Interview With Actor Jay Walker


By Staff

What inspired you to become an actor?

Hoo boy. Being an actor was never “the plan” for me. I have a bachelor of science degree in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota, and the plan was for me to be a very serious business guy doing very serious business. 

When I was a kid, my dad started an aviation part sales business, and I was being groomed to step into an executive role there. By the time I was in college, it had grown to something like a $100M company. I can’t overstate how proud of him I am for that achievement, or how grateful I was for such a rare opportunity. Especially for people who look like us.

But my senior year of college, I had something of an existential crisis reckoning with the trajectory my life was on. I’d be living in Minnesota, working in an officeprobably married with kids and a dog before 30. My daily creative outlet would be… telling jokes at the water-cooler? Kill me. 

I know that’s the dream for a lot of people, and I won’t knock it. Different strokes for different folks. But the thought of that being the rest of mylife felt like death. It was death.

In the midst of this crisis I did some math. The average person spends something like 90,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetime. That’s 10 years of straight up life force. At work. So I figured if I was going to spend a third of my waking hours doing a job… it should give something more back to me than just a paycheck. Some kind of personal fulfillment. 

We have to go back a bit further to bring everything full circle, but bear with me:

The high school I went to has one of the best Speech & Debate teams in the country (shoutout to Eagan). They travel all around the US competing in tournaments with other schools, and always come home with a bunch of trophies. Speech has this kind of crazy, hyper-competitive subculture, and a lot of household names also competed when they were in high school. Oprah was a speech kid. Chadwick Boseman. Jordan Peele. Stephen Colbert. The list goes on.

The head coach at my school, Joni Anker, happened to have me in one of her classes, and hounded me to join the team. Such a sweet lady. Absolutely relentless. I can honestly say that she changed my life by doing that. Speech is where I really cut my teeth performing for the first time. Where I got to feel the trade in energy between myself and an audience. It’s where I fell in love with comedy and making people laugh. It’s where I found my voice. 

My last competition was at the national tournament, where I performed for a live audience of thousands. It was intoxicating. I was hooked.

(I can’t mention Speech without mentioning my former coach and friend Drew Hammond. He was instrumental in helping me discover my own comedic sensibilities. I’ll forever owe him a great debt. Thanks Drew.)

Back to college — when I was in crisis mode, it seemed obvious that nothing I’d experienced up to that point in my life had lit a fire in me like performing. I figured I did well enough in speech that I might have a real shot at making a career out of it. Trying and possibly failing seemed like a much better alternative than death. So I went for it. 

I started doing standup. Started taking acting classes in Minnesota while I was still in school. And through those classes I ended up being connected with an entertainment management company in LA. They saw a tape of me doing standup, and asked me to fly out for a meeting. 

I did, and at that meeting they said I should move to LA. 

I’m still with them to this day. 

So far, so good.

How do you stay motivated in such a competitive industry?

Hahhh, this is a complicated question. 

It’s funny, as an actor, the best part of the job is actually getting to do it on set. Actually doing the work.

In reality, most of what we spend our time doing between gigs is getting rejected. This applies to all but the top, I don’t know, 0.5% of actors? But they’ve experienced it too.

We offer up a piece of ourselves every time we audition, and now that everything has moved to self tapes, it can feel like we’re just sending little bits of ourselves into a digital void. Unless we get a callback, sending that tape in is typically the last we’ll hear of it. No feedback. Nothin’. We just move on to the next one. Rinse and repeat until there’s a part that’s the right fit. 

The real challenge in this industry is weathering so many “no”s, and continuing to take swings with the same amount of enthusiasm. To keep going takes a certain amount of belief, plenty of self-care, and a liiiitle dose of self-delusion. You for sure gotta be a little bit crazy. It’s not a rational thing to do. 

All that to say, motivation itself is fleeting. If I depended on it, I wouldn’t get anything done. For me, it’s less about motivation than it is about resolve. I know where I’m aiming, and I’m simply resolved to keep moving forward until I get there. It takes out a lot of the guesswork. If I only went to the gym when I’m motivated, I’d never go. Do I feel like working out? No. I feel like binging 3 seasons of a TV show and calling it research. 

Sometimes it feels like everything is in complete alignment, you know? Where you don’t even have to think about your next step, because a path just seems to materialize in front of you. Those moments are magic. It’s easy to stay motivated when everything is going your way. 

Other times — a lot of the time — it’s like climbing Mt. Everest, and you just have to keep ice picking your way up. 

Motivation kind of says “do I feel like taking this next step?” and leaves a lot to chance.

Resolve says “I know where I’m going. This next step is on the way,” and the choice that I have is how I frame that step for myself. I mean, if I know I’m gonna do it anyway, and I have a choice in coloring my perspective, I’d rather find more joy in the journey than to suffer through it. I think there’s resilience in that. 

I’ll add one more thought: things in this industry ebb and flow. The peaks and valleys are real. I’ve been doing this for a decade and some change now (which is wild to me). The biggest lesson the universe has repeatedly slapped me upside the head with is not getting caught up in the peaks nor the valleys. 

Celebrate your wins. Appreciate the moment you’re in, but don’t get drunk on your own punch. 

On the other side, acknowledge your challenges, but don’t let them swallow you.  

Just keep movin.

What has been your favorite role to date and why?

This is tough. Jason (RUN THE WORLD) has been mad fun, and incredibly rewarding. From the first audition, he fit me like a glove. He talks like I do. He thinks a lot like I do. Playing him has really felt like getting to peek into an alternate reality where I went down the business path instead of starting a career in entertainment. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to experience that type of bond with a character, so he’s special in that way. Also, getting to work with people who are so insanely talented both in front of and behind the camera has been such a privilege. I know that’s something people say. But really. Sheesh. They’re so good.

I’ve also got to give an honorable mention to a character named Dylan I played in a series called AIRPORT SECURITY SQUAD. It’s an Office-style mockumentary about a bunch of TSA employees, and most of my dialogue is improv. Anwar Jibawi and Joel Blacker were at the helm. Love those guys. The entire shoot was just play. It’s about the most fun I’ve ever had on set. The whole series is on YouTube. Short eps. It’s funny. Check it out. 

Tell us about your process in selecting a role.

Appreciate how you phrased the question, but at this point in my career, it’s not too complicated of a process. Basically, is the script good? Do I enjoy the work of the people I’d be collaborating with? Does the character speak to me? Do I have bills to pay?

I mean, it’s always exciting when things line up with a role — when your vision for the character aligns with the production team’s vision. You get a feel for that in sessions with the creative team during the audition process. Those sessions are also an early indicator for what it will be like working with them if the job goes your way. If there’s an atmosphere of play, and they’re saying things like “what you just did gave me an idea, want to try it?” That’s my jam. Those are the types of people I want to work with.

What does success look like for you?

I know the ‘right’ answer to this question as an artist is something like “I just want to continue creating meaningful work. Every opportunity to share my craft with the world is a gift.”  But nah. I want a house. I mean yeah, I love my craft. For real. AND (not but.. and) I want it to buy me a house.

Big picture, thousand foot level? Success is continuing to do work that I’m proud of in multiple mediums, but also living life. Some of the best memories I have of the last decade are totally unrelated to my job. They’re all about people and experiences.

So yeah, success down the road looks like more of both: being appreciated for my body of work, but also being appreciated for my humanity. Being a source of light and love and laughter and receiving them in kind. Traveling. Experiencing other cultures. Expanding my mind and strengthening my spirit. And spending quality time with my family & friends. 

…in my house.

Where would you like to see your career in the next five years?

I’m just gonna forward this to the AI who’s going to be taking my job. 

Is that a joke? Not sure, we’ll find out soon!

But hey if we’re manifesting (and we are), I want it all. Meteoric rise and all that, because of course I do.

What my team and I are working toward right now is a series regular spot, and shooting films or my own projects between seasons. That’s the ideal setup from where I’m standing today, but there are rarely straight lines in this industry between where you are and where you want to be. So what’s ‘ideal’ could definitely change along the way. 

Actually, you know what? I want an action figure. 

I’m serious. If you can go to Target and get an action figure with my face on it, things have to be going well. 

So scratch everything else. Action figure. 

Social Media

IG/Twitter/TikTok : @jaywalkr