Interviewed by Jason Kennedy, CSA
INTRO: Trans actor JJ Hawkins is on the verge of stardom, and I’m thrilled to have a small part in introducing him to the world. I first learned of JJ through Lucy Cavallo and Ally Bolognini two years ago. They had just met with him and they asked that we keep an eye out for anything he might be right for. We were told JJ was a really interesting non-gender-conforming, trans-masculine actor who grew up Mormon and attended Brigham Young University. They were quite impressed with his work when he recurred for seven episodes on CBS’s limited series, The Red Line. Before too long, we had him in for a guest role on NCIS: a humorous, sarcastic, cyber engineer. He was perfect for it. JJ’s unique sense of humor and comedic timing easily won him the part. I have to say, JJ is as clever, interesting, and talented as he is warm and personable. I’m so excited to see his continued success, including his recently announced recurring role on CW’s Charmed. As for his pronouns, JJ uses he/him or they/them interchangeably, and he always appreciates when people are thoughtful enough to ask.
1) Has there been a casting director that has encouraged and/or supported you in your career?
I've certainly had encouragement from a chunk of casting directors, and I've felt supported by each one that's cast me, that's for sure! But two that stand out are Lucy Cavallo and David Caparelliotis. Lucy, when she worked at CBS, saw me in The Red Line and immediately wanted to meet me. After we did so, she got me an audition for Criminal Minds about a week later that I ended up booking. It meant a lot to see her put me out there so quickly. David was a mentor of mine for a "Top 20 of 2020" initiative the CSA began, so we worked together for a few weeks and he was abundantly kind and impressively down to earth. He saw my humanity before I had to prove it, and that's a rare and beautiful thing when you're an actor of a minority demographic.
2) What work are you most proud of?
I would say I'm most proud of my work on The Red Line and All Rise. Both characters were quite groundbreaking for CBS, as both were nonbinary characters, and I loved seeing that representation. My goal has always been to create the representation I didn't have growing up, so what could make me prouder than actualizing that goal?
3) How did you get your SAG-AFTRA card?
I got my SAG-AFTRA card after two or three episodes of The Red Line. I wasn't even SAG-eligible when I booked that show, so I was really lucky to be able to join with a job that helped me actually afford it.
4) What was your first IMDbPro credit and how did you feel when you saw it?
My first IMDbPro credit was an episode of a web series called T-H-R-E-A-D-S. I was so excited to watch it, and was lucky because the turnaround was pretty quick. It was a short episode, but I was one of the leads, and I watched it multiple times. I love watching edits of my work and seeing which take was chosen and how differently things are perceived as opposed to how they feel. I look back now and roll my eyes that I thought I had done well, but I'm proud of it regardless. And just as proud to measure that I've become a stronger actor.
5) How has IMDbPro helped you market yourself to filmmakers?
IMDbPro has helped me market mainly because it's an easy link to share. When I've pitched myself or submitted myself for things, it's a quick formula of adding a link to my website and a link to my IMDbPro. I don't need to go through the hassle of attaching any headshots or uploading anything. It's succinct and easy.
6) Any funny casting room stories?
Oh, absolutely. My audition for The Red Line. Obviously, I was shocked to receive a breakdown of a nonbinary character on a network show, so I was feeling emotional about that. After I finished the audition and started to head out, I figured it was the perfect time to address how thankful I was that a character like this was even being written, and I vocalized that gratitude to them. Their response was basically "Oh well, we didn't write it." and so I said, "Oh. Right. Well, fuck you both," and walked out the door. We all laughed and then I booked it, so I guess that's the trick.
7) Tell us a fun fact about you outside of acting:
Okay, I'll give you three: 1. I was raised Mormon (spoiler: trans and Mormon isn't a fun mix). 2. I am obsessed with Betty White (would love to show you all of my Golden Girls paraphernalia). 3. I used to be an English teacher in Florence and a math teacher in DTLA. I was literally booking jobs to play high school students while teaching real-life high school student—a funny sight to see.