He starred opposite Kevin Bacon's sinister sheriff in Jon Watts' Cop Car, performed alongside Bruno Mars at the 2014 Super Bowl Halftime Show, and played the young version of Kilgrave on Jessica Jones. To follow up on his memorable roles thus far in his career, James Freedson-Jackson can next be seen in the new movie The Strange Ones, which recently made its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, and we had a chance to catch up with the ambitious actor for our latest Q&A feature to discuss working with Bacon and Bruno, his role as Sam in The Strange Ones, and more.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, James! What attracted you to playing the role of Sam in your new movie, The Strange Ones?

James Freedson-Jackson: The script Chris and Lauren had come up with was completely unique to me while reading it. It was something so new and so different than any other movie I had seen or read, it intrigued me as to where they were going with it. So I had to get involved!

It looks like you spent a lot of time outdoors in The Strange Ones. Did you enjoy being in the woods for a lot of the shoot?

James Freedson-Jackson: I did enjoy it, and one of the cool parts about working outside is that during our breaks we got to explore, and Alex and I both enjoyed the surroundings. We shot in upstate New York, which was really beautiful.

What was it like working with the directors, Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein? Did they give you some freedom to really make Sam your own character?

James Freedson-Jackson: Chris and Lauren are wonderful directors and writers. They gave me a lot freedom with the character. While we were filming, I always felt that they had faith that I knew what to do with the character of Sam, and once they saw that I was on the right track, they let me run with it. Also, the script was written to be spoken completely naturally, so they didn't ever say how they specifically wanted us to read a line. Instead, they waited to see what we did, and then would give further direction if they felt it needed more. It was a great process.

When you look back at your time on set, is there a particularly funny or memorable moment that stands out?

James Freedson-Jackson: The whole experience of working with Alex was memorable and fun. Alex and I bonded right away and we really got to be like brothers on the set. Our scenes together were always great to shoot. Alex is something of a prankster, and he was happy when he saw that I enjoyed being involved in his little pranks on set. After that, he would always include me.

A lot of our readers have also seen your excellent work in Cop Car. What was it like working with Kevin Bacon and Spider-Man: Homecoming director Jon Watts on that project?

James Freedson-Jackson: Jon Watts is a great director. Cop Car was my first feature film, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience, or a better first director. Jon was very specific, and knew exactly what he wanted in every shot. He really guided Hays (the other kid in the film) and I through every scene. I'm so grateful he cast me in that film, or I probably would not be here at all. Kevin Bacon was the total pro; brilliant and cool. Every day working with him was like a lesson in how to act and in how to work.

You’ve also played a younger version of David Tennant’s character Kilgrave on Jessica Jones. What was it like playing a younger version of such an iconic villain?

James Freedson-Jackson: It was great to be a part of such a creepy thriller. When we shot my scenes, I had met David Tennant, and was a big fan, but we hadn't seen the rest of the script, so I didn't have any idea of exactly what the older Kilgrave was going to do. When I watched the series, I was as shocked as the rest of the audience about the villain I turned out to be.

Looking back at your key role in the 2014 Super Bowl Halftime Show, was that a surreal experience, to perform alongside Bruno Mars in front of a worldwide audience?

James Freedson-Jackson: That was a crazy experience. The whole thing was so top secret. They cast us, and didn't even tell us that it was for the Halftime Show, or that we'd be singing with Bruno Mars, or even what the song was ("Billionaire"). They had us audition with "America the Beautiful," and that's what we thought we'd been hired to sing. On the first day of rehearsal, we were at Met Life Stadium, and in the middle, they said, "Someone wants to say 'hello' to you.” We turned around and it was Bruno Mars. He was my total hero. Then he said, “Hi, I'm Bruno.” And he hugged each one of us who were going to be singing with him. That was the first moment we knew what we had been cast to do! I will never forget that moment.

You’ve already played some really memorable characters in your career. What types of roles are you interested in playing in the future?

James Freedson-Jackson: I hope I can play a whole wide range of characters in films. I've played some very intense, serious roles, but I like comic roles a lot, action too. I like to sing and I started out as a hip hop dancer and when I was little I wanted to be Michael Jackson.

With The Strange Ones recently making its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can our readers find you online?

A couple of things on the horizon, but nothing I can talk about right now! You can find me at jamesfreedsonjackson.com, or Instagram @jamesfreedsonjackson.

*Photo above by Chad Griffith.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.