Jasmin Savoy BrownActressLos Angeles, CAStory & Photos by Lauri Levenfeld
1. Who are you? What were you like as a child?
Hi! I’m Jasmin. Jasmin Savoy Brown is my full name, and obviously my stage name, but everyone back home knows me as Jasmin Brown, so I feel more like my tree climbing, tie-dying, adventure seeking self when people refer to me that way. It’s like that smell that takes you straight back to childhood.
When I was a child, I was constantly climbing trees, riding my bike, and always following the rules. Nothing scared me more than the idea of lying to my mom! Nothing. Not because I’d get in trouble, but because I loved her so much so why would I lie to her? I remember one time as a kid, I had recently been sick. My mom told my babysitter not to give me any sugar. My babysitter was COOL, so she gave me some fruit snacks and made me promise not to tell my mom. The second my mom got home and the babysitter left, I told my mom! What a tattle tale! I just felt so guilty. I still wonder what happened to that babysitter….
2. What drives you to wake up in the morning and lets you sleep at night?
Whoever said I sleep soundly at night lies to you! I almost always have to get up to pee. Is that TMI? I think it may be due to endometriosis. I was recently diagnosed, and even more recently had a surgery to remove cysts and I am healing well. But prior to the surgery, it had reached a horrible peak of pain, and I think that contributes to getting up in the middle of the night to pee. 5 out of 7 nights a week.
Nights are hard for me regardless. I have a hard time falling asleep because my brain likes to sound off on everything I think I “did wrong” that day. The way I said something to my partner, a line I think I said stupidly, a regret. I’m really working on that, just quieting my mind. But I think it all comes from a good place – a place of constantly wanting to better myself. It’s a desire that is a double edged sword. It’s good to want to be better, but an addiction to “I’m so bad” can quickly turn into an addiction to self degradation. I live right on the border and I am doing my best to keep it healthy. I always want to be better. And I always want to be contributing to the world in same way. Be it through art, politics, simply showing someone love, the desire to contribute wakes me up in the morning and lets me sleep soundly, sometimes.
3. Tell us about your work life. You just had a BIG announcement.
I did! Although I think it has hit the people around me more than it has me at this point. I don’t think it will completely hit me until the show airs next year. I just joined the cast of “For The People” from ABC and Shondaland. Written by Paul William Davies, executive produced by Shondaland, episode one directed by Tom Verica, “For The People” is about a group of young lawyers making their way in New York City’s “Mother Court.” The cases they deal with are real to life and are the cases we are seeing on TV/Twitter/the news day to day. Think about that for a minute. Today’s news. It’s intense, emotional, and hilarious. The cast is large and every single person is brilliant. I can’t wait for the world to see this show.
4. What was your big a-ha moment?
I’ve had a few… The first was when I was eight years old. My aunt Toni and Uncle Jim gifted my mom and I tickets to see a touring Broadway production of “The Music Man” in Eugene, Oregon. That was the first professional live musical I had ever seen, and it shook me to my bones. I knew immediately that theatre was what I wanted to do with my life. I committed my life to the theatre that Sunday afternoon.
Another came senior year of high school. I auditioned for thirteen college musical theatre programs and was accepted to zero. I was crushed. I’d dreamed and planned on that for ten years, I had no back up plan. I cried for a WHILE and then thought, “DO I care what they think? Do I actually think I need them to get to where I want to go? No.” I packed up my things, with $400 to my name and moved to Portland to figure it out another way. I’m doing fine.
Last December I was in Wales shooting “Will”. Wales is beautiful, and I had a brilliant time on the show, but I had more downtime than I knew what to do with. It was winter in Wales, which means the sun sets at 4 pm. It was always raining. I was alone, in a hotel room, missing my partner, dealing with personal stuff back home, and I grew depressed. I always thought once I booked “the thing”, that everything would suddenly click into place . I’d know exactly who I am and I would be fulfilled and happy. Nope. Wrong. No job, no travel opportunity, no amount of money can fill the voids. I have to do that. Myself.
And yesterday in therapy, I had another one of those moments. Still too fresh and personal to share. But let’s just say, that too comes back to doing it myself.
5. Name a few people (mentors) that have impacted your life/ art? And why?
Liz Vice – Liz cast me as an extra in a film in Portland in 2012. (I used to do a LOT of background work! Check “The A-List” on netflix if you want to see baby Jas working that background shot.) I was late, she said she wanted to send me home, but didn’t for some reason. I asked her about 1,000 questions, was crashing on her couch within the week, and then moved to Portland (from Springfield) in large part because of her. She took me into her home, her circle, her church, and took me under her wing spiritually and in the film community. She was the first person I ever met who looked like me AND liked what I liked! I asked her to be my mentor for that reason. Actually, I think I begged her to be my mentor. I only lived in Portland for a year, and then she moved to New York, but we stayed connected. She tours the world with her music now, and I fly to New York every few months for an audition or a shoot! We get together, catch up, laugh until we cry, and then I fly home. Liz impacted my life and art because she was the first successful independent Christian black woman filmmaker I ever met. It’s a tongue-twister, but it means a lot to me.
Michele Lonsdale Smith – When I moved to LA, my first feature film callback was for the Star Wars reboot! My first feature film callback ever. Talk about unprepared. My manager set me up with a private coaching with Michele. I had taken a few classes and workshops in LA already and had come to expect a pretentious expensive coach with an assistant making excuses for why she was late or in a bad mood. I walked in and Michele was waiting for me, sitting on the floor. Such a simple gesture that told me everything about her. AND she was black! (Clearly important to my story. I knew almost no black people in Oregon. Meeting confident, healthy, happy black people in LA has helped me become me.) Michele sized me up in an instant. She helped me with the audition, which I obviously did not book (and thank God because Daisy Ridley IS EVERYTHING), but more importantly she invited me to audit her class. I audited, and then I joined, and studying with Lonsdale Smith Studios has defined me as an artist. I owe my quest for truth to their commitment to truth in life and acting. I approach acting in a much healthier, more personal way than I did before I began studying there. I would not be where I am now, physically – on set of “For The People” – or emotionally – me – if it weren’t for the love and guidance of Michele and Russell Sams.
6. Tell us about your commitment to the LGBT community. What has this community meant to you?
Until 21, I identified as an LGBT ally only. I grew up heavily in the musical theatre community, and as a result, was surrounded by beautiful, diverse LGBT people. I always felt safe with my gay friends. Safe because they were bold enough to be themselves, therefore they would always accept me no matter what. I saw my friends oppressed, ridiculed, harassed and attacked in the street, and the next day write a poem about it and perform it at lunch time. Who has that much love to give? That much grace, beauty, optimism, and hope? It seems to me that people who have been robbed of their humanity prove to be the most resilient, strongest, and hopeful. I’m thinking of Syrian refugees, black America, and the girl who was raped by the “baby faced All-American” Brock Turner. Resilient, strong, hopeful.
The LGBT community supported me as a woman, an artist, a mixed person, every identity I gave myself outside of the community with nothing but love and safety. I had the opportunity to be a voice for my friends when they couldn’t speak, and they did the same for me. No one judged me or got angry with me for taking 21 years to verbally identify as a member of the community, and I am forever grateful for that. They mean it when they say, “on your own time”. I was never
forced to say, do, or identify in a way I was not ready to. And when I was…. it was a wild celebration! Every day is a celebration when you are free to be yourself. Do not take that privilege for granted. Some places it is not safe to be gay, Christian, black or female. Celebrate every little victory. The LGBT community has taught me the meaning of celebration and joy. And deepened my capability to unabashedly love.
7. Your Twitter bio says, “Lover of Words”…Name some of the best words you have read and from whom?
I am currently reading ‘The Four Agreements’ and it is changing my life. I am on agreement number 3 right now, “Don’t Make Assumptions”. It is such a simple act, and yet so freeing. I make a lot of assumptions, and all it does is torture me.
Yesterday I went on a hike with my partner and our dog and we saw a sign that said “Take care of the land. You will be part of it someday”. That gave all three of us the shivers.
My mom texts me “Gah!!!” a lot, which I think is an accurate depiction of my inner life.
I’m thinking back to ‘The Four Agreements’. Agreement number one is “Be Impeccable With Your Word”. Before reading the chapter, I assumed that meant, “if you say you’ll arrive at nine, be sure to arrive at nine,” but what it actually is referring to, is the words we speak to ourselves and to others. To speak love and positivity, as opposed to speaking negatively. That seems SO SIMPLE, but at least for me, when I became aware of my patterns of speech? I was floored at how negative I can be. The interesting thing it points out is that we are the most negative to the ones we love the most. It’s brutal, but true. My partner and my mom get the worst of me. I hate it. But now that I’m aware of it, I am working very hard to change it. The change is simple, it’s the awareness that’s hard. I’m only just beginning, and I already feel 10x happier, lighter. Our words are powerful
8. Are you spiritual? Believe in astrology? Meditate? Or any other system to answer questions?
Yes. I believe in God. What this faith commitment means to me has changed over the years, and is constantly evolving, but the core of it remains the same. I believe that my life is more than just my own, that I am capable of more with God than I am alone, that I am never alone, that I am forgiven and expected to forgive, and I believe in love. God is love. Why is that so hard for people to understand? This is why my faith has been challenged and has changed shape so many times, because I see several people who spout off about God’s love, but don’t honor love between two people simply because those two people are different from them. I just don’t get that. I also used to repress myself and find myself deeply guilt ridden simply for considering being who I am, on several levels. If God designed me perfectly in His image THIS WAY, why should I feel guilty? Now that said, I deeply respect people who make great sacrifices to honor their god / their faith. Sacrifices that may include celibacy or giving up certain types of food. That level of commitment is beautiful and humbling. But that is a personal choice. And to put your chosen faith on someone else, or regulate a law that degrades or demeans someone in the name of your faith, I do not agree with. It’s all very complicated and political, but it comes down to something that should be very personal. It is for me. I love God. I’m also spiritual in a nature sense – I feel most myself out in nature. And I believe in balance and breath. I believe in anything that brings me back to myself. Which also means brings me back to love. Back to God.
9. If you were stranded on an island, who and what would you bring?
I would bring Camille, my partner, because she’s my best friend, always has me laughing, and is exceptionally good in survival type situations. She’d build us a shelter and catch us a meal in two hours flat. I would also bring my guitar because we both love music! Who can survive without music? I’d bring my Bible as well because I love that book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read it, and I’m making the commitment to start doing that again. And then of course a cheese plate.
10. What’s next for Jasmin Savoy Brown?
Well, I am currently shooting “For The People” and will be for several months! So at the moment, my focus is on finding my character and learning the world of the show. I’m still focusing on my music, but it’s going to be awhile longer now before an album comes out. And I am in the editing phase on a couple of short films I’ve written!