Holding the perfect marriage of screen, both silver and small, actor JAMIE BLACKLEY proves to be master of multiple platforms. As he makes his way into our consciousness with his new film If I Stay, he leaves no room for doubt that he isn’t going anywhere.
A dark-haired misfit roaming the streets of London from the 1990s, an inked street lurker who falls in love with an older lady, a blonde boy at the club after an electrical storm, and a young George Harrison. Underneath all these layers stands humble phenom Jamie Blackley. Twitterpated with anything rhetoric, this Isle of Man native morphs easily into character, be it on a movie set, for the telly, or on a theater stage. “I approach everything the same way,” he shares. “If you respond to a story and it evokes something in you, it doesn’t matter what medium it is.”
Growing up, Jamie led an ordinary life, more or less. Like any boy in the United Kingdom, he liked football, worshipped his team, Crystal Palace FC, and went to school. The only difference he had to the other kids was the type of education he got. Half by chance, half by choice, acting was lined up for Jamie at a young age. “When I was a kid, my mum’s best friend’s kids went to a theater school on a Saturday,” he says. “I asked my mum if I could give it a try. I went there on the weekends, and when I turned ten, I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School for performing arts. It just went from there, really.”
And from there, it took off. At the age of 17, Jamie landed one of his first jobs as the well-known Hanschen in Spring Awakening at the Lyric Theatre. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. But once the nerves died away, it was such an amazing experience. I’d love to go back and do that show one more time.” Around a year after, he earned another role in Backbeat, playing none other than George Harrison of The Beatles. “[Backbeat] was exactly the same. We actually rehearsed in the same building as we did for Spring Awakening,” he recalls. “The idea of playing someone as huge as George Harrison was daunting, but once we got going, I had ridiculous fun.”
“I approach everything the same way. If you respond to a story and it evokes something in you, it doesn’t matter what medium it is.”
An agamist to only one outlet of acting, Jamie set out to do more. Already checking off theater at the start of his career, he went on to do a mélange of films and series. Playing a modern-day Icarus for BBC Switch’s six-part series Myths and flawless, bullying Matt in the sci-fi series Misfits in the same year as Spring Awakening, he later moved on to the adaptation of Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby novel series Midsomer Murders and to the aid of Inspector Morse in the ITV’s Endeavour.
On to the focal point of his resume: the independent film. Before setting foot on an indie set, he landed a small role as a footballer on a bigger set and found himself facing household names Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell in the British film noir London Boulevard. “I didn’t really work on the movie for that long,” he tells of his experience onset, “but I remember being so shocked at how kind [Colin] was. I was so scared to meet him, but he turned out to be a really nice guy.” What cemented Jamie’s deliberate affinity to the indie film was his role in Vinyl, a 2012 British comedy based on lead singer Mike Peters of the alternative rock/new wave band The Alarm. “[Taking on the film], I just had a gut instinct–that’s the only way to explain it. After reading the script, my agent asked me if I wanted to do this film and I said yes immediately. I didn’t even meet our director Sara [Sugarman] until our first day of shooting.”
Awhile after, Jamie found himself roaming the streets of Italy as a free-spirited boy, stealing the heart of a beautiful married woman played by Kate Bosworth in And While We Were Here, directed by Kat Coiro. “My agent represented Kate and had this film set up with Kat. They were looking for the male lead, so I self-taped myself as an audition, and later had a Skype conversation with Kate and Kat, and that was it.” Plying the role of charming, overconfident Caleb proved to be struggle, but he soldiered on while delivering an amazing performance. “Kat was a huge help in playing this role,” he says. “She just reminded me to keep the energy up the whole time. She is an amazing director and a great friend.” Stealing long shots à la Before Sunrise in beautifully lit scenes with the aid of cinematographer Doug Chamberlain, Jamie made his debut as a steadily rising newcomer.
“The best part of shooting is when the nerves cool off and all there is to do is to act.”
Following his romancing persona came Jack of We Are the Freaks, an anti-teen film by Justin Edgar. Leading a band of friendly misfits, the film illustrates a young pack of stray teens not having the time of their lives, for a change. Surreal and anarchic at times, the brilliant plot gave no way to clichés–an anthem to lost teenagers with absolutely no answers, which Jamie slaughtered with idealistic foregrounding and an oath to adolescent angst. Straight out of the suburbs and onto the bohemian streets of London, Jamie carries the same freedom and minority as he slides to Chris Foggin’s first indie feature film Kids in Love, debut of Preston Thompson and Skin’s Sebastian de Souza as screenwriters, alongside Will Poulter, Alma Jodorowsky, and Cara Delevingne.
Despite earning the title of indie prince after his roster of underrated, should-be classics, the actor breaks out and ensues the role of the talented Chloë Grace Moretz’s love interest in R.J. Cutler’s widely anticipated adaptation of Gayle Forman’s novel If I Stay. Jamie slips on the guitar straps of Adam Wilde, taking the stage and melting hearts. “One challenge I wasn’t expecting was the music,” he shares on tackling the soon-to-be rockstar character. “I spent awhile working on it in London, and then we’d have band practices in Vancouver before shooting our big gig scenes. It was a huge challenge making that believable, so I hope it worked out. The scary thing about this is knowing how much people love the book and the characters. I just hope they love the film as much as they love the book.”
Engaged to the art, regardless of kind or form, Jamie pursues his passion for acting with his innate and natural talent again and again. On his acting philosophy, he tells us, “The best part of shooting is when the nerves cool off and all there is to do is to act. I’m just always hoping to stuff that I would love to watch if I wasn’t in it.” The main contender of all budding actors in this generation to come, Jamie Blackley provokes us to look on as he proves to be the zeitgeist of his craft.
Story by Janroe Cabiles
Photographed by Laura Cammarata
Styled by Erica Matthews
Hair Takuya Uchiyama
Makeup Julia Wilson