Summer Solstice: Actor Jake T. Austin Talks Living In The City Of Angels

Jake T. AustinPhoto Credit: Mitch Dao

Photographer: Mitch Dao

Creative Director: Andrew Pham

Suiting: Indochino

Shoes: New Republic

Eyewear: Prada

Shot on location at Kimpton La Peer Hotel, West Hollywood 

You may know Jake T. Austin as the famed child actor who starred on hit series such as Wizards of Waverly Place as Max Russo, the voice of Diego on Go, Diego, Go!, or Jesus Foster on ABC Family’s series, The Fosters. Or you may know him as the laid-back, L.A. resident who loves to give back to charities, take hikes on his time off and frequents local spots like his neighborhood farmers’ market. Well, let us tell you—Jake T. Austin is both of these guys, plus more. In three words, he is grateful, passionate and giving. He is also a creative in so many more ways than just acting. We had the pleasure of chatting with Austin during his time off and got to learn what the humble star is all about. As we enter the Summer Solstice, we’re kicking back with Austin to chat about growing up as a child in the industry, moving from New York to Los Angeles, his favorite aspects about living in the City of Angels, past and upcoming projects, and of course, how he gives back to passions that are near and dear to his heart. Find all the details here.

HL: How was it being born and raised in New York, and then picking up and moving to L.A.? What has the transition been like?

JTA: The transition from New York to L.A. was definitely a step outside my comfort zone. But being a New Yorker, I’m able to adapt, or I’d like to think I’m easily adaptable. The people in L.A., the weather and the city itself is so dynamic and being in the entertainment industry, it’s really key to be here. There’s definitely pros and cons to both cities, but being an actor in New York is very different from being an actor in L.A. I organically started going on auditions and doing commercials, and my first actual TV appearance was on The Late Show with David Letterman, which was in New York City. My acting experiences were limited there. Being able to work in Los Angeles, working on shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and The Fosters and some other films I’ve been in have been really great.

HL: What’s your favorite aspect of living in L.A.?

JTA: I love how it’s a very free place and it’s laid back and easy going. For the most part, everyone is very friendly and approachable and if you’re smart, you can meet a lot of people and anyone can make a carbon pass for themselves if they have a passion that they love. It’s the one city that promotes that. It’s nice to be living here, meeting so many different people, from people who are in the industry and people who are not in the industry.

HL: How would you describe L.A. in three words?

JTA: Imaginative, glamorous and sun (of course).

Jake T. AustinPhoto Credit: Mitch Dao

HL: What’s your day-to-day like here when you’re not working on a project? 

JTA: I always think it’s important to keep myself busy and occupy my time with things that keep me challenged. Even when I’m not acting in a role, I’m either reading scripts or reading stories or watching shows that inspire me as an actor—so that no matter what, I’m always trying to land the next job and absorb the character I’m lucky enough to play.

HL: As someone who’s been in the industry from such a young age, how has that shaped you as you’ve grown up and what changes within the industry have you seen or experienced throughout your career?

JTA: I think acting on high profile sets and working with production companies and influential filmmakers have been extremely important for me and my career, and I’m very fortunate for that. It’s really taught me that being an actor is such a privilege and having the opportunity to step in and fill the shoes of characters is a profession unlike anything else because you’re constantly changing your perspective with these roles that you’re pursuing. Ultimately, I think it’s really great to have that experience from a young age on, but being a child actor is different than being an actor who is in his 20s, transitioning into adulthood, and I’m just learning that now. The roles you play when you’re young are very different than the roles you play as you grow up. I would say that I’m transitioning, but over the evolution of my career, it’s definitely been a learning process to see how I can challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone in roles that may offer different sides of myself than what people are used to.

HL: Have any of the characters you’ve played influenced you or your outlook on life?

JTA: I’ve played a wide variety of characters, from all different backgrounds. I’ve been really fortunate to have the opportunity to do that. I’ve played smart characters, not so bright characters, I’ve done live action work, animation—so I’ve really had a wide variety of experiences and to be honest with you, they’re all unique and they’re all awesome and amazing. The best experience is when you are working with people who elevate your performance. I did a film called The Perfect Game, which is based on a true story about a little league team who walked across the border from Mexico and won the little league world series and it was a huge accomplishment in 1957. Being able to tell that story because of the medium that it was filmed, is huge. I think filmmaking is such an amazing platform and it’s really a luxury to be a part of it.

HL: Off-screen, how do you find time to unwind and reset? 

JTA: It’s a little ironic because to find peace and get away from the entertainment business, I paint, draw and also write—which I know is also somewhat part of the entertainment business, but it’s always been a passion and hobby of mine. Over the course of my life, I’ve written a lot of poetry and short films and stories. I’ve given a lot of time and applied a lot of thought to how I can evolve those stories and it’s a great platform for anyone to express themselves in the truest form. Outside of this, I love hiking and being surrounded by nature. I think this really elevates your consciousness and I’m a huge fan of animals. I have a rescue dog that I found on the streets of L.A. that I’ve been nurturing over the past year and a half, and it’s been an amazing transition for me—even though I’m not currently on a show or movie right now, to be living life and taking things one day at a time and experiencing life’s offerings is really nice.

Jake T. AustinPhoto Credit: Mitch Dao

HL: Speaking of philanthropy, what are some of the interests/causes you’re passionate about?

JTA: I’ve worked with a few different charities and non-profit organizations. I’m not officially an ambassador or endorser, but I’ve worked with charities such as Hope For Paws in Los Angeles. I’ve also done a lot of work with children who are going through adversity through programs like the Boys & Girls Club, which I find to be such an amazing organization. BGC provides safe spaces, friendship and career & life training at over 4,000 clubs throughout the country. I’ve met the kids at the Hollywood location and the work that the organization does is so important for the next generation. 

HL: That’s a fantastic organization. 

JTA: Yes, I’m very lucky. I’m lucky in a sense to be a part of this industry and now I guess to play a small role in working with organizations and being able to hopefully influence younger people through my own experiences and through my own work.

HL: You have such a strong platform and it’s very admirable that you’re using it to promote so much good. What are you trying to get across the most with the younger generations?

JTA: I think when speaking to people who are my own age, speaking to my generation and speaking to all generations (myself included), it’s important to remember how sometimes the world can feel small and empty, but to realize how many people there are suffering, who don’t have access to things like water, medicine, food or health care—and it’s important to just be grateful if you are one of the people who have access to those things. I think we should do what we can we’re in the position to help, in any small way possible. Working with animals is a huge passion for me, as we discussed. I’m a huge animal lover, so I would definitely love to work with more animal rights groups in the future and to join any conservation efforts to help save animals. I played the voice of Diego on Go Diego Go!, which is a popular children’s show on Nick Jr., and ironically the character saves animals every episode, so that kind of instilled that in me at a young age. I think playing that character definitely conditioned me to be so loving towards animals.

HL: Is there anything that you are looking forward to, coming up in the next year that you could share?

JTA: Hopefully more live action and animated work. I can’t really talk about it, but there’s supposedly an animated film that I’m in talks to be a part of, but nothing is official as of now. But I’m trying to, like most actors, land that next role.

HL: What is the best piece of advice or the greatest lesson that you’ve learned in your career thus far?

JTA: I think the best advice that I could give to anyone pursuing a career in entertainment is to be comfortable in your own skin and try to meet as many people as possible. And working in acting, you have many advantages, you have the opportunity to work with talented individuals and learn a lot from being on different sets and that’s the most advice I can offer—to just embrace where life takes you in all ways, especially if you have the privilege of working in this business. Learn from everyone, learn from good experiences, bad experiences—everything around you is important in shaping who you are.

Jake T. AustinPhoto Credit: Mitch Dao

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