Jasmin Savoy Brown has spent the past few years making a new for herself in Hollywood. Armed with a multi-faceted skill set, unrelenting drive and a killer smile, she has continued to turn the heads of casting agents and fans alike. One of the brightest young talents on the scene, she is best known for her role as Evie Murphy on HBO’s critically acclaimed series,“The Leftovers.” For those unfamiliar with the project, the series takes place three years after a global event called the Sudden Departure, which caused the inexplicable disappearance of 140 million people (2% of the world’s population). Following that event, mainstream religions declined and a number of cults emerged with the Guilty Remnant being the most important. The story focuses primarily on the Garvey family (Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman). Jasmin’s Evie Murphy, a pivotal character in the series, is the teenage daughter of Erika (Regina King) and John’s (Kevin Carroll), who are the Garveys’ neighbors in Jarden, Texas.
In the summer of 2017, Jasmin hit the screen as a lead in TNT’s new drama “Will,” which tells the wild story of young Shakespeare’s arrival onto the punk-rock theater scene in 16th century London. It is described as a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s life, played to a modern soundtrack exposing his recklessness, lustful temptations and brilliance. Jasmin plays Emilia Bassano, the “Dark Lady” of Will’s sonnets. A musician, poet, writer and proto-feminist, Emilia is an exotic and strikingly beautiful young woman who becomes the first female professional English poet. The highly anticipated series is set to premiere July 10, 2017 on TNT.
Jasmin’s additional credits include Freeform’s “Stitchers,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” FOX’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and NBC’s “Grimm.” She recently appeared in the film “Lane 1974,” which premiered at SXSW March 11, 2017. She also played a supporting role in the Sundance hit film “Laggies.”
A true star on the rise, Jasmin Savoy Brown elevates the quality of every project in which she becomes involved. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up her discuss early years as an actor, the challenges she has faced along the way, her process for bringing her characters from script to screen and what we can expect from her latest projects.
How did you get involved with the arts early on in life?
I came out singing! [laughs] Ever since I was a little kind, I always knew I wanted to perform. My mom took me to a lot of musicals and always had music on in the house and my father is a musician. It’s in my blood for sure! I have always known I wanted to perform, so I started doing summer camps, theater camps and choirs from a very early age.
How about influences? Who had a big impact on you as an artist?
Growing up, my mom had us listening to a lot of gospel music and Christian rock, so that is what I first listened to as a kid. There is a group called the Katinas that I still love to this day for their music. I also loved Broadway. As a kid, I didn’t have much access to an education about that but I saw whatever musical came to town and I would be so inspired! I would fall in love with all of the actors who came and performed. So, that’s where it started with gospel and musical theater soundtracks.
Did anyone behind the scenes serve as a mentor?
At my church, our choir director was Mrs. Phelps. Since the time I was 4 years old, which is when I started doing musicals with the church, she saw something in me. She gave me big speaking parts and big solos when I was a little kid. She gave me the extra attention needed to really harness that energy, made sure I had opportunities and was validated. Even though I was so young, it’s something I remember to this day. My family, my Aunt Toni and Uncle Jim, were always super supportive! They made sure I had tickets to shows whenever they were in town. I had a lot of support emotionally from the people around me and I’m very grateful for that!
That is cool to see everyone rally around you and point you in the right direction.
Yeah! Especially in a town like Eugene or Springfield. It’s an artsy town but it’s not like New York City were all these kids want to be a star and have all this money. It’s more of a small town dreamer situation where people really supported that.
What was the first role you took on as an actress?
When I was around 8 years old, I did this educational video where I played a girl with a broken arm in a garage. [laughs] I just laid on a garage floor for probably three or four hours pretending to be passed out. I took it so seriously! [laughs] I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m a working professional actress now!” I think I made 50 bucks and my mom probably kept it! [laughs] That was a big moment because I loved it! Even though I was doing nothing, I really loved being on the set. It’s kind of a silly answer but it’s totally true! [laughs]
A career in the entertainment industry can be challenging. Where do you look for inspiration?
I study with a studio in Los Angeles and it really fuels my creative fire because it is a bunch of brilliant artists collaborating and challenging themselves to be better. That definitely helps when the industry is challenging or something feels unfair; it’s a safe haven. I also do a lot of reading, whether it is reading plays or different people’s success stories. Reading is so much different than watching. Watching a film lays everything out for you, which I love, but what I love about reading is that I get to interpret things the way I want to. That is really good for me as well.
“The Leftovers” is a big hit but many people are still discovering the series. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, tell us about your character and how you got involved with the project.
I play the character of Evie. Her and her family are introduced in the second season when the main family moves from their original hometown to a new town in Texas and we are their neighbors. I am Regina King’s daughter. When we first meet Evie and the Murphys it seems as if their family has it all together, loves each other and is respected in the community. Evie especially seems to have it together; she seems popular, happy and bright. At the end of the first episode, she goes missing and it rattles the entire town. That really sets the tone for the entire second season where they are looking for Evie and her friends who went missing. I won’t share too much more because there would be too many spoilers for people who haven’t seen it! Getting involved with the project was awesome. I was at the peak of my strugglefest in LA. I had just gotten an apartment with my best friend but I had lied to her about having money so that she would move here and move in with me. I had been couch surfing for a year! We moved in together and I was working graveyard shift at a diner, studying, doing a play and I was broke and tired. I really had no money left at all and wasn’t getting any sleep when “The Leftovers” came along. I read the audition sides and immediately fell in love! I never had such a strong reaction to a piece of text. I thought that even if I didn’t get it, the fact that I would be able to read for it was amazing in itself. There was a callback and then two weeks later a chemistry read where Jovan [Adepo] and I read together for the first time. Two or three weeks later, it took forever, we both booked it! I was on a plane the day after I booked it. Everything changed after that!
As you mentioned, the writing for “The Leftovers” is exceptional. What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?
That’s an interesting question. I would say that I brought a bit of deviance to the character. I feel that the way Evie was written was as genuinely happy, healthy and a lot of positive things but maybe it was because of where I was in my life but I felt a deviance there. I even had a bit of a disagreement with one of the directors on that. In the end, I will always stand up for my character and it serves the story well.
What did the other cast members bring out of you creatively?
I think they really brought out a creative freedom in me, specifically with Kevin Carroll. He became a mentor and coach, not only on set but in my life. We are still very close. He would be on set often and if he wasn’t shooting and if I felt stuck or something I would ask for his opinion. He really helped me to ground myself and to be in the moment, which allows me to be more creatively free. That is so much fun and really the only way I want to work now! It’s certainly harder but so much more rewarding!
You have another big project on the horizon with “Will.” How did you get involved there and what drew you to this unique series?
There are a couple of things that drew me to the project. First of all, I love Shakespeare! I was a fan and had done a few Shakespeare pieces in high school but I hadn’t really been able to dive in since then. Last year, I said, “You know what? I want to book all the jobs that travel!” I was in Australia for the summer shooting “The Leftovers” and then I saw this shoots in the UK! Entice me! [laughs] I love traveling; especially when it’s on someone else’s dime! [laughs] There was also the fact that Emilia Bassano, the character I’m playing, was a real person. She was amazing! Her text and her poems are available online. It was incredible to be able to draw from that and also walk where she walked and live where she lived! It gave me goosebumps! I also felt it would be a very challenging role, which it was! There were a lot of things that enticed me. Getting involved with the series was interesting. It all moved very fast last November. I think I had my first audition and left for the UK within 10 days!
What were the biggest challenges with this role?
The accent! The accent is so hard! I have had to do other accents in the past but I think doing any sort of English accent for Americans is very hard because we grew up doing it in a funny way and it is all wrong! [laughs] It came down to relearning the mouth sounds and positions, which was quite a challenge but also a lot of fun.
What can you tell us about your process for bringing this character to life?
I read her poems, several biographies and I did a lot of research online about her family and what life was like in London and Venice during that time. I also went to a few museums where some of her family have paintings. Her uncle, I believe, was a painter and had some paintings in a museum in London. Any sort of research like that, which could visually or emotionally stimulate me, provided a direct connection to her. I tried to saturate myself with everything I could, including music from that time period. I also do a lot of coaching with my coach here in LA. For Emilia, specifically, it took a lot of body work. I met with choreographers and we explored my body to help unlock her from within me. I like to spend a lot of time creating memories through memory work. Anything my character references in the text about their past, I will spend a lot of time creating those memories so that when I am on set, between the lines, I’m thinking not as myself but as that person. I also spend a lot of time exploring my voice and changing my register. She took a lot more back work than any other character I have played.
Your resume is diverse. What other roles do you have interest in exploring in the near future?
I am very, very lucky because as soon as I came off of “Will,” I said I wanted to do improv comedy and I’m on the Paramount lot right now shooting “Love,” so that was a goal that came true. I want to do more improv and I would like to do some sort of dark, indie drama. I want to do anything I haven’t done to stretch myself as an actress. My ultimate goal is to do Broadway! As I said, I grew up on Broadway musicals! In the short term, I definitely want to do more comedies for sure!
You’ve come a long way from playing the girl with the broken arm in the garage! When you look back, how have you evolved as an actor?
I would say that I have chilled out! I am mostly a chill person but when it comes to my work, I tend to be very high strung and stressed about getting it right. I think I have chilled out. That is something I learned from Kevin Carroll; to have fun and not worry so much! I still will catch myself, from time to time, freaking out and doing that but for the most part I have learned to relax and have more fun!
What are your biggest creative milestones as an artist?
One would come from high school. I played the role of Sylvia in the play “The Women.” I had been booking all of the ingenue roles and the girl in love roles. I wanted something that would challenge me and I asked for her. In a way, she is the antagonist. I was around 16 or 17 at the time. At that point in my life, it was the toughest role I had played and I got to delve into body work and voice work and change it all up completely. That really shaped and changed me, knowing that I had the ability to do that. I knew that I did in my mind but I had never been able to put it to practice, so that was a really big moment for me. In years past, I think a lot has come to me through study where failure is very much encouraged and it’s safe. We are practicing as actors and practicing to feel safe to fail anywhere on any set or any lot. That takes time and, right now, the place I feel most safe to do that is in study. The biggest milestones always happen there!
What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
I know it’s going to sound so cheesy but I think it all comes down to not giving up. I can’t tell you how many people laughed me off when I was younger and coming to LA. It was stupid stuff like not having straight hair so I can’t be beautiful. It was little things like that but I have always known what I wanted to do, so I would say, “Fine! Screw you! I don’t need to be around that negative energy.” I kept on going for it because I believe in myself. I think part of that comes from who is in your inner circle. I have great friends and we all keep each other humble and influence each other. My friends make me better and I think that is something that is really important!
Do you lend your voice to charitable organizations?
Yeah! There are a few actually. I really love the charity in Los Angeles called Peace Over Violence. They provide free support for victims of abuse and their goal is to create an abuse free community. They have hotlines, provide free counseling and services for survivors of abuse. For people who have been raped or battered, they provide free services to walk the person through the legal process of taking someone to court. The work being done at Peace Over Violence is really quite incredible! I have also just started contributing to Thorn (www.wearethorn.org) which fights against sex trafficking. That is something I have been passionate about since I was a kid because Interstate 5, which runs from the southern border to the northern border, is known for sex trafficking. As a kid growing up in Oregon, I remember hearing stories about different girls going missing or being found on I-5. That is something I want to get even more involved with in the next few years!
Thanks for your time today and I can’t wait to spread the word on all you have going on!
Thanks so much for talking to me! I appreciate it! Take care.
Follow the continuing adventures of Jasmin Savoy Brown on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Catch Jasmin on HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ when it airs Sundays at 9 PM. Check out the trailer for TNT’s ‘Will’ below and mark your calendar for it’s July 10th debut!