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What's Up For Today?

New York Cool - Ask Miss Wendy

New York City - Theatre

Frank J. Avella Talks to
Actor Gunnar de Jong

Opposite Photo: Gunnar de Jong
Photo Credit: Mark Veltman


Gunnar de Jong is an intelligent young actor currently pounding the pavement in NYC. Born and bred in Holland, de Jong is that unique brand of stage and screen thesp who can believably play a sixteen-year-old or a thirty-year-old. de Jong has played a wide variety of teens--from wizards to skater boys--and is ready to tackle the adult parts. He exudes an honest and excited energy and seems genuinely dedicated to his craft. He’s also that rare species who actually listens attentively, pauses to reflect on what he’s heard or been asked, and then speaks.

Frank J. Avella: When did you first know you wanted to act?

Gunnar de Jong: I remember specific moments in my early childhood in which the act of ‘pretending’ gave me much joy and I always figured that if I became more skillful at it that it would serve me later in life - but it wasn’t until high school when I kept getting cast as the lead in the school plays and musicals that I realized. I didn’t really like singing, ha-ha. There was nothing more exhilarating to me than acting, though, so I guess I’m pretty lucky that I found my calling so early in life.

Frank J. Avella: How does Holland’s theatre and film industries differ from that of the US?

Gunnar de Jong: The fiction film industry is pretty limited in comparison to that of the US. There are very few new actors or directors who really establish a name for themselves, but what I like about Holland is that this desire for fame isn’t really the objective. I think Holland is more of a stage and theatre nation. Internationally, it has a reputation for it’s avant-garde, experimental and often controversial work which is why the recent big budget-cuts from the government was a huge blow to the scene, lots of arts organizations have been deeply affected by it. You won’t see that happening on Broadway because it brings in so much more money.

Frank J. Avella: You came to NYC at 18. Why New York? Had you ever visited the US before?

Gunnar de Jong: My family and I went on a holiday to the States when I was 15 and I pretty much knew right away that I was going to come back. I grew up watching Hollywood films so there was nothing cooler than being so close to its inception.

Frank J. Avella:You were accepted into the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Elaborate on your experience and training.

Gunnar de Jong: When I first came here I wanted to learn as much as I could about the American approach to acting and I quickly discovered that there were these three people who kind of dissected Stanislavski into their own technique. I figured that if I would learn all three different acting methods I could start to develop my own technique as a mix of the three. I auditioned for the two schools and was fortunate enough to study at Strasberg during the day and at Stella Adler at night while I studied some Meisner on the side. It was a crazy period in my life but I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience.

Frank J. Avella: Since graduating, you’ve written a one-man show, been featured in several stage plays and acted in short films. What have you enjoyed most and least about these experiences?

Gunnar de Jong: I would say that writing the one-man show was definitely the scariest thing I’ve done, but doing it was all the more rewarding. It was about the concept of questions and answers and how it relates to a mentor-pupil relationship, and by portraying both I ironically learned a lot about myself. Stage rehearsals have usually been very fun but I love being on film sets as well, just the experience of being around so many hard-working people with all kinds of different creative disciplines. What I enjoy least is that I would love for my family and friends in Holland to see me in some of the work I’ve done on stage here, but alas...

Frank J. Avella: If you had to select one medium (film, theatre, television) to work in, what would it be and why?

Gunnar de Jong: Film. There’s something about the immortality of it that really speaks to me. It can draw a much bigger audience than theatre as well so it’s easier for my friends in Holland to see what I’ve been working on. I do believe that we’re currently in the new golden age of television with so many brilliant serial shows out there but telling a story under three hours is, I think, what I like best. I can’t imagine never doing theatre again, though - but thank god we’re speaking hypothetically, right?

Frank J. Avella:What do you love most about New York?

Gunnar de Jong: What’s not to love? It’s an open-ended platform for people where you are stimulated to pursue your dreams fearlessly, home to mavericks and epicureans alike…a city with a tirelessly beautiful skyline and a very favorable single women ratio.

Frank J. Avella: Do you see living in NYC as an actor a challenge?

Gunnar de Jong: In today’s economy, I think living in NYC in any profession is a challenge, which is why it is definitely more challenging to live here as an actor. There’s not enough money to pay actors sometimes, which can be pretty frustrating for non-union actors, and rent-protected apartments are hard to come by as well but we live for the challenge, don’t we?

Frank J. Avella: Besides, New York, what other city in the world would you want to live in and why?

Gunnar de Jong: The obvious choice would be LA. I went there in the summer of 2011 and I think it’s beautiful there, so I can definitely see myself moving there in the near future.

Frank J. Avella: Who are your heroes?

Gunnar de Jong: I have many. They are the fuel for my dreams and I am eternally grateful to them for igniting that light in me. To name a few: Robin Williams, Marlon Brando, Steve Jobs, Ramses Shaffy, Mohammed Ali, Martin Luther King, Vincent van Gogh, Socrates... People who passionately worked on what they wanted to be good at and made a lot of people’s lives better along the way. There’s one that deserves special mention though because he really changed my life and that’s Heath Ledger.

Frank J. Avella: If you could work with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Gunnar de Jong: Again, Heath Ledger. He was so intense, so talented. I think I could have learned a lot from working with him, just seeing him live doing his thing. Also, if I would ever get the chance to work with Terrence Malick or Charlie Kaufman I would immediately jump at the opportunity - I really, really resonate with their films.

Frank J. Avella: Favorite Malick?

Gunnar de Jong: Tree of Life, I saw it three times. It’s just beautiful.

Frank J. Avella: What are you currently involved in?

Gunnar de Jong: I just finished working on a play in which I played a teenager who, in his spare time, becomes a fabulous wizard and am currently working on a new short film project in which I play a street poet. I’m also trying to adapt the one-man show into a full-length screenplay but that is proving to be more difficult than expected.

Frank J. Avella: Where do you see yourself, ideally, ten years from now?

Gunnar de Jong: Sitting in a very comfortable chair on the set of Terrence Malick’s new film, contemplating my successful career choices as I read back this interview on my iPhone 14S.

To learn more about Gunnar de Jong and/or track his career visit:

www.gunnardeyoung.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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