Jonathan Chase is an actor you may have seen here or there. He currently stars on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network in Tyler Perry’s original comedy series “Love Thy Neighbor.” This show is currently in it’s 5th season and this marks Chase’s second collaboration with Tyler Perry. His first was “A Madea Christmas.” He has also guest-starred in shows such as Chase has guest starred on such shows as “Bones,” “The Mentalist,” “CSI,” “CSI: NY” “Leverage,” “Eli Stone,” “Medium,” “Oliver Beene,” “Monk,” “Roommates” and “The Defenders,” as well as having recurred in NBC’s top-rated “KnightRider” telelfilm. Chase has recurred on Disney Channel’s “Shake It Up” and “Veronica Mars.” Additionally, he was a series regular on UPN’s “One On One,” which was his first major television job and where he met the fabulous Camille Mana, the star of “Oh Em Gee.”
This is his first venture into filmmaking having co-wrote, directed and produced the independent comedic short film “Oh Em Gee!”, which premiered at Dances With Films 2016. I asked him a few questions about his first time film-making, the film festival circuit, and a little on God and technology too!
Joanna Pantages: What inspired you to want to write, direct and produce a short film?
Jonathan Chase: I am in acting class with Camille Mana and Libby Ewing (my stars of the film) and their work inspired me to create something. The role of God was actually written for another actress but she got sick the week of filming and Camille stepped in to save my *ss. What a great friend and a phenomenal actress. My sister, Shay Greenfield, is also an amazing editor who’s worked at the best editing houses in LA and I wanted to work with her as well. I was motivated by the desire to work with people I love.
Q: “Remember if you miss moments in life I won’t give them back to you. Your choice.” was a very powerful line! Who came up with that line? And do you think technology takes away from real human connection, or simply takes genuine connection and valuable moments in life online?
Jonathan: That’s from the Old Testament. Naw, I wrote that…not the Old Testament, just the line. I absolutely know technology has created a distance between human connection. We spend more time taking pictures and uploading them to social media than imprinting our brains with the images absorbed by our eyes. I know I am guilty of that. And on the other hand, I met my wife on OkCupid. So there are amazing connections happening from the abundance of digital power as well. I probably should have led with that.
Q: You made God (Camille Mana) female, and Filipino. Most films/shows show the standard white male Hollywood Jesus. If you were going to cast a male leading character instead of a female, would God be man also to mirror their likeliness?
Jonathan: My intention was always to have God be a female. If a supreme, eternal being birthed all this life and expanse, how could it not be a woman? As for the ‘likeness’ of God, you are are referring to Jesus the Christ. I am jewish but I believe we all pray to the same eternal being. We can call it whatever we want, but it’s all the same…something greater than ourselves. Let us say, ‘likeness’ refers to Jesus, I would have cast someone Egyptian, Mediterranean, or African. If Jesus was the son of God, he most certainly was not a white guy with long, beautiful hair. He would look like Omar Sharif or Idris Elba.
Q. The character Deborah (Libby Ewing) had a chance to ask God anything, and asked “Why me?” What would you ask God if you could ask anything?
Jonathan: I would ask, ‘what can I do to repay you for everything you have given me?’
Q: Are you having fun doing the film festival circuit? Since this is your first film and film festival circuit training, (if that is a word), what do you love about it, and what do you hate?
Jonathan: The festival circuit is a blast. It’s a lot more work than I had anticipated. I thought making the film would be the hard part. The opposite I have found to be true. If you want your film to be seen, you have to hustle. I love meeting new people and seeing films I normally would not have the opportunity to see. The learning curve on Oh Em Gee has been huge for me. The next film will be more precise in which festivals I target. The part that I am challenged by is how much opportunity is out there. With so many pop-up festivals, you have to narrow it down to a few. Otherwise I would mortgage my house just to pay the entry fees to over 6,000 festivals.
Q: Let’s be honest. Do you really and truly think that even with the intervention of God, that people can and/or will spend more time living in the moment rather than looking on their phones?
Jonathan: I think it takes a near-life experience. You either suffer extreme loss, personal tragedy, or overwhelming odds and you come to a realization about what is really important in life. If God is omnipotent, then I think a cocktail with God herself would do the trick…I would order a Henny on the rocks, and She would order a reli-Gin and tonic. ;)
Thanks out to Jonathan Chase! There’s more info on “Oh Em Gee!” below if you want to keep up. Also there’s an interview from Hollywood Comedic Shorts of his sister Shay Greenfield; co-writer and editor of Oh Em Gee! among many, many other projects.