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Exclusive Interview with Jayson Warner Smith from American Made

Tai Freligh interviews actor Jayson Warner Smith from American Made…

american made

Atlanta native Jayson Warner Smith is an actor in film, television and theatre.  He received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the death-row serial killer Wendall Jelks on Sundance TV’s Original SeriesRectify, and as a recurring guest star on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Other notable television roles include The Vampire DiariesNCIS: New Orleans, and One Mississippi. In addition to Thank You for Your Service, Jayson Warner Smith can be seen in the upcoming film American Made, with Tom Cruise also from Universal Pictures.  He talked to Flickering Myth’s Tai Freligh about his upcoming films and answered some fun speed round questions.

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“Five great pilots and 2 fake ones.” Right: Jayson Warner Smith & William Mark McCullough.

Tell me about Bill Cooper, your character in American Made?

I wish I could. Bill was quite a spook. So, instead of trying to tell you about the real Bill Cooper, I’ll tell you about the one we came up with for the film.

In our movie, Bill is a fun loving, surfer dude from California. He’s all about the adventure while still being a true patriot who wants what is best for his country (USA). I just saw the film while I was in England. It’s fantastic!!! It is however, NOTHING like what I thought it would be. Doug has turned it into a fast-paced film that follows a more Goodfellas and Wolf of Wall Street template. Lots and lots of montage. Unfortunately for me the actor, a lot of my scenes that I shot over the 8 weeks I worked on the film ended up on the cutting room floor. I’m not bitter. It makes the film work. Hopefully they’ll throw me a few bones in some DVD extras.

Describe your preparation for playing this character…and did you get any direction from Doug Liman?

Like I mentioned before, the real Bill Cooper was very secretive and died well before the advent of the internet and social media. With the little info I could find (and I really went after it) I did come in with some ideas. These, however; didn’t make it into the film. Doug had a vision for my character as the life of the party and unpredictable. We went with that. Again, a lot of that either never got shot or was shot and cut.

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What was it like working with Tom Cruise?

Tom, is the hardest working film actor I’ve ever collaborated with. It is GO GO GO with him. We aren’t even allowed chairs on set. If he wasn’t eating, sleeping or in the bathroom, he wanted to be discussing, rehearsing or shooting something. At the end of each day we’d read through what we were shooting the next and then the re-writes would start. I stopped learning my lines as I knew I’d have a new script in the morning.

Any funny set stories with Tom?

Many. My favorite was when we were shooting the aerials down in the Gulf near New Orleans. We had three planes, a Cessna 414 a Beechcraft Bonanza and the Aerostar. We were flying in formation all around the oil derricks down in the gulf. This is where we shot the scene of Tom waking me up. Well, at one point that day, we were flying in an echelon type formation and making a long left turn. The Cessna in the lead, Tom in the Aerostar in the middle and me in the rear. All while a helicopter is filming us. In this formation, the Cessna is low and I am high in the back. All of a sudden I realize we are in the same formation from Top Gun right before Maverick goes into the flat spin and Goose gets killed when they eject. Now, I am not a pilot, I am in the pilot seat and a VERY experienced REAL pilot is in the co-pilot seat flying the plane while I rest my hands on the controls and PRETEND. In the Bonanza, the mic button is on the pilot yoke for the pilot but for the co-pilot it is a button on the dash. Since my real pilot has one hand on the yoke and the other on the throttle, he has to tell me what to say when he wants to talk to the other pilots. So, needless to say, being an actor and not a pilot, I had to make a joke. I press the mic button and say, “Dammit, Maverick take the shot, take the shot, I could shoot him form here!!” Or something like that. I was afraid I’d get in trouble for that, but it ended up being very funny and Tom thought it was hilarious.

What was Doug Liman’s directing style for American Made?

It was very collaborative with Tom. They complete each other.

Who do you play in Thank You for Your Service?

It’s a very small role. I am a nameless counter jockey at the VA. I’m not sure why I am getting so much press attention for this other than my publicist Christa Scherck did an excellent job. It was great getting to work with Miles again. We first met on Footloose back in 2010.

What inspired you to work on this movie?

It was an audition and a job. It wasn’t until after I worked on the job and worked with Jason Hall did I realize what an amazing film this would be.

Did you read the book before hand to help prepare for your role?


Speed Round:

How do you survive the zombie apocalypse? (I ask everybody this, but not everybody is on TWD!)

Stay alert. Make alliances carefully. Find Eagle Scouts to team with.

In your heart of hearts, #TeamRick or #TeamNegan?

It doesn’t matter. They are both a pain in the ass to Gavin. If in a “real zombie apocalypse” I’d go with Team Rick as I wouldn’t be worried about him killing me on a whim.

If not acting, what would you be doing right now?

I’m assuming you mean “to make money”. Selling motorized window shades.

One question nobody ever asks you that you wish they would?

Why are stories important to society?

Best zombie movie ever in your opinion?

Shaun of the Dead.

We thank Jayson Warner Smith for taking the time to chat with us here at Flickering Myth.  He can be found on social media at the handles below:

Twitter: @jaysonwsmith
Instagram: @jaysonwsmith
Official Facebook:
Official Website:

Photo Credits: Bjoern Kommerell, Jayson Warner Smith Official Facebook Page

Tai Freligh is a Los Angeles-based writer and can be found on Twitter.

(Article originally appeared on Flickering Myth)

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