Nick Jonas welcomes you to ‘the jungle’

By Kendrah Villiesse

Four high school teenagers in detention find an old video game and get sucked into it, which leads them into an alternate reality.

“Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle,” an action-comedy directed by Jake Kasdan, follows these teens—turned into their chosen avatars—as they go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives in order to escape the video game.

The movie, hitting theaters Dec. 20, features Nick Jonas as Alex alongside Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan, and takes a twist on the original 1995 movie “Jumanji,” in which the cast had to escape the titular board game.

The Chronicle spoke with Jonas about his music and experiences on the set of “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle.”

THE CHRONICLE: Do you feel the pressure of being taken seriously while you’re in this transition from music to film?

NICK JONAS: I try not to stress about perception. I think for me it is about taking strides to grow. Really, what has been great is that this has been a warm welcome into the acting side. I think because the steps taken have been thought out, and I have been patient with it and tried to make some good choices and find some great roles. This next step with “Jumanji” and the other projects I have going on feel really fitting.

Was it stressful to remake a classic movie?

For all of us, that was something to keep in mind, to find a way to pay homage to the original performance, which is truly incredible. From there it was about finding a way to also tell a new “Jumanji” adventure, a new story. [We tried to make] something that felt fresh, to take this beloved classic and introduce it to a brand new audience. That is challenging and something that takes a little [thought] from all parties involved, but if you get it right it is incredibly rewarding. Audiences are really loving it and young people that were not familiar with the original are loving this and are probably going to go back and rediscover the first one. As a fan of the original myself, I was thrilled to get the chance to take a title like this which people love so much and find a way to give it a new and exciting edge.

What was it like receiving a Golden Globe nomination the same day as the premiere of “Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle”? 

That day, last Monday [Dec. 11], was one of the craziest days of my life. What is incredible about this moment I am in right now is that 13 or 14 years into my career at this point, I am still having new experiences and days where I wake up to a dream of mine coming true and close the day with another dream coming true. With the premiere of the movie as well, it is about stepping back and looking at moments like that and really expressing gratitude and taking a minute to think about the steps it takes to get there. I am really proud and humbled and thrilled to be in a spot to keep this thing rolling as well.

How does the dynamic between working on a set for a film compare to working in the studio on an album?

In some ways they are similar. The fun of making an album is that you get to tell your stories and to go on your journey, creatively. It is really individual to you; whereas with a film, you are telling somebody else’s story and working in a group and it is a team effort—all hands on deck are required to make it happen. I really love both, and I love that I get to switch it up between the two. I find inspiration from being around all of the creative minds that go into making a film happen and also being able to jump back into making music side of things—to create and spill my heart in my music.

What is similar between the 1995 “Jumanji” and the new film?

They did a brilliant job in the writing, that basically you feel some of that “Jumanji” energy. In some of the dialogue and the references that are in there, there are pieces that are a fabric of our movie that stem from the original. In addition to that, my character is the emotional anchor, he is the most connected to Robin Williams’ character, Alan Parrish [from the 1995 movie]. There [are also] classic Jumanji elements that I think fans will love, [such as] the animals and getting sucked into the game. Although this time it is a video game, it is a symbol of where that goes down. I think there are elements that are really frightening. The thing that stood out to me about the original when I was young was that there were these moments where you really felt the danger and it was scary. The comedy and the action [do] a really good job to give it that edge and keep audiences on their toes.

How did you incorporate your imagination and the experiences you’ve had to play Alex?

One of the big similarities between me and my character is, although he is a pilot, we are both afraid of flying. I think it was easy to tap that part of my brain when I had those scenes where he would get really nervous about getting into the helicopter and saving the group. I have had some frightening flying experiences the last couple of years. With every character I have played now, going back to “Kingdom,” a TV show I did for the last couple of years, “Goat” and “Scream Queens,” I try to take something from my personal life and use it in my character to feel more connected to the character in the story. It is the best way on the songwriting side to connect the dots creatively and it really does apply on the acting side. Real life informs the choices I make in a scene, and it is a fun process. With this one, a big piece to this as well was working with these really talented actors and hilarious people. 

What are Alex’s weaknesses in the movie and how do you relate to them?

Alex has a couple weaknesses—mosquitoes are one of them. His strengths are making margaritas, which is not the most useful tool in the jungle, as well as flying. In my own life, I have been thinking of what my strengths and weaknesses could be if I had to categorize it like a video game. My strength would be that I am very driven [and] focused. My weakness would probably be I get in my head sometimes and overthink things. I could learn to chill out a bit.

What does the first “Jumanji” film mean to you?

I was a huge fan of the original. I first watched it when I was 5 or 6 years old. I was in the video store with my dad and we went to pick it up and rented it for about a week. I think I watched it three or four times within that week, mostly because I had to break it up in parts because I was so scared at 5 years old. As I grew up, it was always on TV, and it was a huge part of my childhood and my brothers’ as well. My connection to it goes real deep, so when I got the call that I got the role, I was blown away—when I first turned on the TV, “Jumanji” was on. It has been following me, looming over me my whole life and to be able to be a part of this “Jumanji” adventure has been really incredible. [The cast] has a connection to it and to Robin Williams and his legacy; that is why we approached this with a lot of care and a real focus on having that moment but also finding a way to give the audience really fresh.

What attracted you to the role of Alex?

It made the opportunity to bring some emotional grounding to it with this character. So far, most of my acting roles within the last couple years were on the more dramatic side of things. Also, working with these actors, this is really an incredible group of people, all at the top of their game. Kasdan as well is brilliant, and the movie is an exciting opportunity to take that next step into big studio pictures as well. That is a dream scenario, to be in films like that, as well as more eye-level indie filmmaking. Movies like this, of this scale, this is the world that I would like to be able to jump into as well. With this one, as well as “Chaos Walking,” a movie that I just finished up in Montreal directed by Doug Liman with Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, it is an exciting moment on the acting side. I am trying to ride the wave and continue to grow and have fun in the process.

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