JR Lemon plays male nurse Kenny Fournette on NBC’s The Night Shift. JR recently chatted with us about what lies ahead for the men and women of San Antonio Memorial, life on set in New Mexico and even what it’s like to star in a video game. Check out our interview with JR below, and tune in for the season premiere of The Night Shift on Wednesday, June 1st at 10/9c on NBC!
Season two ended with Gwen finally breaking down to Kenny. They seemed to grow a little bit closer. On that note, can you tease what is ahead for them in season three?
“I think like what happens with many of us is that life happens. All of the things that can entail- the good and the bad. There’s definitely some fireworks that happen towards the beginning, for sure.”
What does that mean for Kenny and Krista? Has that ship sailed or is there still more to come for them?
“Krista may have committed to someone else. Maybe or maybe not, we’ll see! As far as she and Kenny, I think Gwen really came in and occupied that space. Kenny really found more common ground with Gwen, so I think that ended up being more of a trump move as far as their relationship is concerned. I think the Krista thing- we might be a little past that.”
When you say Krista might be committing to someone else, does that mean we’re going to see more from Adam Rodriguez this season?
“(laughs) I can’t necessarily tell you that!”
You’re known as a really big prankster on set. Tell me about the best prank you’ve pulled, and who you’ve pulled it on?
“I haven’t pranked in a while! (laughs). The best prank that I do is not even a grand thing. I just have that thing where you tap someone on the shoulder, and then move away and the person does a 360. I’m a master at that. I’m a stealth ninja at tapping shoulders and having people turn and see nobody there.”
You film in Albuquerque. Tell me about it. What is it like to film there? Are there things to do? What is the city like?
“You’d be surprised. There are tons of shows that film out here now. The place is blowing up. It’s like how Atlanta has become where you have so many productions moving there. It’s fun. The difference between L.A. and here is obviously the traffic. You can get anywhere you need to get to in fifteen minutes. All of your errands in the day are done. Anything you need to get done can be done in eight hours. That’s definitely really cool. The people are really nice, it’s a really clean city as far as the air. It’s a sort of dry climate. It’s a fun town. It’s a beautiful town- kind of majestic. I always call New Mexico a really majestic place. You just feel like there’s something else going on here. The mountains are right there. Sometimes you’ll see a thunderstorm over the mountains, and it just has this majestic appeal.”
How long do you film out there during the year?
“Last year, we did six months. This year, I think we’re doing five months. Last year had some holidays in there and we did fourteen episodes as opposed to thirteen, so it was a little longer. This time, we did January to June. I think we land in that summer slot- so that’s what it will be to come. That’s cool, it’s a time where the weather is beautiful and we catch the beginning of the summer before it gets crazy hot.”
So you can consider yourself an Albuquerque local now!
“Yeah, and that’s the interesting thing. I was having this conversation with someone before, and I was telling them that typically I look at going away from home as a work trip. But five months is a long work trip. I sort of consider myself a local. I live in Albuquerque for half of the year!”
What else is filming out there?
“In the past, Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul, the show Preacher. AMC shoots in the lot right next to us. They’re doing a bunch of pilots- Midnight for NBC, the Maze Runner movies shot out here. Independence Day shoots next door to us next year. There are tons of productions out here.”
The show is set in San Antonio. Have you visited yet, and what were your thoughts, if so?
“I haven’t, but I would really like to! We’re doing a Texas trip coming up in June for ATX Festival. I think we’re going to go to San Antonio, but that will be my first time going. That will be exciting.”
The Night Shift has a statement to it. What does it mean to you to be on a show that honors both the medical profession and our military?
“It’s amazing! That’s one of the gems of our show. At the core of it, we honor the two things you just spoke of, but we really try to address current issues. There are a couple of episodes, in particular, this year where we take something that is happening in our society, and we let the person answer the question. We ask the question and basically hold up a few different perspectives- not necessarily saying how someone should feel- but just entering a space where two or three people can be right, and nobody is really wrong. I’m very proud of the fact that we honor the military, we honor the people who try to save lives, and we take on a lot of social issues. I feel really good about that. It’s really fun and rewarding to work on those sort of things and hold the mirror up to society a little bit.”
You’re on TV, but are you a big television fan yourself? Do you watch a lot of TV, and if so, what are you watching?
“I’m a big Game of Thrones fan, obviously. It’s funny, but what pulls me the most are those competition and reality shows where people are singing or dancing. The shows where if you cut around all the back stories, you see someone super talented, on the brink of doing something big and is really just taking a chance. It could work, it may not, nothing is guaranteed. But they’re just going to put their best out there and be judged. It’s a vulnerable space to be in. For some reason, I’m super drawn to that.”
You’re in Albuquerque for six months of the year, but that leaves six other months. When The Night Shift is not filming, what are you up to?
“I’m in L.A.! I go back to L.A. and sleep in my bed. I love my bed very, very much (laughs). I also have been working in Vancouver on this Madden video game for some time. Many times, when I’m off, I’m up there and working on that and trying to continue creating. I’m booking other jobs- working on shows, movies, that sort of stuff. I’m looking forward to this offseason. It’s going to be a good one.”
When you say the Madden game, what kind of things do you mean?
“For a while, I’ve been doing motion capture for them. I used to play football. One of the jobs I had right out of football when I came to L.A. was doing football stunts for the game. You get into a 3D cage and do tackles and everything. They can capture 3D imaging and your movement. They have these little stick men that you show up as. Everything that happens in the game is done by human beings. For a while, I did that, and that was a good time.”
Are you a big gamer yourself?
“I used to be the biggest gamer of all time. Particularly the sports games, and especially in college. But not anymore. For some reason, I can’t carve out the time to sit there for two hours. There’s just so much stuff to do.”
That still has to be really cool to be behind the scenes of how a video game works.
“Yes- it’s so much fun! I remember the first time I went, I got a discount on all the games. I got every game and played maybe two of them. That’s when I realized that I may be past this.”
Shifting back to Kenny, the thing I love about the show is that every character brings something different to the story. Everybody has a different back story. What’s your favorite thing about Kenny as a character?
“I would say that there is this struggle that Kenny goes through. We all have what is called an opportunity to fail. I think that’s what makes someone compelling to watch. Meaning you have this small voice telling you you’re not good enough, and this place you would be if everything was perfect. Kenny is from not a good place, a low socioeconomic environment and he didn’t really know his parents. He had this football thing, and he thought that was going to be the thing that saved everybody- not just him, but the rest of his family. It fell through, and he sort of had to figure himself out and figure out a new direction.
As a former football player myself, it’s so hard to find that next thing that you can pour your soul into. A lot of times the 9 to 5 stuff won’t suffice. Luckily, Kenny found nursing through his biggest tragedy as the nurses were trying to help him. He found this second thing, and what I like about it is the fact that he’s trying to walk this new path, but there are all these demons that keep popping up. They make him feel small again, and there’s a constant struggle between those two things. It’s a constant tug of war, and that’s what I find interesting about him.”
What was your reaction when you read the description for Kenny and found out you’d be playing a nurse?
“What’s interesting is I auditioned for Paul’s role. Robert and I had gone through all of the network tests together- we found out he got it, and then they offered me the chance to audition for this other role the next day. It was so quick that I didn’t even have time tot think about it. It was so fast that I started to figure it out after we were already here.
I kind of took it as it came. Kenny has really evolved as the seasons have gone on- as opposed to some of the other characters who are super well-defined. It’s been great.”
Tease season three for me in five words?
“Well-woven, exciting, it’s gonna be sexy, it’s gonna be fun, and you’re going to cry.”
Why should someone who has never seen the show before binge seasons one and two, and then tune in on June 1st?
“You’re going to get a world that is independent of anything else. We’re not trying to be anyone else. We have our own San Antonio Memorial universe. If you can sit in there a while, it’s a fun place. You’ll have fun, your heart will tear a bit, and I feel like you’ll just be interested. Even if you don’t binge watch seasons one and two- just come in June 1st. It doesn’t require you even do that- you can do it if you want to, but tune in June 1st and I promise you won’t be disappointed. That’s all I have to say about that.
Give it four episodes! Tell your friends to give it four episodes, and I guarantee they’ll be in!”