After many years as being seen as Devon Carter on the hit Disney television show “That’s So Raven“, right before our eyes Jonathan McDaniel has grown up into a mature and heart throb actor. HowsMyRolling.net graciously allowed me to interview this California native to talk about his upcoming film “In The Hive“, his preference in movie roles and more! Check the interview below to see why Lil J is no longer looked at like a kid, but a grown man.
Coming of Age with Lil J
HowsMyRolling.net: Since stepping in the entertainment world you have been really active. How was that transition from being a recording artist to an actor?
Jonathan ‘Lil J’ McDaniel: When I dropped my first record “It’s the Weekend” with Jermaine Dupri, I was touring and doing a lot of shows across the United States. Just trying to push the record, we were doing pretty well, we had a number 1 single with it and from there I was able to develop a lot of friendships with different people. One of the people that I met through my travels while I was pushing my record was Raven Symone. We ended up hanging out and becoming friends, she let me know that they were holding auditions for a specific role on her show. She knew that I was trying to get into acting because that has always been aspirations to be an actor as well as being a rapper. She called me and asked if I wanted to audition, so I said “Yeah!” So I came into the Disney channel building auditioned for the role, it was only suppose to be for like maybe two or three episodes for the show, she was just helping me with the transition and getting my feet wet. Then the audience really gravitated towards the character of Devon Carter on the show and they ended up writing me in more. Me and Raven just kept hanging out, developed a great friendship over the years. That’s how I made a transition from rapper to actor. Just from being in it and seeing the art, the craft how these professionals work to see what they do it was one of those passions that I always wanted to do.
HMR: Great to hear, every time I turn on B.E.T. they have on “Nora’s Hair Salon” or Disney’s “That’s so Raven” and that gives you the exposure many wish to have. You’ve grown into a nice young man, what have you learned from your peers on set?
JM: Honestly that was one of my first projects I was able to get on as well for “Nora’s Hair Salon.” It gave me an understanding about the difference of film and television. The acting styles are different, television is a lot more upbeat, it’s faster, its sitcom. I learned the difference of the speed of acting, the different styles you have to have. The preparation is different; everything about the two is different so I learned how to adapt and learn from both styles by having the chance to do both. I think that a lot of people take time to really find out what they really want to do, as far as being a television star or movie star. For me I love to do both, I don’t really see myself just being one or the other. I feel like I can do both, whether I chose to do one more than the next or whether I chose to do one at a time. I don’t really want to limit myself. So, to be able to adapt to those two I think was a great blessing to have that talent. Most people are sitcom or film actors a lot of people can’t do both, me just trying to hone my skills and stay grinding on perfecting both styles of acting. Also theatre is the other dimension of acting, which is another thing I’m working on, I would like to get into Broadway.
HMR: So do you prefer drama, comedy or romantic roles?
JM: You know what’s so funny? The romantic roles are always fun because there’s so much fun you can have with the flirting and the different type of reactions that you can bring out of the other character. Those are always fun and great to look at on camera. You get to see real moments and real reactions from the people. Comedy is something I would love to get into more, I’m drawn to comedy. I’m actually starting my own sketch comedy show with my best friend David called “Cents of Humor.” We’re starting from ground zero and we’ve got about twenty five to thirty celebrity intros from friends in the industry. They have came on, shouted us out and showed us love, promoted our show. That’s something else that I’m working towards also besides the more dramatic stuff that I’m really drawn to. I don’t know if it’s because of the different things I’ve been through, my struggle and how long it’s taken me to be able to get to the point where I’m at now. It just seems to bring out a certain intensity that a lot of people don’t know that hopefully in this new film I’m promoting called “In The Hive.” It’s directed by Robert Townsend it has Loretta Devine, Michael Clarke Duncan, Vivica A. Fox, Roger Guenveur Smith and I’m playing the leading role in it for the character called Xtra Key. This film is the most dramatic that I’ve ever done with any project.
I don’t know if it’s because of the different things I’ve been through, my struggle and how long it’s taken me to be able to get to the point where I’m at now. It just seems to bring out a certain intensity that a lot of people don’t know that hopefully in this new film I’m promoting called “In The Hive.”
HMR: Now the movie “In the Hive” directed by Robert Townsend, can you tell the readers a little bit about the film.
JM: It’s a coming of age story about this young man that’s torn and conflicted between the street life and what he knows best. Due to the fact the way he was brought up from his father in a gang and being a product of his own environment. He is torn between that, the education and the light, the smarts he really has inside of him that he hasn’t really able to showcase yet because that isn’t really popular based on the type of area he lives in. So he hides that with toughness, it’s an amazing story between education and the street life. Also, the conflicted youth that lives among us that deals with choosing the fast life over education right now. This is one of those films that’s going be really touchy on those types of circumstances and the value of education. It’s a true story and is taken place in rural Bertie County, North Carolina. It’s really amazing what Vivian Saunders has done with one economy, this nonprofit organization that has came together and started this charter school for these kids called “The Hive.”
HMR: I’m looking forward to seeing that movie. Lastly what can we expect from Jonathan McDaniel in 2011?
JM: You can expect my own production company called Genius Child Entertainment, I represent a couple artists that’s getting ready to come out. I got some writers and producers that’s underneath my company right now and coming out with great records very soon. You can expect a lot of movie and television film stuff. I got two pilots that’s shooting and are coming out at the end of this year until 2012. I got at least three other movies of mine that haven’t been released yet, two of them are called “Burning Palms” which will be out on DVD and a movie called “Detention.” I’m just consistently working and the movie “In The Hive” will be out at the end of the year, early 2012 as my leading break out role. Besides that there’s a web series called “Nine” about teen pregnancy, it’s really powerful. I encourage anyone to check that out. Me and my boy Japan got a group together called L.A.D.I.E. KILLUS (Life And Death Isn’t Enough to Kill Us). We young soldiers out here and we really letting it be known that the struggles, trials and tribulations that you go through are a part of life, you can’t let that kill you. You got to be a Ladie Killus.
Interviewed by: Shiyana Bellamy
Conducted on August 8, 2011