Bernard David Jones might not be a name you recognize, but chances are that you have seen his face before. Jones has a career that has already spanned a lot of different roles on a wide variety of mediums. He got his first big break in television appearing as ‘Milo’ on Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns and House of Payne. He’s also done a little bit of film work, starring in The Lookalike opposite Justin Long, Jerry O’Connell and Gillian Jacobs. He’s even starred in Refinery29’s YouTube series Shitty Boyfriends opposite Sandra Oh. Now, Jones has gotten his first ever regular role on a television show, starring in ABC’s new fall comedy The Mayor. Jones talked with me about how he got his start in acting, how he would describe his new character, Jermaine, which real life rapper would make the best politician and so much more. Keep reading to see his answers.
How did you get involved in acting? Was there any specific experience you would credit as the moment when you knew acting was what you wanted to do for a profession?
For sure. I think it all started, like for a lot of black artists, in the church. That was my first audience, so to speak. [I was] singing in the choir and transitioned into the Easter plays and the Christmas plays. That led me to where I am today, thinking, “Hey, I actually love doing this. This is a lot of fun. And I can get paid doing it? Absolutely.”
Did you have any formal training? Did you study it in college or did you start your acting career right out of high school?
When I was younger, I was a part of a performing arts troupe and that led to me going to a performing arts high school in Patterson, New Jersey and from there I went to Morehouse College in Atlanta and got my degree in acting.
You’ve had a lot of different types of roles on a lot of different mediums, from television to film to stage to YouTube. Do you have a personal acting “bucket list” of things you still want to accomplish in your career? If so, what are some of the things on it?
[laughs] This is going to sound weird, but I’m going to say it anyway: I want to be a vampire. But like the oldest living vampire known to man that just looks young. Like that is a dream role for me. So whoever can write that, think about me when you do.
[laughs] What is it about vampires?
I don’t know! It’s just like they’re mysterious, they’re sexy, they’re strong. They dress well for the most part. They’re dark and edgy. I play nice guys, for the most part, so it would be fun to play something dark.
Which role that you’ve played do you think has had the biggest impact on your life and has maybe changed you as a person and why?
I think for me it was my first professional gig. I did a show at the Alliance Theatre which was called Class of 3000: Live with Andre 3000. That was the moment when I realized I’m a professional, like this is my job. Having that company, the Alliance Theatre, give me this role, I was like, “You know what? This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.” And I’ve been pursuing it ever since.
Moving on to talk about The Mayor, how would you describe it for people who aren’t familiar with it?
I would describe it as fun, family comedy that addresses political issues from a non-partisan lens. So it’s fun, but it’s for the people who enjoy politics, the people who enjoy the underdog/fish-out-of-water story. I think people will love the fact that this guy actually cares about his community and cares about the constituents there and I think that’s something that our country needs.
How did you get involved in the show? What was the audition process like?
It was during pilot season. For actors, during pilot season, you’re getting a lot of stuff in, just auditioning and auditioning and auditioning. I remember getting the script and reading it and immediately knowing that it was important, that the story was important and that I wanted to be a part of it. I told my agent, “please get me in for this. I would love to do this.” And they got me in for an audition for Jermaine and then I remember, during my audition process, I did my audition and the casting director was like, “Well, I don’t know about Jermaine for you. But let’s try the other character.” And I was like, “Okay!” So I ended up auditioning for TK as well. But my manager and my agents were like, “Let’s get you back in there to audition for the role that you originally auditioned for and let the producers see it and see where it goes from there.” So I was able to get back in and audition and show them Jermaine again and they liked it and, now, here we are!
You kind of touched on it a little bit earlier, but how do you feel about taking on a politically flavored show at this time in our country’s climate?
It’s truly been an amazing experience so far. It’s been a joy to talk about issues that I care about because even before the show, I’ve been very in-tune to our political atmosphere; I’m listening, I’m reading articles, I’m watching the news. But I think because of the way our country is right now, a lot of people are more aware of what’s going on and are more interested in government and trying to figure out what they can do to make their communities better. I think that’s kind of how I came at it. I’ve always been politically aware, but this show has definitely sparked it into a new interest and the fact that we can show these characters that love each other, first and foremost, but also love their community and the constituents that are a part of that community and to show America Tuesday night after Tuesday night what it looks like for a leader to actually care about the community is priceless. This leader doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s not a politician. But at the forefront of all his endeavors is to make the community better and I love that.
How would you describe your character, Jermaine?
Jermaine is very interesting; I love Jermaine. At the core, he’s all about love. He loves his friends and his family, his friends are his family and he loves them so much. That was one of the things that drew me to the character in the first place. He’s kind of like Courtney’s voice of reason even though sometimes his advice can lead to bad decisions [laughs]. But it’s always well-intentioned. He’s a snazzy little dresser; he takes his fashion pretty serious.
I think what also makes our show pretty special is that these characters want to work and they are serious about their jobs. It’s not these guys get into the office and just goof around. They really take their job seriously and I love that about Jermaine; he takes his job seriously.
Would you say that Jermaine is more similar or different to the person that Bernard is and why?
We’re different in ways and we’re alike in ways. The things that I mentioned was leading with love and that’s what I try to do in my own life is lead with love and to love on people and to recognize people’s humanity and I think Jermaine does that as well.
How we differ [laughs], Jermaine is a little shadier than I am. He doesn’t like old people, he doesn’t like children. He’s a little shadier than I am for sure.
I love this cast a lot because there is newer faces like you and Brandon [Michael Hall] and Marcel [Spears] but then there is also some Hollywood vets like Lea [Michele] and Yvette [Nicole Brown]. What is it like working with everyone, because you all come from such diverse backgrounds, but you all seem to get along so well?
Yeah, I think that the fact that Marcel Spears and Brandon Michael Hall, we’re all experiencing this first together and that has made the journey even better. I mean, it’s a first for all of us in a way. For Marcel, it’s his first show ever, this is Brandon’s first leading role, my first regular series role, first time Yvette has had such a leading role on a show, this is the first role that Lea has had away from the Glee franchise, or should I say away from Ryan Murphy. So we’re all experiencing a first. I think that’s what has drawn us together and has made our chemistry so good because we genuinely enjoy each other. We have fun. Our set, Yvette, she made it very clear that our set was going to be a set of love and that we’re going to love on people when they come and visit us and we’re going to make sure that when people leave The Mayor that they know that they were appreciated and that their talent and gift was loved and needed and appreciated. We did that early on and that’s the kind of atmosphere we set and have tried to maintain all season.
I figured I would wrap up our time with some more fun questions. Your character Jermaine is Courtney’s communications director and he is always posting stuff on social media. What’s your favorite social media platform and why?
I really love Instagram. I love being able to see how people, even though Instagram is sometimes your highlight reel and you only show the good things that are happening, I love to see how people express themselves and see when people take pictures of the environment that they are in and how they view life from their perspective. I think it gives everyone an opportunity to be artistic, even if you don’t think you are, you can be artistic and I love that. And also being able to connect with people, having hashtags that you can click on and see the people that are participating in that particular hashtag, I really love Instagram for that.
What real-life rapper do you think could have the best career in politics and why?
Oh come on, you know Chance the Rapper would be an amazing mayor.
Yeah. He’d be my number one choice.
He would be so good for Chicago, the commitment to the city and the people and using his platform. That’s what is so important, when you get a platform, and that is why the show is so important to me because it gives you a platform, but it gives you a platform to do some good in the world and I think Chance has done that with his platform, speaking out against things that need to be spoken out against. I think he would be a great mayor.
Since music plays such a big part of this show, who are some of your favorite musical artists and bands?
I’m all about R&B/soul. Jazmyn Sullivan is one of my favorites, P!nk is one of my favorites, John Legend, I love Adele, Sam Smith. There is so many; I love music so much. But then sometimes, I like to turn up a little bit. I’ll listen to Migos [laughs] and I will listen to hip-hop. I’m pretty eclectic. I’ll listen to Alabama Shakes.
We’re called Talk Nerdy With Us so what is something that you nerd out about?
I nerd out about gadgets. So like getting the iPhone 10 and I have this EchoDot so I have to get all the accessories for the EchoDot so that I can try to figure out how to get Alexa to order me a pizza [laughs]. I’m into gadgets. I love it.
Photo Credit: Andre L. Perry