Jonathan Gordon is one of those people. Not only did he star as the lead of Those People, but he's worked on several recent short films in different capacities, including Standardized, which he wrote, co-directed, co-produced and starred in. He's one of those people who put thought and love into whatever they do. You want to watch the ones who enjoy the hard work.
I was lucky enough to learn more about him and his projects, both past and future. I'd say to keep an eye on Jonathan Gordon: he shows no signs of letting up on his nuanced performances and thoughtful work. He is just as much a joy to watch as he is to speak with.
Kasey Smith: When did you first catch the acting bug? What drew you to being an actor?
Jonathan Gordon: My slightly crazed drama teacher cast me as Bloom in The Producers in the 7th grade. We didn't have tryouts, he just pointed at me during class and said, "You. Why don't you try this out?" I've more or less been hooked since then. I loved the sense of play you got to embrace as an actor. All aspects of my life at that point felt so structured... acting was a chance to be more chaotic. It was fun. It still is, so I keep doing it.
KS: You’ve worked on stage, television, and film. Which one of those has become your favorite?
JG: I think my heart will always belong to the theatre. The rehearsal process that comes with a theatre production is booming with such creativity, it's hard not to keep coming back. For a variety of logistical reasons, it's harder to find that on a television or film set. Those People was unique though, because there was always a strong sense of collaboration present on set. That has a lot to do with the culture Joey [Kuhn, writer/director of Those People] manifested throughout the shoot. There was an electricity on set, a sense of support and play and discovery that I thought you could only really find during a theatre process.
KS: You starred in Those People, which was at the early start of the current trend of LGBT films. Films like yours and like Carol, highly stylized and set in the past, now share the stage with modern-day coming-of-age films like Love, Simon and Call Me By Your Name that star teen characters. Since you’ve played several LGBT characters, what insight can you offer to the changing landscape for LGBT films?
JG: I wouldn't claim to be any sort of expert on the genre, but I'll say that we're fortunate to be living in a time when a diversity of stories are starting to be told. I'll also say that, in making Those People, Joey was adamant about telling a story that featured gay characters but wasn't necessarily about homosexuality. And I think that's part of why the response to the movie was so strong; I spoke to many viewers who appreciated being able to see a gay love story where characters weren't reckoning with their sexuality. That isn't to say that those stories shouldn't be told—of course, sexuality continues to be something that humans have a tenuous relationship with. But in this case, I think there's something equally powerful about gay men being at the center of a narrative that is typically the province of heterosexual characters.
KS: Speaking of Those People, viewers can draw parallels between Charlie and the main character of Call Me By Your Name's Elio. Charlie and Elio are both at the center of love triangles of their own making, more or less, and their stories both end with them partner-less, which is interesting when you consider how different the films are. Why do you think this is?
JG: I had a similar thought when I saw Call Me By Your Name! And now that I'm thinking about it, Blue Is the Warmest Color, another movie I adore, ends similarly.
Love forms a key part of our identities. The love we've had and the love we're currently experiencing and the love that awaits us. I think that Charlie and Elio are both people who are forming parts of themselves through their respective lovers. So, in a sense, their stories are much larger than their partners, because ultimately they're about how Charlie and Elio are finding themselves and becoming more whole. Of course it's devastating that their stories don't end in that ideal, soul-mate love, but there's also an optimism to be found in the endings. We sense that great things are ahead for both of them.
KS: You wrote and starred in the short Standardized, as well as co-directing and co-producing it. What was it like to pull quadruple duty on a production?
JG: Difficult! As an actor, your primary role is as an interpreter; your job is to bring to life something that's been handed to you on a page. But once you take on roles behind the camera, your function becomes much larger. All of a sudden, you need to be the project's biggest cheerleader... you have to be its biggest fan from beginning to end, and that requires a lot of resilience in the face of various logistical hurdles. It's a challenge. The experience left me with even more respect for producers and directors.
KS: Where did the idea for Standardized germinate? When was the moment you realized you had a story?
JG: Standardized came together in the months after shooting wrapped on Those People. I was wading through the PPD that comes with the end of an acting project and was craving another creative outlet. The inspiration came from my time tutoring the SAT in New York City. I was always fascinated by the unique intimacy that develops between a tutor and tutee, and I realized I could place that experience in conversation with the difficulty of discovering social intimacy as a twenty-something in New York. I don't think there was ever an "a-ha!" moment where I knew I had a story... luckily, Drigan Lee, a close friend and the co-director of the film, kept pushing me to write, no matter what came out. Eventually, I wrote enough and we both realized that a narrative had developed.
KS: Your latest project was Invitation to Collaborate. What drew you to that role? What was that experience like?
JG: The writer and director, PJ Norton, approached me with the film after he saw Those People. The film centers around the frayed relationship between a brother and sister and their attempts at reconciliation. PJ hoped to capture something very personal to him and was passionate about investigating the nuances of sibling relationships. Having two sisters myself, his story resonated with me and felt like something I could bring to life. We shot at the end of summer on a lake in upstate New York, so the experience was really lovely.
KS: Is there anything you can tease for us that you’re working on now?
JG: A new short film called Space should be released in the next few months. It's the second film I've made with writer/director Jesse Thurston. The first was a film called Snow Day.
Jesse's this incredibly talented artist who makes beautifully minimalistic films. Space centers around a couple trying to navigate the ebbs and flows in intimacy that inevitably come with a long-term relationship. We did a fair amount of improvisation in preparation for the shoot and continued to improvise on set. As an actor, it's always such a luxury when you have the opportunity to play around with dialogue and find your character through experimentation. And I think the result is something that's deeply poignant and human.
KS: Do you have anything else to add?
JG: Just that the ongoing support for Those People continues to blow me away. That people continue to see the movie and have such positive responses has been incredible to witness.