Tasting the briny, wet breeze lead by the waves. Wandering through the tight forests, catching onto the crisp scent of spruce. Conquering the peek of a mountain, where the thinning air halts the capacity of the lungs. Nature makes its way into our conversation. I can relate to Canadian actor Jordan Connor's longing for nature whenever life gets the better of him. Nature cancels out the noise; an overwhelming noise that disrupts performance. To disconnect, Jordan escapes into the deep woods, soaks his feet in the wild waters or climbs unsettled mountains. That's what makes him happy.
Photographer Lauren Zbarsky and Jordan join forces like old friends. She captures the actor in intimate quarters: from the sanctuary of an indoors corner oasis and his sleeping pillow, they venture out to play. In front of her lens, Jordan, the dreamer, unfolds. He declares what it means to be Jordan and what that might mean in terms of masculinity, "Everything that ‘defines’ a man isn’t necessarily true in my life" - rewriting strangers' perception along the way. It's up to each one of us to personally define who that person is that meets our eyes every morning in the bathroom mirror. Stylist Leila Bani dresses the young man in delicately patterned silk shirts, a comfortable retro-feel suit, and converse for mobility - because nature might just come calling.
Two years ago, the dreamer mentality of Jordan triumphed over his more rational, practical side. When the prospects were as dry as the Saharan desert, he didn't lose sight of the possibility to satiate his thirst somewhere beyond the vast sand dunes. Then, Riverdale fell into his hands. Originally, Sweet Pea was only meant to appear in four episodes, but here we are, third season and over 30 episodes later. With every season, we're able to learn more about Sweet Pea, so it’s exciting to see what the town of Riverdale has in store for this Southside Serpent.
We’d like to get to know you. Who is Jordan?
Well, according to my fiancé, if you open up an astrology book and read what a Virgo is, that’s me. I would say that is partially true. I’m pretty specific about things. In a lot of ways, I’m like a Virgo. Who do I think I am? It’s hard to say. I’m an actor, I was an athlete, I worked in marketing, but I don’t really define myself as those things. I think I like to express myself; I’m definitely an artistic person. I can’t work a 9-to-5 job - I did that for a while, but it wasn’t for me. I’ve always been drawn to the arts.
The number one thing I’d like to do in life is to help other people. That’s how I got into acting. Through movies, I saw the things that I wanted to do. I wanted to be an astronaut because I saw a space movie. I wanted to be a football player because I saw a football movie. Those movies inspired me to do something with my life. I think that’s what I want to accomplish through acting: inspire other people to pursue the things they are passionate about.
What makes you happy?
Travelling for one. It helps me see perspectives from all around the world, helps me become a fuller person. But mostly, going out into nature. If I have a bad day or I’m stressed about things, I head out into the woods. Vancouver is so great for that; there is so much nature here. Forests, mountains, and the ocean surround Vancouver. It's ingrained in my body; the beautiful landscape that we have here. This peaceful, calm thing that makes me happier than anything else. I’ll go hike a mountain and it clears my head completely. Acting makes me happy - the feeling of being present with someone else. My job makes me happy, but when my job is stressful, then nature makes me happy.
You mentioned travelling, any interesting travels?
The biggest trip I took was to South East Asia - the whole backpacker sort of thing. I have some crazy stories from that trip, but probably the craziest one was when we were in the middle of the woods on this two-day hike with a guy from Laos. He didn’t speak very much English and he was really old and didn’t really care. We were making this fire one night using some dead bamboo. In the hollow dead bamboo, these giant Vietnamese bees live. I placed all the dead bamboo on the fire and I was using this one stick to poke at the fire, and all of a sudden, I felt this burning sensation in my hand. I thought the fire burnt my hand so I went over to the water to wash it.
The burning feeling didn’t go away and 20 minutes later, I looked down at my hand and it was like the size of a sumo wrestler’s hands. My entire hand blew up like a blimp. A hornet that was living in the bamboo got smoked out and stung my hand through the bamboo. We didn’t know at first what it was, so I asked our guide and he went, “Ah, we’ll know in two hours. If it was a spider, you’ll be dead. If it was a bee, you’ll be fine”, and I was like, ‘no, no, no - we’re going to the hospital right now!’. We went to the hospital, but the doctor didn’t really speak any English at all. He thought it was a bee sting so he just gave me some antihistamines. Two hours later I was alive, so we knew it was a bee.
That is terrifying… and in the middle of the woods! Riverdale is shot in Vancouver, which is your hometown, what's that like?
It’s pretty great! Stepping out into the backyard of a place that I know - it’s familiar to me. I have all my friends and family here already. I didn’t have to move like everyone else to a place that I didn't know. It’s fun to see my city light up for a show that people love. Everyone loves the show. It's the funniest thing whenever I go to the grocery store nowadays - I've been going to the same one for the past four years - because the cashier freaks out. They never used to do that. It’s really funny.
That’s a bit surreal. How did you prepare for the environment of Riverdale and your character Sweet Pea?
Riverdale takes place in a small town in America. My character Sweet Pea has a completely different lifestyle from me. He lives in a trailer park and is disenfranchised - things that I haven’t necessarily experienced in my life. There was a lot of research that came along with it. With any character, regardless of where you are shooting, there is the research that goes into the backstory of that character. Then we get to create the surroundings on set. Oddly enough, the place we shoot lends itself perfectly to the town of Riverdale. You don’t really have to imagine when the set is all set up.
It really comes alive on screen. As you mentioned, Sweet Pea has a very different life compared to your own, but are there certain characteristics of his that you connect with?
The fact that he is an underdog is the thing I connected to immediately. The Southside Serpents are underdogs. Whether it’d be through sports or school, I always sort of felt like an underdog. I very much relate to that aspect of Sweet Pea - fighting to have his voice heard. That’s what he stands for.
In another interview, you spoke about how Sweet Pea was only intended to appear in a few episodes, but now we’re far into season three.
I was only supposed to appear in four episodes, and that was basically it. They sort of hinted that maybe, if Sweet Pea did a good job, he would appear in more episodes. I only ever expected to appear in four, but every week they kept writing me in. My story got bigger and then two years later, I’m still here. I think they saw something in me, so they wanted to develop the character further and keep it going. They’ve been great.
That’s a great feeling. Today, I managed to squeeze in some time to watch Chapter 48 Requiem for a Welterweight, which just arrived on Netflix. Cheryl Blossom’s new gang Pretty Poisons are seen in a violent standoff with a couple of Southside Serpents, including your character Sweet Pea - with you guys getting your ass beaten by the girls. There has been quite a bit of animosity between Sweet Pea and Cheryl, and those are some tough girls.
Definitely, but you know, we’re not going to hit girls. We just let ourselves get beaten up. That’s kind of funny. I like where they are taking my character and the situations they’re putting him in. These girls who've started a new gang: who do did they think to beat up to make themselves known? Sweet Pea and Fangs! I think it’s so funny how they put us in that position. We’re not going to hurt the girls, but they’re going to kick the crap out of us. And we’re just going to let it happen and whine about it later. It plays to the fun nature of Riverdale at the same time as it is very dark. We get to play around which is great.
How do you think this feud will develop over the second part of season three?
I think Cheryl sort of always hated the Serpents until she became one, but now that she’s been kicked out, she hates them again. It will be interesting to see what happens. The Pretty Poisons are now in Riverdale and they are vying for power as well. I think you’ll see Serpents and Pretty Poisons butting heads a lot more.
How far in advance do they let you in on the plot and script?
We only find out very little at a time. They like to keep things pretty wrapped up and so we’ll find out only a few days before we shoot the episode. We’ll have an idea of everything but we won’t really know the full construct of the script until a few days before we start shooting. Everything is kept very secretive, which is good in a lot of ways, but it’s also hard for an actor because we have to work really hard in a short amount of time. It’s also good because it keeps everything hush hush. For instance, today is Thursday, and we start shooting the next episode on Monday, and I haven’t received the script yet. But then again, I come in a week after that, so I’ll probably have about a week to work on it.
Sweet Pea and Fangs are seen together a lot on this show. Are you and Drew equally close-knit in real life?
I’d say our character friendship on Riverdale is like a taste of what our friendship is like in real life. Before Riverdale started, Drew and I would always audition against each other, but we didn’t know each other. It would either be that he got the audition or I got the audition. So Drew was telling me this funny story… My hair was very long when I booked Riverdale; it was down to my shoulders. He was growing his hair out too, and he said that he had seen me at an audition and said, “Oh, that guy’s hair is longer than mine…”. He was trying to catch up with my hair length, I guess. We didn’t really know each other but we knew of each other.
There is a mutual respect there. I booked Riverdale an episode before him. Then he came on the next episode, and I recognised his name. I was really happy there was another Canadian on set from Vancouver that I could get along with right off the bat. I knew we were going to be friends on the show, so I knocked on his trailer door and said, ‘hey man, I’m Jordan. We’ve seen each other before. I just wanted to say I’m excited to work with you. Let’s have fun with this”. He was really nice and we got along right away. We became friends fast and ever since then, we’ve been really good friends. We add some of our friendship quirks into the show like for instance, the coin toss thing in last night’s episode. Silly things that we like to do together which adds to the show.
Josie and Sweet Pea had a summer fling but she wanted to keep it to that while Sweet Pea wanted to be her boyfriend. Now with Josie and Archie being a thing, will we get to see a reaction from Sweet Pea about this?
Yes, I think the animosity is going to come to a head at some point. Sweet Pea is definitely a hotheaded person, and I think if someone betrays him - not to say that Josie betrayed him but really kind of let him down - I think he’ll retaliate. There is some backlash to the situation in the musical episode. But also, who knows what’s going to happen to Josie as Ashleigh is doing Katy Keene, in which Josie heads to New York.
You have TV Mini-Series Hospital Show in post-production, would you be able to tell us what it’s about and a bit about your character Vince?
Hospital Show is a pilot that we shot last month. It’s basically The Office meets Grey’s Anatomy. It’s based around this girl named Charlie, played by Sara Canning, who is one of my favourite actors. The show is basically the behind-the-scenes of working on a procedural medical show; all the drama that happens with the actors, the director, and the crew. It was a really fun thing to do. It’s a completely different show from Riverdale. It’s a comedy. It’s got sitcom vibes. It worked a different muscle for me. Vince is this fame-hungry former model. He wants to be famous, so he is all about Instagram, Twitter, and his hair. It’s a super fun character to play - the opposite of Sweet Pea. We’ll see what happens to it, as they are currently pitching it to make it into a series.
That’s exciting. I’m crossing my fingers for you guys! How did you get into acting?
In our first year of high school, everyone had to do all the electives: woodworking, cooking, sewing, theatre, and so on. It was sort of random, and the first elective I ended up with was drama class. I remember going into high school really unsure about everything. I didn’t quite know how I was going to fit into high school. The bell rang and I went into this tiny black box theatre with some prop chairs and boxes for my first class. We began with some fun improv exercises and I knew immediately that this was somewhere I felt like I belonged. It was fun and I got along with everyone. I had some natural talent, I guess, which helped as well. From that first experience of a black box theatre, there was that visceral feeling of this is where I belong.
After that, I did a bunch of plays in high school, but simultaneously, I was playing football. I ended up getting a football scholarship to play at the University of British Columbia. I put acting aside for a bit and focused on football. I was thinking about playing football professionally, but in my second year, I broke my leg. I got tackled from behind and my shin snapped in half. I didn’t feel anything at first because I was in shock, so I tried to stand up and put all my weight on the leg. I broke my leg, and needless to say, my football career was over. I thought I’d take acting more seriously, and the first thing I actually did on set was a football stunt when I was all healed up. I did stunts and background work for about a year. At that point, I felt like I really understood what sets were like and so I really wanted to get into this properly. I began theatre training in Vancouver and studied on and off for five years. I got an agent. And then two years ago, Riverdale came along. That’s sort of how it all came about.
In acting school, there is the possibility to work on amazing work by amazing playwrights. How was that?
We did all the great plays, which was great because I was able to develop my voice as an artist. I began figuring out the types of characters I could play and the kind of stories I could tell. Anything by Shakespeare is always challenging. However, I would say that the most challenging play I ever did was Extremities by William Mastrosimone where I played the character, Raul. The play is about this woman who lives with two of her friends. This Latino guy Raul, who is doing some roadwork by the house, comes over to the house in search for someone who owes him money. But it turns out that he had been stalking the girl for a long time, and so this is the day that he's decided to rape her. That was an incredibly dark story to tell. However, she gets the better of him: knocks him out and locks him in the fireplace.
Her housemates come home later that day, confused as to what went down. Raul, a psychopath, says he was just asking to use the phone and that she knocked him over the head and locked him in the fireplace - encouraging them to call the police. The whole play is a back and forth between the characters trying to figure out the truth. At the end of the story, good triumphs over evil and the girls get away safely. That was a crazy play to wrap my head around. I had to do an accent and I had to be this disgusting type of human being. There was a lot of physicality about the role, so tons of rehearsals on stunts in terms of how she would hit me. It is a fully encompassing character with all these different moving parts. Then also telling the story without offending people. I had to do it authentically.
That sounds like quite the heavy role to take on. What do you think it means to be masculine?
I’m a big guy; I’m six foot three. 190 pounds. I’m a big person, but I didn’t realise until later that this made people see me as manly. Other men see me as threatening because I’m tall and big. But, I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a macho man. I was always a sensitive guy. Always the first to cry in school. I was never really a very masculine guy. I played sports and stuff like that, and I do like working construction with my dad, but I never defined those things as things that made me a man. I never defined having muscles as being masculine. I think other people see me as this big, tall guy. I am more nervous around guys than I am around women. I feel so much more comfortable around women. The most I’ve ever felt like a man was when I went down on one knee, crying, confessing my love to my girlfriend - who is now my fiancé. That’s the manliest moment I’ve ever had - when I was expressing my true feelings, right in front of someone. Definitely the most 'Yeah, I’m a man'-moment I’ve experienced.
I think society’s perception of men is changing, which you can see in film and TV. Take that Gillette campaign, for instance. There was a lot of backlash against that commercial. We should always be questioning what a man is. It’s a conversation. We’re not trying to blame anybody for anything. It’s more: what kind of man can we be? I feel masculine when I’m being honest about my feelings and when I’m taking care of my family and my fiancé. My dad is one of the best men I’ve ever met. He works his butt off for his family. He is always there to help others before he helps himself. Those are the qualities I’ve always found manly.
I've been surrounded by women my whole life: from my acting teachers to my friends. I’ve never really had a lot of guy friends, but I’ve always had a lot of female friends. My agents have been female. I’ve worked with mostly female directors. I think that’s why I have the perspective that I have. Sometimes I think I understand women more than men because so many women have nurtured me. On the other hand, I did have my dad, who was this strong male figure. I guess I’ve been very lucky.
My fiancé says I’m honest and very quick to express my feelings, and she finds that manly. Everything that ‘defines’ a man isn’t necessarily true in my life. The times I've felt the least like a man is when I've gotten into a fight. If it has come to a point where I’ve entered into a physical confrontation with someone - which has only happened twice in my life - that’s when I feel the most ashamed of myself. I feel like a little child. Those are moments where I didn’t handle things like a man.
Yeah, I think masculinity is something you should be able to define for yourself. I have a bit of a creative exercise for you. How would you visualise 'falling in love'?
I do a lot of writing and I’m trying to write a script. I’m currently writing a romantic love story around two people and trying to figure out what that imagery of love is. That’s so hard. Falling in love is maybe different from loving somebody. I think love, in general, is support. I imagine two people holding each other. It can be a woman and a man, two men, a father and a son - whatever it is. Just two people holding and supporting each other is love.
That is beautiful imagery, thank you. At BBG, we’re a bunch of dreamers; do you consider yourself a dreamer?
Yeah. Definitely. Although, sometimes I’m like, ‘no Jordan, be practical. These are the steps to your career…’. I think as much as I try to deny being a dreamer, I think I’ve always been someone who has dreamt about doing what I love and being bigger than my surroundings. Exceeding the expectations of what life has set out for me. The constitution of a dreamer is someone who believes they can do anything. About a month before I booked Riverdale, I was on the verge of quitting acting. I hadn’t booked anything in two years and I didn’t feel like my career was going anywhere. I have that dreamer mentality - that ideology of wanting to continue something just because I believe in it. Regardless of it happening today, tomorrow or ten years from now, I’m going to do it because I believe in it. I think that’s what makes me a dreamer.
What is THE dream?
THE dream. I have a ton of different dreams. One part of me just wants to go to Hawaii and live on a beach and sell popsicles or lemonade. The other part of me wants to become a successful actor. There are lots of dreams, but I think at the end of the day, what I want is to have helped people in some way or another. If at the end of my life I’ve helped as many people as I can, then I’ll be happy regardless if I’m rich or I live on a beach.