So Jason, where did you grow up?
I grew up in South Penrith in Sydney’s western suburbs, which is an hour outside of the city. Growing up in the western suburbs was awesome because I lived a stone’s throw away from the Nepean River and at the base of the Blue Mountains. My mates and I would ride our BMX bikes everyday after school, we climbed trees, we built forts in the bush, we caught lizards and snakes, It was really a kid’s paradise.
That sounds like a quintessentially unique Australian experience.
It was. We’d have slip n’ slides in the backyard and we played cricket all the time. Aussies have this “she’ll be right” attitude. No one worries or fusses too much, and Penrith encapsulates that Australian spirit. It’s totally relaxed, and it’s something that I truly miss travelling around the world.
What were your passions growing up?
I was really interested in surf culture because my friends and I travelled to the beach so often. This is when I started getting interested in the way logos looked on surfing products, I became obsessed with logos and designs. Art began to play a huge part in my life, and I took it on as a subject in high school. I realized during that class that art is really about expressing your creativity and I wasn’t going to learn that in a classroom.
Where did your love of art and design take you?
Deep down I knew I wanted to study art and push the boundaries of my creative itch. In years 11 and 12 I became even more obsessed with art and pop culture as a whole, my room was floor to ceiling with magazines and MTV was always on. The Internet was booming and Apple computers were becoming a massive social tool, and I decided I wanted to study graphic design. I applied to the University of Western Sydney and was excepted into their school of design which was only a 5 minute drive from my house.
It sounds like an obvious choice for you.
In year 10, I was on a bus going to our end of year school formal, and my teacher asked all of us what we were going to do when we leave year 12. She leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “Jason what are you going to do when you leave year 10?”
I said I was going to stay on and do my HSC and she laughed. She said, “well, that’s not going to work because you’re not going to pass.”
That insult made me flip my whole perspective on life, and I got together with one of my closest friends and studied almost every day. We guided each other through high school, and at the end I got enough marks to get me through to University, where I studied graphic design. That day I received my HSC results felt so amazing, I had created a goal, which at the time felt so unobtainable, but through persistence I had done it!
So how did you end up as a presenter on MTV?
In University a mate was making a TV show to promote the graphic design student’s works, and asked me if I wanted to host.
At the time, I was so nervous speaking in front of audiences that I wouldn’t go to class if I had to do a presentation. But this time I thought “yeah why not”, so I went and hosted this show. As we filmed, I realized there were moments where I felt a great buzz, and I kind of liked it.
Two days after the Uni show, I was watching MTV, as I did religiously in my bedroom, and I noticed they were advertising for new presenters to audition. I was working on a video editing assignment anyway, so I just flipped the tripod around and recorded myself. The next day I got one of my buddies to follow me around Penrith for the day just doing what any 21 year old would do. I sent it into MTV, and a week later got called in for an interview. The interview was the worst, I had to sit in a meeting room with five bosses from MTV and read out a news article. I was called back for a camera test that same day. Later that night an MTV camera crew arrived at my house to surprise me. I had won the job!
It all happened so quickly, before I knew it, I was standing in front of a camera communicating to the masses on TV. I was a punk from Penrith and all of a sudden I had to speak to artists about their albums, so it was a fairly awkward start.
What are your best memories at MTV?
On Friday, we recorded TRL Live, so in the mornings I’d go surfing with my buddies on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. I’d leave my friends there in the afternoon, and I’d go into the offices and interview artists like Beyonce, then I’d drive home and go back to the surf before the sun went down. It was really an amazingly free time in my life! I also got to meet some incredibly inspirational people, from Jack Johnson to Ozzy Osbourne to 50 Cent, at such a young age. It was all very surreal.
Is it true you won $100,000 in a celebrity poker tournament?
My boss at MTV told me there was a poker tournament happening with 36 people in Melbourne at the Crown Casino. They only had 35 people and he asked me if I was interested. I said, “Mate, I’ve never played poker before but I’ll give it a shot.” One of my buddies gave me a two hour crash course in poker the night before, I flew to Melbourne, played about 7 games, made it to the final, and held $100, 000 above my head all because I had no idea how to play the game, and I was a little cheeky. Immediately after I won I ran out of the room with no shoes on and did a lap of the Crown Casino at full sprint, which nearly got me arrested. I rang my dad and told him I’d won, and two weeks later I flew to Hawaii and stayed 5 Star for a month.
How did MTV become a launch pad into Hollywood for you?
In my third year at MTV, my agency suggested I audition for a role in a Mathew McConaughy movie called Fools Gold. I hadn’t thought of acting, but I auditioned for the movie, and all of a sudden I landed a role. I spent a month up in Port Douglas with Mathew and Kate Hudson shooting this movie, which was an eye opening experience.
Did working on the movie ‘Fools Gold’ give you an acting bug?
I didn’t really understand what was going on, because all of my experience was in presenter. I’d stay back on set in the wings for hours watching the actors on the monitor. Everything they were doing seemed so subtle, all these nuances in their faces. So I started focusing on what acting really meant, and after the film had wrapped I found myself a private acting coach in Sydney who essentially broke me down and gave me a fundamental idea of what it means to be an actor. I was addicted.
At the same time, you also started working on Australia’s premier travel show Getaway. What’s it like to work on such a respected program?
Getaway in every sense is an absolute dream come true. It’s one of those things in life you don’t understand how valuable it is until months or years later. You’ll be sent on a trip to South American for example, through the Galapagos Islands, through the Amazon through to Carnivale in Rio, and during your experience it’s a blur, you don’t sleep, you’re jumping time zones, you’re tired and it’s all flying by so quickly. However, months later, you come home and you’ll be sitting there thinking what you’ve done and what experience you’ve had and how valuable this show really is. On Getaway, you get to live the nation’s dreams for them and portray them on TV. It’s incredible.
What’s your favourite place to visit?
After four years on Getaway, I’ve travelled to 36 countries across 6 continents. My favourite continent is South America, one of my favourite countries is Brazil. Rio has sexual electricity and rhythm that pulses like a heart heartbeat through it, it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, the locals there are the definition of cool. However the town that resonates with me is a simple little town in Austria called Inverness, it’s almost like an oil painting. On one side of the river, there’s an ancient town and on the other side, is the modern town, slick and clean, and designed to literally reflect the aesthetic of the old town. Inverness is very structured and organized like a European Pleasantville, things just seem to be in perfect harmony there.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned travelling the world on Getaway?
The most valuable thing I’ve learned working on Getaway is life experience. Edgar Lee Masters said in his book Spoon River, “Genius is wisdom and youth” and wisdom is something on this show I’ve definitely gained. You get thrust into so many different communities and cultures; it develops your character and puts life into perspective. Your not watching the world go by, your breathing it in, it’s hitting you smack bang in the face.
Do you still keep up your interest in design, art and photography?
Yeah, whenever I travel on Getaway I take my laptop, cameras and recording devices and now my Ipad too! I love to capture images on anything from fish eye cameras, to high def video cams, and even my phone. I’m always shooting from behind the camera. I display all my experiences and images from all over the world on my blog.
In 2009, you took a few months off to study acting in New York. Why did you do that?
When I was 26, I thought to myself I needed to go and see what this acting thing was all about and I had to take myself out of my comfort zone and immerse myself full time into this world of acting. I took two months off, moved to New York and enrolled in the HB Studio in the West Village. I bought a bike and cycled down Bleecker Street every day to class. During my study I did ballet, Pilates, and theatre acting 9hrs a day, it was probably the greatest life changing experience I’ve ever had in any country in the world. I left New york with one thought in my mind, and that was “I want to become an actor!” The day I landed back into Australia my agent told me there was audition for an Australian Tv drama show called Sea Patrol. I read the script, auditioned, and they offered me my first role.
Recently you have moved from Australia to LA. What prompted the move?
The things I love in life are art, design, pop culture, entertainment and music, and LA is the heartbeat of the global entertainment industry. It only makes sense to live here. Being in LA inspires you and drives your creativity. I love the pulse of the city and its energy and working on a show like Getaway I can be based anywhere as long as I can get to an international airport.
What do you miss about Australia?
I miss my family, my mates, the beaches, meat pies, chocolate milkshakes, Thai food, getting sunburnt, road trips, and ice blocks!
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
It’s a book by Dale Carnagie called How To Win Friends And Influence People. It gives you a great insight into how to communicate with people; it’s a really valuable tool, from simply talking to people at the grocery store to sending business emails to public speaking. The way you interact with people is the way the world perceives you.
What’s your favourite quote of all time?
It’s from a Tennesee Williams play The Glass Menagerie that says “The future becomes the present, the present becomes the past, and the past will be filled with everlasting regret if you don’t plan for it.” We must set goals in life and go for them!
What can’t you live without?
My laptop and the Internet, i need to be connected to the world 24/7. I love technology.
What’s your favourite movie?
Jules and Jim, Fight Club, The God Father, Limitless, The Social Network, Adrift, Point Break, The Spanish Apartment
What are your pet hates?
Procrastination and liars.
What’s your favourite sound?
I love the sound of the click of a mouse.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Obsessed, over heated, happy, interested, and honest.