Get Down On It
Jaden Smith tells us about life as an actor and playing a sexually curious character on Netflix’s
FOR A FAMOUS 18-YEAR-OLD, Jaden Smith is unusually polite and grounded. God knows we have seen our share of Hollywood child actors gone ugly. Smith (yes, he calls Will Smith “dad”) is also unexpectedly energetic, contrary to the laid-back poses he often strikes in photoshoots. Chatting with me in Tokyo, Japan, the young actor speaks about The Get Down with so much passion, it would be easy to mistake him for the show’s creator.
What drew you to the role of Dizzee on The Get Down?
I was hooked from the very moment Baz (Luhrmann) explained the role to me. He called one day and said he wanted me for a specific role, and went on to tell me about how the character was different and would eventually take an interesting twist somewhere along the first season.
I just thought it was a fantastic opportunity and was really grateful that Baz was thinking of me for this role. I told him, “Yeah, I absolutely want to do it”. After that, we went to Queens to rehearse for about two months before shooting, and after what seems like a complete blur, we’re here to promote the show. It’s been a pretty incredible ride.
What was the preparation for the actors like?
We were put through a two-month boot camp with Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and Lady Pink to learn all kinds of things that we’d need to do for the show. I’d say the preparation was pretty tough, but we enjoyed most of it.
One of the first things we had to learn was speaking with a Bronx accent like “Na’ mean?” (Do you know what I mean?). We also learnt about breakdancing, disco, graffiti, hip hop, rapping and even voguing ‒ all types of things you wouldn’t normally do. It was a huge boot camp and we’re definitely going to have to go through it all over again before we’re ready to film some more.
What were your thoughts about playing a sexually curious character?
When I was told about about it I thought, “Wow! This is definitely not a good idea. We should not do this”. That was a personal reaction. But then I gave it some thought. My dad played a queer con man in Six Degrees of Separation, and if The Big Man (what I call my dad) did it, then I have to do it. So I spoke to Baz about it. We discussed what it would all entail, and I ended up feeling like it was something I wanted to get onboard with.
What was it like working with Baz Luhrmann?
He is just a phenomenal guy. I love Baz because of how poetic he can be with his craft. To me, he’s the Shakespeare of film-making, because if you think about it, The Get Down is really just a huge play. You can see just how creative he is through the visuals he puts forth in the TV series.
What makes The Get Down stand out from other throwback TV series?
I think it has to be the multi-cultural cast, people like Jimmy Smits, Giancarlo Esposito, Kevin Corrigan and Justice Smith. I feel like
The Get Down manages to stand out because it is able to capture so many different cultures in one TV series, including African-American, Latin and Caucasian cultures.
We even have so many different races working behind the scenes for the show, like in the writing rooms and on the set, so it’s easy to see why The Get Down is hitting the spot with people around the world. The show is basically telling the story of many of their parents and grandparents.
What was it like working with such a young cast?
It was great. If you’ve watched the movies I’ve been in, you know that I almost never get to work with many people my age. I’ve worked