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EXCLUSIVE TV Goodness Q&A: Jay Huguley Talks True Detective, Star-Crossed and More [INTERVIEW] 

Jay Huguley Private Shoot

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

If you’re a fan of HBO’s True Detective or Treme, The CW’s Star-Crossed or ABC Family’s Ravenswood, you know this face. TV Goodness spoke exclusively to Jay Huguley about what intrigued him about his most recent TV roles, why he got started in the business and what projects he’s got on the horizon.

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

TV GOODNESS: What was it like to work on True Detective?

Jay Huguley: “It was really, really interesting. When I got it, it was just called The Untitled Detective Project. I didn’t know who was attached and then slowly it was reported that Nic Pizzolatto had written it and that Cary Fukunaga was directing. Matthew [McConaughey] and Woody [Harrelson] came on and it just got better and better. It’s one of those jobs I feel like whenever everybody’s so good at what they do, it’s just very easy. But it was interesting because going in I knew very little. They just gave me my episode, so I didn’t have a whole lot of idea[s] about what was going on, but it was fascinating.”

TV GOODNESS: When did you hear about the project and who put you up for it?

Jay: “I was submitted for it, auditioned for it and got it. It was a pretty character-y part for me so I just took a swing at bat with an accent and with a guy and it all worked. I heard pretty quickly that I’d gotten it and I had to wait a month before I shot it, but it was fun. All of my stuff was with the two of them so it was exciting to spend the day with just them. Actors get a call sheet at the beginning of every day of work. You’re in your trailer and it tells you everything from where the closest hospital is to what time you’re supposed to be in the hair and makeup chair. Then it tells you a list of the actors working that day and it said McConaughey, Harrelson, Huguley. And that was pretty cool. I was taking pictures of it with my phone.”

TV GOODNESS: I loved that you were a Ledoux, but wanted no part of Reggie and Dewall.

Jay: “Right. I thought that was a really interesting choice that Nic made as a writer, to have this one small piece of the family that had somehow gotten his life together, had kids, had a job and built his own company and wanted nothing-”

TV GOODNESS: And was normal…

Jay: “-was normal, for the most part, and wanted nothing to do with the shame that came with being related to these people, these monsters.”

Photo Credit: The CW
Photo Credit: The CW

TV GOODNESS: It was a great show. Congratulations on that. Let’s talk about some of your other TV projects. How did Star-Crossed come about?

Jay: “I auditioned for it a couple times and I got it. That was a very quick process. I heard I got the job in the afternoon and I was on a red-eye that night. I went straight to the set from the airport and literally had my first shot, straight into wardrobe. It’s a great job and it’s a really smart show. Meredith Averill is the creator. I think she’s done a great job of making this really fascinating, young, intriguing show that has shades of apartheid and integration. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”

TV GOODNESS: Tell us a little bit more about your character.

Jay: “My character’s name is Ray Whitehill. I play Aimee Teegarden‘s father. She’s the lead on the show. Basically I am pro-integration. I work for the security of the city and in the pilot, [Emery’s] clearly in love with this boy. He’s an Atrian and I accidentally kill his father so I get stripped of my duties. For me it’s about being pro-integration and also at the same time very much worried about the safety of my daughter, and I think about 90% trusting that these Atrians have good in mind. I think I’m on the right side of the law with a little bit of something in the back of my head that, ‘Am I doing the right thing and is my daughter safe.’ It’s a really fun thing to play as an actor.”

TV GOODNESS: What do you have coming up on the show?

Jay: “I’m not supposed to give away any sort of plot details. I know that it gets really dangerous, particularly for my daughter. I just shot the [finale] not too long ago and I’m just running through in my head what I can and can’t say. I think people are really gonna be blown away by the finale. I’ll say that.”

TV GOODNESS: What else do you have coming up in TV? Anything on the horizon?

Jay: “Hopefully we’ll have the second season of Star-Crossed coming up. We shoot in New Orleans, so I’ll probably have to go back down there in the spring. I’m supposed to do an independent film shooting in Dallas for most of May. That’s it. It’s been a really, really busy two years for me, so I’m looking forward to actually taking a little bit of a vacation and then trying to figure out what my next move is. I’m looking at stuff every day. It’s pilot season right now, so I’m reading for new projects every day.”

TV GOODNESS: You have been really busy. Talk to me about Ravenswood and Treme.

Jay: “Yeah. Well, Treme was just a dream project for me, you know, created by David Simon, who created a show called The Wire – literally my favorite TV show of all time. It’s one of those things where you get to work with somebody that you admire so much. I did a bunch of episodes of that in the last two seasons and it wrapped [last] year. It was a dream. It also shot in New Orleans. My storyline was very involved in the music scene, so I got to hear a lot of really, really great music. It’s a show that I think will stand the test of time and like The Wire, probably be even more popular on DVD than it was when it was on. I’m really, really proud of it. Ravenswood was a blast. Unfortunately it’s not been renewed. The truth is you just never know. I would’ve put my money on that show like nobody’s business because I thought it was a perfect storm of great things. I thought it had great actors. I thought it had great writers and a really, really talented young cast. [It was] an edge-of-your-seat thriller in a way. I was betting on that one. You just never know.”

TV GOODNESS: You’ve also done so many great guest starring roles. Have there been favorites?

Jay: “I’ve been really, really lucky. I’ve gotten to work with really great people, especially over the last eight or ten years. What’s a favorite of mine? Hmm. I had a great time on Brothers & Sisters on ABC. That was a show they really believed in and I got to work with incredibly talented writers and directors, each one at different times and a great cast. It was Calista Flockhart and Sally Field and Ron Rifkin and Rachel Griffiths. But I would say there’s different parts that are fun for different reasons. I did an episode of Cold Case however long ago and that all took place in the ’70s. So it was great costumes and hair and makeup and hairpieces and bell bottoms and crime and murder. Every day you’d get to work and there’d be this incredible set that was built just for that day with shag rugs and mood lamps. You just kind of go, ‘God, they really do not need to pay me for this job.’ They put a powder blue leisure suit on me and a hairpiece and it was just a blast.”

TV GOODNESS: You’ve worked on a lot of great shows and you’ve had a great diversity of roles. 

Jay: “The great thing about being an actor is each job is completely different. It’s a new story, it’s a new person you’re stepping into the shoes of, and a new office and new co-workers. That’s really the great part of my job. Every job is a brand new thing. I’ve been really lucky and new location, so…”

TV GOODNESS: If you were able to pick your dream job would it be in TV or movies?

Jay: “For me, it’s always about the character. I am exactly as happy playing a great character in a small play somewhere as I am playing a great character on a big-budget TV show or a movie. As long as the character is good and there’s an arc to him and that he doesn’t turn out to be who you think he is or that it’s a stretch. In True Detective, I’m nothing like that person at all and that for an actor is very exciting and terrifying. You have to really just roll up your sleeves and go to the drawing board because you have to create a person from the bottom up. That’s always the most exciting thing. Now that said, to do a series again like True Detective where everybody is so good at their job and the writing is so surprising, that would be my dream. The thing I loved about that show is, again, I only ever got my episode, so I never really got to see- I never really knew what was coming next. The thing I loved so much was it avoided every logical turn you think it was gonna take from previous TV shows you’d seen. Just when you thought you’d figured it out, it’s not what happened at all.”

TV GOODNESS: It’s nice when a show can do that. You think you know where it’s going, but you’re completely wrong.

Jay: “Exactly. I spent three early episodes thinking that Matthew McConaughey might turn out to be the one who’d done all these things. That would’ve been really interesting, but you’ve sort of seen that before. In fact, I’ve played that character before where you’re the detective investigating all the crimes and it turns out you did them all. It’s good, it’s interesting, but you’ve seen it. I just thought True Detective did such a great job of avoiding all those formulas.”

TV GOODNESS: Agreed. Since the show is an anthology series, maybe you’ll be back in season 2 as a completely different character.

Jay: “Don’t think I haven’t thought of that.”

TV GOODNESS: That would be exciting. 

Jay: “It would be really, really exciting for sure. I love how at the end it wasn’t some huge twist. The just solved the crime. You throw that term ‘character-driven’ around a lot. This show was really character-driven and it was just a show about those guys. It wasn’t some huge twist surprise at the end.”

TV GOODNESS: I think my favorite kind of show is where you get into the characters, you care about them, you’re learning their quirks, you’re realizing there’s shades of gray in everyone. 

Jay: “And you don’t know who to trust, who to count on.”

TV GOODNESS: Who’s telling the truth, who’s lying. Who knows.

Jay: “Yeah. exactly.”

TV GOODNESS: I should’ve asked earlier. How did you get into acting? What made you want to be an actor?

Jay: “I started doing plays in college. I loved the feeling of it. I loved that feeling of being on stage and having the attention of the audience. I’ve said this before, but I remember doing a Tennessee Williams play early on. In the second act I had a little piece of information that was a big reveal. I remember there were a few gasps every night in the audience and that feeling of storytelling and having people go along this journey with you was really, really thrilling for me. Then I started to audition for TV stuff and I started to support myself as an actor and early on those were the first seeds where I went, ‘Maybe I could do this for a living.’ It’s a scary choice to make, to make your life as an actor.”

TV GOODNESS: I would imagine. There’s no job security whatsoever.

Jay: “There’s really not, but I always say my worst day as an actor is better than any day doing something else. This is really what I always wanted to do.”

Edited for space and content.

Star-Crossed airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW. True Detective is airing in repeats on HBO. Ravenswood and Treme are available on iTunes.

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