grateful.
The Knockturnal: In production for Safety, how did you get into the mindset of Ray-Ray McElrathbey?
Jay Reeves: First, I am so humbled and honored to be telling his story. Ray’s story is one of sheer perseverance and one that resonates with so many of our own lives. I was raised by a single mother the first half of my life, so I was able to draw upon my life. I combined my own experience with what Ray went through, to help me tell the story about one man’s triumphant human spirit, and his Clemson community family coming together to support him. I also took the chance and built a genuine relationship with Ray. My focus was not to imitate his life or his every move, I wanted to honor his legacy while remaining truthful to his experiences. It was a duty to convey an extraordinary life. Ray’s a great guy. He didn’t let the odds define or beat him. He won and I had a fantastic time working and learning his life. I hope I told his story as he lived it.
The Knockturnal: Does your history in sports like rugby and football help you portray McElrathbey more effectively?
Jay Reeves: Absolutely yes! My mother was determined to provide a structured environment for me growing up. She put me in every sport; from tee-ball to hockey, and even rugby. As a kid, I missed many Saturday morning cartoons because I was always at some game. Looking back, I am glad she did. Playing sports allowed me to be disciplined and accountable to myself; that I must put in real work to get real results. Football is my true love. I tried to get as much field time as I possibly could during filming. My stunt double, Chris, is a monster, but I pulled my weight physically as well. I mean, you are writing about a one-time Los Angeles City champion. I’m an athlete at heart and this was an easy transition to draw on that mentality to maximize my abilities while shooting. Some days, I even felt like we were playing a real Clemson Division-One football game!
The Knockturnal: How would you describe working on “All American” on the CW?
Jay Reeves: All American was and still is an amazing experience! I made lifelong friends and met mentors on that show. We still check in with each other from time to time. All American was my first television appearance so that show will always be special to me. Big shout out to the CW Network for the opportunity and congratulations on the new season!
The Knockturnal: What inspired you to get into music?
Jay Reeves: Paul Stewart! Circa 2018, shortly after getting killed off All American, I was still working at a grocery store, Lassens in Mid-City Los Angeles. One day in the middle of my shift, Paul walked in and my friend noticed him. She quickly whispered who he was; the rest is a no brainer. I was hungry for an opportunity, so I approached him. I gave him the whole elevator pitch on my acting and music career, asked for his email to share some of my work. Thankfully, he gave me his email address, and later, I sent him the only song I had at the time. From there, the rest was history! Paul was the first person to put me in a recording booth. I am forever grateful to Paul for that. I enjoy making music. It provides a creative outlet for me.
The Knockturnal: Which hip-hop artists do you look up to?
Jay Reeves: Fortunately, my influences in music are broad, to say the least. I was exposed to many genres. One of my fondest memories of music is growing up listening to African music. One of my all-time favorite songs is an African song called garwo by. I also have the influences of my dad playing the likes of Earth Wind and Fire, Jay-Z, Kanye, and many others. I even have the influences of Spanish music being played by my stepmother on Saturday morning, while cleaning up. I am a fan of Drake and Childish Gambino. I like their take on being versatile in this industry. Now if I am stuck on an island, Mos Def and Tupac would be at the top of my list.
The Knockturnal: What kind of vibe do you go for in your music?
Jay Reeves: Honestly, whatever is honest and feels good within my soul is what I strive to put out. I don’t have a philosophical notion of what music should be. I just like to make music that I would want to listen to. In the past decade, we’ve branched out far in music, our world keeps getting smaller and smaller; take, for example, an artist like Beyoncé collaborating with an African artist. That makes me proud! Overall, I say, just continue to do what speaks to your soul!
The Knockturnal: Where can your fans find your music?
Jay Reeves: For now, on YouTube! I hope to expand to other platforms soon. I always try to at least have something out so that my listeners stay with the expectation of more work from me.
The Knockturnal: What project will be your directorial debut?
Jay Reeves: Debras Attick 2021. It’s a psychological film that my partners and I are working on. The IMDb page is now up so check it out and be sure to add it to your watch list.
The Knockturnal: Are we going to see it in mainstream theaters or at Sundance?
Jay Reeves: Prayerfully, all platforms. We are not opposed to mainstream either, but I would love to target the indie market with this project and collaborate with other up and coming artists. This short film will showcase and introduce the world to many new talents in this industry. There’s enough spotlight for us all to shine and if I am the gateway to that, I’m living in my purpose!