George Jaques: his journey so far and exclusive on ‘A Town Called Malice’
George Jaques is a young actor, producer, director and writer, who is on our one-to-watch list. The 22 year old performer already has a couple of short films, plays and TV series under his belt and there is so much more to come. We caught up with this humble young man over zoom…
Quick Fire Questions:
Who is your favorite clothing designer?
Oooh, that’s a hard one. I did a shoot for Katie Grand and that gave me a whole new outlook on fashion, I didn’t really understand it before. I really like what Jonathan Anderson is doing at the moment.
What’s your favorite food?
What song are you listening to?
Sam Fender’s ‘Little Bull Of Blithe’.
What is your favorite shoe brand?
I love Grenson. They’ve always made the best boots and shoes. They also have always looked after me.
What is your favorite music festival?
I’ve not been to many. I went to Reading when I was 16 but it was raining the whole time. Last summer I went to All Points East for the day and loved it there.
You wrote and produced your first play when you were in high school, tell us more…
I grew up in South West London where there is a big teenage drug culture. From this, I ended up writing a play about my experiences growing up there and watching my mates around me struggle with drugs and, you know, the impact it had on my surroundings.
I didn’t know anyone in the entertainment industry, but my physics teacher said to me, “my mate is a script editor, you should meet him”. And so I met up with him and I remember him saying “I’ve read your play and George, do you want it to be good or did you write it for your mates?”… And I was like ‘To be good! To be good!’… He suggested I rewrite the whole thing, and I did.
Eventually, I got to produce the play in an abandoned railway arch by London Bridge. I had a DJ do a live set when the audience arrived to make it seem like a rave, and then in the second act, we turned the set into a hospital. The show was a success, it fully sold out.
You founded Athenaeum Productions in 2017, how did this come about?
I was actually 16 when I set up Athenaeum. My play, ‘Dilate’, was the first production. I remember thinking to myself I want to be an actor, but how do you get roles if you don’t have an agent? Well, I knew I wanted to create my own work and thought no one’s going to do this for me, so I’ve got to do it for myself!
I’ve always believed that theater, film and TV are great mediums for self-expression for young adults caught between the security of childhood and the independence of adulthood. When I founded Athenaeum, we focused more on socially conscious subjects and worked with charities like Childline. It’s a bit different now, we’re broader in what we take on but it’s still very much in our DNA. It has been an amazing journey so far.
You played Francis II in the hit TV series ‘The Serpent Queen’. How did you prepare yourself to play such an intense role?
I had a really specific process for ‘The Serpent Queen’. I’m not a method actor, but I try to create the feeling where you’re not really having to act – because you’re just free. When I signed onto the project, I started working with ‘The King’s Speech’ vocal coaches to help me learn how to stammer. I was playing a sickly dying king, so I knew I had to get that really right and it be truthful. I ensured I did my historical research, so when I turned up on set, I knew the parameters of my character.
I also wrote a diary as Francis for each episode. The show was eight episodes and my character came in episode four with Samantha Morton. The scenes were shot out of order so I’d read my episode six diary one day and then the next day you have to read your episode eight diary; just to remind you who you’re angry at or who you’re in love with or what’s happened in-between. I think that was really useful in terms of plotting the character arc out.
It was a really tough role, but one that I’m incredibly proud of. Working with Samantha Morton was just mind-blowing. Particularly in episode 8, where my character kills himself. It was a really hard scene and Samantha was so generous and so supportive…. I’m really really grateful for that show and to her.
Playing tough roles like this can be hard, how did you take care of yourself mentally and emotionally?
The diary was a huge help. Actually, you know, when I walked on set for that show, I also learnt a prayer that they used during that time period. I would read that prayer, which sounds really weird, then I’d read my diary and that would help me go from George to Francis. I’m also lucky to have great people around me – my agents, friends and my partner. After I finished ‘The Serpent Queen’, the stammer was hard to get rid of for a while – that really stuck with me for a little bit.
Also my community and my work, it keeps me busy and my mind focused! Me and my team talk to each other every day. Ken Petrie, who produces with me (he produced ‘Black Dog’ and some of my short films) and I speak probably at least twice a day minimum about the other projects we’re working on. I speak to my publicist and agents a lot too! Wow I speak to them more than I do my mum, and that’s crazy, right?
A Town Called Malice, hits our screens on the 16th of March. What’s it all about?
So it’s the polar opposite of my last show! Going from playing a dying sickly king to a South London 80’s Gangster!
A Town Called Malice, is a family thriller crime show, all set to the pumping tunes of the 80s. It’s a total joy. It’s about a family of South London gangsters, who once upon a time were on top of their game and now they’re not. They’re just selling knockoff designer fur coats! Due to unforeseen circumstances, they decide to run away to the Costa Del Sol for a new lease of life – to rebuild their fallen empire. Question is, do they? – you’ll have to watch to find out!
What was it like filming practically where you grew up?
Some of the references in the TV show were familiar from growing up in South London. My mum was in Ballam and my dad was in Tooting, so it was nostalgic (even though the show was set in the 80s) to be shooting in South London. This also meant I got to do a deep dive into the 80s, I researched the music, politics, local culture and fashion. That was a lot of fun!
Tell us about your character!
I play Anthony Lord, who is the youngest Lord and the only grandson in the family. He’s entitled and he’s awful in pretty much every sense of the word. I think Nick Love, the showrunner, has done an incredible job showing The Lords as a fractured, troubled and broken family but ultimately still a family. Anthony is probably one of the harder ones to get on with because he’s always doing something pretty horrible.
Who was your favorite person to work with in that show?
It is so hard to choose because that show had the dreamiest cast. I’ve worked with Jason a lot, we met when I was 16 through an estate agent. He ended up sponsoring one of my theater shows after the first one, called ‘Breathe’. And then he made my first short film with me. To be cast alongside him was such a joy!
I remember when I got cast he called me “George, George, George, I’m playing your dad!” And I had to be like ‘no Jason, you’re playing my grandad.!’ His response was “I’ve got kids younger than you!”. But I mean the whole family: Martha Plimpton, Daniel Sharman, Eliza Butterworth, Tahira Sharif, Jack Rowan, Lex Shrapnel and Josh Tedeuku were all amazing to work with. Leanne Best as well – she plays the police detective and is now an incredibly good friend of mine. That job is filled with so many happy memories.
Black Dog is your debut feature film as a director, which is very exciting and I want to know more…
I directed, produced and wrote it – which was amazing although really tough. It will come out later this year. We’ve got these incredible young actors like Jamie Flatters, who’s lead in ‘Avatar’ 2, 3 and 4 and Ruby Stokes, who plays the lead in ‘Lockwood & Co’, and ‘Bridgeton’. It also stars Nicholas Pinnock, who’s a bit older than us and was in ‘Django’ recently, but also known for ‘The Last Tree’ and ‘For Life’. As well as Paul Kaye, Amrita Acharia and Hattie Morahan. In a nutshell, it’s a coming of age British movie, set on the road from London to Scotland. And, David Parfitt (‘The Father’) is attached as an Executive Producer too; it’s an exciting one that will be out later this year as my debut feature.
We don’t always hear about the times when actors and directors failed or got the no’s or got the setbacks and everyone has them. I think it’s how you react to those that make you who you are. I always think of when I was starting out and the amount of no’s I got. Talking to my mates, mentors and peers was what gave me perspective.
When I recently got rejected from a role I called Leanne Best, who’s in A Town Called Malice with me, and she said “George allow yourself to be sad for one day and then dust yourself off and tomorrow you’re back in the ring.” I think that’s the best bit of advice. Find that person that when you say “I don’t feel like I can take on the world today, you know” and they’ll go “That’s okay. But tomorrow you can”. I think that’s probably the best advice I can give. Get those mentors, friends and people around you that really want you to succeed.