Avan Jogia is multi-talented and is being compared to Johnny Depp
Avan Jogia left school at age 17 to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. It didn’t take long before Jogia landed the infamous role of Beck Oliver starring alongside Ariana Grande (Cat Valentine) in what would become one of Nickelodeon’s most successful sitcoms, Victorious. After the series wrapped in 2012, Jogia managed to immediately accomplish the unthinkable, effortlessly transcending from being regarded as stereotypical “kid actor” to being compared to Johnny Depp with diversified lead roles on numerous television series (ABC Family’s Twisted, SpikeTV’s Tut) and feature films (I Am Michael, and Shaft).
Jogia is from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and had acquired numerous small television credits early on. He has utilized his fame as a highly vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights, even co-founding the organization Straight But Not Narrow. This year, Jogia starred alongside some of the industry’s biggest names in Zombieland: Double Tap, held the lead role of Ulysses Zane in Starz’ new series Now Apocalypse, and recently released his debut book, Mixed Feelings: Poems & Stories which tackles the experience of what it means to be mixed-race within a world increasingly obsessed with racial identity.
Your debut book, a poetry book entitled Mixed Feelings: Poems & Stories addresses race, identity, religion and family through your own story as well as interviews you’ve conducted with others. What was your inspiration behind the book, and do you have plans for a second?
Avan Jogia: My inspiration behind the book comes from living as a mixed person my entire life. At times I did not know how to place it, nor how to deal with it. As time went on, I became more aware of how my racial identity plays into the rest of the world and wondered if this was a shared feeling. I started Mixed Feelings by writing poems about my own mixed identity. Then I began interviewing people to see if there was a shared experience which became the basis for the rest of the book. I think any artistic effort has to be supported by an actual need to discover something within you. If you are making art for any other reason, then it comes across as disingenuous. As far as making another book, absolutely. Between the releases, touring, performing the book live and meeting fans, this has been such an incredible experience. I would write another book in a heartbeat.
Being as this is your first book tour, what has the experience been like thus far, and what can fans expect on this tour?
AG: The experience has been incredible especially being able to connect with all of these people who have been deeply affected by the book. Working in television and film, I have been to signings before where I have met and interacted with fans. However, what is unique about this experience is the types of people coming out are those who have been directly affected by the subject matter. Even if they are not mixed, they are still naturally poetic and empathetic people. With this tour, everyone who has come out has been very engaged and able to have open dialogue. I have never been to a poetry reading in my entire life, so when putting together this tour my brother and I crafted a performance that feels more like a concert. We perform several songs and put on a bit of a show. I try to keep it as un-boring as possible (laughs).
You’ve dabbled a bit in music from performing with Liz Gillies on Victorious, to the band with your brother Ketan, Saint Ivory. Have you considered releasing an official solo single or album?
AG: As far as a solo album, yes. I have been performing new material on this tour so there may be some music being released in relation to this book at some point. Look, I have so many interests and I get to them in order of operation. There is nothing that is creatively off the table for me. If I come up with a makeup line at some point don’t be surprised (laughs). As long as I have a genuine interest in something, I can make it happen. What is most important to me is to maintain that level of authenticity within my career.
Everyone is enjoying Zombieland: Double Tap which hit theatres October 18. A lot of big names are in the cast: Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Rosario Dawson, Bill Murray. How was your experience filming such a big comedy?
AG: Amazing! Working on Zombieland: Double Tap was so much fun. Light-hearted comedies like that sort of write themselves. The experience was fairly easygoing as an actor not to mention enjoyable working with Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. I met Rosario Dawson and Luke Wilson for the first time. The highlight was getting yelled at by Woody Harrelson (laughs). It is a great lineup.
In 2011 you co-founded the organization Straight But Not Narrow, aimed at changing the heterosexual viewpoints towards the LGBTQ Community. Are you still heavily involved in the organization today, and if so, what is the organization doing today?
AG: I am no longer involved in the organization for the sheer fact that, at the time, it was imperative for straight allies to speak with other straight people to correct their behavior or rather lack of behavior and lack of action. That was integral at the time. Essentially, what we were doing was educating straight people on how to not suck so much. Not that it is unimportant now, but the LGBT climate has changed extensively since 2011. That was nine years ago; it was a completely different time. We were not discussing all of the LGBT advancements we are now. Moreover, much of what we were fighting for (ex: marriage equality) has come to fruition.
Although you accumulated a variety of smaller credits prior to its release, your role as Beck on Nickelodeon’s Victorious was your breakout role, which premiered in 2010. The show is approaching its 10-year anniversary. Is there a reboot, or an anniversary special at the least, in the works?
AG: Not to my knowledge, at least not yet. I loved that show and obviously I love that cast. It was sort of like college, and it is hard to know what is going on with your college friends after graduation. We are all still very close however we haven’t discussed a formal reunion.
Following Victorious, you were cast in the lead role of bad boy Danny Desai in ABC Family’s Twisted, starred as King Tut in the SpikeTV miniseries Tut, and played James Franco’s lover in the film I Am Michael. You’re a very multifaceted actor. Being as you work as both an actor and director, what do you look for in a role or script today?
AG: I look for something I have never done before. This has become consistent for me. I try not to repeat characters as much as possible and prefer to challenge myself. I am attracted to roles which I can bring a level of honesty to as an actor. I seek roles which have fruit to them; the whole functionality of this entire field is chasing the writing. Pursuing parts purely based upon the perception the film is expected to be a box office smash is not as interesting to me. I rather play a part that is well written and has truth to it. I enjoy working with different filmmakers and telling stories outside of the status quo.
What has been your most rewarding project thus far?
AG: Starring as King Tut in Tut was incredible. I find it to be the most rewarding as far as taking on the entire life of a character from birth to death in conjunction with performing a variety of stunts. Subsequently, playing Nico Gladstone in I Am Michael was a very fun experience and most recently playing Ulysses Zane in Starz’ Now Apocalypse was incredible. I try not to accept roles if I won’t walk away feeling rewarded thereafter.
You originally established your acting career on Victorious. And you are regarded as a highly versatile actor, and have been routinely compared to Johnny Depp. How did you manage to differentiate yourself?
AG: The problem with that world is it gets you so obsessed about the wrong things: fanbase, tabloids, etc. Ultimately, I had to remind myself that the only thing which matters is the work that I am doing. I had to ask myself: am I getting better as an actor? As long as I am getting better and making pushing myself a priority, consistently, then there is no role that is out of reach. The current social fixation with Instagram, followers, etc. has created a wave of confusion in terms of what this job is fundamentally about. To a degree, I understand, because what is the value of an actor if their star power is waning? Nevertheless, at the end of the day good acting is the only thing I can hang my hat on.
Ironically, speaking of being superficial, let’s discuss your hair which has gained a bit of notoriety. Your hair is beautiful. Your sort of known for your always evolving looks. Is it vitamins, shampoos, red light therapy—what is your secret?
AG: I don’t have a secret (laughs). I cut my hair pretty often; I even shaved it at one point. I’ve dyed it too. I actually don’t see the same level of value that’s been put on my hair. However it’s cool, I’ll take it. I don’t tamper with it too much anymore. Getting me to style it and integrate product is a process alone.
Mixed Feelings: Poems and Stories by Avan Jogia is available on Amazon, Kindle, and in stores at Barnes & Noble and wherever fine books are sold.