Sizzling under the LA sun, a basketball court’s tarmac burns up, begging for a gust of wind to soothe the scorching surface. Up in the hills, claiming the court as his own, actor Jake Manley accepts the offer to experience every inch of the searing enclosure. In a game of hide-and-seek with the sun, he allows the rays to soak into his skin for a minute but in the next finds shelter behind the barrier of hats and hoods. Throwing shadows on the ground, Jake is a long way from the snowfall of his native Canada.
Fascinated by what makes people tick and the human condition, Jake is confronted with the realities of modern engagement and shares his thoughts on acting’s role in developing character and living beyond superficial interactions. With a fascination for film and every aspect of it, eventually brought him from behind the camera whilst doing productions and in front of the camera. His journey through acting and his affection for the film industry led to a knowledgeable understanding and observational quality to his analysis of the world around him. Photographer Ashley Frangie adapts Los Angeles into Jake’s playground as he rattles chain-link fences and swings from hoops like a kid at break time. Veronica Graye styles him up to the California standard; wearable and casual with a little edge.
After a whirlwind year of project after project, Jake is able to catch a breath in his LA home. Featuring in four films, currently, in post-production, and as the lead in Netflix’s brand-new series The Order, premiering on the 7th March. Jake takes on character Jack Morton who pursues membership to an elite society encrypted with dark magic and a sinister threat; laced with thrill and danger, The Order gets the heart racing laps to keep up with the blood pumping rapidly.
Who is Jake?
Good question, I think Jake - myself, is someone who enjoys the world of film and this authentic engagement that I get through acting and collaborating with people on set. I’d say I’m just a down to earth guy who enjoys hanging out with friends and family, as well as going outside. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and I’ve always had a strong love for film and TV. I started off behind the camera working as a producer, but then I started getting into acting and fell in love with the craft.
What makes you happy?
A lot of things; having good times with people I enjoy spending time with, like family and friends. Trying new things. Spontaneity makes me happy. I think curiosity makes me happy - it drives me to do the things that I do. Learning about people, relationships and cultures make me happy. Music, of course, and film. But a film can also make you unhappy, which is interesting, and I think it's something to explore. I think there’s also curiosity there.
How do you think a film should make you feel?
I think film, music or the arts is not about feeling happy but feeling something - I think it’s about eliciting a feeling which lets you explore yourself and the human condition a little more. A lot of people don’t want to feel unhappy, but I think it can be a beautiful thing - it can be cathartic, and it can let you know that it’s okay to not be happy. I think being a human is about feeling, period. I don’t necessarily think it’s about feeling good all the time, I think that definitely is the forefront of a lot of people’s lives, but there’s definitely something to explore with a range of emotions and feelings. That’s what it means to be human - to feel all these things. I have a lot of favourite films and songs and musicians that I listen to that don’t necessarily make me feel happy, but it makes me feel something and I think that’s fun to explore.
Can you give any examples?
I’ve been a big fan of the band Joy Division for a long time. Also, the movie that Anton Corbijn made - Control - which profiles Ian Curtis. That's not happy music and I don’t think that was ever the intention but when I listen to something like that. Joy Division or a movie, I might be in a particular place and it just helps me work through it. It makes you realise that it’s normal to feel down sometimes and there’s something beautiful in that. It's something to explore.
You said earlier you used to produce films with your friends, do you still do this?
I do, yeah, for a while I was focusing on acting, but I still like to be involved in the production side of things because I do love film as a whole - every facet of it. I enjoy collaborating with a team of eclectic personalities and talents; finding true stories or creating fiction that I think people can relate to or help them see things in a different light. And maybe have a laugh or two. Going forward, I’m definitely very interested in keeping that going, and maybe one day explore directing, but for now, I’m happy just doing the acting and producing.
How did you get into acting?
I think it’s from the love of film. I always knew I wanted to be a part of making movies, it was just a process of experimenting to find which part that would be. At first, I wanted to act but I was too shy and so it was a lot easier to be behind the camera and put things together. But as is with budget filmmaking, sometimes you need to fill in a role that is in front of the camera. I think that’s kind of how I got my taste for acting - working on these projects with friends and slowly stepping up to be in front of the camera. I also had a lot of other outside influences: my older sister was studying acting in LA and she was telling me all about it and encouraging me.
I think acting is really good for people that don’t even want to be actors - like going to a class and meeting and working with people. I think it makes you a better human because you learn to engage authentically, which I think is definitely a problem nowadays because there is not as much face-to-face communication. Conversations have lost authenticity. Acting requires you to be present and listen, whereas sometimes during normal conversations nowadays, people forget to be as present when listening to someone. Acting really teaches you to do that. I think it helped me grow into a young adult - to a place where I was able to engage with people at a different level.
Do you think social media has impacted how people interact?
Absolutely. Yeah, I don’t think I’m the poster boy for social media or being an expert, but I do think it gives people false ideas and illusions sometimes. I do try and focus on the positive sides to it. There was a photographer I was working with recently that phrased it in a positive way and spun it. He said that people are changing the way they communicate. They’re communicating through these photos, and I think so much of it can be positive and you just have to do what sits right with you. As far as what you put out there and what you choose to view, it’s kind of what you make of it. So, you can bash social media all you want - but if you don’t want to be a part of it, you don’t have to. A lot of people are doing it right and a lot of people are doing it wrong. Ultimately, I think it’s going to be some sort of a phase that will hit critical mass at one point or another and people will decide what they want to do with it. I do think it shouldn’t be relied on as the only way of communicating. I do think people need to pick up that phone and call people and make plans to see people face-to-face because I don’t think there’s anything like that. I think as humans we need that.
What's your favourite role you've ever played?
I have a couple of favourite roles for different reasons. Every role is kind of different and you learn something or experience something new, and I always like to try new things. But most recently, I think the role that I just did on my new Netflix show called The Order was a lot of fun because he had several layers to him and we had a lot of similarities in what we valued. He was also a little comedic I think, so it was a wide range of things for me to play with for that role. But lately I’ve had a couple of period things; in one story, which was an independent film - I was playing a true character, which is really fun to take on. There’s definitely pressure and responsibility that comes along with doing that. With this particular character, there wasn’t a ton of source material to base it off of which made it a little difficult, but I think it's really fun to get into the psyche of someone that did exist and isn’t just fiction that was made up in someone’s mind. It was a good challenge and I really enjoyed that.
You're starring in a brand-new Netflix series; can you tell me what The Order is about?
The Order is based on a character called Jack Morton, who I play. He is a college freshman, a kind of blue-collar, townie type guy - not coming from a lot of money, but he gets this scholarship to a very prestigious university and there he’s trying to infiltrate a well-known secret society called The Order. They’re known for doing these amazing things around the world and creating these terrific situations and no one’s really sure how or why. As he begins to infiltrate it, he learns that they use dark magic to manipulate things and that’s how they’re able to do things that nobody else can. It’s kind of a story of relationships, and it’s also very funny and light-hearted. It’s very well rounded: it’s got action, it’s got sad moments, it’s got funny moments, so it’s an all-encompassing show with really good characters.
You said earlier you had a lot of similarities with your character Jack, can you share any?
Yeah, I think we both really value relationships - the people that he has in his life is at the forefront of his life. I think that we both are individuals who achieve what we want to achieve and like to make people laugh.
Are there any differences?
Yeah, I’d say Jack is a bit more careful - he doesn’t go over the edge ever. He really reins that in so he’s like that moral backbone, which I think I am to a certain extent. But I don’t know if, in some of the situations, I would have acted the same as him. At the same time, because it is the world of TV and storytelling, he can definitely be a bit more dramatic than I would be in certain situations. I think I’m more laid back and he’s a little more emotional about things.
You're also currently working on a new film called Midway with director Roland Emmerich and a star-studded cast, can you share anything about it?
Yeah, that was a blast to make! It’s a World War Two story - specifically about the Battle of Midway in the Pacific. I play a young fighter pilot who's fresh out of flight school and gets called up a bit early because of them needing to replace guys they’ve lost on the front lines. My character’s a little green and not sure about his capabilities with actively engaging in the war. The thing is, this is the case with so many of those soldiers that went to war. It was a fantastic experience working with Roland and the cast. It was really amazing: the sets and the costumes, the production of that calibre, the preciseness of everything, and working with the planes. Ed Skrein, who’s a British actor, was the lead and he’s such a nice guy. He’s just a great example of how to lead a movie, both in terms of his acting and how he treats people and communicates things. It was a great learning experience.
Hotwired in Suburbia and A Dog's Journey are both in post-production at the moment, can you tell me a little bit about each of these projects?
A Dog’s Journey is the sequel to A Dog’s Purpose and it’s based on the book. A Dog’s Journey was directed by Gail Mancuso and she’s a fantastically experienced director, she’s done a lot of Modern Family and is a really good comedic director. It was really nice to meet her and work with her, and to get to work with dogs was a really cool, new experience. I love dogs and to have them around all day on set and get to play with them and interact with them in these scenes was definitely a fun thing to do. I don’t want to give away too much, but I’m not the greatest guy in this story. I’m definitely not going to be the audience's favourite, but that’s okay - it’s fun to be those guys as well. It’s a really heart-warming story that is one to take the family to, and definitely bring tissues to dry your eyes because there are some teary moments!
Hotwired in Suburbia was an independent film that I did in the summer. It was really fun because I knew two girls that were in it from my previous work, so it was really great to go and work with them again. It’s about these two girls that are seniors in high school, and they start pulling off these car heists to chop them up for money and they get in over their heads. I play a character that’s the boyfriend of one of them and who’s more level headed. He realises what they’re getting into and is trying to prevent it before it gets as far as it does. That was really fun because I’m a big fan of cars and we had some really neat cars in that and we got to drive them fast, so that was really fun as well and is definitely one of the reasons I wanted to do it.
Do you ever watch your own films and TV shows?
I do most of the time, but not all of them. I think it depends on what the project is, but I’m definitely not one of those actors that is like, 'I can’t watch myself'. It can be hard definitely, but I think it is useful. I think we can learn a lot from it because you could’ve thought one thing when you were filming and then you see it and it’s completely different with the editing and the music and how you felt in the moment. Again, it relates back to me being a fan of movies. I like to see how things come together, and I do think it’s an important part.
What are your thoughts on masculinity?
It’s a very good question. I do think it is changing and being redefined. I don’t think there’s a particular set of rules or guidelines to masculinity. It’s feeling comfortable in your skin and being open to different types of masculinity. I don’t think it should be defined by anyone. It’s ever-changing - it’s always evolving, which I think is a good thing. I think being true to yourself and your feelings is an important part of masculinity and being introspective as far as investigating yourself.
How do you think the way men are portrayed on screen affects men in real life?
I think it can definitely affect people - how men are seen on screen, but I do see it changing a lot. There are those classic stereotypes, but those are being broken down, which is nice. And there’s a huge movement happening with women as well. I think it should be collective between both genders or whatever you identify with. I do hope to see more of the breaking of boundaries and see a wide variety of how men or masculinity can be portrayed because I think more perspectives will make everything richer.
Do you think stereotypes are still used in Hollywood?
Absolutely. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a slow burn with things to change. There’s definitely a lot of stereotypes as far as how men and women are portrayed, which is too bad, but at the same time, I try to look at the progression of things. I know that it’s not going to happen overnight, and I hope that the ones that it affects the most understand that. I hope that we can be positive and look back and say; "okay, what’s happened in the last year? These stereotypes broke and this changed", and feed off of that and be empowered that there is a change happening. I hope to see some of the bigger Hollywood stereotypes disappear, fade away, or lose their power and eventually just be laughed at - the same way we look at how things were fifty years ago, like 'That’s crazy! How could it be like that?'. It’s going to be the same thing - in the future - we’ll look back at this time and see how much change there’s been.
What are you passionate about besides acting?
I think a lot of things, but most importantly, cultivating authentic relationships in my life and meeting good people and different people. I’m just always really curious about what makes people tick, what they’re passionate about and what makes them think the way that they do - and collectively exploring this human condition - whether it’s through film or reading or art or music. I’m passionate about learning about people, connecting with them and having good experiences.
Who inspires you?
I think it’s a collective of things and people that I look up to. There are certain figures that motivate me to explore things, authors and books that I read, and people that I include in my life, like my close relationships with my family and with my girlfriend. I have new nephews and a niece that really fire me up about life. I think it’s kind of ever-changing, like you find something that you can latch onto but we change as people and it’s all just figuring out ourselves. It’s a journey and things change along the journey, so I don’t know if there’s one particular thing that’s always been there.
Do you have anyone that you look up to in the film industry?
Yeah, I have so many people that I look up to. Specifically, with actors and actresses, Cillian Murphy is a big one for me right now. Peaky Blinders is one of my favourite shows. Steven Knight, the creator - I just think that show - all the characters and actors and actresses are very strong. People like Nicole Kidman and Tom Hanks. There are a lot of filmmakers and directors like Alfonso Cuarón and Martin McDonagh that I really like. There are so many people and I learn about new ones every day, It’s forever changing.
The theme of our last issue was The Dreamers, do you consider yourself a dreamer?
Oh yeah, I think anyone in this business or who do what we do is definitely a dreamer to an extent. There can be practicality to it, but yeah, I’d like to say, I’m a dreamer.
What are you looking forward to in 2019?
I’m looking forward to the release of the projects we’ve mentioned like The Order on Netflix and A Dog’s Journey, Brotherhood, Hotwired in Suburbia and Midway, of course. Hopefully working on new things that inspire me and inspire other people - to collaborate, learn, and produce stories that I’m passionate about. I’m looking forward to having fun with friends and family. Travelling a little bit hopefully, I have a couple of spots I want to get to. I want to go back to Europe and explore more. I want to go to Bali because I was supposed to go there but work got in the way, and Costa Rica is on the list. But I’m not picky, I would just like to go somewhere new and different and shake things up.
Is there a message you want to give to our readers?
I hope people keep exploring their curiosities and their passions and don’t get held back by anything. Just keep pushing.