I recently got the chance to talk to Jian Leonardo about his role in the newest film in the ‘Men In Black’ franchise, ‘Men In Black III’. Here, Jian talks about what it was like working with Will Smith on-set and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Jian. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘Men In Black 3’.
No problem, thank you for interviewing me!
What’s the general plotline surrounding this instalment?
An alien criminal kills the young Agent K in 1969, altering the timeline, changing the Agency and placing the Earth in danger. Veteran Agent J must travel back in time to 1969 to before the murder and work with the young Agent K to save him, the Agency, the Earth and humanity itself.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the role of the MIB agent. As a senior agent, I’m mostly working inside the ‘Men In Black’ office, monitoring the aliens.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I’ve worked with the casting directors so many times they submitted my headshot and resume to the ‘Men In Black’ production team so that I got an audition and interview with the director. Luckily, I was cast to be one of the MIB agents. I am so happy to be part of the movie because I’d dreamt to be part of the franchise when I saw ‘Men In Black’ ten years ago.
How would you say this film is different and unique to the other ‘Men In Black’ films?
The film is different to the others because it uses 3D this time. And the story is mainly focused on time traveling back to the 1960’s and showing how Agent K and Agent J are connected.
The film stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson – with Barry Sonnenfeld onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
I worked with Will Smith and Emma Thompson mostly because we’re all playing senior agents in the present MIB office. I didn’t get the chance to meet Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin because they’re 1960’s agents. Josh plays young Agent K.
Will and Emma are amazing and very professional – we had a lot of fun working together. I’ve one scene working with Will alone. In the scene, I’ve got to stop Will when he walks into the MIB office because I’ve an important thing to show him on my tablet and he pushes me away. At first, I wasn’t comfortable bumping into him at the rehearsal, it didn’t look normal. He told me not to be afraid of him and showed me how to make it right. Emma also helped some of the other cast playing agents when we were shooting the world-end scene, in which the aliens are attacking the Earth while we’re in the MIB office preparing how to save the world – (this scene got edited out in the movie).
The director Barry Sonnenfeld gave me a lot of good directions and techniques for my role. Especially for the world-end scene in the movie. It’s too bad this scene got edited out. I shot about ten days in this movie throughout the year of 2010. Of course, it was near the Christmas holiday and Will treated everybody to a holiday party and the food was delicious. It was a pleasure to work on the ‘Men In Black’ set.
Let’s talk a bit about you Jian. What made you want to get into the industry in the first place?
I was scouted when I was nineteen to be a model in New York. I’ve been a model worldwide as well as acting and have been cast in some feature gigs in TV series and movies while being a model. The transition from a model to being an actor is very difficult and tough. However, I’m enjoying it and love the challenge. No doubt, this is my career for the rest of my life. That’s how I found I was so into acting day by day. The more I get myself on set, the more I can’t live without it– “acting”. I found there is much more challenge and excitement to be an actor because I can play for so many different characters which I can’t play in real life. For example, I love to play the bad guy in films because this is the place you can do all that on sets. And I was cast as the bad guy pretty often lately.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV projects – who have been your favorite actors/actresses to work with so far? Any good stories?
My favourite actor has to be Will Smith so far, working on the ‘Men In Black III’ set – he is so professional and polite to everyone he works with. My favourite actress to have worked with was Julia Roberts. I was cast in the movie ‘Eat Pray Love’ as her friend back in 2009. She was so polite and I still remember the way she introduced herself: “Hi, I’m Julia and nice to meet you”. As an up and coming actor myself, I’m always appreciative working with the big actors who have this great attitude because I can be more comfortable and stay better in character.
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I’d choose David Koepp, Boaz Yakin, and Barry Sonnenfeld. They’re the three most important directors who have affected my life and career the most.
What is your favourite word?
Road – there are so many different roads ahead of you, which one will you choose to walk? It’s entirely up to you but when you decide to walk on that road, don’t stop, no doubt, keep walking, no regret, and one day you’ll reach to the point that you want to be.
Life is short – Try your best, do your best and give your best!
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I have participated in two movies coming out in 2012: ‘Premium Rush’, and ‘Gods Behaving Badly’. I also just completed filming a TV pilot – ‘Beautiful People’. I’m also preparing some interviews and red carpet events here in Hollywood.
Thank you for the interview!