Jonathan Prince [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all today. It’s another sort of milestone day for me, personally. Today’s interview subject has done some amazing work in so many different fields. But, I have to be candid and tell you all that today’s interview subject was on my mental list of people that I have wanted to have on the site since I started TWS almost 9 years ago. It’s Jonathan Prince, Everyone!

The aforementioned reason that I have ALWAYS wanted to have this man on the site is because he created what may very well be the most important film of my childhood. That film is the incredible Camp Nowhere. I seriously can not tell you how many times I watched this film in my youth. I’ve even watched it as an adult, and it still holds up. It is definitely a 90’s time capsule of sorts, but it remains a brilliant coming of age story that is just as enjoyable now as it was when it came out almost 26 years ago. It’s a true masterpiece, in my opinion.

And as it tends to happen, we managed to steal some time from a legendary artist based around a singular project, and then learned that the subject at hand happens to be a truly incredible human being who has some wonderful things to say. And that is the 100% truth when it comes to the great Jonathan Prince. He gave us some wonderful answers to some questions about a film that was so important to me as a youth, and so much more. This is going to be a good one Folks!

With that, please enjoy some amazing works from the brilliant Jonathan Prince!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something that has been ingrained in you since you were a child, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I’ve always been good at telling stories. Born into a family of five kids, I was the one who could recount a family  adventure at the dinner table. I was the baseball player on the team bus who could best relive the last nine innings. I turned to acting in high school and in college – the interpretive art of telling the stories that belonged to others… And when I discovered that Law School did not provide me with the kind of inspiration I’d hoped it would, I came back to my home town of Los Angeles to chase an acting and writing career. (Which meant I did a lot of waiting tables and selling retail clothing!) Rather quickly (I was quite lucky) I was able to make a living as a TV and film actor, during the time I was beginning to write. And although I enjoyed those acting opportunities in my stage and film/TV career, as well as the film and television directing jobs I was lucky enough to have, I was never satisfied with merely those paths. I longed to be more than the storyteller or the director of the storytellers, I wanted to originate the stories. To create them. And perhaps I might tell them, perhaps I might direct them. Perhaps I might even co-write them. But I loved the process of creating stories… and finding the best ways to get them in front of an audience.

 What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

Two jobs come to mind. My very first paid gig was an acting job – a Yoplait yogurt commercial. I was swimming in an unheated pool, surfacing to get a bite of a spoonful of blueberry yogurt which soon began to match the color of my freezing cold lips. And the other job was as a researcher (must’ve been 60 hours a week on minimum wage) on a series of TV specials working for Dick Clark – who later became my co-Executive Producer on my NBC one-hour drama series, American Dreams. The lessons? No matter what he or she asks of you, work hard for your boss – he or she may someday become your business partner. And make sure you heat the pool.

 In 1994, you directed and appeared in a film that I have to say, took part in shaping my childhood. That film was Camp Nowhere, and it remains one of my favorite films from my youth to this very day. I have so many questions to ask, but to be brief, I will just ask what made you want to work on this now legendary (to me, at least) project? And how was your experience filming with a collection of young actors?

Thank you for the kind words. I loved that project from the day I first read Kurtzman and Wald’s truly funny script until the day we screened the final cut in a theater in my hometown. What appealed to me at first? I related to the character of “Mud,” played by Jonathan Jackson – a smart kid who felt the pressure from his parents of having to live up to his “potential;” a scrappy, unlikely hero who had to bring together a few dozen kids of different backgrounds to fool the parents and win the day. And I really love stories that happen over a predestined period of time – storytelling with an expiration date. (Like Summer Camp.) I was fortunate enough to work with a casting director, Amy Lippens, who put together a brilliantly talented and charismatic cast – from stars like Christopher Lloyd to the relatively unknown campers, to work for producers – like Michael Peyser – who gave me the opportunity to hire artists behind the camera – in prep, production and post – who made our movie look and sound spectacular, and for a studio (Hollywood Pictures) who gave me a shot. (Although I would argue that perhaps they shouldn’t have released a summer camp movie in the last week of August.) You and your readers can watch the movie on Disney Plus. You’ll be surprised how many of the actors you recognize, including a young Jessica Alba.

 

 

You’ve worn so many different proverbial hats in the world of film and television, both on screen and off. With that in mind, I am curious to know what your favorite aspect of entertainment is? If you were forced to only work in one field for the remainder of your career, what would you want to continue doing?

I’ve acted, written, directed – each of them – in every aspect of our business. From plays to half-hour comedies, to one-hour dramas, to TV movies to features. I’ve been blessed. As I said, I love storytelling and each of those skill sets is important in telling stories well. The best job, for me, is what I do now. Show-running television shows and miniseries. Being a showrunner, I think, is like being the general contractor on the Tower of Babel. He or she has to speak all of the languages of the many artists and craftsmen working on a single project. And I am fluent in SAG, in WGA, in DGA and even IA. I know how to translate what the writer is saying to the actor, what the makeup artist is saying to the writer, what the transportation captain is saying to the director. It calls on all of my history, all of my jobs, all of my skills. And I get to work with people far more talented than me: writers and editors and directors and actors and producers, talented individuals who create and build sets, who scout locations, who design costumes and hair and make-up, who compose and play musical scores, who find great songs for the soundtrack, who drive the trucks to set before dawn, who feed the cast and crew all day, and who close up “shop” well after dark… I’m so lucky to work  with all of them. And, as a showrunner, I draw them a sketch of what I think the show is like and encourage them: “Please color outside of the lines.”

If you were handed the opportunity to create & star in the biopic of any legendary figure in American history, who would it be? I know you covered quite a bit in your hit series, American Dreams, but who specifically would you like to cover if handed an unlimited and refillable bag of money to do so?

To create and star? Hmmm…. I think about my passions – like musical theater – and wonder about playing someone like Leonard Bernstein (it’s being done) or Stephen Sondheim or Hal Prince (no relation.) Or my other great passion, baseball – but I probably can’t play Sandy Koufax and definitely can’t play Jackie Robinson (and it was done beautifully). So I guess I’d like to play a brilliant storyteller, like Charles Dickens. (Although he’s not American… so maybe it’s a different storyteller, like playwright Neil Simon.)

When you look back on your career spanning several decades, what would you say you are most proud of in general? Not specifically one project per say, but the overall legacy of Jonathan Prince?

I hope that people with whom I’ve worked would say that I was creative. And collaborative. Hard-working. And kind. Most of all, kind.

But what I’m most proud of? In terms of my “legacy.” That’s easy. My family – my son, Jackson and my stepson Alec and my stepdaughters, Nadia and Kaile. I’m proud of the father I’ve been (and still am, despite their “advanced” age) and the husband I am to my wife, Darnell. I’m proud of the brother I am to my four sisters and the son I am to my amazing mom.

 

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

We’re waiting to hear about a third season of our BET series, American Soul, and about the second season of our show Four Weddings and a Funeral. I’m currently writing a musical drama pilot and episodes for HBOMax and working on a show for Paramount about the early days of MTV, looking at it as an innovative (and maybe insane) “startup.” Finally, I’m finally writing the book for a proposed Broadway musical, working with the talented  composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa, who is also collaborating on the HBO Max project.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My beloved Los Angeles Dodgers’ new right fielder, Mookie Betts, took batting practice yesterday … in a uniform of Dodger blue.

 

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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