When it comes to career, Jaylen Barron knows that sometimes you gotta spice up those skillsets on your résumé.
The 21-year-old California native stars in Netflix’s Free Rein, where she plays Zoe, an American who sets off to spend the summer at her grandfather’s home located on an island off the coast of Britian. Zoe’s vacation lands her in Bright Stables, where she meets a beautiful black stallion named Raven, and her life is quite literally changed forever.
Her Campus caught up with Jaylen to talk about the Free Rein: Valentine’s Day special, how telling a little white lie (or maybe not so little?) landed her the role of Zoe, Instagram vs. reality, her best advice to single gals and more.
Tell me a little about the Free Rein Valentine’s special.
Zoe and the girls plan a Galentine’s Day adventure, and set out to find out this mysterious maid’s stone. Obviously, it turns out we are not the only ones after it. The boys, Tim and Marcus, and our rival school, Holloway, is after it as well.
I think it really tests the girls’ friendship, and Zoe and Gaby’s relationship—with Pony Squad trying to accept Gaby. And when it comes to Pin, things are better left unsaid, because he’s having trouble accepting Valentine’s Day. So there’s a lot of drama, but [also] lots of girl time.
I know there’s a season three on the horizon and it’s a little far ahead, but what can you tell me about it, if anything at all?
Season three? Oh, that is once again on lock and key. But I feel like it’s going to teach a lot of the young girls about girl power and girlhood and sticking together—and that boys aren’t a huge part of your life. That’s what I really like about that show, is that all of the girls are extremely passionate with everything they do. Jade with her schooling, Becky with Bob, and then Zoe with Raven.
So, I think that season three really teaches women, like girls, how to be okay by themselves.
I love that message behind it. It’s amazing.
We’re all for the notion that it’s okay to fake it till you make it, and heard that you told a little white lie about knowing how to ride horses to land the role of Zoe. Kind of amazing—but tell me a little bit about what it’s been like training and learning to ride along the way.
Basically, in the audition room I was like, “Yeah I know how to ride horses”—but I didn’t. But luckily, when I got there they were really good about making sure that we practiced, especially for safety and other people’s safety around us. We would practice before work or in between scenes, or even on the weekends. The hours are really long but I think we all benefited from it, because I didn’t fall off a horse.
And what is it like working with horses, like Raven and Major?
It’s really a fun opportunity, because I never got to work with animals before. It can be hard some days, but what makes it worth it is how the show comes out. And these horses, they are so smart and they all have such great personalities. You get to know them and you know when they’re in a bad mood and when they’re not, or when they’ve had a long day. And honestly, it’s just like humans. When we have a long day, it affects us—and they’re the same. So I think it was a great learning experience for all of us, because we know that animals, they’re not just these performing beings. They have feelings, they have personalities. And I think it teaches everybody about how to love animals properly.
Has there ever been a very challenging moment on set with the horses?
Well, luckily Sam Dent and his crew—these are the people who provide the horses and teach them everything—are amazing, so there was never really a difficult moment. The only time I could say it’s difficult is when you’re the one that doesn’t know what you’re doing on the horse sometimes, and you’re supposed to be in a scene and the horse decides to move because maybe you shifted your leg the wrong way. It’s honestly never really their fault, they’re only responding to what you do. So I think the most difficult thing is not being the best horse rider and the horse acting up, and you’re supposed to be this natural horse rider on camera.
And what is it like working abroad, and being away from family and everyone you know?
It’s really difficult, but luckily my mom was able to come with me so I wasn’t completely alone. She got to stay with me for the three months, and my dad would come over and visit. He would visit once during the three months. But yeah, luckily my mom got to come with me so I didn’t feel completely alone.
So it’s similar to Zoe’s situation, where her mom is there, and her sister, but their dad is back home in the States.
Oh, yeah—it’s like exactly like that situation. I honestly relate to this character so much because I felt like a fish out of water being around all British people, obviously I am not British. And that’s where Zoe and I related a lot, is she just wasn’t from there. She didn’t know anything about anything, and I was the same exact way.
Amazing. So I wanted to talk a little bit about horse girl energy… Last year this was trending all over Twitter—would you say that you have horse girl energy, or is that more of a Zoe thing?
No. I think I have horse girl energy, because horsey girls are strong, they’re athletic, and they’re driven. And they have this amazing connection with their horse, and I may not have an amazing connection with a horse in real life, but I have it with my dogs at home. And I know what they’re thinking and I know what they’re feeling and I know when they’re trying to tell me something when somethings wrong. So I think I have horsey girl energy. I feel like if you’re strong, if you’re independent, and if you’re passionate about something you have horsey girl energy.
We stan a horsey girl.
Yes, we do! Let’s talk about rejection and how you deal with that. What’s a role that you wanted and didn’t get, and how did you handle it?
I’ve been acting since I was 13 and there have been so many roles that I wanted but didn’t get. I can’t name a specific one, but what I will say is how I deal with rejection—whenever I was denied a certain role, something better always came along. So there was an audition that I had, and it was for a really a really big show, and I didn’t get it. I was so upset, and I was like what was wrong with me? Why didn’t I get it? As it turns out, that that show got canceled. Then the role that I did book was on Shameless, so it was even bigger and better. What I say is one door closes and another one always opens, and what’s meant for you will always be for you—and things happen at the perfect time. So I deal with rejection that way.
It’s hard sometimes. Like, trust me, it is so difficult. Even these past couple weeks I was dealing with rejection. I didn’t get a couple jobs, but I told myself, Jaylen just look at your past. You know? Things that you didn’t get before, there was always something 10 times better. So that’s what I just have to hope for, and that’s what I go by. There’s always something better around the corner.
It’s like ex-boyfriends. You miss them sometimes and you’re like, why aren’t we together? But then, you know, six months later, you meet somebody and you’re like, oh this person’s 10 times better than them. So there’s always something better.
You level up.
Who is your dream actress to work with, and why?
Oh my gosh, 100 percent Halle Berry! When I was younger there weren’t a lot of girls who looked like me on TV, and [she was] the woman that I would see who had these powerful roles. She would be a lead and would be strong, like Catwoman, so I would look up to Halle Berry. She was always such a boss to me.
It’s so true. And like you said, you didn’t see a lot of people who look like you in the lead but now you are a young black woman in a lead role. What is it like for you having the opportunity to be someone others can look up to?
I’m really glad that I got to be a lead role in the show, because I feel like there’s not a lot of black equestrians, and a lot of black people don’t really ride horses—though in the south it’s really common. So I like the fact that I am a black girl, an Afro-Latina on TV, and these little girls who ride horses who don’t get to see somebody that looks like them or represents them, they get to see me.
I think that’s what I’m mostly happy about is that they’re like, oh there’s another black girl who rides horses, you know?
Love that you rep for Afro-Latinas everywhere!
Yeah, my mom’s Mexican and my dad’s black. I feel like a lot of Hispanics who are mixed with black, they never want to claim the black part, you know? When it came to the Mexican community, I wasn’t Mexican enough because my hair wasn’t straight and it was curly. Obviously, I was half black—but at the end the day you’re just an Afro-Latina, a black Mexican, that’s what you are. Fortunately, my mom always made me really proud to be black and Mexican, even though she’s a really fair-skinned Mexican. But don’t know. I just get really upset when I see Latinx people not claim their blackness, because literally it’s just like a boat stop, you know what I mean? That’s the only thing that separates you from another black person.
You’re so right. Let’s talk a little bit about the whole idea of Instagram versus reality, and how that sort of plays into even your life and how others see you. Because you have dubbed yourself bou-JAYE on social media, at least on Twitter.
I am completely not like my Instagram. [Laughs] If you were to meet me in person I’m really goofy. I’m actually a bit shy, like I don’t really like to have my picture taken. If you look at my Instagram you’d think I’d want to be all up in the mix, but that is not true. And I think majority of girls aren’t the same person they are on social media. It’s like we pose different, we act different, we carry ourselves in a different way. I think we all put up a front, kind of. I know I definitely do. But I don’t know why. I can’t even say why I do that. But I’m definitely not who I am on my Instagram.
But in my Stories… girl my edges be out, I don’t have makeup. It’s like the IG Story is different.
Yeah. I think the feed is always a little more curated, and your Instagram stories is where you can keep it a little more “real” and fun.
Yeah. I feel like there’s just a pressure to have a certain look on Instagram. I know I like a certain look, like how I like my room to look, very glamorous and things like that. And I love my makeup to look a certain way, but my personality does not match at all.
That’s funny but I get it. I think it’s just society today. Diving into a fun topic, let’s discuss celebrity crushes—who was yours growing up?
Oh girl, 50 Cent! Growing up he was my crush. 50 Cent and Morris Chestnut.
Morris Chestnut? Girl, that’s bae.
Oh 100 percent that’s bae. But yeah, those are my two crushes. I remember being like 10 years old watching 50 Cent perform “Many Men” during spring break—like the spring break performances that they would have over in Miami—and I remember watching and knowing what I liked from that point on. I said that’s it, that right there. [Laughs]
Hilarious! Thinking back, what is the one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
It’s not the end of the world. I let so many things affect me, because I thought maybe some girls didn’t like me when I was on set or they didn’t want to hang out with me on set, and I just thought it would be the end of the world and I would literally make myself sick over it. It’s not the end of the world. It’s okay. Time goes on, and you’ll move on.
I love that, definitely a good message. With Valentine’s Day coming up, and obviously that being the theme around your Free Rein special, how do you feel about V-Day? Love it or hate it?
Honestly, I would say I love it, because I love the idea of love. I love seeing people in love. Sometimes I’ll be hating low key, but … No I’m just kidding. But really, it’s just a day where everything is dedicated to love, and I feel like we need a little bit more of that, especially with where our country is right now. There’s not a lot of love going around, and I want to see more of that. Even if you don’t have a boyfriend, it’s okay. You can celebrate Valentine’s Day with your dad, your mom, your sister, your friends, your cousins. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a day of love. That’s what I look at it as. It’s not specifically just for couples.
What is one piece of dating advice you’d give to single girls out there?
I mean I’m single right now, so I would say the best advice is just enjoy it. That’s what my mom says all the time. Just enjoy your life because one day you’re going to end up meeting somebody, and get married, so just enjoy the time you have being by yourself and working on yourself. And like don’t go on social media and stalk all the couples that you see and be like, oh why don’t I have that? Because not everything is as it seems—trust me.
So don’t glorify anybody else’s relationship, because you don’t know what it is going on behind the scenes. People be frontin’ for social.