I recently had the chance to talk to Jordan Gavaris who plays Jasper Bartlett on Cartoon Network’s UNNATURAL HISTORY.
For those who don’t know, Unnatural History follows the story of Henry Griffin, an extraordinarily skilled teenager, who is sent to live with his uncle Bryan (Martin Donovan) and cousin Jasper (Jordan Gavaris) in Washington D.C. Henry and Jasper both attend the James Smithson High School, the charter school within the National Museum Complex, of which uncle Bryan is the dean. There they will find themselves involved in all sorts of adventures trying to solve mysteries along with their new friend Maggie (Italia Ricci).
Jordan Gavaris talked about what attracted him to the part, what’s coming up in future episodes, his future projects, and much more. So enjoy and make sure to watch Unnatural History on Sundays at 8pm.
What attracted you to this part of Jasper?
Jordan Gavaris: It’s kind of a funny story. I originally read for the role of Henry and I think that my tape was submitted to our executive producer, Mike Werb, in L.A. He saw the tape and I think he kind of laughed. Henry’s supposed to be this outdoor, gruff, jungle type kid. He’s sort of a miniature Indiana Jones and I was so not that. Then it kind of took a couple of screenings and then his assistant saw the tape and a couple of other people and they were like, ‘This kid is kind of Jasper.’ I didn’t know who Jasper was. I knew the part existed because when I was reading for Henry one of the scenes involved Jasper. So then I was called back to read for that part and as soon as I did it just felt so natural. It was like putting on a second skin. I grew up in the countryside but I spent a lot of time growing up in the city. I can definitely relate to Jasper a lot better than I think I could ever relate to Henry. He’s a cool cat, really funny. The lines that the writers spend hours, probably, creating for me are just amazing and I love it. It was the humor. It was the drive and Jasper is just a cool cat.
Aren’t you glad that you submitted yourself for Henry then?
Jordan Gavaris: Absolutely. And at that point I was like, ‘How amazing would it be to play Henry,’ but now that I’m playing Jasper I definitely wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jasper is the sidekick and that’s usually who you love -
Jordan Gavaris: That’s kind of the whole thing about the show, that when we first started it was very much Henry, Jasper and then Maggie was this kind of fringe character. That’s how we’d established it in the pilot and then we got to shooting it and we sort of began to establish the series as a regular series and sort of forming this Three Musketeers situation and the chemistry just crackles between the three of us. I just love working with them. He’s an important part of the trio. We’re all important parts.
Can you talk about what’s coming up for him this season? I’m guessing a lot more trouble.
Jordan Gavaris: I’m always terrified of giving too much away but I will say that there are some pretty big mysteries and it’s just crazy, action packed adventure. There are a couple little subplots here and there and you get to know Jasper a little more. You find out a little bit more about who he is as a person and some of the circumstances that he’s grown up in. You get to figure him out a little more because we don’t really know a whole lot about him. We’ve sort of been introduced to them and they’re thrown into these ventures but we really haven’t gotten to know who they are and why they do the things that they do.
Are there going to be flashbacks for Jasper or Maggie?
Jordan Gavaris: I’m actually sitting here reading the season finale script, or I shouldn’t say season finale. I should say the twelfth episode script. We’ve been toying with, and I obviously cannot give anything away, but we’ve been toying with the idea of a flashback for Jasper but we’re just not quite sure how to use it yet. So we’re going to see. Maybe it’s already in there and I’m just not telling you. No. I’m just kidding. We’ve been toying with the idea for a while and it’s something that we’ve talked about but more of the back story for Jasper is something that we discussed in the pilot. We did reference his mother, what happened to his mother, where did she go and what’s going on with her, his relationship with his dad, his relationship with Henry and maybe a crush here or there.
Speaking of which, how is the relationship between Jasper and his father going to evolve?
Jordan Gavaris: At first, I think his dad is on a bit of a pedestal. That’s what we established in the pilot. What’s great is that Martin Donovan is such a cinematic legend. He’s so cool and such an incredible performer. When I got a little more comfortable acting the comedy the relationship started to form onscreen. There’s a lot of humor in it and it’s definitely a father/son relationship versus my father’s the dean of the school and I idolize him. It’s a little more grounded than it was. We get to see their relationship in a more natural light, a more normal light, something a little closer to reality.
And then is there going to be a love interest for Jasper, maybe Maggie?
Jordan Gavaris: Jasper has had a couple of crushes here and there, a couple of love interests over the season and I can’t say whether or not Maggie is one of them but I can say there are some really fun crushes and there are some really funny moments because Jasper is still like many teenagers, getting comfortable in his own skin. He has no idea how to talk to a girl and it’s really funny because in high school I didn’t either and I can relive that. But now it’s funny. It was not funny in high school. It was terribly embarrassing. So now I get to relive it and it’s fun but then it was not. There are some very funny moments as he develops some crushes.
Will Henry ever teach Jasper some of his tricks?
Jordan Gavaris: I think that’s something that the writers have been toying with for a very long time. There are a couple of fun little beats where we’re all working together as a trio. I can’t say for sure if there will be a Zen master and student moment. It would certainly be useful. I want him to. What’s funny is that Kevin [Schmidt] does a lot of his own stunts. He has a phenomenal stunt double but he works really hard to try and do as many as he can. The funny thing was that while I was auditioning for the show I was training in martial arts, before I even knew I had the part of Jasper and even before I thought I would audition for Henry. I’ve been doing martial arts for a long time and I would love to do it. I see them doing all flying around and bouncing around and I’m dying to try something like that and hopefully not breaking an arm in the process. I am so gung-ho to do stunts so please call the writers. I’ll give you the number and tell them to give me something.
What about a cool dream sequence where he kicks some ass.
Jordan Gavaris: I would love to do something like that. That’s a great idea. Now I have to get you to sign a paper saying you did not come up with that idea. I’m just kidding.
What’s been the hardest episode or scene to shoot so far?
Jordan Gavaris: That’s a loaded question. I think there are definitely some scenes that for whatever reason you get into them and the words roll off your tongue and everything you’re going to do in the scene is very clear but every once in a while you encounter a really tough one where I think the most difficult episode for me just because I had so many things going on in this episode which has yet to air – I think it’s the fifth episode in the series; Jasper is just very conflicted. I won’t say about what but he was so conflicted that I found myself very conflicted when I went to do the scenes. I was like, ‘Okay. Am I concerned about this and what just happened before?’ It was midway through and we were just approaching a long weekend. I think I was so fried. I would’ve lost my head if it wasn’t attached to my body.
It works for the character it sounds like.
Jordan Gavaris: Absolutely. I definitely lucked out and I’m hoping that it comes across onscreen. That was definitely the most difficult episode to shoot. The hardest scene to shoot, I think anything outside in hot weather. Is there an animal that prefers the cold? I guess I’m like a penguin or a polar bear because I can’t stand the hot weather. L.A. is amazing. It’s the perfect weather for me. July and August aside, in the fall in L.A. it’s so nice. It’s cool, doesn’t get too hot, not too humid. Toronto gets brutally cold but I sweat that we have the hottest summers on the planet here. It goes up to 40 with the humidity. It’s sticky. I feel like I’m five hundred pounds and trudging. It’s almost like there’s a sheet of water waiting for me in the air. Of course hair and makeup are always battling that kind of stuff. So anything outside and in weather above 35 degrees is tough. You’ve got them chasing after you with a blow dryer. This is not what I thought the movies would be like.
What’s been your favorite episode?
Jordan Gavaris: My absolute favorite episode just aired. I can only say that it’s my favorite episode up to the episodes that I’ve seen because I haven’t even seen all the episodes that are done. It’s funny, on paper they’re so different than when you go to do them. I have a couple of episodes that were my favorite on paper but when I saw episode 103, the Sputnik episode that aired on Sunday, that was my favorite. I had a really, really great time shooting that, too. Paul Shapiro directed it and he just brings a collaborative attitude to the set and he’s got a cool energy. You can anything to him. He’ll give you the time of the day. He gives you the time to work through questions that you have. He doesn’t shrug them off. He makes things that are important to you important to him and that was special to me. We’ve since become good friends and I really hope he comes back to do more. He also directed the seventh episode which will be airing soon in a month and a half or so. That was my favorite episode. It was so cool and so funny. It was so much fun to shoot because there were so many jokes and I think the chemistry shined through between the three of us on that one. Having Ashley [Leggat] guest start, too. She’s such a cool girl.
Do you have any other projects coming up aside from the show?
Jordan Gavaris: There is a particular project on the horizon that I’m really excited about. I’m hopeful. The part is not mine. I’m really clawing for it. It’s an independent movie called ‘Grass Stains’. It’s written by Kyle Wilamowski and I think he’s directing it, too. I can remember my lines and that’s about it, lately. It’s a really cool story about a young kid who becomes indirectly responsible for someone’s death. It’s a completely different direction than ‘Unnatural History’. It’s a very stark drama, dark and it’s sweet. It has everything in a movie that I liked as a teenager. I wasn’t the average teenager. I watched a lot of modern film and film noir and avant-garde film. I definitely loved my different movies. I loved my independent movies. It’s definitely an independent teenage drama but it spoke to me. The character is really cool. I was reading it and it’s one of those situations where the words are rolling off my tongue and I’m settling right into the skin of this person.
That’s casting right now?
Jordan Gavaris: It’s casting right now and I haven’t heard anything yet. Watch it come out tomorrow, like, ‘We’re very sorry’ – knowing my luck. I have terrible luck.
‘Unnatural History’ is awesome. How can you say that?
Jordan Gavaris: It’s true. What am I saying. I’m lucky. I was lucky when it came to being socially normal. It’s good to be a little socially awkward sometimes and say the wrong thing but other than that, no, I’m a pretty lucky person. I’m really hopeful. I was really excited when I read that script and have had many a conversation about it. So here’s hoping.
If you could guest star on any other TV show which one would it be?
Jordan Gavaris: ’30 Rock’ hands down. I would even play a background person, provided they don’t ask security to escort me out when I try to get Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey’s autographs. All of them. I think it’s the coolest show. Lorne Michaels. Even to be in the same room as him. If I couldn’t get ’30 Rock’ I would say ‘True Blood’. This is the thing, I’m the biggest TV junkie. I’m sitting here now and I have an episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ on my television in my trailer. I have the ‘Alias’ box sets and the ‘Buffy’ box sets lining the walls of my trailer. Before we do a unit move and they have to move the trailers, they actually have to lock my trailer down so the box sets don’t fly all over the place because I have so many of them. But that’s why I’m so excited for Comic Con as well because so many of my favorite TV shows have gone there for years and years. So I’m just now getting into ‘True Blood’ because I love the whole vampire thing. I’m not a Twi-hard. I’m not crazy on the ‘Twilight’ bandwagon. I think they’re really cool films and I see them. I just wouldn’t go to a convention dressed up as Edward but I can totally get behind ‘True Blood’. I would totally guest star on an episode and have wanted to play a vampire forever. I think it’s more or less an excuse for me to put on an accent and wear contacts and look really creepy. I’ve been trying to be a vampire for Halloween for four years but then something keeps coming up every Halloween and I can’t do it. Maybe this Halloween I can do it. I’ll get some makeup artist to throw the prosthetic on me and do something crazy.
Have you been to Comic Con before?
Jordan Gavaris: I’ve never been to Comic Con before. This will be my first time to San Diego, too. I’ve heard it’s crazy. I’ve heard it’s nuts, that people wear wigs and get dressed up. I’m so excited. It’s great because I’m really excited for the team back in L.A. and our executive producer Mike Werb. He just flew in today and I just saw him on set before I got on the phone with you and I haven’t seen him since the premiere in L.A. He’s so excited, too and that makes me feel excited. There was an alert about it, that we are showing an exclusive episode that’s never before been seen at Comic Con. That’s exciting, too.