Spotlight, we interviewed Actress Jaheyla Jones on what it means to “ACT”
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Earlier this week we sat down with actress and producer Jaheyla Jones to talk about what it means to be an actor. She talked at great length about how it changed her and what she learned about herself along the way.
“There’s a huge misconception that acting is just playing pretend. I think it’s easy to think this way. There is a lot of learning, understanding, compassion, and above all self reflection, that goes into playing a part.” Jone’s explains.
Jone’s talked about the sheer amount of self knowledge and awareness that goes into “pretending” to be someone else. Making a character authentic requires a profound understanding of who you are as a person, what makes you similar or different to the character, and what makes them unique. It’s that interpretation that captures the character, their story, and their voice.
“It’s kind of like when you get to know a new friend and they end up teaching you new things.” Jones goes on to say.
Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
Did a role ever change the way you see yourself?
I don’t think it was a specific role that caused me to change the way I see myself. However, I do think playing roles like in The Millennial Sketch Show helped me feel more comfortable exploring things like gender presentation. As a cisgender black woman, most people expect me to live within a set of feminine expectations. I was never one that felt comfortable with the binary and was always willing to play with the idea of gender. However, once I started acting I started feeling more confident dressing differently, embracing masculine looks, and truly playing with my gender expression.
Why choose this job over anything else?
There are few jobs that allow you to celebrate that which makes you different. There is something about acting that helps you to accept and love your quirks. You play characters that are loved because they are weird, nerdy, and goofy. In a weird way to allow you to love yourself for those very same reasons.
You produce, write, and act, how do you feel being a one woman team?
I do tend to be the kind of person that likes to do things on their own. I know I’m not the only one who always did the work in group projects. It really came down to the idea that I can only trust myself to get things done. I have a hard time letting go of that control.
However, acting requires you to learn how to play well on a team. Even though I love doing things on my own I’ve realized that I’m not just a “one woman team”. Relying on others skills has made my work shine so much better. No project can come alive with just an actor. You need directors, producers, cinematographers, etc. I’ve learned that I can let control go and trust others to do their job. That’s one of the reasons I started Blaqq Productions; I wanted to work with other amazing artists and creatives.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during your tenure as an actress?
Oof, well there are a lot of super important things I’ve learned, like how to get rid of fake blood stains or how to survive long work days. But I would say that acting is a really bleak field at times and it’s definitely taught me to value my self worth as an artist.
It’s very easy to just take whatever jobs float your way. In my time acting I’ve learned that I need to be careful where I put my energy. Especially as a woman of color, I don’t want to tell stories that encourage stereotypes or serve the white male gaze. I’m not going to sacrifice my values and creativity to fit into certain roles. My artistry is unique and has value.
Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash
Acting, as seen through Jones, is a series of steps towards self reflection and self knowledge. There is a lot of power, compassion, and self worth that goes into the creation of characters and stories.
“Acting might seem like a superficial job, but when taken seriously, it’s not. It’s something beautiful and profound” Jones comments.