Julia Jones has taken her lifelong dream and turned it into a promising career by being a dedicated and ambitious hard worker. While attending Columbia University in New York City, the actress took the action needed to fulfill her aspirations, which has led her down the path she molds to this day. After speaking with Julia, I was left with feelings of ambition and hope. Her empire state of mind convinced her to set her goals and cease all obstacles that come her way, until she made it. And she did.
I know you’ve been acting since you were very young, what inspired you to continue acting after childhood or even after you went to college?
I am one of those people who just fell in love with acting when I was little. I was eight and playing Michael Darling in Peter Pan. I then went to college and in the back of my mind still thought I would get into acting Downtown and do theater while I went to school in New York. Then I fell into modeling and that became my college experience. Balancing modeling and travelling with my course load and it was actually through modeling in a way that I found my way back to acting. I wasn’t fulfilled when I was modeling and going to school because I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t doing it. Those were really fun and exciting years and I was learning a ton but I just fell off course a bit. There was an acting coach, I still work with her she’s amazing, her name is Susan Batson, and at the time a lot of models were working with her. She was recommended to me by another model and I just walked right into her studio one day and took her class. Afterwards she really pushed me to get back into acting. She just said, ‘You know, if this is what you want to do, you should do it. Just do it.’ And so, I woke up at five in the morning the next week and did a mailing with my headshot and resume to acting agencies in New York. I got an acting agent from that and then did my first film a couple months later. Ultimately very proactive, but a little accidental also.
I read you went to Columbia and earned a degree in English. Why did you choose Columbia and why did you choose to major in English?
Well I chose Columbia because it’s in New York. My parents are both professionals and they didn’t take to my acting ambitions when I was younger. I think they were partially hoping that I would grow out of it and do something more serious. Which is why I wound up at Columbia because it was an acceptable school for them and it was in New York for me. So I had these sort of secret dreams of starting my acting career when I was in college. Which wound up happening, but not in the way that I was planning. That’s why I chose Columbia because it’s in New York and I figured I could act while I was there. And then the English major I chose because- well I don’t think I would do this differently, although I wouldn’t recommend this to other people trying to figure out what to major in. I chose English because I didn’t have to go to class. It just involved reading and writing papers which I could do anywhere. On trains or planes or in makeup chairs, anywhere. And I also went so far as to choose classes that were taught by professors who were more interested in their studies or their books than their teaching, so they never took attendance. That’s the truth. But, what wound up happening was I use my English degree as an actor, constantly. Because you’re really just reading scripts and analyzing, that’s what you’re doing as an actor. And as an English major you're reading books and analyzing. So again, I sort of upwardly failed my way in doing something that was helpful to me. And also I was a real bookworm as a kid, I actually did more reading. That was my escape and my safe place and reading has just been a huge part of my understanding of the world and who I am and all that. I’m still like that, I’m a closet nerd big time. It’s also because Columbia didn’t have a theater department. That’s why I didn’t major in theater, I probably would've done that, but they didn’t have one.
When you were cast as Leah Clearwater in Twilight, what was it like? Was it a long process? How did you feel when you finally got the part?
I remember getting the call for the audition for that role and when they were telling me about it I had a visual reaction. It almost felt like things started to shift in that moment. Then I just became completely obsessed with those books from that phone call. Until my first audition, I hadn't read them. So I just read them all. Then I had a first audition and I went back a bit later to read for the director and the producers. At that point I had focused so much on this character and getting to know that world, that I hadn’t really paid as much attention to the words as much as I should’ve. I remember reading at that audition and realizing, ‘Oh, I paraphrased the entire scene. I didn’t say the words on the page.’ I was in character but I didn’t do the audition and I was mortified. Then, this is the crazy part, after that second audition for the director I was getting on an airplane and as I was boarding the plane, the man in front of me looked really familiar. I realized it was the director that I had read for yesterday for Twilight. I was super nervous and for whatever reason I tapped him on the shoulder and I said, ‘Hi, I’m Julia. I read for you yesterday, for Twilight.’ And he looked at me like he had no idea who I was and it was very awkward and I felt like such an idiot. Then I boarded the plane listening to them, he was with someone, and they were discussing my audition. I was listening to them discuss my audition and I just was like, ‘I can’t believe I did that.’ So, halfway through the flight I was reading and I had a window seat and I hear, ‘Excuse me, no, the other girl, that girl,” and I looked up and it was the director. He had walked to where I was sitting and he said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that you did a great job and there’s a lot of things that have to happen between now and casting, but fingers crossed.’ The weirdest thing was we were on a flight to Vancouver, which is where we wound up filming the movies. So I landed in Vancouver and I had that feeling again like, ‘Woah. Something’s shifting.’ Then it was like another month because they had to audition so many people and I didn’t hear anything. Oh, that’s the other thing he said was, ‘Just remember no news is exactly that. It’s no news. It’s not bad news.’ Which is something that I think about still when I’m waiting to hear about things or something doesn’t work out not knowing. So a month later, I got the call that I had gotten the role and then it was another month before I could tell anybody. So there was a month of knowing that, feeling energetically like everything just completely changed. Not being able to tell my friends felt like I had this double life because I was taking meetings and doing stuff related to Twilight but I had to lie to people about where I was going. It was really crazy. Very surreal, the whole experience.
Your new film, Cold Pursuit, is coming out this month, congratulations. What can you tell me about that, your character and what filming was like?
Thank you! I had the best time making this film. My favorite part about the experience of filming it is just the comedy of it. It’s a dark comedy and it’s very dramatic. I mean it’s action thriller and so there’s a lot of drama of people dying and high stakes. It was really fun to be something different. To play in this new genre that I didn’t understand in the beginning, I had to sort of learn that. It was a challenge to incorporate the dramanistics of my character with this brand of humor that was very new to me. I had a lot of fun being challenged because there was super talented, wonderful people and I really had the best time.
Do you prefer playing more challenging roles?
Yes. If I had to pick one thing that was important to me about the roles that I choose or that I would want, it is a challenge. I think when you’re challenged, you’re always learning. And so no matter what happens, no matter whether if the movie does well or doesn’t do well, you gain so much from the experience because you were challenged and you pushed yourself and you had to do things that you hadn't done before. So you come out of it bigger and better and with more knowledge and more information and more confidence.
Are there any different types of roles that you want to play in the future that you haven't played before?
Absolutely, so many. I actually would like to do an action movie but where I have part of the action! I was a dancer and I actually like the choreography of fighting and of planning the sequences. I also, I find that it’s really important to work with people you respect and that you can learn from. It’s hard to say specifically, it would all depend on those things. Those are the first things.
I’m a dancer too, so that’s really cool. What type of dance did you do?
I started taking ballet when I was four or five and I did that for probably about ten years. Then I got too tall and grew boobs, so I segwayed into jazz and modern. Then shortly after segwaying into jazz and modern, I started acting a lot more. So I sort of had to choose between dancing and acting and I chose to be serious about acting. But I still did take dance classes when I was in college in New York, which was fun.
Do you sing? Would you do a musical?
No! I don’t sing at all, at all! It’s pretty sad actually because if I did, yeah I think I would probably love to do musicals. I wish I could sing. That’s one of my shortlist of wishes, and I’ll tell you a story about that. I took voice lessons when I was younger. I was taking private voice lessons with this woman and I was learning this German, cassical, old-school song. And we had a recital and I was singing this song that was way out of my range. It was pretty horrible and in case I was wondering how it was going, I looked into the audience and my grandfather was in the back of the theater. He’s an opera fan, he loves opera, and he’s just sitting there and he was slowly shaking his head. I think that’s when I stopped singing and gave up on that.
Do you write or direct? Would you eventually want to do either of those?
Yes. That’s such an interesting area. I do write and I have been writing and I’ve written something and I would love to get it made. Honestly I haven't felt like I've been drawn to directing so far. However, I just recently had an experience with a director and I could sort of relate to her and what she was doing and it broadened my mind a little bit. I think that experience made me think, ‘Well maybe I can do that,’ so I don't know. You know, I was talking about challenges and how important challenges are, I stand by that. I wouldn't be surprised if I continued to be drawn to directing. It’s sort of the ultimate challenge, I think.
Is there any advice you’ve been given that has stuck with you?
Yes, for sure. I think the best advice I’ve probably ever gotten relates to life as well as acting. It is to trust your instincts. And that is a challenge because often times there are a lot of factors that are conspiring to pull you into different directions. At the end of the day- this is another quote that I think about sometimes and I can’t remember where it’s from but I read it in college- it is, ‘The secret to life is everyone is everything.’ I think it just means we know were all connected and there is such a thing as truth, even though it’s really hard to find sometimes. If you can listen to that and find that, it can be all everyone does everyday, I think that’s true.
Are you working on anything new right now?
I am. I’m working on two things and I’m really excited about both of them but I can’t talk about them yet. I don’t have permission. I think one of them is coming out this year and will probably be talked about within the next couple of months. The other one I think is going to come out early next year and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to talk about that one. But pretty soon, maybe even any day. I don’t know. I never know. But that’s the thing about being an actor is I sometimes feel like I have a double life. You’re working on things and it’s your whole life, it’s your waking hour and you're really involved and invested in it. But sometimes that process doesn’t coincide with being able to talk about it. So this is like the Twilight thing and that can be surreal.
Do you take your own experiences and use them in your acting or do you try to make things up and use your imagination?
Both. Everybody has such a different process and that’s one of the most fascinating things about acting to me. What works for one person, doesn’t work for the other. Your constantly adding to the list of things that work for you and learning about the things that don’t. I think we are drawn to things that resonate with us. They resonate with us often because we have had an experience that is in the world of the story that you’re telling, the film you're making or the play, the show, whatever it is, your character’s story. I certainly learned about things that I’ve experienced through my work. That’s part of the process in a way even though, often times I think it’s subconscious. I think that those are things that are hard to seperate, yourself and your experiences from your choices and your work. People just make that connection and mirror it in different ways.
Did you start out doing theater and would you ever go back to?
I did start out doing theater. I would say that thater is my first love. I have gone back to it and it was a wonderful experience. I would love to go back to it. I would love to, ideally, always go back to it periodically. But with theater, it’s extremely immersive and it has to just be the right thing and the right time and all these factors. The reality is that I don't have a theatre career. I just get a lot more opportunities to be involved in films and television shows at this point. But yes I love the theater. I’m actually on the board of a theater company in New York that was started by a friend of mine from High School called Colt Coeur. That has been a really grounding part of my life and career, what this theater company is about. We produce new works by emerging artists. Lot’s of times, women and minorities and it reminds me about one of the main reasons why I became an actor and why I love doing it. There’s no bullshit around it, we’re just creating stuff. It’s super simple, we’re creating stuff that we think is important and that we want to share.
What do you hope you’re films tell the world? What do you want to tell everybody?
I don’t think there’s one thing or five things or ten things. I think you want your films to touch people and to resonate with people and to make people think and to make people understand each other. To love more, to be more compassionate and to open people's minds up, just to connect us all a bit more. And to be entertained!
Photographed by Ana Eiriksson.
Styled by Sami Martin Sarmiento.
Hair by Chad Wood using Redkin at The Wall Group.
Makeup by Beau Nelson using Chanel at The Wall Group.
Produced by BJ Panda Bear.