Nick Jonas Spills Set Shenanigans and Talks New Film: 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle'

Get ready for a new Jumanji adventure.

The soul of the much-loved 1995 fantasy/action film lives on in a new adaptation: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, starring Nick Jonas, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan.

Branded as a tribute to the original, actor/executive producer Dwayne Johnson wanted to tackle the new movie in a way that continues the Jumanji adventure, but with a modern twist. “While the jungle came into our world in the original Jumanji, we go into Jumanji in this film,” says Johnson. “We could also have fun with the idea that the game has evolved into a video game.”

Former Disney star—and current King of My Heart—Nick Jonas plays Alex, one of the teens trapped in the game. Alex has been trapped for a little while longer than the other highschoolers  (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan) who are thrust into the world of Jumanji, and helps them to navigate along their journey.

Her Campus Western (HCW) joined an exclusive group of representatives from other college and university press outlets on a call with Nick earlier this month to talk about the upcoming blockbuster film.

Q: Do you feel pressured being taken seriously in this transition from music to making major movies?

NJ: I try not to stress about perception, you know? I think, for me, it’s just about taking strides to grow. That sort of drives the conversation, and not the idea that I’m working against people’s idea of who I am or what I’m trying to accomplish. What’s been great is that there’s been a really warm welcome to the acting side; I think because the steps taken have been thought out and I’ve been patient with it and tried to make some good choices and find some great roles. But this next step with Jumanji and other projects that are going on in the fields are really exciting.

Q: Was it stressful at all making this movie knowing that it was a classic back when the first one came out?

NJ: I think that for all of us that was something to keep in mind: just to find a way to pay homage to the original and to Robin Williams’ performance, which was truly incredible. I think from there it was about finding a way to also tell a new Jumanji adventure—a new story, something that felt fresh, something that was able to take this beloved classic and introduce it to a brand new audience. And, you know, that’s challenging, [but if] you get it right, I think it can be incredibly rewarding.

I think what we’re already seeing with this movie is that audiences are really loving it and young people that were not familiar with the original are loving this on its own and are probably going to go back and rediscover the first. I think as a fan of the original myself, I was thrilled to get the chance to take a title like this, that people love so much, and find a way to give it a new and exciting edge, and it’s been a great process.

 

Q: A few days ago you received a Golden Globe nomination and went to the premiere of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, your first Hollywood blockbuster, in the same day. Can you give us a glimpse into what that experience was like for you?

NJ: Yeah, I will say that [that day] was one of the craziest days of my life. I think that what’s incredible about this moment that I’m in right now is that, thirteen, fourteen years into my career at this point I’m still having new experiences and days like that 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. I think it’s about stepping back and looking at moments like that and really just expressing gratitude and taking a minute to think about all the steps it takes to get there as well. I’m really proud and humbled and thrilled to be in a spot to keep this thing rolling as well.  

Q: The 1995 Jumanji has a huge fanbase that will come to see the 2017 [version]. What parallels or key characteristics can those classic Jumanji fans look forward to seeing?

NJ: I think that they did a really brilliant job with the writing. You feel some of that Jumanji energy, and even just in the dialogue and some of the references that are in there sound [like the original]. There are pieces that are part of the fabric of our movie that really stem from the original. In addition to that, I think, actually, my character is the emotional anchor for the film in a sense, and he’s the most connected to Robin Williams’ character, Alan Parrish, so there’s that connection, as well.

Then there’s Jumanji elements that I think fans will love—the animals, and the getting sucked into the game, although, this time it’s a video game—it’s a similar way that it goes down. And 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. I think, as well the comedy and the action, they did a really good job in the writing with this to give it that edge and keep audiences on their toes.

 

Q: How did you incorporate your personal imagination and the experiences you’ve had travelling the world with your career while playing Alex, your character?

NJ: Well, I think one of the big similarities between me and my character is that, although he’s a pilot, we’re both afraid of flying. So, I think it was kind of easy to tap that part of the brain when I had those scenes where he’d be really nervous about getting back in the helicopter and saving the group, because I’ve had some frightening flying experiences the last couple years.

In addition to that, I think that with every character I’ve played, now going back to things like Kingdom—the TV show I did the last couple years—and Goat and Scream Queens even, I try to take something from [my personal life] and infuse it into the character, to find ways to feel more connected to the character and story through my own experiences. I think it’s the best way on the songwriting side for me to connect the dots creatively, and it really does kind of apply on the acting side of things as well.

Real life really does inform the choices I make within a scene, and it’s a fun process, but one big piece to it was just working with these really talented actors and hilarious people.

Q: All the [character’s avatars] have weaknesses. What about Alex and how do you relate to that?

Nick: Yeah, Alex has a couple of weaknesses. Mosquitoes are one of them, and then his strengths are making margaritas, which is not the most useful tool in the jungle, as well as flying, although that’s been challenging for him as well.

And then, in my own life, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my own strengths and weaknesses would be if I had to categorize them like a video game, and I think I would say that my strength would be that I’m very driven, very focused. My weakness would probably be, you know, I get [in my own head] sometimes, and kind of overthink things, and I think I could just learn to chill out a little bit.

 

Q: We saw glimpses of [the helicopter scene] in the trailer. Could you explain a bit about the filming of that scene and what that experience was like for you?

NJ: Yeah, it was a fun scene to shoot—challenging because it’s all green screen, and you really have to use your imagination. But I think our director, Jake [Kasdan], did an amazing job of helping us all kind of stay in the moment, giving us an understanding of what the post-production world around us was going to be.

Our four main heroes in the film come to a pivotal moment and they need to escape and so does my character, and he’s been so crippled by fear because of his past attempts not going as planned, but he has to get in this helicopter and go. Then, obviously, craziness ensues. [It was a] fun scene to shoot, and, looking back on it, it’s one of those things you dream of being able to do as an actor is to have one of those cool sort of movie-star shots—putting your sunglasses on and ripping a helicopter around, so I’m pumped about that.

HCW: Are there any funny stories from set that you can share with us?

NJ: I mean, the insects were really the main deal. It was a lot of centipedes and mosquitoes, which maybe don’t sound that threatening, but the centipedes can be poisonous and very dangerous—you’ve got to look out for those. [The funny thing] was Dwayne [Johnson] caught wind pretty quick that Kevin Hart was not a fan of the bugs, and so he made sure to plant a bunch of bugs everywhere that Kevin was, even if they were not real. He’d always find some fake ones. [Dwayne would] film Kevin’s reactions—always a good laugh—and, thankfully, they’re filmed, so I’m sure you can find them online somewhere. It was good times all around.

Showing up to Christmas dinner with this crew like... 😂 #jumanji December 20!

A post shared by Nick Jonas (@nickjonas) on

 

Q: What attracted you to the role of Alex, and how does this role fit into your artistic vision as an actor for where you see yourself going in the future?

NJ: I think the thing that I was drawn to about this role was that within this really funny film that also has some amazing action, I really had the opportunity to bring some emotional ground into it with this character. So far, most of my acting roles the last couple years have been more on the dramatic side of things, so it was a comfort zone. And then the chance to get to work with these actors—it was really an incredible group of people, all at the top of their game—and Jake Kasden as well was truly brilliant, and I think it was really an exciting opportunity to take that next step into big studio pictures as well. That’s a dream scenario—to be able to be in films like that, as well as the sort of more eye-level, indie filmmaking. Movies like this, of this scale, this is the world that I’d like to be able to jump into as well. With this one and then Chaos Walking, the movie that I just finished up in Montreal, it’s an exciting moment of momentum on the acting side, and I’m just trying to basically ride the wave and continue to grow and have fun in the process.

In theatres as of December 20, you can now watch Nick’s performance in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Find your local showtimes here.

Get the latest news, updates, and generally hilarious content on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on the movie’s Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter.

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Holly Dunne is an environmental science student at Western University in Ontario, Canada. She is Her Campus Western's VP Events for the 2017-2018 school year, and can't wait to share her passions for the environment and feminism with our readers.

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