Glee Newcomer Jacob Artist on Dancing Dreams, Rap Nightmares and New-Girl Drama
Jacob Artist’s acting career only began in earnest last year — with guest roles on Melissa & Joey and Nickelodeon’s How to Rock — so not surprisingly, he says he’s finding it a little surreal to have a recurring role as Jake Puckerman (younger half-brother of Mark Salling’s bad boy Noah ‘Puck’ Puckerman) on Season 4 of Glee.
“I was a fan of the show before I auditioned, so now every time I go to Paramount and we’re shooting, it’s like an absolute dream come true,” says Artist.
TVLine caught up with Artist to discuss which Glee cast members he’s sharing scenes with, what prestigious school he turned down to follow his acting dreams, and why he’s hoping there’ll be no reprise of “Bust a Move” in the New Directions’ rehearsal room.
TVLINE | So let’s talk about your character, Jake Puckerman. Does he have same dad as Noah (aka Puck)?
Exactly. We have the same dad. I’m Noah Puckerman’s younger half-brother, and he’s definitely a Puckerman in that he’s got a bit of an attitude problem. We’ll see if that gets in the way of him joining the glee club or not.
TVLINE | I’ve heard some variation on that quote from you in several interviews and in the Glee Season 4 promo reel. You seem to be implying Jake’s participation in New Directions is not guaranteed.
No, absolutely not. One of the things they instill in the show in general is that you have to have a good attitude, you have to be positive, in order to succeed. And they’re definitely not going to be rewarding anybody with a negative attitude — that’s for sure.
TVLINE | Is Jake someone who wants to be part of New Directions, but puts up a front that makes it hard for them to accept him? Or is he ambivalent about joining and finds himself getting courted by Mr. Schue or some of the glee-club members?
He definitely had a very troubled past which made him put up his walls a lot. He’s super passionate about what he does, but he’s got to figure out a balance: You can’t just want it, you have to be likable and friendly, too.
TVLINE | You’ve shot three episodes thus far?
We just finished Episodes 1 and 2.
TVLINE | Okay, so based on what you’ve shot so far, how will Gleeks perceive Jake out of the gate: Hero or villain?
Based off the first two episodes, I don’t know. But I hope he ends up being a hero. There are so many layers to him, but deep down he really is a good guy.
TVLINE | Will that not be evident from the first two episodes? Is he a slushie thrower, by any chance?
He’s introduced the same way Puck was. You can see good qualities inside, but he definitely has his walls up initially. Everything he does is justified, based on his history. It’s really affected him.
TVLINE | Did Jake grow up in the same house as Puck?
No, he did not.
TVLINE | What’s their relationship? Have you explored it yet in the episodes you’ve shot?
We haven’t really explored it yet. It’ll be cool if there is an interacton with Jake and Puck because I know their relationship is a little bit estranged.
TVLINE | Do you know if there are plans to bring back Melrose Place star Thomas Calabro as the Puckerman boys’ messed-up dad?
I don’t know. That would be cool definitely to see how he interacts with Jake and how that confrontation plays out. The dad’s already been on the show and he has, like you said, some unredeemable qualities. There’s definitely tension for Jake surrounding his whole family life.
TVLINE | So which cast members have you been shooting your scenes with?
I’ve been working a lot with Matt Morrison [Mr. Schuester], who’s been really great and taken me under his wing a little bit. Mr. Schue is definitely inclined to take notice of me when he finds out I’m Noah Puckerman’s younger half-brother. He’s the first one who sees potential in Jake. I’ve also been shooting a lot with the two new girls — Melissa Benoist (as Marley) and Becca Tobin (as Kitty). So you’ll definitely be seeing a lot of scenes with us the first two episodes.
TVLINE | Which character is going to be Jake’s No. 1 source of drama right now?
Drama-wise, there’s gonna be a lot of ups and downs with the two new girls — Marley and Kitty. There’ll be a lot of things unfolding in and amongst the three of them for sure.
TVLINE | Are you hinting at a possible love triangle?
Maybe. We’ll have to see. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Well, we know Puck fancied himself as a ladies’ man. Is that a trait he shares with Jake?
Oh yeah, definitely Jake’s a ladies’ man. You can tell right off the bat he’s a Puckerman because he shares some of the same qualities Puck had.
TVLINE | Does this mean he’ll be showing an interest potentially inappropriate relationships with older women, too?
We’ll have to see. Right now I think he’s a little bit more tame — keeping it with girls in high school. [Laughs]
TVLINE | That’s probably good. So word is you’re covering the Fray’s “Never Say Never” in the season premiere. Is Jake doing this as a New Directions audition, or is this more of a personal scene where he’s singing it to someone else?
New Directions obviously begins the season a lot smaller [because of the loss of graduating seniors], so they’re trying to bring on some new people, of course. So yes, I’ll be singing “Never Say Never,” but you’ll have to tune in to see if it’s in an audition setting or if it’s sung to a girl. You never know.
TVLINE | You’re not giving up any scoop!
You’ve got to tune in and see. That’s the best part.
TVLINE | Any musical genre or artist you’re dreading having to cover?
I haven’t done it yet, but if they ask me to rap, things might get a little shaky. I’m hoping to steer clear of rapping for as long as possible. [Laughs]
TVLINE | I’ve also read you have a background in dance. Give me some specifics about your training.
I started dancing when I was five, and I trained intensively as a competitive dancer up until the end of high school. I did all genres, and later on a did a lot of extra ballet on top of that. I actually got accepted to Julliard for dance during my senior year, but I ultimately turned it down to come to L.A. to act. The audition process was incredible: You have to be there for a whole day, and there’s six rounds of cuts, and they only take twelve boys and twelve girls from around the world. So it was a huge accomplishment.
TVLINE | So what’s harder: Auditioning for Julliard or auditioning for Glee?
Honestly, I’d say Glee. With Julliard, I was auditioning with something I’d been doing my whole life. With Glee, it was the first time I’d done anything where it was both singing and the acting.
TVLINE | The obvious followup question here is to ask if your character has had a chance to dance yet.
He has not. I’m so excited and waiting for him to dance. I’m hoping that’ll be coming up soon. The show has great choreographers and some really spectacular dancers like Heather Morris.
TVLINE | Have you been assured your character will be able to dance? It would be tough for you, I’d think, if Jake had no dancing skills.
I’m hoping I don’t get two left feet. [Laughs.] There’s no real assurance of anything. I just have to wait and see what the writers have planned for me.
TVLINE | Tell me more about Jake Puckerman. You say he has an attitude problem. Does that mean we’re going to see him hurling slushies at the members of New Directions?
He hasn’t thrown any slushies yet. It’s a little different [from Puck] in that Jake’s attitude is more about feeling like he has to have his guard up, whereas Puck was a little bit more of the outspoken bully, in a sense. That’s where they differ in terms of their quote-unquote attitude problems.
TVLINE | Glee has cerainly been a lightning rod for social issues, too — from bullying to teen suicide to domestic abuse to coming out. Do you sense Jake might eventually be a character that has to grapple with some larger issue?
The show does a great job of tackling issues, and while I haven’t seen any of the massive ones with Jake yet, it’d be really cool if they incorporated that. I think back about me growing up as a dancer — the bullying I experienced [as a result] — and it’d be cool to explore that with Jake if that’s the route they decide to go.
TVLINE | Is Jake an incoming freshman at McKinley, or is he older?
You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I actually don’t know. [Laughs] I’m pretty positive he’s 16, so I guess that would make him a sophomore, but then I’ve heard [some people say] he’s a freshman. I don’t actually know 100 percent if he’s a freshman or a sophomore.
TVLINE | Would Jake be considered a “cool kid” in the same way Puck was?
Jake’s a little less sure of his place in the social heirarchy. He comes in to McKinley and he’s brand new, and he doesn’t really have a lot of friends. Whereas Puck had established this whole clique and he knew his place 100 percent. Jake is different in that he’s a little more of an outcast when he first shows up at McKinley.
TVLINE | And how many episodes at a minimum are you definitely signed up for this season?
I don’t actually know. All I know is I’m in Episodes 1 and 2, because that’s what we’ve shot.
TVLINE | In the Season 4 promo video that came out earlier this week, I thought I spotted you carrying a guitar.
Jake does play the guitar. He’s definitely a musical kind of guy.
TVLINE | So do you know how to play guitar yourself or are you going to have to fake it?
Conincidentally, I bought a guitar a few months ago, so I was fiddling around with that even before the Glee audition. I’m by no means good — believe me — I’m still kind of a train wreck, but I can play the easier chords. So for the show I had to learn ["Never Say Never"]. It’s really me playing. But hopefully we don’t have to do that again soon. It was pretty difficult. [Laughs]