Jason Liles
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  • Special Screening of Netflix’s “Death Note” With NYFA Alumnus Jason Liles

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    This September, New York Film Academy alumnus Jason Liles was the second guest for the Alumni Screenings taking place the first Thursday of every month. After a screening of Liles’ latest work, Netflix’s “Death Note,” there was a Q and A. The creature actor is playing the indomitable Ryuk, who was voiced by Willem Dafoe.

    This is Liles’ first major motion picture and his enthusiasm for the craft of acting was tangible. He even stayed late, past the school closing, to speak with students about how to break into the industry.

    Chair of Alumni Affairs Gabriela Egito and Chair of Animation Craig Caton hosted the evening. They kicked off with the question on everyone’s mind, “What was it like in the Ryuk costume?”

    The outfit is skin tight leather, covered in sharp quills, and topped with bold purple hair. The costume came with a lot of restrictions. For one thing, common set etiquette requires crew yell, “Points!” when walking around with tripods, c-stands, or any object that could potentially impale another person. A common joke when Liles arrived on set was to yell, “Quills!”

    According to Liles, the quills were the heaviest part of the costume, but not the most challenging part. “Death Note” was filmed over the summer in Toronto. This was not exactly ideal weather in which to be covered head to toe in tight black leather.

    One student asked, “How do you, as an actor, take care of your health when you’re in the suit?” Liles gave a lot of credit to the makeup and wardrobe team, who he lovingly called “Team Ryuk.” At one point, a cooling suit was implemented: a system of tubes that run underneath the costume. The idea is that ice-cold water can be shot through the tubes to cool the performer down without taking off the costume.

    Keeping on the costume is vital to the filmmaking process. When they first began filming it took about an hour and a half to turn Liles into the god-spirit Ryuk. Before the end of production, Team Ryuk was able to get the costume and makeup done in about 30 minutes, according to Liles. Unfortunately, the cooling suit only worked once for five minutes.

    So, Liles was forced to manage his body temperature. The crew was helpful, setting up a cooling tent which was an air-conditioned reprieve from the summer heat. Cold packs were occasionally inserted into the suit between takes to help bring his body temperature down, which could reach over a hundred degrees. But it was staying hydrated that was the most important part.

    Getting the right amount of water was tricky. Since taking on and putting on the suit was a complicated affair, Liles had to strike a balance between staying hydrated enough not to die, but not so hydrated that he has to use the restroom every 15 minutes.

    But the suit wasn’t the only thing the NYFA community wanted to know about. Many were curious about how an actor can project through big costumes and pounds of makeup. Liles said in order to prepare for Ryuk, he watched the anime series and read the manga created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. But this was just the jumping off point.

    David Bowie and Prince were both wanted to perform the role of Ryuk before they passed, and director Adam Wingard wanted to use these musical geniuses as inspiration for the characters movements.

    The audition was a simultaneously grueling and joyous process. See, the audition was a movement audition. The single camera was mounted with a wide-angle lens. The script described movements such as popping in and out of the scene in poofs of smoke. “At first I thought, this is impossible,” Liles said.

    But he persevered, experimenting with different animal movements and eventually landing on a snake. He used his height to control the space. Sometimes he’d be crouching or slithering across the floor and then he’d stand up, his lanky body creating this skeleton-like creature. Liles even wore an all black leotard, employing his brief training as a mime, hoping the dark clothing would help him look more like liquid.

    The casting director was so impressed she told him immediately that he had done a great job and that she hoped he would be cast. Even so, he wasn’t sure he’d land the role. He recalled he had been close to being cast as the titular “Krampus” a few years earlier.

    “I was always so close,” he said, but his agent assured him he earned the part. “He told me the only way I wasn’t going to get the part is if I turned it down.”

    Liles had quite a lot of wisdom to dispense. He encouraged students to, “…be the CEO of your life. I stopped waiting for somebody to do something.” He told stories of making international calls to Australia to figure out who was casting “Alien V. Predator” because he wanted to be a xenomorph, and walking into casting agents office in Canada and asking for a part.

    “I never thought I would do this,” he shared. But Liles wouldn’t let fear stop him from pursuing his goal. “Just try stuff,” he encouraged the students. “There’s only so much prep you can do. When you get on set everything is going to be changing.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Mr. Liles for taking the time to speak with our students. Watch Liles in the movie “Death Note” on Netflix, and performing with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Rampage” as his best friend, an albino gorilla named George.

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  • New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Jason Liles

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    “Before I moved to NYC I was told by many that I was too tall to be an actor,” says New York Film Academy Acting for Film graduate Jason Liles. “However, it seems my height was been the very thing that’s been getting me in the door to this point.”

    The 6’10” actor has booked a number of high-profile jobs since his graduation in May 2010. Jason explains, “The very week after graduating… [I did an] episode of stand-in work for [pro wrestler] The Big Show as he guest starred on an episode of USA’s Royal Pains. That was my first experience on a big film or TV set ever.”

    “About a month later, [I was called] in to audition for a principal role as a tall alien in Men In Black III 3D!” says Jason. “I ended up working as three aliens over several weeks with [7-time Academy Award-winning] special makeup effects artist Rick Baker and his crew. I worked on the film… with nearly the entire main cast. I got all my SAG waivers and made some great connections. It was an incredible experience. I’m very much looking forward to it’s release on May 25.”

    Jason got another lucky break when he got a second callback for a role on a commercial. He recounts, “I was ecstatic… when I found out searching on the internet that it was a PRINCIPAL role in a NATIONAL Allstate commercial… This was my first time ever auditioning in front of the director, and all for a big project like this. MIB’s audition was for a camera. It was so cool to be getting direction from the director himself at the audition and I gave it my all in that room.”

    Jason waited anxiously until he got the news that he booked the role. He explains, “Because of the waivers I got doing Men In Black III, I had to join SAG to do it so I also got my SAG card!!! Meetings with agents were being set up!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial even. I started to think, ‘Okay, it’s a commercial, but it won’t be that big. It can’t be.’ It just seemed too easy and too good to be true.”

    “The shoot went amazing,” he says. “Around 300 extras were cast for the crowd, and about 15 principals including us basketball players. I got to work directly with Dean ‘Mayhem’ Winters and his 11-year stunt double, David Shumbris, all day. It was such a pleasure to work with both of them and I can’t say enough nice things about them. Also getting to work directly with acclaimed commercial director David Gray was really exciting for me. He was nominated for the prestigious DGA Commercial Director of the Year award in 2004 and I believe this was his first Allstate Mayhem commercial.”

    “I had never experienced anything like a 2,000 frames-per-second high-speed camera getting my close-up for a national commercial before,” says Jason. “When we were setting up that shot, I can’t explain the anticipation and excitement for what was about to happen. I was so amped and felt so grateful to be standing on that court surrounded by such talent. After we got my close-up I went over to the monitor and watched it with David. It looked incredible! So epic! I remember standing behind David as he’s pointing at my face on the monitor saying to the assistant director, Peter Jackson, ‘That’s great! That’s perfect right there. Great, let’s move on.’ It was such a compliment for me to come from such a great director like him.“

    The commercial is currently airing on CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Comedy Central, History, Fox, ESPN, and AMC. Jason says, “Another graduate of NYFA, Nick Purdy, said my ‘shocked face is plastered all over Canadian television.’ So evidently it’s showing internationally as well.”

    “I love this business,” Jason says. “Less than a week before shooting the commercial, I knew nothing about it. Persistence is key in anything, and… especially in this industry. I feel so very blessed and so lucky to get this opportunity only a couple years into my career. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that have been given to me and can’t wait to see what’s next…. There’s one thing that I’ve come to learn in this business: you never know what’s right around the corner.”

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    April 18, 2012 • Acting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5735

  • New York Film Academy Graduate Does Voiceover for New Rockstar Games Videogame L.A. Noire

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    Rockstar Game's LA Noire

    New York Film Academy Graduate Jason Liles did voiceover work for the new Rockstar Games videogame L.A. Noire. L.A. Noire was the first ever video game to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. The day of the US game release caused shares to peak in Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar Games’ parent, resulting in the three-year high for the company. This commercial success is attributed to the positive reviews that L.A. Noire has been receiving. The game is also now at the top of the UK games chart. Comments Liles:

    “It was a great experience and I’m really honored to have my name in the credits for Rockstar Games. Their game last year, Red Dead Redemption, was game of the year and L.A. Noire could do the same.”

    Outside of voiceover work for Rockstar Games (Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, Midnight Club, Red Dead series), Liles has been busy filming multiple alien roles in the upcoming Men in Black 3. To learn more about Liles, check out his December 2010 interview in the NYFA blog.

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    June 20, 2011 • Acting • Views: 2942

  • Spotlight: NYFA Alum Cast In Men In Black 3

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    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.

    Jason Liles

     “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.

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    December 15, 2010 • Acting • Views: 3198