By Marc Ang
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 11/6/21 – Veteran character actor Jasper Cole is Hollywood’s “Bad Guy” with over a hundred television and film credits. Breaking through with his role in 2010’s MacGruber, he has perfected the hobo villain persona and has subsequently been cast in episodes of the hit series American Horror Story, The Rookie, and Westworld. Jasper also has a love for comedy and natural sense of humor that has come out in his work for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Funny or Die. Recently, he won Best Screen Villain at the International Nollywood Film Festival in 2019.
On BET+’s Family Business
Currently, Jasper can be seen playing the role of Cory Black in the BET+ series The Family Business, which premiered on October 14th and is on its third season. He is working alongside Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame and was introduced this season as a Pittsburgh biker gang leader.Jasper jokes that he didn’t get killed off in this role so far, citing good relations with writer Carl, defying his average mortality on most shows where he “rarely makes it past two episodes”.
Jasper cites the Family Business role as one of the few times he got an offer. He was a fan of the show for the first two seasons in a predominantly African American cast. But the conversation transitioned to the fact that he rarely turns down work. “I’m working towards my pension so I got to get those earnings in.”
It was this down to earth real talk that I really enjoyed and respected about Jasper, as I got to know the man behind the persona. In many ways, he is quite the opposite of the roles he has been typecast in. Jasper says “I’m one of several actors who are fortunate to play the bad guys. I pay homage to Danny Trejo and a long line of OG bad guys. It’s been fun to go with it.”
But Jasper is also keen on showing his other dimensions. He hopes Family Business will get renewed for more seasons, and is excited for the show’s move to the regular BET channel for a wider audience.
Jasper’s Next Digital Series “Kombucha Cure”
Like any successful working actor, he has many other projects brewing including “Kombucha Cure”, which is a six-episode digital series that he executive produced. It was originally going to be a movie. This is a quirky dark comedy, where Jasper plays a war veteran with a pet pig. He and his wife teach yoga in a town in Northern California pushing their holistic cures. He references “Northern Exposure” as an influence. Jasper says that besides acting in this, he also served as talent manager, and has had a management company for 17 years, with over 25 acting, writing and directing clients. However, acting is his first love.
“So acting is my number one passion. It’s great to just show up on the set and not have all these other responsibilities. But at the same time, it’s nice to stay in the business in these other areas. And I think truth be told, I’ve gotten more acting work as I’ve continued to produce and manage. Work begets more work,” Jasper says.
Coming To LA
This long journey started when Jasper left Georgia (Athens by way of Atlanta) to come to town in 1987, producing a play that he started. He was first greeted with the 1987 Whittier earthquake, which almost sent him running home, but thankfully he stayed.
When he first arrived, he met an agent who said he needed to get new 8 by 10 black and white headshots..” But my electricity bill was due. Now remember, I’m not advising people to do this. But it was literally like, am I gonna buy new headshots or let the power be turned off for a few weeks? I just let them turn the power off. And I had candles and a flashlight. Again, I’m not saying that’s a rational thing to do. But that was my priority then.”
The Changing Industry & New Opportunities
The industry has changed yet Jasper sees great hope. “I think indie films had sort of started to wane [before COVID]. They weren’t getting distribution in the theaters like they should have and streaming was already starting to fill that gap. It was almost getting more important and more lucrative if you could just go straight to a streamer. COVID came along, which cemented that. People’s attention spans are very small and short. And so a lot of people want to just digest small amounts, like hour episodes or 30 minute episodes. We were fortunate that our film just happened to cut very nicely in a linear fashion, in 30 minute segments.”
With the big volume of content out there, Jasper sees this as a positive for creative independents. “The beauty of it is because of all these platforms, I’m big on hiring, PR and press: I think we tell the industry how they should see us now. Like we have a Korean female director on “Kombucha Cure”, this is her first main project – the timing is so great with females and Koreans, and then big pharmaceutical and insurance, so our topic is really current. She’s an oncologist who’s currently on the front lines fighting COVID. I think that is gonna get more attention because of that. But I just think what’s great is that filmmakers today are not at the mercy of the studio, one network, because of shows like this, and the internet. It’s an amazing time to be a young filmmaker to have all this at your fingertips, being able to produce your own content, put it out there and not wait by the phone for someone to call and give you a job”
Advice To Young Filmmakers, Especially Those Out of State
Jasper’s advice to young filmmakers is, “get out there. Filmmaking and TV is all a collaborative effort. And you’re only as good as the people you have around you. So I always try to surround myself with much smarter, younger people, especially around the technical stuff, but there’s just so much talent behind the camera, the below the line people that are wanting to get experience and work. There’s no dearth of people to hire to work on these kind of indie projects.” Now being the old guy on the set, he reflects on being in the moment and not so quick to get on to the next thing. He sees it as a marathon, not a sprint.
He says, “I tell actors today, please don’t pack up and move to LA or New York until you have a body of work. And because of all the access, like we talked about with shooting your own projects, you can be pretty much anywhere in Middle America and shoot a film, shoot a short film, shoot a TV show, let the city call you unless you really love LA. I was one of those people I fell in love with LA. I had been twice before I finally moved here. And also I was only 23 when I moved here. So you know, when you’re 23 you’re kind of fearless. I always knew what I wanted to do.
And so I tell young actors, if there’s anything else you can do that you could really be genuinely happy. I would say go try that before you try show business because it’s rough. But it can also be amazing. It’s a real dichotomy. On one hand, you’ve got to be laser focused on it. And then I say to people, but have balance. So looking back, if I could have had a little more balance, it probably would have been better.”
Current Shows Jasper Enjoys – He’s A Belieber!
On the shows that inspire him today, he’s a fan of “The Morning Show”, Kate Winslet in “Mare of Easttown” and on the comedy side, “Hacks” with Jean Smart on HBO Max and “Ted Lasso”. He also loves “True Crime”. But we also found some guilty pleasures. Hollywood’s premiere Bad Guy is a proud Belieber. He watched Justin Bieber’s New Jersey behind the scenes special last weekend and was pulled in by the off-stage stories.
Jasper Loves the Real Housewives Franchise
And if that wasn’t enough, he’s a big “Housewives” fan, citing all of them, including Dallas which got cancelled. Jasper is such a fan he even follows Michael Rapaport and Jerry O’Connell, who are prolific commentators of the show.
Recently, I covered Vicki Gunvalson’s split with Steve Lodge. So the natural question for Jasper was Team Vicki or Team Steve. It was an easy answer for Jasper, who has great respect for OG’s. “OG Vicki, they need to bring her on back. Vicki’s got the right guy coming for her. I think you know, the right person’s out there. Oh, we saw she dodged a bullet. I mean, he ran for governor. That was the final. The stuff that guys will do, right? Just throw things away over a hookup, I’m always amazed. It’s right. I think the OC housewives, they really are seeing that. They need to, even if they have to pay [handsomely] to get these original cast members back. It’s worth it because those are the ones people want to see. They lost two of their best talents: Vicki and Tamra. The two of them together: they were Lucy and Ethel.”
Podcasting With Best Friend, Ralph Cole Jr
Jasper has his own sidekick, like Vicki has Tamra. His is Ralph Cole Jr, and they have a podcast running now for 10 years, focused on showing the real Jasper Cole outside the character acting. It’s called “One on One with Jasper Cole”, live every Thursday night on all the platforms. But Ralph is also in the comedy that he’s producing, citing Ralph’s comedic timing as the best. Jasper wants people to see the real Jasper who is pretty easygoing, caustic, sarcastic and funny, not just the guy slitting throats.
Living Full Time in Palm Springs
In real life, Jasper is full time based now in Palm Springs, California after 34 years in LA and commuting 16 years part time back and forth. Finally, after COVID, Jasper and his husband sold everything in LA and moved to the desert permanently. Now they live with their fur baby Zeke, a purebred Corgi rescued by one of his friends who “crawls under buildings and rescues animals”. She knew how much they loved their old Corgi and so Zeke was a God send.
However, he now also has an apartment in LA and it’s helped with the commute. “For anyone out there who doesn’t live in LA, there are times I can get to LA faster from Palm Springs than driving across town. Like I lived in Silverlake and I remember one time I had to go to Santa Monica. It was two and a half hours.” Now he gets the best of both worlds, as his producing and managing allow him to be remote or anywhere in the world. Yet in Palm Springs, many actors have moved out there and soon after our interview, Jasper was headed to evening festivities in Downtown, where he can walk to from his house. Especially for his drug of choice: coffee.
However, Jasper doesn’t have a sweet tooth so he avoids the crazy sweet calories stuff. He is disciplined because he has a lot of food allergies and keeps a high protein low carb diet. But he does love fried foods and salty carb items, being from Georgia where they deep fry everything from hogs, chicken, pickles, brussel sprouts and his guiltiest pleasure, cheese.
Jasper’s Mentors Influence His Other Projects & Theater
Beyond “Kombucha Cure”, he is producing two reality shows, a design show, a documentary series and a comedy. However, with his roots in theater in Atlanta, he has not done theater in about 8 years, and was just about to end that drought in early January 2020 in New York. However, pandemic put a wrench in those plans. Now Jasper is looking locally in Palm Springs where there are enough talented actors to start a scene. He cites the late actress Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond, a dear friend and mentor, “There was a 10 year gap between Doris getting Remington Steele and Everybody Loves Raymond. She was doing free play readings and she taught me ‘Jasper, you got to stay in the game. You know, you got to try to work with the new young directors, the new young producers. I watched how she navigated and no parts were too small. And, you know, she kept herself out there. So that’s what I tried to do. I have to fight that because I’m not a crowd person. I like to do my work but I’m a little more shy and reserved”
Other influences include Sam Elliott, who he considers a mentor and who he worked with in 1998. But Jasper’s favorite actor is Jeff Bridges. However, Jasper is working towards the long silver gray hair like Sam’s. He’s not quite there yet as he currently has a full head of natural hair with very few white hairs, if any. Jasper’s genes are evident with his mother with Indian genes, who died at 80. People assumed she colored her hair because of her age, but the reality was she never did. Jasper, however, is not above that and will do it for any role. He went blonde for a WB pilot back in the day, but admits it probably didn’t work too well. He proudly owns the “hobo chic” look and loves to play roles of homeless guys.
Taking On Work & Quality Networking
Wise advice from Jasper says, appreciate every role, small or big. “Even if you end up with very little in an episode, we usually shoot a lot more. So you’re usually there for a week or 10 days. For me, it’s always about the experience of doing it. Not so much what the end result is. And it always leads to more work. It may not be immediate, but it could be three years later or four years later. Something comes along and you worked with a producer and they remember you. But it’s got to be organic. I tell young actors, you can’t [rush things]. There’s networking, and then there’s fake networking, it has to be organic. You can’t force it. Because people read that, they sense that.” In other words, be real.
Self Awareness and Jasper’s Ideal Role
Jasper’s ideal role is in a comedy like the janitor on Scrubs. “You have to know what you bring on the screen. And even if you want to play the sitcom Dad, I would have to be the sitcom Dad that’s probably tying up bodies in the basement, right? I would love to do more comedy. But I also want to play like an undercover cop who gets to infiltrate by playing homeless, drug addicts, drug dealers, and be part of an FBI or procedural kind of show.” I would love to see this role that would in itself, capture the versatility I saw when interviewing Jasper.
Longevity, Sexism & Botox In The Industry
On growing older in the industry, Jasper says, “For men, we continue to work more as we get older, and especially if you’re a character actor. I was driving on Barham the other day, and I see Clint Eastwood movie posters. I’m a huge Clint Eastwood fan, don’t get me wrong, but I was like, Okay, he’s 94? Where is Helen Mirren? Well, it’s hard to find a 94 year old actress right now. There’s such a discrepancy with the way female stars don’t quite have the longevity of Clint Eastwood.”
But he doesn’t believe plastic surgery or botox is the answer. “So when they have all this extreme plastic surgery, they may think they may enjoy how they look in real life. But when it comes to their career, it limits them. We could go down the list of amazing actresses who have kind of f***ed up their face. If the vanity thing had not taken over, if they could just allow themselves to [age]. Well, it’s easy to see it’s very hypocritical. It’s easy for a guy to say that because we don’t have the pressure to look a certain way.”
Jasper also says this is an opportunity, as people who have complained about ageism like Nicole Kidman have found newfound success in tv and streaming formats. “But you notice how that’s why so many of the big TV, film stars are now in television. All of them basically. And that’s where streamers really came in and snatched them up. The best scripts are on the digital and the streaming platforms.”
Solving Hollywood and Los Angeles’s Homelessness Problem
Jasper cares about his community and does a monthly episode on the homeless situation in LA. Going back to LA especially during COVID he saw the situation get worse and out of control. “I mean, it’s really bad, especially in front of Paramount Studios. We always had Skid Row but it’s just, it’s a whole fascinating subculture [that’s grown]. There’s a lot of young 20-somethings that have chosen that lifestyle. They’re living in the vans and the sport tents. And they have the gym membership, and an entry level job at a studio, but they’re not making enough money to really pay LA rents. There’s the apps that tell you where you can park overnight. And there’s a whole, like, supportive subculture in LA. So there’s that part of “unhoused” that are choosing to do it. And then of course there’s single mothers and families and then there’s the other mentally ill. It’s just a mishmash of different tribes.”
As for the solution, he thinks the politicians are useless. “I’ve had so many people on my show [like] politicians, it really is just a matter of the money, it becomes an industry. Homelessness is now an industry. And so of course, the money gets stuck with the bureaucrats and the people create positions to help the homeless, but the money goes to pay those people and it never quite trickles down to the services. So it’s been an awakening.”
“General Jeff Page, called the mayor of Skid Row, was a pretty successful rapper and songwriter who, about 15 years ago, moved down to Skid Row. And he’s their biggest advocate, and he calls the bureaucrats “the poverty pimps”. What he thinks really needs to happen is they need to have more people like him, people from the inside, in some of these governmental positions, who know who really does need the services. And on a federal level, they really need advocates, to be in positions in the government that can get stuff done. Now you just have politicians who run on a platform of saying they’re gonna get stuff done, but they don’t have anybody around them that really have their feet on the ground. It just seems like a hamster wheel. Because Jeff will come on [our podcast] and it’ll be six weeks later, I’ll say, ‘so is there any progress?’ He’s like, ‘Well, we sued about this, but we lost.’ Those are the people I really tip my hat to: those people that fight it every day and try to work for people’s rights. It can be a little overwhelming.”
Jasper Is Skeptical About Big Pharmaceutical Industry & Wants Solutions & Cures
Jasper links this to the money and likens the homelessness industry to the big pharmaceuticals and even the industry resulting from COVID. “I mean, COVID is becoming, well it is and will become a multi billion dollar industry.” We spoke about expensive treatments similar to how we’ve got medications to manage HIV or cancer. While we are thankful for the treatments that allow people to continue their lives, why is there no full cure? Jasper wisely asks, “We don’t really have a cure for cancer. Right? You don’t really have a cure for HIV. It’s much more probable, I’m not saying we do, but it’s much more profitable to have people take medications, and be dependent on that for the rest of their lives instead of curing it. Research, specialists, medications and the drug companies – it would be a whole industry that would collapse. So everyone’s grateful for all kinds of medical advances like with cancer too, but it’s just very bizarre to me that there’s not a cure for certain cancers yet.”
Shifting Priorities: The Road Ahead
The road ahead for Jasper is one of balance, but still with high productivity. “I didn’t really care about a personal life. It was all about the career and the next job and trying to get to the next level. And now I just enjoy [life], I can pick and choose a little more. It’s still hard for me, though, I’m still that hustling actor when it’s hard for me to turn something down. Even when I know I can’t make it work. I’ve left vacations and come home early to do a job. And now I don’t do that anymore. I say, you know, Jasper, your family’s a priority or that the job can wait. But I’m in a different position now than I was when I was 23.”
Jasper can be found on jaspercole.com.