Jason Liles has been a working actor since his recent graduation from the New York Film Academy Acting for Film Conservatory. The NYFA Blog was lucky to catch up with Liles, who graduated from his one-year acting program in May 2010, between filming scenes for Men in Black 3.
“My advice for anyone considering an acting program at NYFA would be to first of all do it…”
Jason, we just heard that you were cast as an alien in the new installment of Men in Black 3. How did you get the job?
How I booked the role is quite interesting. They called me out of nowhere. I had gotten my first job being an extra last November on Boardwalk Empire. I was excited about being on a real set for the first time, but they called me the next day and told me they were sorry but they didn’t realize how tall I was (6’10”) and specifically for that scene the director didn’t want anyone over a certain height. However, they remembered my height and the first week after graduation in May, Grant Wilfley called me and said they wanted me for stand-in work for an entire episode of Royal Pains because the wrestler The Big Show was going to be on it. That was a great experience and I learned a lot about a set very quickly over a few days. About a month later I got a call from Grant Wilfley seeing if I wanted to come in and read for a part in Men In Black 3. I couldn’t believe the opportunity that had been presented to me and I was just so thankful. All my friends and family were so excited for me. It was the beginning of July when I went in, read a few lines for a camera at Grant Wilfley, and that was it. A month went by and I didn’t hear a thing so I figured I didn’t get it. Well at the end of August, almost 2 whole months later, they called me and told me that that scene I read for was cut but they still wanted me for a tall alien.
What was the process like once you were cast?
Over the course of the next few months I went in for 3 or 4 fittings for my head and costume. My role is a tall blue alien without any lines called Feelers. I’ve got an amazing head and matching arms I wear with an incredible costume.
Have you gotten the opportunity to be in any key scenes?
So far I’ve been in scenes with Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Emma Thompson, and Jemaine Clement. What’s really cool is six-time Oscar winning make up artist Rick Baker designed all the prosthetics and he is always on set. His work goes all the way back to the original Star Wars alien prosthetics. It’s an honor to get to work with such a legend and he’s such a great guy too. Wednesday December the 8th was his birthday and on set Barry (Sonnefeld, the director) surprised him on set with a cake with an alien arm coming out of the top. It was cool getting to share that experience as everyone in the cast and crew was singing Happy Birthday to him including Will, Tommy, and Emma. But what meant the most to me was at the end of the day when Rick made sure all the aliens got a big slice of cake (it wasn’t too big and there were easily over 100 people on set) for toughing it out in those prosthetics all day. When I thanked him, he thanked back me for working so hard. That meant a lot to me.
Where else have you found work since NYFA?
Since NYFA I did stand-in work on Royal Pains, was on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm with guest star Ricky Gervais, filmed a day on a new USA show called A Legal Mind. I also played a security guard for a few days on the finale of the new FX show Lights Out, and of course my alien Feelers in Men In Black 3. Also since NYFA I’ve been working a lot on my own music. I’ve got an exciting gig opening for Jake Clemons, the nephew of the legendary saxophonist Clarence Clemons in January. That will be at the Zora Art Space in Brooklyn on January 13th. I’m also flying over to Scotland and Ireland in the spring as I’ve been invited to open for Scottish musician Mick Hargan as he releases his 2nd album. Then we’re planning on coming back to NYC and possibly playing at the Irish Craic Fest downtown along with some other gigs. I’m looking to have an EP done before that to take over and sell at gigs in the UK.
Would you recommend the same NYFA Acting Conservatory program to other students?
I would absolutely recommend the NYFA acting program. I feel it fully prepared me for the business. It gave me all the confidence and tools I need for anything in the acting world. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about acting until I went to NYFA. You get everything you need and more. There really are too many memories to pick from. Almost every day (really almost every class) I would pick up on something new or something memorable would happen. You form a new family with your section that I just wasn’t prepared for. These people are now my best friends in the world. My advice for anyone considering an acting program at NYFA would be to first of all do it and second of all to take huge risks, PLAY every chance you get (have fun with it; it’s called “playing” a character), and work hard on everything like it’s the biggest role of your life.