Jordan Elsass

17 May 2021

Photography Lauren D Zbarsky
Fashion Justine Edralin
Interview David Gillespie
Producer Elise Tomalty
Photo Assistant Emilia Kalka
Special Thanks to The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary

It’s a grey old day in Vancouver, as anemic clouds pave the sky above the corrugated farmhouse that actor Jordan Elsass perches within. Photographer Lauren D Zbarsky captures Jordan whilst the bustling of farm life clatters in the background, like two flints colliding at force, shedding splinters and sparks enough to ignite Little Fires Everywhere. The past months have been tough. Testing at best. Corrupting at worst. Yet the mood is not one of despair, rather of burning determination for fulfillment, self-improvement, and happiness.

You might have thought in order to thrive amongst the paranormal of the Arrowverse, to survive below the hounding gaze of the Hollywood sign, or to command the residents of the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary, you must behold superhuman strengths. Yet, for Jordan, it's his sheer understanding of being human - with all its peaks and 'troughs' - which keeps him grounded… amongst the hay, in this case. Two reoccurring attributes emerged during our meeting: empathy and commitment, both equally integral to Jordan's portrayal of Trip Richardson (Little Fires Everywhere) and Jonathan Kent (Superman and Lois). Yet such attributes did not form overnight. Only through the test of trauma, the making of mistakes, and weathering the storm, has Jordan become a good actor and a better person.

They say animals can sense a human's nature, and this series proves true. Stylist Justine Edralin matches Jordan with attire most fitting to who he is: candid, down to earth, a "people person" - even with members of another species.

Although he might not believe it himself, I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of Jordan Elsass.

You can now watch Jordan as Jonathan Kent in Superman & Lois on CW.

I'm going to dive straight in with a personal one here. Who is Jordan?
Who is Jordan? Well, other than Jordan the actor, I'd say he's a fun guy, spontaneous. I'm always down to do anything, go out with my friends. I’m pretty much a people person in general, I really get along well with others and so I began to notice that I was a team player. I always thought I was more of a solo, lone wolf kind of guy and the truth is, as I've gotten older, I've realised that that's not the case. I work really well with other people when I collaborate. That's my strength. Talking to people, listening, understanding them and being empathetic. And I think that's what's gotten me far in life. I think that's the only reason that I'm where I am today because I've developed such a soft spot for people and I enjoy being around them. Aside from that, I enjoy exercising, I enjoy getting outdoors, I always prefer being outdoors. I'm much more of a night owl than I am a morning bird.

Let's talk about Little Fires Everywhere - great series by the way. What are the main differences between Jordan and Trip Richardson?
With Trip, I think we have some similarities but I think that he’s a little bit naïve, a little immature, but I think that's just an age thing too, right? I'm nineteen in real life; Trip's a junior in high school. But aside from that, if you were to compare 16-year-old Jordan with 16-year-old Trip, I think there'd be some key differences. I think that Jordan would probably be a little more focused on school and a little less sociable and less popular. I wasn't into sports or anything, I was actually kind of a loner in high school. I didn't have that many friends - at least early in high school. So I feel like I definitely would have been more focused on school, video games and myself rather than girls and sports. Trust me, if you had asked a 16-year-old Jordan "What do you want to be doing?", I would have been like, 'bro, I want to be taking it with girls...' But, you know, I wasn't. I wasn't majorly good at any one thing in school - I wish I was - but I was more a jack of all trades. Kind of balanced. Trip was more one-way, more popular.

Do you feel like you made any unexpected discoveries about yourself whilst playing Trip?
Not necessarily, not while I was actually playing Trip. But I would say by unraveling Trip and slowly becoming the character over time, certain things occurred to me. First and foremost, I think I realised I was going to continue down the path of acting. It kind of clicked, like, Oh, this is really going to be my career now, this is what I want for my future. Before, I never thought it was going to happen. I thought I was going to do student films and stuff and then get a 'real' job. Although I realise that I'm never going to be Tom Cruise...

...Never say never.
It’s highly unlikely. I'm a realist, that’s something I should have mentioned at the beginning. I made a lot of discoveries about myself when I was out there working on it, but it wasn’t while I was actually playing Trip. When I play a character, I step into someone else's shoes so I'm not really connecting the dots, there's no correlation between the character and myself, I try to keep it separate, that's just me.

If not acting, where would Jordan be right now?
I think ideally, I'd be doing something with cars. I love cars, it’s been my passion since I was three or four. I can look at the back headlights of a car and tell you what car it is, I can tell you the exact details - the trim and everything. I would hopefully own a mechanic shop or a tuning shop. Back at home, I was majoring in criminal justice for a while and wanted to go into federal law enforcement. I think there's a lot that needs to change within the current system in the US, in terms of intelligence, auditing, pretty much all branches of law enforcement. But then I started taking some classes and I realised that might not be for me, to be honest, it's not quite my forte.

Whether it’s Trip Richardson, Jonathan Kent, or any of the roles you have portrayed, what's your first 'entry point' into character?

Well, my first thing is just read the script, read the breakdown; there's so much that you might miss or forget about in just the initial breakdown you get with the audition. It'll be "They're very empathetic", or "They're very fun-loving", I mean, those are terrible adjectives. But there's always that one thing that gets you into it. For Trip it was insecurity, but I was okay with it because I knew a guy just like that, a close friend of mine. He felt that way and I knew that and felt that through empathy. But I wanted to change it up a little because I don't feel like Trip's like that for the rest of the breakdown. So then I started putting these pieces together and figured out what I wanted to incorporate into the character, combining these preconceived ideas in my own head about the character, plus people from my life that remind me of the character. I just throw it all together.

Do you have a particular on-set method or routine to get you in the zone?
I wake up in the morning and get loaded on caffeine which helps me to stay awake and focus when I'm working 30 hours in two days! But in all seriousness, I'd say music is a big part of it. Sometimes I'll make a playlist for the character on Spotify and I jam out on the way to work and get in the mindset. If it's got some really tough scenes - emotional scenes - I won't listen to music at all, or I'll put on something a little more solemn or melancholic, but it just depends. I feel like I definitely do physical things to get into character, like if I need to get my heart rate up, I do a bunch of jumping jacks or push-ups. If I need to loosen up a little bit, I shake my arms out, shake my legs out, to relax. I find that anything physical really helps me get into it, it's not necessarily all psychological. I can get sad pretty quickly, I can get angry pretty quickly, I can feel those emotions. It's more like the physicality of it.

You've talked about music and how it plays quite a significant part in your characterization and your life in general. Why is music so important to you?
Every song is like a journey. It sounds like a total pothead thing to say, but dude, music is so unbelievably complex. It’s crazy to me that there can be so many songs that have been made and they’re all so unique. Singing or rapping - it just makes you feel these emotions, it's indescribable. It can really have you feeling a certain emotion or in a certain headspace that's always unique.

You spoke about empathy quite a lot in a previous answer and I’m curious as to what empathy means to you?
It's not just trying to feel what others feel, not just trying to pick up on their emotions, it's something that develops over time you: you get better at it. For example, if you're going through a breakup, I think the best way to become more empathetic is through that hardship. To not try to numb yourself, not try to escape the situation, but to sit there and just feel like you're drowning in your own thoughts. Just allow yourself to fully feel the raw power of those emotions, because it hurts. I mean, it hurts. I've been through situations where it's like, wow, I would rather die than feel this. I might look at myself in the mirror, I'm bawling my eyes out, but then I have this look on my face, I wipe the tears away, and then one day, I'm talking to a buddy and I see the exact same look on his face and I’m like oh, this happened to me, and I can tell he's trying to hold it together and I feel that pain again. It gives me the right words to say, rather than just "I'm here for you". If you can't understand it or relate or empathise, then how can you really be of any help?

What role have you found the most challenging in your career so far?
Jonathan Kent for sure - not what the world has seen of Jonathan Kent yet - but we're already halfway through filming and there have been some really tough scenes where mentally I had to really strain myself - mentally poop on myself to get to the point where I needed to be. I really had to beat myself up, but there's no other way around it, that's what all of the greats do. You know, that's what Leo does, I imagine that's what Daniel Day-Lewis does, Meryl Streep, these incredible actors. I know there were real emotions because I can see it, I can see it on screen. And it's so seamless, it's like they're not actually feeling those emotions, then wow, there's a whole new level that's even more interesting to watch. Some scenes can definitely be really draining and really, really tough. But, you know, I still love my job and I still love acting. You have to bring yourself out to make the scene work and in the end, it's just so gratifying when you get to finally see it. And at least I can say I did my best.

Tell me about the experience entering the DC Arrowverse Universe as Superman’s son, Jonathan. How did it feel to become part of such an iconic franchise?
It's kind of surreal because I forget it's even part of that. Does that make sense? Not because it's forgettable but because I'm so focused on my character and the scripts that I don't even think of it as part of a bigger thing. It almost sounds selfish, because I’m only focused on my role and that’s all I need to be focusing on at that moment. I can look at everything as a bigger picture later but while I'm working, I'm just entirely devoted to the character of the show. I try to stay very in the moment, but it's crazy taking a step back and thinking about before I got here and reminiscing. It’s so mind-blowing. Like, why me? How and why? This is wild. That's really all I can say. It's just wild. Wild.

The past year has been incredibly lonely for most people. How do you deal with loneliness?
In all honesty, I do and I don't. I've had to tolerate it and that's all I can do. Here we are a year and a half later. It's just scary. First of all, it's a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, a lot of loneliness. Unfortunately, lockdowns have created some pretty nasty habits for some of us. I feel like if you start to work on bettering yourself, whether that means volunteering somehow, maybe picking up trash in the city, feeding the homeless, or just do something positive, it helps. You need to find a way to get out of your head, whether that's cutting out a bad habit, creating, going for a bike ride, anything. It’s the vicious cycle of anxiety and depression when you can't leave your bed or you don't want to leave your house much – and that’s okay too - but you need to figure out new things to learn and grow and get outside your comfort zone. The problem is, it’s so easy for us to stay in this box of 'I'm just going to watch Netflix and eat Cheetos', and whatever. But really, we always have a box we can hide in. Now we all have the excuse of 'I can't do this because of quarantine and I have nothing better to do'. That’s how bad habits start and it's just this vicious cycle. So you have to find a way to break the cycle.

Any bad habits you don't mind discussing?
So I finally quit smoking after a few years. I quit for a while when I was about 17, went back to it on and off but three months ago I completely quit. It was a tough time, quarantine didn't help with that. But in general, when you think about smoking, it doesn't actually relieve any kind of stress, I knew that and I knew that it wasn't doing me any favours as it’s super addictive. But, I was in my head so much all the time that it was hard to escape those cravings and that addiction. Once I finally did, I just felt so much more powerful. I think I'm definitely one of the people that's better at keeping bad habits than creating better ones because once I get into a habit, I just stay in it. I think we've become kind of complacent as a result of quarantine and the lockdowns, it's almost surreal.

Where is your happy place?
Texas. I miss my friends, I miss my family. I've lived there since I was 11 or 12; it's my home. I don't feel like I'm really 'in' Vancouver, maybe because I'm downtown, maybe it's because I'm lonely. But the truth is there's no place I'd rather be than home. Yeah, a vacation would be nice right now, but I still wouldn't feel it. The best vacation I could have would be going home, seeing my best friend - my boy Jalen - see my grandparents, my brother, and his wife. I miss it. I miss my pets. That's my happy place in my head. If ever I am getting sad or in my head too much, I just think back to the good old days when I was there - last year for the holiday break, last summer with my friends. I just think back to that.

From an insider's perspective, do you believe the on-screen portrayal of masculinity is changing within the industry?
I love to see strong men just as much as I love to see strong women on screen. I think masculinity is a beautiful thing, just as femininity is a beautiful thing, but it doesn't matter what gender you identify with, it doesn't really matter. You can be feminine or masculine and there are just so many traits that one might attribute to either way, but in reality, everyone’s just themselves. If we want to talk specifically about men on screen and masculinity in relation to men, I would say yeah, it's changing a lot, definitely. With Superman and Lois, there are some really good, strong, masculine characters on screen. Like Clark Kent - even Jonathan, I think. Jonathan has some really good, strong, masculine traits, putting himself in front of danger to protect those he loves. But at the same time, that's just being a good person. I know plenty of girls that would jump in front of their family. I think that's the beauty of it: we're now seeing these classic gender roles swept away. Lois Lane, for example, has super 'masculine; traits. She’s a total badass! On-screen I think women are now showing what women can really do and what they've always done - there's finally now recognition for what they actually go through. It's being shown all across the board, instead of just with 'strong male' characters.

As an up-and-coming male actor in a high-pressured industry, do you feel any pressure to act a particular way off-screen?
I've definitely had to change my behaviour because I don't know how the public is going to perceive it. I have to be really careful. Like if I wanted to go and climb a building with my friends - just doing something dumb, like a teenager. I've matured a little faster, because, as you said, it's very high pressure; I've had to learn to deal with that pressure and quickly adapt, and I think that's changed me for sure. Worrying about the eyes on me, or having to have eyes in the back of my head is sometimes a little tiring. I feel like when this show comes out and continues to progress, that's going to become more important and not less; that's a little scary. But like I said earlier, I'll probably never be like Tom Cruise so I'm not too worried and at this point! I still love my job, that's really all that matters to me.

What advice would you give your younger self before you became an actor?
Roll with the punches. Let things slip. Don't take stuff personally. Go with the flow. But I would say I wish that I could have told my younger self to just be a little less selfish. I think if I'd focused on others more, I might be a different person than I am today. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger - I feel like we all have. We look back and we have regrets. You wish you could get time back but when you're younger, you wish that you could skip ahead and be older; the grass is always greener. But I think I would definitely tell myself to loosen up a little more, and not beat myself up so much or second guess myself. Stop trying to conform to some standard and tell myself to just be authentic.

Has your relationship with social media and living 'online' changed since being attached to two high-profile, international shows?
My relationship with social media has definitely changed. It’s just a fad, a plague. I hate social media, that's just the honest truth and I’m never going to try to sugar-coat it when people ask! I do think social media does have some positive impacts: it’s useful for spreading information and for learning about the rest of the world and understanding other people's experiences. But the problem with it is nobody's going to be their real self on social media. No matter who you are, whether you have 100,000 followers or 100 followers, there are people that you have on there that you don't know. And if you don't know them, how are you going to be yourself? That's impossible, it's not going to happen. So then, if you break that down, are you really communicating? Are you just entertaining yourself? Am I really actually having genuine conversations with these people over DMs or am I just chopping it up for a little bit of small talk? I'd rather have a real deep relationship with someone and really feel loved and cared about rather than something surface level. I don't like it for that reason. In fact, I've grown to really despise it over time. But at the same time, I do like posting pictures, so it's a trade-off because I enjoy posting a sick pic that I took with the homies but I don't really want to be on social media...

Fast forward to let's say 2031, where do you hope to see yourself?
With a house, a car, just hopefully not homeless. Above all else, happy. I don't care if I'm still acting as long as I'm happy. I never want to sacrifice my mental health for anything; people do that far too often nowadays. It's really sad because people think if they keep doing something for long enough, then eventually they’ll be happy. No, you've got to be in the moment or at least fight for something worth fighting for. But fighting for money or fame or power, that’s what I see far too often nowadays. Everybody wants to be famous, everybody wants to be someone. I just want to see people be happy again, because when people are happy they treat each other nicely; that's what makes the world go round. It has nothing to do with having a nice car or having the drip bro, 'I got the drip, I got the watch'. Relax, you know? Just treat others with kindness, be empathetic and be happy. That's really all I could ask for.

What would you like to achieve by the end of this year?
I want to learn a new skill, maybe learn to play an instrument - or learn to produce beats. Whatever it might be, I just want to find something that would lock me in. I want to work out, five, six times a week and actually get in some solid workouts. Before season one, I was getting pretty buff for a while, and then I moved here and lost it and it sucks. If I really had to focus on one thing though, I want to get to a place where I'm mentally confident in what I'm doing and not doubt myself or second guess myself. I feel like less anxiety would come with it and fewer bouts of depression. If I get there, I'd be in a lot better position to create more goals, like working out, like learning a new language, like learning an instrument. It goes hand in hand because if you learn new skills, that might make you happier. If you can mentally get yourself into a better place, that might open you up to more motivation to learn a new skill. I think that'll make me better in every way. I mean…how could it not?

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Above Left: Jordan wears a vintage cardigan
Above Right: Knit vest by Margaret Howell, T-shirt by Sunspel, Trousers by Stussy, Shoes by Converse and Necklace by All Blues

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Above Left: Vintage Cardigan, T-Shirt by Stussy, Jeans by Levi’s and Boots Stylist’s own
Above Right: Jacket by Acne, Shirt vintage, Jeans by Levi’s and Boots by CAMPERLAB

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Above Left: Outfit as Before
Above Right: Sweater vintage and Trousers by Stussy

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Above Left: Sweater vintage, Trousers by Stussy and shoes by Converse
Above Right: Outfit as Before

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Above Left: Outfit as Before
Above Right: Knit shirt by Stussy, T-shirt by Sunspel, Jeans are Jordan’s own and Sunglasses by Sun Buddies

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Above Left: Knit shirt by Stussy, T-shirt by Sunspel, Jeans are Jordan’s own, Sunglasses by Sun Buddies and Boots Stylist’s own
Above Right: Outfit as Before

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