Jaz Deol; How turning down Drama School has led to an inspiring career
Interviewed by Sophia Papadopoulos
Actors Temple graduate Jaz Deol has been busy since his training. In recent years, between teaching privately and at The Actors Temple workshops, he has built up an impressive list of credits to add to his CV including The Halcyon, Viceroy’s House and even as a director with his short film ‘DOG’ - and now he has embarked upon a new challenge: Moliere’s Tartuffe. Not only a renowned dramatic comedy in its own right, this adaption boasts an exemplary cast, a modern day twist and last (but certainly not least) it is the West End’s first ever dual-language performance. Written by Academy, BAFTA and Olivier award winner Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, Atonement) and directed by Gerald Garutti (the former dramaturg of the French People’s National Theatre) this French-English adaptation sets to impress. I caught up with Jaz during his busy rehearsal schedule to discuss his new role and life since training.
Can you tell us a bit more about your upcoming play, Tartuffe, and your character Valere?
It’s a play about a very wealthy family who are hoodwinked by a mysterious character called Tartuffe. In our modern-day adaptation, the head of the family (Orgon) is a media mogul who has relocated to LA. Orgon is completely taken with Tartuffe, a radical American evangelist, and the play follows this journey of deceit as the rest of house deduce that he is a fraud. I play Valere, engaged to the daughter of the house, and our engagement is threatened by Tartuffe - everyone’s life is threatened by Tartuffe’s presence. We don’t know his motives but he is a very dangerous threat in the family household - the stakes are really high. The play has lasted since the 1600s so it is definitely dramatically interesting to do.
And what about the dual language aspect of the play - being the first of its kind?
The play is spoken half in English and half in French but with subtitles to translate the text. It’s really interesting because the scenes between characters who are not in the family - such as those with myself and Tartuffe - are all in English while all the scenes with the family are in French. It’s really exciting dramatically and it’s fun! I’ve been learning the language.
How is it working with such an exceptional cast and company?
The cast is phenomenal - everyone is on their A game. Some of the best French, British and International talent are in this company. I am very lucky in that I am understudying Paul Anderson (Peaky Blinders, The Revenant) who plays Tartuffe. Watching him do his thing is incredible; I’m getting a chance to learn and see his process and say: ‘Okay, how can I add that to my repertoire of tools’.
Can people learn something from this production that they might not expect?
It’s interesting that it’s set in LA - there are references to social media and there’s this idea of what you put up in front of the media versus behind closed doors. Also, it’s a comment on the power people can have when they wear a particular uniform (Tartuffe is a religious fanatic). It’s a powerful identity but it doesn’t give people the excuse to act how they like. Our production very much teaches this lesson of ‘don’t lie’ - the more you cheat yourself, the more you are going to suffer.
Do you have a pre-show routine to help with nerves?
Because I was so young, Tom Radcliffe (who was a pupil of Sanford Meisner and tutor at the Actors Temple) told me his routine and I still do it now. I get to the theatre early and settle. I separate from everyone and emotionally prepare. I need to sit on my own - it’s meditation for me. I then think: ‘how do I get to that mental space where I need to be in the performance’; it’s all about stakes - it won’t be dynamic without it.
When did you train with The Actors Temple?
When I was 20 I was auditioning for drama school and I got into LAMDA and Mountview. However, at that time I had just found out about The Actors Temple. I really wanted to meet the guy who had trained with Sanford Meisner so I went to an intro week and after that I was sold. I also figured out it made more sense for me financially so I made the bold move of declining my offers. I felt instinctively that if I trained here I would become the actor I wanted to be.
What did your training at The Actors Temple consist of?
It was a modular system at the time - I did eight modules and each built upon Meisner’s techniques such as Repetition and Relationships. I was there every day, every class, for hours and just working it, working it. And then suddenly there was this turning point in the Repetition exercise when you realise you can work off behaviour. I was there for a year and a half and then I realised it was time to take what I had learnt and put it into practise. It’s crazy to think about where I started and where I am now - it’s about having a bit of luck and not giving up.
How has The Actors Temple helped to prepare you for the industry and why should people train here?
Meisner is great as it puts the stakes high. It’s intense and it’ll make you grow, it’ll make you listen. And that has not changed for me - I am thankful to The Actors Temple for that. To not be afraid to look someone in the eye, be there for them, and go somewhere with them. And the text analysis is still the same, I still use those three questions - What’s happened to you, What’s literally happening, What do you want - I use them everyday and I have built upon those. In fact, I teach those now. Each question is so clever. I don’t think it should be the only form of training - be exposed to lots of different experiences - but The Actors Temple definitely teaches you how to listen and how to make the situation personal. It’s not easy, but it’s fun and it’s worth it. It’s been my only training and I think it will stay with me for a very long time.
When was your first ‘big break’?
My big break came in 2012 when I was cast in a play called ‘Snooker’ at The Bush Theatre which I was so lucky to get. I found it on Casting Call Pro (now Mandy) and I remember there was something about that year (2011) - I thought ‘I have to move my career forward’. I was ushering at the Royal Court Theatre, I had a showreel, I had an agent but not the opportunities I wanted. My friend then told me about ‘Snooker’ so I googled it and sent my details. I auditioned on the Thursday, got a recall, auditioned again Friday and then it was the longest weekend of my life before finally on Monday I found out I had got the job. A different agency came to watch, I signed with them and I’m still with the same agent now. We have a wonderful relationship - it really feels like we are building a career together and through him I got my American agent!
You have experience in a lot of different mediums - films, stage, television, radio - do you have a favourite and if so, why?
I do really love the camera because it give you the opportunity to catch the intimacy of the moment. Stage is awesome and it really opens you up - theatre isn’t necessarily realistic; it’s truthful but it’s not always realistic. You need to do it and it makes you better.
Do you have any advice for an aspiring actor?
There’s something to be said about loyalty - you have to commit. I really do believe in the universe - if something gets given to you then there’s a reason. For me I know why I’m doing this [Tartuffe] and it’s because it’s preparing me; I am learning a lot and I love it. It happens when you’re ready - Tartuffe is what I needed for now. Also, just always keep working. It’s a very self-aware art form. You have to know where you are at - have a routine and be open to change.
Can you describe Tartuffe in 3 words?
Passionate, Driven, Desperate
Tartuffe runs at Theatre Royal Haymarket from 25th May to 28th July 2018.
Jaz also teaches in audition technique at The Actors Temple so keep an eye out for his upcoming ‘Castings & Self Tapes’ workshop. For more info about Jaz' actors training, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.