Moonlight’s Jharrel Jerome has quite the year ahead of him after starring in one of 2016’s most critically acclaimed films.
He’s set to star alongside Jennifer Hudson in the upcoming film Monster, and for now he heads to the small screen to take on a role in the TV adaption of Stephen King’s novel Mr. Mercedes. The rising star sat down with The Knockturnal to discuss his character and more.
The Knockturnal: How did you get involved in Mr. Mercedes?
Jharrel Jerome: It was just one of the auditions that came into my email from my managers! I was in Moonlight so that kind of opened some doors for me. My managers gave me a call and were like ‘There’s a Stephen King project that I think you’d be cool for’ and it was from then on that I think I was like ‘Damn this is crazy.’
The Knockturnal: Were you familiar with the book before?
Jharrel Jerome: Before the audition, no, but after! I kind of used the script that was given to me as a guide for the audition, because the writers are incredible. David E. Kelly makes it easy to jump into these characters, but when I got cast I read the whole book and it’s honestly one of my favorite novels now, it’s incredible.
The Knockturnal: For projects that are adaptations would you say it’s a better route to go in blind and base your character on the script, or to read more background on the character?
Jharrel Jerome: Thats a good question! I appreciate the background, having the book was very helpful, because sometimes you don’t have it. Sometimes you have to create a character on your own, so for that to be less of an issue. Stephen King made it easy to dive into this character because his characters are so complex, and it’s the subtle adjectives, subtle sentences,the phrases that he uses that makes it so that makes it easier it understand.
The Knockturnal: Unfortunately you weren’t able to meet him yet, but when you do what would you most like to discuss with him?
Jharrel Jerome: Writing! I’d like to discuss how it’s possible to put out so much work, and not just work, but incredible work, you know work that sticks with people. You could grab 100 people, and if you ask them all what their favorite Stephen King novel is it won’t be the same. I just want to know how it is leaving one project and moving on to the next and then leaving that one and moving on to the next, that’s something I’m curios about.
The Knockturnal: Obviously this story was really popular, and had a solid fan base. How would you compare working on an adaption with a lot of hype, and working on Moonlight where the project was low budget and kind of underestimated?
Jharrel Jerome: At the end of the day it’s all the same thing, I just love doing the work. I never like to think about if there’s gonna be a lot of people who see it. It means the most to me if people 20 people were affected by Moonlight and nobody else was. As long as those 20 people I was able to speak to. Doing Moonlight we didn’t know at all that it was gonna be where it was. There’s this kind of sense of hope that you have when you do a project like that, that you kind of hope it goes places, but you just do the work and you try to get. For Mr. Mercedes, knowing it’s a Stephen King project, it has this exciting element as to how many people are gonna check this out, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me.
The Knockturnal: Do you want to explain further who you play in this show?
Jharrel Jerome: Yeah! I play Jerome Robinson, he’s pretty much a young, intelligent, kid who’s on his way to Harvard, and he’s really good at computer and IT work. So what he does is he helps Hodges, who’s kind of being tormented by a killer who keeps emailing him and sending him videos, and these videos and emails disappear, and he’s just trying to figure out how, and rather than going to the police force he goes to a young kid named Jerome, who also happens to mow his lawn every other week. I love Jerome because he’s young, he’s black, and he’s intelligent. He’s very smart, he’s going to Harvard and he kind of defies all the stereotypes that are place on young black America today. He’s a voice for young positivity, and I think that’s the best thing about him.
The Knockturnal: How do you feel you can relate to Jerome?
Jharrel Jerome: You know, young, black and intelligent! (laughs) Jerome’s always down to help, he’s always curious, and trying to find the next experience that’ll give him a life lesson, and that is what I’m about. I jumped into acting and making music not knowing where it was gonna go for me, and I think most of us do jump into stuff without knowing, so that’s how we relate the most. He’s just always thinking positively, I like to think positive and I’m a glass half full person and I think that’s Jerome as well.
The Knockturnal: Last question, what do you most want audiences to take away from this show?
Jharrel Jerome: I want them to allow themselves to experience what the characters are experiencing. Sometimes you watch a show and you’re looking for the storyline and looking for the next big surprise but I think if you really take the time to sit and watch these scenes you’ll see characters that you know in real life. You’ll see similarities even in the monster, even in Brady. You kind of look at him and see the honesty in him. It less about the murder and the scary and more about who were are as people. I hope that after they watch Mr. Mercedes people have an understanding of mindsets, especially in a situation like that, and hopefully no one’s in a situation like that, but yeah.