Grey’s Anatomy’s Jason George On Keeping Your Acting Skills Sharp
Jason George has been in show business since the late 1990’s. This explains why he’s such a seasoned actor. But even with a resume taller than the Eiffel Tower, Jason keeps his game up.
Born on February 9, 1972, this 44 year old actor is like the Energizer Bunny – he just keeps on going. On May 13, you will see Jason in the upcoming thriller called Kidnap, starring Halle Berry. Jason is also known most recently as Dr. Ben Warren from ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and as Dominic Taylor from Mistresses. Such juicy roles!
I’m lucky that I haven’t had to do a cold read in some time but I keep my skills sharp.
Jason George gives us some great insight into juggling multiple auditions and jobs on a single day, tackling career pitfalls and what it’s like to be a dad and husband in show business.
You’ve been a busy man with Grey’s Anatomy, the upcoming thriller Kidnap, and in the recent past with Mistresses, Hit the Floor and Witches of East End. Please share the audition processes for these shows.
No matter how stable it looks, Acting is a freelance gig where you sing for your supper every day and you eat what you kill. So “busy” is never a bad thing. Some of my latest jobs were straight offers like Witches, Hit the Floor or even Grey’s Anatomy but often straight offers come from somebody in the creative decision making team knowing you or your work. So it still goes back to you proving yourself in some audition for some show in your past.
Sometimes you’re blessed with auditions (like Mistresses) that are almost a formality where the job is yours to lose and the audition is about figuring out which character fits you best. Other auditions (like Kidnap) you really have to fight for the job… because every red-blooded heterosexual male in Hollywood wants to work with Halle Berry – probably plenty of males that aren’t red-blooded or heterosexual as well. I’m lucky that I haven’t had to do a cold read in some time but I keep my skills sharp.
Most supporting film or television guest star or series regular roles get you the sides one or two days in advance giving you enough time to do the necessary prep. Unlike a lot of actors, I actually enjoy having multiple auditions in a day. A busy day has a way of focusing you, making you efficient. You have to schedule your day down to the minute, factoring in travel time and LA traffic. You have to figure out wardrobe that embodies each character, hoping that if the characters were remotely similar you might find a way to make the same clothes work for each. But the exciting part of multiple auditions for me was still the rush of having to nail multiple performances. It’s like you go to do the hire wire juggling act and they suddenly light the juggling sticks on fire – your actions remain exactly the same but your mentality is now the only issue… either you freak out and fall or you get focused.
The same rush can happen when you’re a series regular doing multiple jobs. There were times I would be shooting MISTRESSES in the morning then drive across town to shoot GREY’S or shoot GREY’S all day then haul over to Pasadena to perform 12 ANGRY MEN, the play I was doing at the Pasadena Playhouse a while ago. I teach an actors’ workshop called Collaborations Workshop and I tell my actors to make themselves busy. That way, when you finally land that one job – that dream job – it won’t feel overwhelming at all… it’ll feel like a breeze.
Why did you choose the University of Virginia to do your studies? Tell us about the program there vs. other university choices you may have considered.
Senior year of high school, I was the guy who knew he was going to college but when people turned to me and said, “So what schools did you apply to?” I was like “Yeah….. gotta get on that.” So I applied to only in state schools. Couldn’t be too far because I couldn’t afford to be traveling a lot but couldn’t be too close because I couldn’t have Ma just drop in at any moment. Virginia has always had top tier sports and I knew they had a baller law school and becoming a lawyer was my plan at the time. Never visited the school before, I just showed up with a suitcase.
UVA looks like what college looks like when I close my eyes. And my experience there matched my dreams, too. That’s where I discovered acting. It’s where I met my wife. UVA would take abstract, philosophical ideas and make them concrete things. Like Honor and Service. And the school practically invited the art of the party so that was a perk, too.
Temple University on the other hand, where I got my Master of Fine Arts in Acting, was a very conscious decision. I worked nonstop and had a really good audition at the URTAs, the program that allows actors to audition for dozens of acting programs at once, and I had offers from some 26 schools. Temple was one of the schools that offered me a full scholarship and living stipend. Also, Temple is in Philadelphia and I’m a diehard Eagles fan. But it was also important that it was a great acting program that WASN’T in New York. I knew I would get distracted or caught up in the real world of acting and never graduate. I barely graduated from Temple… I landed a series regular role in Los Angeles during the first semester of my last year. Fortunately, my professors let me use the show as an independent study for the last three credits I needed to graduate.
How do you handle family life with work?
My family is my world. I’m a dad who moonlights as an actor. I’ve turned down jobs I really wanted because it didn’t work for the family. When I shot Off the Map, I flew home to LA every weekend for half a year –sometimes for less than twenty-four hours – just so I could tuck the knuckleheads in. Fatherhood puts all the Hollywood BS in perspective. It also deepens my emotional well-being for work. You don’t truly know unconditional love until you see your baby smile because they recognize your face – they can (and probably will) hate your guts someday but you will always love them. I’ve had guns pointed at me but you don’t know true fear until you see your child fall from a tree. And when you and your wife circle the wagons at night after surviving the kids one more day, you know that other kind of love – the kind that is conditional. Conditioned on always being there for each other. That love’s pretty stinking cool, too.
I met my wife in college at the University of Virginia. We lived in the same dorm first year and she just thought I was that guy who liked to dance with girls in his room. In my defense, I actually do love to dance. Our first real interaction that first year was when I (after an unknown number of drinks with some friends) came busting out of my room doing an ape impersonation (because, you know, that’s what you do when you’re bored and drinking). In full King Kong mode, I saw a pretty girl down the hall talking to some guy so naturally I dragged my knuckles down there, threw her over my shoulder and carried her into my room, climbing over furniture and jumping around. It wasn’t until I dropped her on my bed and my face was hovering inches over hers that I realized I had no endgame. To this day, I know I should’ve gone for the kiss – she’s told me since that she was expecting it – but I bailed and tried to find some way to gentlemanly escort her out of my room after going full Cro-Magnon.
A year later we were dating and we’ve been together ever since.
What are your workout and diet routines?
I run, lift some weights and I’ve done boxing, martial arts and yoga at various points. I avoid carbs but don’t get crazy with diets. I’m a believer in that old Ben Franklin saying about food and alcohol “Moderation in all things… including moderation”
What was the worst day you ever had during your acting career?
I opened escrow on the most expensive house I’d ever purchased (the house we live in now) the same day that one of my favorite shows I’ve ever done was canceled. Major mortgage, no job.You could actually hear God laughing.
Have you ever had a work scheduling conflict?
I’ve had plenty of scheduling conflicts on paper. In real life, they often get worked out if your reps are smart and you are extremely courteous and charming when you ask for help. You also have to kill it at work or they won’t do it for you the next time.
As an actor, what’s the difference between working on a TV series for just one episode vs. an arc of perhaps 4-8 episodes vs. being a series regular in all episodes?
Generally, acting is acting. There aren’t a ton of differences between being a series regular in all episodes or a recurring arc for a few episodes (doesn’t really matter if it’s 1-4 or 4-8). SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, ensures you get some kind of trailer or dressing room whether you’re a guest star for one episode or the star of the show. Of course, how BIG that trailer is might change depending on where you are on the call sheet and how much of a baller your agent is. The main thing that changes is A) Stability: series regular know when and how much they’re getting paid while guest stars only know that it can change from episode to episode and B) Understanding of the Plot: guest stars are written for a particular reason so writers usually know your full past, present and future while series regulars are constantly learning new things about their characters’ past so it can dictate the future the writers just came up with. Oh! I’m the one who killed my wife’s first husband years ago… and now he (or somebody) is blackmailing me. Good to know.