John Gallagher Jr. is one of the most exceptional, humble, and sensational actors of our time, and you’ve probably never even heard of him. Hopefully, that’s all about to change. Gallagher isn’t just a one-stop shop for talent; his skills range from Broadway, to film, to music, and beyond. His boyish charm and gritty roles set him apart from other young actors working today. His attention to detail and ability to attack any role he takes on and make it completely original is astounding. His most notable work, Jim Harper on THE NEWSROOM is by far his best yet. From the first episode I (and I’m sure many others) wanted to know anything and everything about Jim.
There are many moments throughout the shows run where I though Gallagher shines, but there was one scene during the shows freshman season where I was completely in awe. It’s a small scene; Maggie (Alison Pill) is standing outside of a restaurant when she see’s a SEX AND THE CITY tour bus stopped out front. She shouts a couple things up at the bus until an embarrassed and confused Jim stands up from his seat. I adore that scene for a number of reasons but the main one being, we weren’t supposed to fall for this character. He’s dating Maggie’s best friend, Lisa (Kelen Coleman) and has secretly fallen for Maggie. In that moment I didn’t care who he was with, who’s heart he was about to break, all I thought was “I hope this character gets his happy ending.”
In Short Term 12 he gave the kids the perfect blend of tough caretaker and compassionate father figure. Gallagher’s work opposite Brie Larson in that film was breathtaking and something more people should be aware of.
In his latest venture, he’s tackling music. He’s performed on Broadway stages in the past and now hopes to show us a new side to him. Music is a big part of his life and a big part of how he was raised. It’s safe to say his album will be a true testament to the spectacular artist he is.
I caught up with the gifted actor about his work on the acclaimed indie film, Short Term 12, the final season of the THE NEWSROOM, and what’s next with his music career.
Short Term 12 was so fantastic. How was that whole experience for you?
John Gallagher Jr.: That was great, it was really quite magical. There were kind of these rare occurrences where everything came together in this wonderful, organic perfect fashion, and that was one from beginning to end. From the second I got sent the script I knew that it was a special story. Then once I met Desten (Cretton) who wrote and directed the film I knew we had someone really professional, talented, a bit of a visionary, and kind soul who would be taking us through the story. We had a great time filming it, despite the fact that the film focuses on a lot of really heavy subject matter and investigates some pretty dark corners of humanity. Filming it was like going to a playground everyday, the set was just a really wonderful place to be and everyone had a really wonderful time. Everybody was there to teach each other and learn from each other. The kid actors in that movie that were thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, blew my mind. I remember thinking “Oh my gosh, I would like to take some acting lessons from these kids.” They were so natural and talented, that was such a joy. You make these kinds of movies and you really don’t know what’s going to happen or where they’re going to go and the fact that we got such love and warm reception at SXSW was such a joy.
You and Brie (Larson) had such great chemistry in the film, when did you guys discover that connection? Was it during your auditions or read- through?
I was aware of Brie; I thought she was a great and wonderful actress. We didn’t meet until right around the time when the movie got cast. I live in New York and the movie was shot in LA and when I got out to Los Angles we only had about a day or two to prep before we started shooting because it was a pretty short schedule. I went out to dinner with Brie and Destin, Destin dropped off an envelope at the apartment I was renting while we shot and it had a bunch of cards and notepaper that he had written. They were conversation starters and I took them to dinner and it had a little note from Destin telling us that he was really excited to start this journey and he wanted us to use this little packet that he had put together as a little “getting to know you” guide. So we had some conversation starters and some of them would be closely related to the characters themselves to help us create a back-story. How did these two characters meet, when did they start dating, what do you think their first date was like. Then some of them would be very person like, tell each other about a happy memory form your childhood, and tell each other about a traumatic memory from your childhood. In the span of this dinner that Brie and I had not only did we get to know each other as individuals, we actually got to know the characters as well and were able to create this back-story. I think that really helped us when we went in to film the actual movie because once we got to film; Brie is an incredibly focused and very, very driven performer she kind of retreated to a very solitary corner to do all of the prep work that she needed to do get to the emotional level she had to get to in the movie. We didn’t really talk a lot on set or socialize; I really do feel like the sleight of hand magic that Destin made us do with those cards really started putting everything into motion for us. A lot of it also is getting on set and trusting your director and trusting the material and each other, to be able to get each other’s backs. It really took on a life of its own and luckily the camera kind of captured all of that in an organic fashion.
I have some NEWSROOM questions for you. Are you sad it’s ending? Are you happy with the ending?
It’s bitter sweet. When you get a job in television you don’t know how long it’s going to last, you don’t know how it’s going to be received or whether you get to do one season or eight seasons. It always kind of feels like all bets are off, if you sign onto something like that you’re hoping it goes for a while and it tells a long, long story. Something about it really feels necessary, this is the story we have to tell and this is how long it takes to tell that story. It’s bittersweet in a way that I think the fans are going to be really pleased with the way that everything gets wrapped up, at the same time if you’re having a good time doing something you’ll want to do it as long as you can. We all would’ve loved to do more but at the same time I always have a hard time arguing with something when it’s meant to be and this is the way that it was meant to unfold for us. We had a really good time and a really nice run but it’ll be great now to see what other people go on to work on because it’s such a great group of people and such a great group of actors. Aaron Sorkin won’t have any trouble getting work (Laughs) he’ll be all right. I’ve been a fan of his long before I worked with him so I’m very excited to see what he does next.
Aside from the Boston bombing episode we saw in the previews, what other news stories will be featured on this season on the show?
You know you film it so quickly and as soon as one episode is done you dive right into the next one. For me, weirdly, those moments are less memorable. The things that do stick out to me and become memorable are the character development and what the character goes through. I kind of tend to focus on that more and than the news story that is given to provide all of the context and metaphorical significance to take a closer look at it in retrospect. In a way it doesn’t stick with me as much. There is definitely a storyline from the trailer that involves a whistle blower being demonized and vilified by the country, that get’s investigated. It’s become sort of the backdrop this season. In season one and some of season two we really focused on those news events and really lived inside of them for a whole episode. I think what Aaron was trying to gradually do over the coming season was to try and engrain the two with each other, so there is kind of an integration with what’s going on with the characters and the backdrop of these national news stories.
Do you see Hallie (Grace Gummer) and Jim’s relationship lasting? Is that something you would want to see?
Hallie is definitely a part of season three; the exploration of their relationship definitely gets a little bit of time this season. It’s great because Grace Gummer is fantastic and it was great to get more time to work with her on set. The push and pull of any great love story on a TV series is the whole tension between the will they or won’t they, who’s right for who, and who is going to end up together. Aaron definitely has a lot of fun playing with those expectations.
What can you tell us about the premiere?
The premiere episode picks up from what has mostly been shown on the trailer. The marathon bombing and the news reporting on all of that, we all remember how incredible, compelling, and upsetting all of that was. That really gets jumped into in the premiere.
You post a lot on twitter about your shows and music. What’s next with your music?
I have a record that I’ve recorded! I’ve mixed it and mastered it and I’ve put it out with a small label in New York City and most of it about trying to find a time where I can take a couple of months off from acting and really focus on getting that record out there. I’m hoping I can do that this year and it’s looking like I might be able to put it out. In early 2015 and that’s something that I’m really excited about. I feel very fortunate to be able to do both because I grew up in a very musical household and I’ve been playing music for what feels like me whole life so that’s the side of me that I feel like I haven’t been able to share with people yet.
You can watch the season 3 premiere of THE NEWSROOM tonight at 9:00 on HBO. For all info on John’s music or any of his other projects be sure to follow him on twitter at @johngallagherjr