JIMMY JEAN-LOUIS – Exclusive Interview

Thank you Jimmy Jean-Louis for taking the time to respond to our interview questions.

AM: About the show Heroes, are you surprise it’s such a big hit?

JJL: Well, a little bit. When you get called to do a TV show like that, you go do your thing and hope that it will be successful, even though everybody, the cast and crew understood that we had a great script to start with. But we did not expected it to be that big. It’s really big, not just in America, but all over the world.

AM: Tell us: How did you land the position of “The Haitian” in the show?

JJL: I first read for the character of D.L. I read for the part three times, but never got it. When it was time to cast for the character of the Haitian, I came back into the picture. But really, the character that I play was not even supposed to be from Haiti, but from New Zealand.

AM: So, they had to re-adjust the character for your part?

JJL: Exactly, which is perfect, me being Haitian, to be able to portray a Haitian on a hit TV show. It’s great.

AM: About your character, it appears that he’s mysterious and powerful. Although, the audience has yet to experience his full potential. What do you think of the Character?

JJL: Well, obviously he is very powerful and very intriguing. We don’t know him…yet; even after a year and a half. We still don’t know too much about him. And I like that about The Haitian. But, I would like him to do a little more, hopefully he will, in the next season, because we need to get to know him in depth so we can understand who he is and why he does what he does.

AM: Yes, because he’s so mysterious that every time he shows up, we’re all captivated.

JJL: (laughs)

AM: Do you think he will be playing a major role further down in the show?

JJL: I hope so, because he has the potential. He can come up with a lot of answers to the story. And because he comes from a different culture, he will bring something completely new. And obviously he represents not just Haiti, but I will say the black race, as we speak, on the TV show. Currently, he‘s the only black character that started on the show that is still on the show.

AM: and He’s playing a major character as well…

JJL: yeah, and he looks like an African; the African guy, all together. You know, it’s a good thing to be able to be associated as a hero on a hit show.

AM: And you’re actually playing it really well. Ok, we know that "The Haitian" has been acting on the good side in Season II, but still, I can’t seem to figure out if he’s really one of the good guys. What’s your thought on this?

JJL: I don’t know if we can characterize him as good or bad. But, I don’t believe that he’s there just to do what he is told. I’m pretty sure he’s got his own agenda. He comes from far away; from Haiti. He finds himself in The Company and he has a life over there. So, at some point they will have to give us his back story so we know what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. So, is he good or evil? I hope I’m good. I want "The Haitian" to be good. He must be doing bad things, but for good causes.

AM: So far he’s being on the neutral side, creating a lot of vibes due to the fact that he is very powerful.

JJL: This is a downfall for him, being so powerful. That’s probably why they don’t use him as much. He can stop a lot of those guys’ powers and also he can erase their memories.

AM: Can you tell us a little bit about the people behind the show Heroes? How many writers do you have?

JJL: We have a lot of people behind the scene; hundreds of them. I think around 300. Of course, you do have the actors, the producers, and the writers that are doing an amazing job. Down the line, you also have the crew, the technicians, make up artists, the wardrobes, the catering people, and many more. It’s a good set to work on.

AM: With the recent Writers strike in Hollywood, how does it impact the future of the show?

JJL: Oh yeah, completely. First of all, we stopped shooting on November 5, 2007. We had to stop shooting the minute the writers started the strike. And also, since we were not sure of what is going to happen, we had to create a season finale right away.

AM: So, they were more episodes after that?

JJL: Yes, there were some more episodes after that. Actually, we had shot two episodes already, twelve and thirteen. But we had to scratch those. Because we readjusted episode eleven so that we have a finale. So, definitely it affected us directly, and it still affecting us because nobody is working, whether it’s the writers, the producers, the actors, anybody. It’s actually pretty bad. Nobody wants to strike, but I guess they have to keep striking until they get what they’re asking for.

AM: Well, we hope resolutions are being made as we speak. What do you think the writers’ strike?

JJL: We know the writers deserve what they’re asking for. They’re the ones creating everything that you see on TV. As in HEROES for example, we have a team of about ten very talented writers. That’s how the show is being created. Ten people stuck in a room together, writing the show. They’re bouncing ideas all day long.

AM: When not shooting the series, do you keep in touch with the rest of the casts?

JJL: Not necessarily. The reality is at the end of the day, it’s a job. You go there and you do your part, then you go back home. It’s like any other jobs. From time to time, you hang out with one or two other people from your job. They are quite a few people that I see outside of the show such as Jack Coleman (Mr. Bennet) and Santiago Cabrera, the painter, because we play football (soccer) together sometimes. But apart from them, I see the rest of the crew whenever there is an event going around. Nevertheless, we get along very well on the set; it’s a great chemistry.

AM: Will we see more of the Haitian in the new season? Obviously everyone talks about him and wants more of him.

JJL: I think we will because he’s still around. I think the next chapter is called The villains. And within the villain section, we have Sylar, the Sensei Adam, and then we have the people working for the company. Bob, Mr. Bennet, and The Haitian. I’m pretty sure that you’ll see more of the Haitian. I hope so anyway.

AM: When will they reveal his name? Does he have one actually?

JJL: We don’t know yet. He does have a name. They gave me a name from the very beginning on the show. But for some reason, people really enjoy the name of "The Haitian". They react from it. They ask questions about him. They wonder about "The Haitian." And it makes the character even more mysterious. As far as I’m concerned, I like that.

AM: and the good thing is that you are also from Haiti

JJL: Yes. I represent the country. It’s probably the best way to clean the image of Haiti internationally. The same way I played the character Tunde for the Nigerians (in Phat Girlz). Nigerians were very happy to see such a character, being a doctor, very educated, very elegant on a big screen. As you know, most of the time when the media speak of Nigerians, it’s always in the negative aspects of them. For me to play "The Haitian", and to be associated as a hero, it’s great.

AM: You are definitely our hero.

JJL: Thank you.

AM: The ladies love the Haitian’s body (physique); we know. What do you do to stay this fit?

JJL: (laughs) it’s a combination of things. First of all, I have always been active as a person. I used to work in a musical theater. So, I would dance for about two hours every night. I did it for almost four years. I also play football. That’s what keeps me in shape as we speak. I play maybe three or four times a week. Also, I’m very careful with what I eat. I don’t eat a lot of junk foods. I don’t eat meat, beef or chicken. I only eat fish, and a lot of veggies. Yam, plantains, you know; all the good things.

AM: Do you play for a team?

JJL: Yes. I play for a team called Hollywood United.

AM: Is that the team made of celebrities?

JJL: Yes. Actually, about three weeks ago, we had a game against Galaxy, against Beckham, Cobi Jones, and the rest of the team.

AM: What position do you play?

JJL: It depends actually. I play midfielder. I can also play any other positions. I love the game. It keeps me in shape.

AM: Talking about soccer, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Soccer World cup to be taken place in South Africa in 2010? Is Africa ready for the event?

JJL: Well, I will be optimistic and say yes. I want Africa to be ready for the event. Logistically speaking, let’s see what’s going to happen. I think South Africa is big enough to hold a world cup. They have enough resources and we also need to give them all the help necessary. I think they’re ready. If they can hold the African cup, they can do a world cup. Africa is ready for that. Africa needs that. Come on, how many years of world cup have we had? And not once it has been in Africa. So, yes, it’s about time and I hope to be there.

AM: What team will you be cheering for, assuming they make it to the world cup?

JJL: Assuming? (Laughs) it will have to be Haiti… assuming (laughs). I mean, Haiti has only been in the world cup once in 1974, which isn’t bad because some countries have never been to the world cup.

AM: What team besides Haiti?

JJL: It all depends. It depends on what African teams make it, you know. Within Africa, there are few teams that I admire and I think they’re doing very well. Among them will be Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and of course Cameroon. We have some good teams over there. But at the same time, I’m still a fan of Brazil (laughs); they always come correct with the best players and the best game as well.

AM: One thing I like about Brazil is that they keep the art. It’s not just about scoring, but it’s about showing what soccer is all about.

JJL: Exactly. They have fun with it. They love what they do and they show you that they like it. It’s not just about winning and making the money. It’s about enjoying what you’re doing.

AM: For sure your popularity in Haiti has risen exponentially. Are you still doing work over there? Or, are you concentrating in the U.S. and Europe?

JJL: To be honest with you, I’m not concentrating anywhere. I’m just floating. Wherever there is work, and if I believe it’s a good piece of work, I will go and do it. I am based in L.A. because that’s where the business is really. But at the same time, I do projects on other countries as well. Yes I still go back to Haiti sometimes. I did two movies in Haiti already. One is The President has AIDS, which won the prize at the FESCAPO film festival. And the other movie is Cousines. Both movies have been traveling around the world. For me, it’s one way to showcase Haiti a little bit to people that don’t know anything about Haiti besides the political unrest and the rumors that AIDS came from Haiti.

AM: What other projects are you involved in currently?

JJL: I have just been back from Martinique, where I did a movie in French called "Le Mystere Josephine". I’m scheduled to do a movie in Bali, Indonesia. I have a couple of movies that will be come up this year. One of them is "The adventures of Power" and the other is "Loaded". Also, I’m currently doing a comedy movie called "The Penthouse."

AM: Can you tell us something about you that people would never guess?

JJL: I don’t know (laughs). I mean, there are a lot of things nobody will never guess about me because they don’t know me. They know the characters that I play, but they don’t know who I am. But I would say one thing: I’m really a big clown. I know I don’t look the part, but I am a clown in reality (laughs).

AM: When you’re not working, what are your favorite things to do? We know soccer is one.

JJL: I like the beach. I always go to the beach to boogie board, and just lie down and relax. And any of the sports really, volley ball, Frisbee, basket ball, and tennis. So, I do all these things. And if I’m not working for a long time, I go back to Haiti and see my relatives.

AM: One more thing that is amazing about you compared to many other actors out there is that you are very educated and talented. How many languages do you speak?

JJL: I speak five languages. It just happened to be like that because I lived in various places. I’m from Haiti, so I speak Creole. I grew up in Paris, so I speak French. I lived in Spain so I speak Spanish, and I also lived in Italy; so I speak Italian. I have been traveling around, so I also speak English. It wasn’t meant to be, but searching for life, it just turned out to be like that.

AM: What can you say about the transitions from Haiti, Europe, then America?

I do come from a place where I didn’t have too much to live with. So, as a kid, in my neighborhood, I did not have any electricity. Meaning: no TV, no fridge, or anything like that. To actually find myself here in Hollywood, it’s such a long stretch and from there to here. I have stopped in so many places, you know. I’m like a train that stops in every single village (laughs) just to get to its final destination. I’m not an express at all

AM: What kept you motivated?

JJL: Maybe life. I’m very curious as a person, and I always want to understand things. I want to understand who we are, what we are, where we’re living. Also, I‘ve always wanted to know about different cultures and languages. So, I just keep on going. I believe that if I find myself in a routine, I don’t have a life anymore. So, I’m trying not to have a routine. I know a lot of people would love that, but I don’t. I like to be surprised by what’s going to happen next. Even if I put myself in weird situation, I still like it because there is something exciting about not knowing what’s going to happen. I think that’s what life is all about: the excitement.

AM: Obviously you really have a lot of talents. What actor did you admire most when growing up?

JJL: I’ve always thought of the past and career of Sidney Poitier; a black actor from the Caribbean in the U.S., when it was really hard for African Americans to achieve such positions. So, he definitely motivated me mentally, just to keep going and never accept a No for a no. Sidney Poitier.

Jimmy Jean-Louis
Jimmy Jean-Louis

AM: Let’s talk about Nollywood: What’s your say on it?

JJL: Nigerians. These guys are pumping a lot of movies. I’ve had a chance to attend a Nollywood convention here in L.A. two years ago. I met a lot of Nigerian directors and actors. Also, I have seen a few Nigerian movies here and there. I think it’s a good thing that’s going on in Nigeria. It just need to be more structured.

AM: What do you think will help Nollywood finds it way to the U.S. Big screen?

JJL: Well, first of all, the movies that they’re making are mostly appealing just for Nigerians and blacks in Nigeria and Africa. The format is very different to the world format, because they do it in video and quickly. The technical side of it is very poor and I think that’s what is stopping them from growing and being accepted as a real competition to Hollywood or even to Bollywood. I think they need to switch gear. They need to start doing a few movies on film, you know. The quality has to change; It’s a big thing. The image has to be beautiful. And the actors have to be actors as well. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can be too theatrical. I’m sure they can do it, but they have to get there technically.

AM: Definitely they do have stories, but lacking quality. Do you think all these have something to do with the rate of piracy in African movies?

JJL: Yes, directly. I can understand why somebody doesn’t want to spend a lot of money to do a movie over there because they know that they’re not going to be able to recuperate the money that they’ve invested because of the piracy. It’s a big scare for everybody. The bootleg is killing the business. I don’t know if they have a solution for that but the it is a big problem.

Like you said, they have good stories, and I believe they do have good directors as well, but the quality definitely has to be better.

AM: Where in Africa have you been and what would be your ideal African trip?

JJL: I have been to Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia, the Seychelles, and Nigeria. Anywhere in Africa will please me, to be honest with you. I would like to go to Ethiopia, because of its history. And of course, the entire east coast of Africa. These places are said to be beautiful.

AM: In your opinion, what’s the number one issue to deal with in Africa? What’s your take (solution) on it?

JJL: Man, there are so many. The thing that always comes in my mind is the inferiority complex that we still have as black people, believing sometimes that we have to rely on the Western world to do what we have to do. So, I think that it is people’s mind in Africa that needs to change. Not just in Africa, but in every single black country all over the world. I think we need to get rid of that issue first; accept who we are and be proud of who we are. And if you can pass that, it’s going to be easier to deal with the rest of issues.

AM: What needs to be done in order for African to have a strong impact in the American media, like the Hispanics?

JJL: Seriously, we’re dealing with big issues; mentally, as far as Blacks are concerned here in America. Yes, it will be good to have our good channels, our own television, our own media, so that we can service our own people. But, I guess it will happen one day, we just need to be patient. Let’s not forget that slavery was here not too long ago. We want to run, but we have to walk first. We have to take it easy and just do the right moves and I think we’ll come together.

And as far as Africans here, they should definitely always check with back home. They should always have relationships with Africans here and Africa. The Africans here can definitely help Africa. They have the vision, the resources, the connections, you know. They have to go back and forth and do whatever needs to be done for their countries.

AM: Any words of wisdom for all our aspiring actors out there?

JJL: If you like what you do, then don’t give up. It has to come from the heart. It doesn’t matter what you do, it has to be something that you love. Don’t do it because you want to make money or anything like that. Do it because you really love it. And if you do that, then automatically you’re a winner because you’re doing something that you love doing whether you succeed at it or not. And most of the time, you will end up succeeding at it. And believe in yourself. It’s one universe, one world, and it should be one love for everybody.

AM: Your New Year resolutions?

JJL: I don’t have any resolutions, man (laughs). I’m not dealing with any of that crap, you know. I don’t wait for the new year to do what I think is good for myself. I try to do it on a daily basis.

AM: That’s amazing.

JJL: Yes. If I see it, I try to fix it straight away. I’m not going to wait for a specific time. I don’t do those things.

AM: Maybe that’s why most of us are still behind because we wait for the New Year for a fresh start.

JJL: I guess we wait for society to tell us what to do it and when to do it. And that’s the biggest mistake. OK, it is the New Year; now it’s resolutions. Ok, it’s Christmas and now we have to do this and that. Ok, its thanksgiving and now we have to share food. Come on, you don’t need society to dictate you what you need to do.

AM: Any last word for our African Community in the world?

JJL: I think I said it all: one love; Africa Unite.

AM: Thank you Jimmy Jean-Louis for taking the time to chat with us. We wish you plenty of success and wisdom in your career.