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

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