Jay Huguley is an incredibly prolific actor who has been featured in multiple television shows and films over the last handful of years. Though he is not a household name, his recognizable face and acting abilities leaves him a perfect opening for becoming a leading man staple in the industry. You may recognize him as Whit in Brothers & Sisters or as Doctor Mark in the action classic, Alias. He stars as ‘Sheriff’ in the critically acclaimed film ’12 Years a Slave’ alongside Brad Pitt.
The currently airing serialized drama ‘Treme’ is penned by The Wire mastermind David Simon. The show is currently slated to conclude with its fifth season this December. Jay Huguley acts as the intense Will Branson in a recurring role. Huguley has popped up in key roles on Nashville, Medium, and Cold Case throughout the years. His recent move to film may only be temporary, as he seems to juggle the two mediums very well.
I spoke with the actor about his acclaimed roles in a few series, and how fantastic and highly respected television series are changing the way we look at the medium as a whole.
You got your initial start in modeling? What have you taken away from these experiences and applied to the massive Hollywood industry?
I think the only thing that the modeling industry has in common with a career as an actor is that they are both incredibly collaborative and the hours are very long. First and foremost, you have to be someone people want to work with. A great work ethic goes a long way. Show up prepared and on time and work hard.
You have a track record that involves a lot of really critically respected projects? Do you have a certain strategy or approach when going after roles?
As an actor, what I respond to is a well written interesting character. I feel like I’ve won the lottery getting to work with people who do that really well. I’ve been acting a long time and I wish there was some sort of formula for getting to work with great, smart people but I think a lot of it is luck.
’12 Years a Slave’ is absolutely wonderful. It just has such a huge heart without being overly sentimental. Can you give us a little insight into how that project was on set?
There was actually a lot of joy on the set. I think there had to be. Steve McQueen sets a tone where actors are not afraid to fail and that’s an incredible thing. The film deals with the darkest part of American History, but to me it’s about love. It’s about staying alive and keeping yourself of sound mind so that you can get home to the people that you love.
Do you ever take a break?
I live in California, so it’s pretty easy to take little breaks. I hike in the hills every morning, I’m in the ocean pretty regularly and I go away for weekends as much as I can. Santa Barbara is close and Desert Hot Springs is a quick trip. The greatest thing about Los Angeles is that you don’t have to go far to feel very far away.
I know you were not involved with the series Breaking Bad, but I see a lot of commonalities between that series and the work on Treme. Breaking Bad was so brilliant in just about every way, as if everyone was giving it their absolute all behind the cameras and in front. Is there a certain camaraderie, professionalism, and creative energy going on Treme that makes it such a brilliant series?
Absolutely, The ‘Treme’ set is full of smart people with their sleeves rolled up, committed to telling a great story. As an actor you were never worried about making a mistake because they liked mistakes. It’s a story about real people. I wanted to work with David Simon so badly so every day I had on that set could have been twice as long. I’ve said it before, but I would stop anything I was doing to work with David Simon again.
Do you think we are in a golden age of television?
I think there are shows on now that could go up against the best films of our time. Breaking Bad is certainly one of them. I also think we have the worst television of all time right now. So there’s both, strangely. I grew during a pretty great time for TV, with character driven shows like MASH, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore. We certainly have more television than we have ever had. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for my childhood, but I miss the days of Norman Lear.
How do you see streaming and on-demand services changing the film and TV industry? Do these changes affect how you look at and maybe accept roles?
No, but I’m a luddite. I don’t do much streaming or on-demand. I get the newspaper delivered every morning and I read big fat hardcover books on airplanes, so I’m basically Charles Ingalls. I may not be the person to ask.
*Photo Credit: Kristine Ambrose