If you’ve bothered to turn on your television in the past five years, there is a good chance you recognize actor Jay Huguley. Best known for his roles as Will Branson in Treme, Whit Peyton in Brothers & Sisters, and Doug Fox in Summerland, Huguley’s appeared in everything from comedies and dramas to soaps in his eclectic television career. He’ll be returning to your television screen later this year for the fourth and final season of HBO’s Treme and gracing the big screen next year in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave, with Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Paul Giamatti. Huguley was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk both of those projects here with us on The Daily Quirk! Read on for the interview…
The Daily Quirk: When did you first decide you wanted to be an actor?
Jay Huguley: I did a Tennessee Williams play in college. I remember the feeling of being out on that stage every night, getting to say those words. There was a moment in the second act of the play where I reveal something very important, and every night there would be a few gasps in the audience. That feeling was absolutely thrilling to me. That was it….I was hooked.
TDQ: You’ve had a prolific and varied television career thus far, recurring as Whit Peyton on the much loved Brothers and Sisters, a role as Will Branson in Treme, and numerous guest spots on popular shows like Nashville, Army Wives, and The Young and the Restless. Is there any particular type of character or genre that appeals to you more than another?
JH: For me, if there is some sort of arc to the character, or if they are revealed to be something completely different that what you thought, that’s the most exciting.
TDQ: You joined HBO’s Treme last season as real estate developer, Will Branson. What attracted you to the role?
JH: The truth is I would have done anything on that show to work with David Simon. Luckily, I got to play this great, morally ambiguous, interesting guy. I’m really drawn to anything David Simon does. I think he’s one of the smartest guys out there and there’s this incredible authenticity to the things he creates. It’s going to be really interesting to see where he goes from here.
TDQ: Was there any particular scene you filmed for Treme that stands out in your mind as especially fun to film?
JH: You know, it’s funny. There was this short scene we filmed in Congo Square towards the end of Season Three. I just remember thinking, here I am standing at the birthplace of Jazz, working with these incredible actors and being directed by Anthony Hemingway. I’ll never forget that day.
TDQ: The final season just wrapped filming. Was it difficult saying goodbye?
JH: It was, but a stronger feeling was this incredible sense of gratitude. You get very used to not getting the very thing you want in this business, I think. You get excited about something and then you hear “no.” This show was a bullseye for me.
TDQ: Next on your plate is a role as a Sheriff Villiere in Steve McQueen’s upcoming film Twelve Years a Slave. How did you become involved in the film?
JH: Well, I read for it, and I remember thinking, “I think that went well.” It was a long time before I heard anything. I think I had finally let it go and they called and told me to get on a plane. The call always seems to come when you forget that it might.
TDQ: Twelve Years a Slave is based on the book of the same name, a true account by Solomon Northup of the injustice and inhumane treatment he suffered as a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1880’s. Did you feel any sort of pressure taking on a role in a true story of such gravity?
JH: I did at first and especially after I read the book. The book blew my mind. Once I got to the set though, it was the most relaxing atmosphere for me. I think all actors are different, but for me, when everyone is so good at what they do and so focused, it’s incredibly calming to me.
TDQ: In the movie, your character is a lawman involved with trying to get the main character, Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dancing on the Edge), who is currently being held by slave owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), back to safety. What was it like filming such an emotionally charged scene?
JH: When actors are that good, honestly half your work is done. I did a lot of research about the period. I found an old image of someone from the exact region that I thought might look like me, but at the end of the day when everyone is so on their game and you have Steve McQueen behind the wheel, you just have to show up.
TDQ: What’s next on your agenda after Twelve Years a Slave?
JH: I’m shooting a pilot right now, and I’m supposed to go work for HBO again in May. I think I’m like most actors, looking for their next job. I was talking to someone working on this pilot I’m doing, and we were talking about how hard the industry can be and she said, “How did you know you were meant to be in this business?” And, I said “Because my worst day as an actor would be better than any day doing something else.” I think I shocked myself when I said it but it’s true.
The Daily Quirk would like to thank Jay Huguley for taking the time to chat with us! For more on Jay, check out his IMDB Page and be sure to check out season four of Treme on HBO later this year and Twelve Years a Slave when it hits theater in 2014!