Living Your Truth with Aaron Jennings, Actor, Director, and Writer
Actor and director Aaron Jennings, is currently starring as “Anthony Holmes” on the NBC’s hilarious comedy, “Grand Crew.” The popular sitcom tells the story of a hilarious ‘crew’ of 30-something friends in Los Angeles who regularly enjoy getting together at their favorite neighborhood wine bar to unpack their everyday adventures. On the show, Aaron plays “Anthony Holmes” the happy-go-lucky, yet slightly uptight accountant and proud vegan of the group, known best for his cringy dance moves and unwavering commitment to his job. The series additionally stars Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Carl Tart and Grasie Mercedes and is written and produced by Phil Augusta Jackson (“Insecure”, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”). When the first season of the series repeated in December of 2021 on NBC’s launch of Peacock, the series was its top digital comedy on the streaming platform! Currently in production, season 2 of the successful comedy will return first quarter 2023.
In addition, Aaron is currently in post-production on Indie movie American Society opposite Justice Smith and David Alan Grier.
Aaron can also can be seen multi-recurring on Amazon Prime’s hit series “A League Of Their Own”, in the role of “Guy”. A modern-day adaptation of the 1992 beloved movie of the same name, the show is co-created by Abbi Jacobson (“Broad City”) and Wil Graham, the series stars D’Arcy Carden, Chante Adams, Kelly McCormack and Roberta Colindrez, alongside Jacobson. He is also best known for his role as “Dr. Malik Verlaine” on CBS’ drama “Pure Genius”.
Further, Aaron’s acting resume extends to include appearances in HBO’s “Insecure”, Tyler Perry’s “Meet The Browns”, CBS’ “NCIS”, FOX’s “Bones,” TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” as well as a series regular role on the CBS drama “Pure Genius.”
For more information, please contact Shannon Barr at Strategic Public Relations at email@example.com
MY INTERVIEW WITH AARON JENNINGS
Aaron is no stranger to making tough and focused decisions about his direction in life. With support from his family, he was able to realize his dreams by being true to himself and what he wanted. I got the chance to speak to him about his amazing journey, his parents who are also working actors, and his role on the NBC hit series, “Grand Crew”.
Here is our entire audio interview, which you can also download from our favorite podcast provider, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. If you don’t have time to listen, please feel free to read the entire interview below.
BJ: Actor Aaron Jennings, man, I am so glad that you are here with us on Soulivity.com!
AJ: Thank you for having me. I cannot thank you enough. I’m so honored. I appreciate you taking the time. It’s an absolute pleasure.
BJ: Absolutely. Absolutely, my brother. Listen, you come from “good stock,” as we would say in our community, right?
BJ: Where you come from a long line of successful actors, thespians.
AJ: Thank you.
BJ: Your mom and your dad both were successful actors, right?
AJ: Yes. Are still, currently.
BJ: Oh, sorry, mom and dad, sorry. [laughter]
AJ: No, no, worries. No worries. You know, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say so, but yeah, they’re still working. My mom, in fact, just booked “Alex Cross“. She’ll be working with Aldis Hodge on that show, so shout out to her, Juanita Jennings.
BJ: Now, what was it like growing up in that atmosphere?
AJ: Looking back on it, I think it was just an absolute godsend, now that I’m working in this industry, in this field, to sort of always be growing up around that. I was always backstage, I was on sets, I would hold book for my parents for auditions. I’d go with them to auditions, and so, yeah, it was lovely, because they exposed me to the arts world, and made sure that I was well-versed in that. And they’ve also just as a consequence, been very supportive of me and my endeavors, as I have embarked on this journey as an actor myself, and I still rely on them and go to them for advice even now.
BJ: Wow. I mean, how cool is that, right? I mean, where you have parents that are working, working professionals in Hollywood, and they’re giving you like, “Okay, now, son, when you go in for this reading, make sure… “ [laughter]
AJ: Yeah, yeah. For sure, for sure.
BJ: Exactly, “you do X, Y, and Z.” Right?
AJ: Absolutely. And I will say this, and I have to say this, they’ve always been very supportive of my artistic endeavors, but what I think they’ve done a really even a really great job of doing is just keeping me humble and grounded through the whole thing, because it’s what they do for a living. And I think oftentimes people look at actors, because they see us on TV, and actors maybe can start to feel a certain way because of the certain praise that they may get and not keep themselves humble and grounded. And I just thank my parents for always reminding me that we’re lucky to get the opportunity to do what we love, but we are not what we do either, and so that’s the biggest lesson that I’ve learned from having parents in this industry.
BJ: Now, let’s talk about your journey a little bit. Was acting something that you liked always? Or did you have other things that you kind of dabbled in first before you moved over (to) this professional career?
AJ: Sure. Yeah. Look, I always flirted with acting. It was always around me, like I said earlier. However, I was definitely more interested in basketball coming up. That was my first love. I played AAU. I was a freshman on varsity, and that at one point was where I was hoping my life would take me. I’m only five 11 now, I say six feet at times. [laughter] So there came a time in my life where I went, “You know what? I don’t know how much longer I have in this.” But yeah, look, I say all that to say at 15, 16-years-old, I definitely made a concerted effort to really focus on my craft, and I haven’t looked back since.
BJ: Wow. Wow. Now, I have dear friends of mine that are all actors out in LA and New York, and you hear the stories of actors perfecting their craft, having to pay their dues before the important and special roles come along, right?
BJ: What was it like for you building your professional career? What were some of those things that people may not know that you were doing along the way?
AJ: Well, I’ll say it first, I’m still building my professional career.
BJ: Okay. I heard that. I heard that.
AJ: But with that being said, again, my parents, when I decided to do this, they said, “Hey, make sure that you learn your craft and make sure that you’re a student of your craft.” And so I did so many readings, unpaid. I did so many black box theater productions.
AJ: I did short films. I’ve written short films, I took classes, I would do scene study, and all just to build that foundation that I now rely on and will continue to rely on as I move forward. But yeah, it’s not glamorous, it’s not always glamorous. When we’re working, “Oh, wow.” [laughter] You know what I mean?
BJ: Exactly, it’s like a Disneyland. It’s a, “I’m reaping what I sowed,” right?
AJ: Yes, yes.
BJ: As you were talking I imagined that, you know, we tell people on Soulivity.com about, “Listen, this is all about living a passion-filled and purpose-driven life.”
AJ: Oh, I love that. I love that.
BJ: And so part of that is you gotta do what you love regardless of the money aspect. That’s how you know that you really, really love it. And as you were talking, I was like, “Man, this is what I’m talking about.” I mean, you just have this love.
AJ: If I were not on “Grand Crew,” and I weren’t being paid to do what I love, I would still be doing what I love. You know what I mean? In some capacity, and it may not look like what it looks like now. I’m very grateful for this opportunity that I have now, but I’d be doing it regardless, and I think that’s something that I tell people. ‘Cause now people will come up to me and ask me if I have any advice for them, and I always say, “Look, if this is, if you can’t do anything else… “ And my dad used to also say this, “If there’s something else that you would rather do or you could see yourself doing, then go do that, because this is not for the faint of heart.” This is a road less traveled and it’s also oftentimes just a really tough, tough journey, but at the end of the day, what keeps me steadfast is my passion, is my belief and that’s all I can rely upon.
BJ: Right, right. Oh, man, I love that. I love that. Now, in addition to, again, you talked about the non-glamorous part of “making it”, which all my friends who even have done very well, they say, “Man, you never like make it. It’s like you just work. You want work, you want to work.”
BJ: You’re doing “Grand Crew” now, which we’re gonna talk about in a minute.
AJ: Sure, sure.
BJ: But you have a long, impressive list of other shows that you have been on that I think people don’t know about. Some of which with even friends of mine, you probably know some of them.
AJ: Oh, wow.
BJ: “Aquarius,” with David Duchovny. Right?
BJ: You might have known Jade Tailor, who was also on that show as well.
AJ: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
BJ: You were also on “The Magicians,” that was a big SyFy hit, right?
BJ: But my dear friend Rick Worthy was also on that show.
AJ: Oh, man. He’s amazing. Amazing, incredible.
BJ: And so, I think there’s a side of this that I think people, and I want you to talk about, which is, you do, like “Aquarius,” everybody said, “Man, this is gonna be a hit.”
BJ: It’s gonna be fabulous. David’s on, you got these fabulous actors.
BJ: And it wasn’t a hit.
AJ: Right? Ah, yeah.
BJ: First of all, there’s probably been other things that you worked on that maybe you felt as though, “Man, this is gonna be big.”
AJ: Yeah. Yeah, but look, I’ll say this, I try to just deal with what’s in front of me.
BJ: Gotcha, gotcha.
AJ: And even with Grand Crew, I have to be honest in saying that, I never went into it with any expectation, and I think that’s the best way to navigate this space, navigate this industry, is to just try to remain even killed and how to remain grateful for the opportunity and just deal with what’s in front of you.
BJ: Gotcha. So do the work, do the work.
AJ: Do the work, the work is what’s most important. I’m so grateful to be here sitting with you and talking, but at the end of the day the work is what’s going to last or carry me through, so I tell people all the time, just do the work and love the work, and be passionate about the work. And I’m up countless hours thinking about the work or thinking about the craft or studying my craft late into the evening. So yeah.
BJ: Wow. And speaking of great work, let’s talk about Grand Crew.
AJ: Thank you.
BJ: To those of you who are gonna be listening to this interview, who may have not seen this yet, it’s on NBC, it’s a hit series.
BJ: It’s about Black professionals who also love wine, hanging out at the wine bar.
AJ: Wine is Black now, baby.
BJ: Exactly, right?
AJ: Wine is Black now. Yeah.
BJ: And the ins and out of navigating life. Now, first, how did the role come about? I’ve heard some stories where you actually tested for some other roles, but then this role…
AJ: Yeah, wow.
BJ: How did this all come about?
AJ: So it all came about much like any other project where my agent sent me a breakdown, sent me an audition notice, and I was to be there on, let’s say a Monday, and I got over the weekend and read the script, and went in initially, I can’t remember which role I went in for initially. I think it, excuse me, I think it might’ve been Noah, perhaps, which is played by the great and fantastic Echo Kellum, who’s wonderful, a wonderful human being and just an incredible human being and incredible artist. I went in for that, and then I felt good. It was like, “Oh, this feels good, this is fun. I love the script.” When I first read it, definitely I wanna be a part of it for all the reasons that you’ve named. I mean, obviously it is an all Black ensemble. It’s centered around these group of friends who are Black, who live on the East side. And that’s generally not what you see on TV, especially network. I don’t know that we’ve ever really seen that side of LA before, as inhabited by Black people.
BJ: No. And see, you’re from LA?
AJ: I am born and raised in LA, yes.
BJ: And all my mother’s family, she’s third generation LA.
AJ: Oh, wow.
BJ: Yeah. I’ve not seen anything from the East side of LA.
AJ: For sure.
BJ: Maybe other than way back, “Sanford and Son” was shot, was supposed to be shot in Watts, right? Which is East, but…
AJ: And that’s South.
BJ: And that’s South-East, right? Exactly. But yeah, the cast, the crew, everybody, you can see is in sync.
AJ: Oh, Man.
BJ: The writing gives you guys something to really dig into?
AJ: Yes, yes. And shout out to Phil Augusta Jackson. I don’t know if you know this, and maybe the listeners do, and maybe they don’t, but Phil Augusta Jackson, who’s the creator and showrunner of the show, he actually lives on the East side as do I. And he would go to this bar on the East side and meet with his friends, his group of friends. And this is how the whole idea came about, right? When he met Dan Gore and they decided to create something, Dan was like, “Well, what about this? Right? You have these interesting sort of eclectic group of friends that all meet at this wine bar, you don’t traditionally see that. Maybe we should lean into that.” And I think Phil does a wonderful job of really highlighting that experience, and so it’s all really, it starts with him and it trickles down.
BJ: Wow. Again, as you were talking, I’m remembering an interview that Eddie Murphy did. I think it might have been on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, where he was talking about “Boomerang”. And “Boomerang” was like one of the first modern movies with that featured, again, Black professionals.
BJ: “Well-to-do” Black professionals, owners of large companies, right? Who had money. And there was this sense and pushback from certain members of the society around, well, is that really real? And it’s like, well, actually it is.
AJ: It is, yeah.
BJ: There is Black professionals, there are Black owners, multi-millionaires, and all that. So he’s like, “Hey, this is just a story that reflects a part of the Black experience.”
AJ: Right. And because being black is not being monolithic?
BJ: Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.
AJ: I’m grateful for shows that show another part of that Black experience. We don’t have to name them, but we know what they are. And I’m also just super grateful, an honor, to be a part of this story, this show that show cases another side. And I think we need all of those stories.
BJ: Does it sometimes when you’re doing this role, again, you’ve probably done all these other roles as well, but this comes home, right? This is coming home to, we were talking offline about, again, the black male experience is not monolithic either, right? And that this is showing a different sensitive, emotionally available and aware side of Black men, that is not something that is the norm. Right?
BJ: So you and I have seen that maybe with our parents, uncles, other people who are very like, secure emotionally and can express it.
AJ: Right. Right.
BJ: Do you feel that when you’re playing the role of Anthony and coming into this role that like, “okay, yeah, I need to make sure of certain things,” or is it just, “listen, this is who this person is, I’ve had a similar experience and I’m just bringing that to the table”?
AJ: Yeah, “I’m just bringing that to the table.” And for me it’s just important to honor the character and honor the story. I try not, again, to be overly concerned with product or even response. For me it’s just, okay, well, let’s deal in the circumstance right now. Let’s deal with the character right now. And I’m honored. And like you said though, honestly, Brian, like, at the same time it’s not hard for me because I do my best to deal in that same way in my actual life. I think it’s very important for me to be vulnerable, to be loving, to be open and honest and if anything, and I get the chance to do this through the vessel of Anthony, it’s just important that I exhibit that.
BJ: Wow. That’s why I wanted to answer you that question, because I think…
AJ: That’s a lovely question.
BJ: Again, I do think that people need to understand that this is about your passion and the work that’s behind it, and that you doing this honors, one, yourself, and then two, honors those that came before you, that have made a way for you to do what you do today.
AJ: And I think gives permission for those who are here today to be who they are.
BJ: Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, a few months ago, and I heard that “Grand Crew” got renewed?
BJ: So you guys are gonna be starting to shoot again, right?
AJ: Oh, we’re about to end our season.
BJ: Oh, wow. See there.
AJ: We’re in production right now. Luckily I’m off today, so I get to talk to you and have this lovely conversation, but yes. No, we’re actually going into our 10th episode. We got renewed for 10 episodes. We’ll be airing, as I’ve been told in March, I believe. And yeah, so we’re bringing it all to a close for the season. Hopefully we’ll get a third. But yeah, and honestly, I’m so proud of this season. I mean, I think we definitely had a strong first season, and I think we ended on a strong note. And I’m just so proud of how we’ve carried on through this next season. I’m very, very proud of the work that we’re doing. I can’t wait for the audience to see it. I think we all are very excited for…
BJ: Well, I was gonna ask, say this, what can we expect? What are some little tidbits that maybe you can share without giving away the whole story?
AJ: Well, I’ll say this. I think there’s a lot more growth of character and that it extends to all characters in this particular season. And this season is super hilarious, and I think we’ve also got a wonderful job of infusing a lot of heart into this season, and love. And yeah, I don’t wanna give too much away, but you just gotta stay tuned. Yeah, it’s gonna be as hilarious as it was, if not more. But there’s some really nice, grounded moments of truth and love, and it’s a nice balance of the two.
BJ: And with some “clank, clank” in there too.
AJ: “Clank, clank” baby. [laughter] “Clank, clank” Yessir!
BJ: Man, listen, I don’t want to keep you, but I just have one last question for you.
BJ: Because this revolves around, again, we were talking offline about the mission of Soulivity.com and supporting people in living their best life through their passion, right? Through what they love to do. For those of the people out here that are pursuing their dreams of success, right? They’re either trying to find that passion or if they know their passion, they’re on the road.
BJ: What’s some words of wisdom from your perspective that you can share that you’ve learned along your journey?
AJ: Yeah, I would say, and then this is actually in my bio and my Instagram of all things. And wait, to quote the great Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true.”
BJ: Wow, wow.
AJ: I think it just encapsulates it all.
BJ: Wow. Absolutely.
AJ: Trust self, you have your own inner compass. Follow that. And try your best to surround yourself with people that will honor that and support that. And life is precious, life is short. So just live it for yourself as best as you can, and do your best to treat everyone with love and respect.
BJ: Well, by the success that you’ve had, the success that you have today and the success that I know that you’ll have in the future, I can definitely see that you are living your truth and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next season of “Grand Crew”. I’ll be popping my bottle and watching and clanking along with you guys.
AJ: Yes. Yes.
BJ: But Aaron, thank you. Thank you for being here on Soulivity.com and much continued success.
AJ: Thank you. Absolutely, to you as well.
AJ: Thank you brother.
Brian Westley Johnson
Brian Westley Johnson is the founder and CEO of Soulivity.com, which reaches over 850K people monthly across the globe.
After having travelled the world for decades as an enterprising business development professional for over 25 years, Brian Westley Johnson founded Soulivity Magazine. With a renewed sense of purpose and a commitment to engaging and empowering others, Brian is now dedicated to a new mission—delivering informative editorial, and inspiring people to live life with purpose, passion, and joy.
Feel free to send Brian an email on how you are enjoying the magazine (include suggestions, too).
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