Jonathan Keltz has the kind of smile that elicits blushes. Dapper in a suit and tie, he arrives early for his Hardly
photo shoot, shakes everyone's hand, looks everyone in the eye, remembers everyone's name. "Jonathan or Jonny" he grins when asked for his own preferred moniker, then gamely heads to the hallway by the freight elevator to get outfitted in his prom finest.
Star power? Um, yeah. Dude was born for this.
, Jonathan's new movie and a Disney blockbuster, looks set to confirm that. Jonathan plays Brandon, who he describes as "the kind of guy your mom wants you to marry," the nice guy clueless about his own romantic charms. "It was a very cohesive unit," Jonathan says of the cast, which also includes Yin Chang and Aimee Teegarden. "We were hanging out and having a blast."
Jonathan's path to Disney idoldom started early. Born in New York, he knew he wanted to be an actor by age 10, fired up by his school's "wonderful" theatre program and a childhood viewing of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet
. During his high school years in Toronto, he did the rounds of Canadian TV (Degrassi, Queer as Folk, Heartland
), then, in 2009, he landed his break-out role as Jake Steinberg, Ari Gold's clean-cut assistant on Entourage
. (Jonathan even brought his own headset to the audition.)
When he won the role, "I absolutely freaked," he remembers, laughing. "The show seemed a tangible realization of so much of my own dreams. Me and my buddies would get together every Sunday night to watch it."
Now living his own version of the Hollywood dream, Jonathan talked to Hardly
about how he spent his own prom night, balancing acting and high school, and the role he yearns to play. (Just for Hardly
, Jonathan also plays the role of advice columnist, sharing his insight into the world of high school guys and romance. Stay tuned.)
What was the best part about working on Prom?
Everyone, from the producers and director to the whole cast, got along great. We came at it with a collaborative team attitude, which is always fun! And my co-stars are terrific: we have a group of strikingly different individuals that all come together to make the group. Most of my scenes are with the prom committee and we got along famously.
What was your own prom like?
I was definitely excited about it! My high school had a 500-person senior class so it was a big
prom. I was in a black tux with black shirt and a dark red tie with a pocket square. I tried to mix it up a bit. My favourite part, by far, was the limo ride there. It was my core group of friends and we were having a great time riding around town.
You signed with an agent when you were a teenager. How did your life change when you started acting professionally?
My friends were very supportive from the get-go. I was in school, auditioning, working at a restaurant outside of school, shooting whenever I booked stuff, and trying to still be an avid social kid. It was an interesting balancing act. I tried to make high school the most complete experience I could and to get as much out of it as possible without feeling too much pressure. However, acting is my art, my passion, and always my primary focus. In my senior year I ended up having over a hundred class absences for auditions and work but somehow I still managed to make it on the honour roll [laughs].
Pre-Entourage, what was your favourite acting role?
I shot an episode of Cold Case
that is still one of my favourite experiences. It was the first job I booked that was actually shot in L.A., and we worked primarily on the Warner Brothers lot. I remember coming onto the lot and seeing the water tower and feeling excited and scared to be there. I played a 1963 James Dean-type named Dom. I even got to race a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air! When the episode aired, it felt like the first thing I'd done where my friends and family could really see me as an actor. It was the first character I got a chance to really delve into.
What do you enjoy most about working on Entourage?
The creative talents of the cast and crew combined is astounding. Since I'm always at the agency, I only get to see a portion of what comes together to make the show, but, for me, it's always a blast to get to work with Jeremy Piven. The guy is a tour de force. He's so engaged in the present, spontaneous, and right there ready to play and have fun. Even when Ari is at his most turbulent, you can feel how much Jeremy loves to act.
What are some of the misconceptions about being a young actor in Hollywood today?
People still seem to think actors are getting discovered walking down Hollywood Boulevard or taking your order at Starbucks. The public doesn't quite realize how much work and dedication it takes to be a working actor. I've been acting professionally for seven years, studying steadily for about 13, and I've gone out on roughly 1,200 auditions. That said, there are hundreds of actors with more experience struggling even harder. It's an industry that requires you to work hard and pay your dues like any other.
What's your dream role?
One day I want to play Hamlet. It's one of the most challenging roles, but it's also the character where you're most encouraged to bring your own Hamlet to the stage.
What do you love most about acting?
The best part is between "action" and "cut". You get to relax, breathe, and go for it. If you're truly there and ready, anything can happen. That feeling can't be beat. It can be rather challenging [to] get back up again and again. You have to truly believe in yourself and your passion, otherwise you can lose your sense of self.
What's next for you?
It's been a very exciting time. Prom
is out now, and I also have two independent features, Transgression
, which will hopefully also come out this year. I shot an episode of Breakout Kings
, where I play an escaped convict on the run. We're about to start shooting the eighth and final season of Entourage
, which will begin airing in July. Other than that, my main plan is to breathe.
The boy next door is your long-time best friend, until one day you begin thinking he might make a better boyfriend. Is it better to save the friendship and mum's the word until you're sure he is the one, or should you just take the leap and make your new feelings known, because the friendship will last even if he doesn't have feelings for you or if those feelings eventually fade?
I would say at first assess the situation, be careful, and then make a decision. If it turns out he is the right guy for you, go for it!!! And if he doesn't have these same feelings, it will all be fine. Real friendships can stand the test of time. You're actually in a very good position; it is always better to be friends first.
You like a boy in your English class and you get the feeling he likes you back. The problem is he's unpopular (doesn't get bullied but doesn't get noticed) and you're popular. Because of this, it doesn't seem like he's going to make a move unless positive you won't reject him based on social status, but you're not sure if you won't. Is this romance doomed to be nothing more than a secret crush?
It's most definitely not doomed to be a secret crush. The thing is, if you don't make a move you may find yourself missing out on one of the best things that could ever happen, due to "status." So ask yourself, is he worth missing out on, and why not take the risk?
You're a tomboy and have a tight group of guy friends who include you in all that they do … that is, except for dating. You like hanging out with them but it's beginning to feel like nobody, not even boys outside of your circle, think of you as a "girl." Is it possible to be "one of the boys" and still be desirable/datable in the eyes of boys?
Definitely, and it all depends on the way you see yourself. When you feel pretty and desirable, that comes across. People will notice you without you having to try. Feel beautiful on the inside, and you will be beautiful on the outside. You can do this without compromising who you are. Remember: stay true to yourself.