(Images by Matthew Rettenmund)
I first met social-media sensation Jason Caceres when he was cast as Cuban-American hottie Chayce in the upcoming Boy Culture: The Series, and we became fast friends. That's easy to do — he's outgoing. self-aware and, in spite of being a millennial, knows a lot about what came before, and is interested in finding out about the stuff he doesn't know about.
His Instagram is growing like a weed, his career in equal measure.
He's currently appearing in the play Baby Eyes at the Atwater Village Theater in L.A., will be seen on Jim Carrey's Kidding, appears in the indie flicks Seven Boxes and Paper Tiger (both December), and just signed to appear in The Amazing Nurse George, a feature that films in November.
Catch up with this actor to watch via my nosy Q&A ...
Boy Culture: How did you hear about Boy Culture: The Series, and what was the audition process like from your perspective?
Jason Caceres: I heard about Boy Culture: The Series from a friend, actually. I was performing at Sacred Fools, which is a theater company in Hollywood, California, in a play called Instagay. One of my castmates tagged me in a post on Facebook. I went to go see what it was about and saw that it was a casting notice for Boy Culture. I saw that they were looking for a boy who could portray early twenties, ethnically diverse and would be comfortable portraying a go-go dancer. I considered it for maybe two or three days and then reached out to the casting director and asked if I could audition.
BC: Had you ever heard of my novel or the movie before you read for Chayce?
JC: I had not heard of the novel but I had heard of the movie. In fact, I remember watching the movie when I was a teenager. As a young gay man, I was starving for LGBT content. I never saw characters similar to myself being portrayed on television. And if I did, they were some warped caricature version of what mainstream media though “gay” was supposed to be. So I would actively seek out any gay content and binge them under the covers of my blanket at midnight in my room. Boy Culture, as well as all the Eating Out movies and Queer as Folk were among those after hours guilty pleasures.
BC: What generally attracts you to a role?
JC: Money. No, but seriously speaking, anything that scares me. I once had a teacher tell me that if something frightens me, then that is the perfect reason to do it. Anything that pushes me outside of my comfort zone and encourages me to explore aspects of my personality that I am not normally in touch with greatly attracts my attention. I mean, it’s the reason I became an actor: to be able to, legally, live out my darkest fantasies in a safe environment. That makes me sound twisted, but it’s the truth.
BC: Some actors are uptight about showing skin early in their career — what's your approach to it?
I think we’re living in a much different time nowadays than we were before. We’re much more transparent now and we’re living in a culture of body positivity that has never been seen before. We are all human and, to some extent, we all have the same parts. I feel that shame is one the most useless emotions, especially as an actor. This is not saying that I’m willing to bare it all
, but the human body is a beautiful thing. I find it silly that we feel the need to hide aspects of ourselves because society deems it taboo.
BC: Similarly, some actors avoid playing gay roles, especially if they are gay. You have played gay characters often. Is it homophobic to avoid gay roles, even for "career" purposes?
I don’t think it’s homophobic to avoid gay characters. I think that, even today, it is a smart career move to avoid certain “flamboyant,” for lack of a better word, roles. We still live in a society where a gay man can’t be seen playing Superman. For me, personally, to avoid gay roles because I feel it would hinder my career would be attaching a negative connotation to being gay. Almost as if, if I turn down a gay role because I don’t want to be seen that way, I’m denying or degrading an aspect of who I am. But I would never judge another actor for doing what they feel they need to do professionally.
That makes me sound twisted, but it’s the truth. — Jason Caceres
BC: Where do you stand on non-gay actors in gay roles? It's a huge flashpoint for trans/cis actors playing each other, but have opportunities for gay actors made it less controversial for straight people to play gay or bi?
This is a really difficult question to answer. Of course, I would love to see gay roles being played by gay actors. However, “gayness” is not always something visible like race, ethnicity, gender, or even gender identity. So, even if a “straight” actor is hired to play “gay,” there’s never a 100% assurance that said actor actually is straight. However, I am a strong proponent of the role going to the best actor. The best way to tell a truthful story is to hire the best talent available. I guess, what I’m saying is: Yes. The increase in opportunities for gay actors have made it less controversial for “straight” actors to play within the entire spectrum of sexuality.
BC: How did you get started acting — and do you remember your first-ever experience with it? How about your first professional experience with it? I know there is a Steve Grand story in there.
Steve gave me my very first acting job ever after moving to Los Angeles. But more about that in a bit. I started acting in the third grade. I was a very shy, introverted child. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Valpuesta was her name, spoke to my mom and suggested acting classes to bring me out of my shell. And I guess it took. I started acting in local community theater back home in Miami, Florida. I was made head of skits in Boy Scouts troupe. Yes, I was a Boy Scout. Then, in college, I majored in Theater at Florida International University.
After graduation, it was either New York or Los Angeles. I went to New York first and studied at the New York Film Academy for a bit, but honestly, I grew up in Florida where it was hot year round. I could not survive in New York during the winter. So, naturally, Los Angeles was the next option.
Two months after moving out here, I saw a post for a music video that needed someone to play the younger version of this hot new gay singer. I did not know who he was at the time, but I thought we looked similar enough that I could pull off being a 15-year-old Steve Grand. I submitted my picture and was almost instantly approved. The rest is history. My first acting job was playing the young Steve in his music video for “Back to California.” I could not have been happier. He is such a giant teddy bear. He gave me some really good advice (which shall remain confidential) about the industry. I cannot thank him enough.
BC: Are you generally cool and calm for auditions or frantic when you're auditioning?
It depends on the audition. Some auditions I’m a nervous wreck and some auditions I’m as cool as a cucumber. Do people still say that? It’s funny because the more unlike the character I am, the more comfortable I am auditioning for the role because it’s just pretend. I get to live in someone else’s skin for a bit. But, if I am too similar to the character, I become really nervous. It’s very exposing.
BC: What's your favorite role you've ever played, and is there a classic role you'd love to play? Or even just a type of role you've always wanted to play?
My favorite role I’ve ever played is actually Chayce in Boy Culture
. I love this character. He is unashamed, brash, sexy, confident — everything I would love to be on a daily basis. He is layered in so many ways. I’ve also always secretly wanted to play a stripper. I think it’s a fantasy that lies in most performers. It’s a way to explore our sensual side with an excuse attached. “It’s not real. I’m just acting.”
I've never delved into my dark side. — Jason Caceres
As far as a dream role, I’ve always wanted to play a sort of demented, psycho serial killer. Norman Bates in Bates Motel is almost a goal for me. I’ve never delved into my dark side like that before and I think that could be interesting.
BC: You can still play way younger than your age; is this a big plus for you?
It is and it isn’t. Before Chayce, I was playing a lot of 16-year-old, shy high-schoolers. Most recently, I recurred on a series called Turnt
for Facebook Watch, which was Facebook’s first scripted series. And lo and behold, I played a jittery high school sophomore who was nervous in sexual situations. I’m open to those roles as well, but it’s nice to play older. Professionally, it’s great because it translates into career longevity, but that just means the offers come in a bit slower since there aren’t many roles for teenagers on network television.
BC: How supportive has your family been of your career?
I literally have the best family in the world. They have been supportive from day one. They helped me move and bought me all of my bedroom furniture. They have flown out to see some of my stage plays. I could not ask for a better support system.
BC: You're very active on social media. Is social media a separate, part-time job? Is it possible to be a young actor and ignore it? Do you enjoy figuring it out and excelling at it, or is it a drag at times?
Social media is definitely a separate, part-time job and it is impossible to ignore, in my opinion. The entertainment industry right now is oversaturated with young aspiring actors. It is important to put yourself out there to as many mediums as possible. It’s almost like free advertising for your business. I resisted it at first but I have come to enjoy it greatly. I get to show a side of myself online that I don’t get to play on television or onstage sometimes. It also fills my downtime in-between projects. That way I feel like I’m always working.
BC: With this never-ending thirst for new pics and info from social media, are there things you keep to yourself?
Absolutely. It’s impossible to show every aspect of your life online. Unless you’re a Kardashian, I guess. But, ye, I keep a few things to myself locked away in a secret file on my laptop.
BC: You're political on social media — is it important to you to be outspoken?
JC: We live in volatile times. It's important to pick and choose your battles, of course, but I get a sense that other men my age are incredibly politically active. Many of my friends regularly attend marches and protests and express their opinions online. I can't speak to whether they show up to vote, but I cannot stress enough the importance of voting. Our lives depend on it. There is such a lack of gay history education in our schools. I didn't learn about Stonewall until I was 19 and in college.
It’s not a lack of interest that the younger generations are exhibiting. It’s a lack of education. We’re not taught any LGBT history in school, at all. And that needs to change for our community’s sake.
BC: I know you worked with Brenda Strong (how was that show?) — how does stage work compare to shooting for TV and movies? Do you have a preference?
Brenda!!! She is a treasure. So much talent and compassion in one woman. She knows how to command a stage! We were in a reworked version of he classic Greek comedy Lysistrata
called Lysistrata: Unbound
written by Eduardo Machado and directed by Brenda’s talented husband John Farmanesh-Bocca. That production was so demanding. I came out of it a better actor, for sure.
Stage is so much different than TV and film. In TV and film, you get to do the same scene over and over again until the director is happy with the take and then it’s done forever and you move on to the next shot. You can’t do that with stage. It requires all of your commitment and energy for the duration of the show and then for as long as the show runs. And the audience is there in the room with you. They can tell when you’re not “in it.”
He’s gotta know what he has ... meaning me. — Jason Caceres
I grew up doing and studying theater. The theater will always be my home. Nothing can compare to the feeling of stepping out in front of an audience and having those first lights hit you. The anticipation builds, the play climaxes, and you get the reaction of the live audience to play off of. It’s magic. However, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. I’m eager to develop that side of my craft as time goes on.
BC: Are you single? What kind of guy would help end that if the answer is yes?
I am not single. But I will tell you what kind of guy I’m attracted to: Ambitious, confident, and a killer smile. Nice arms help, too. That aside, I don’t have a type. As long as you have some sort of goal and are actively working towards achieving that, then I’m good. Oh, and of course he’s gotta know what he has ... meaning me.