Lounge Talk: Connor Jessup
How many times does it take you meeting someone to begin letting your guard down? For me, it’s almost instant. It’s the way I operate. I’m an open book from the jump, until I see a reason to close in or limit the page-count I’m willing to share. Well, what if each meet was…digital? Would the game be the same? I’ve interviewed 28-year-old Connor Jessup three times, each time with increasing familiarity. The first was in 2016 admittedly another world—via-email, a casual Q+A after his head-turning role as Coy Henson in American Crime. Jump five years to last December. I find him to be inviting, pensive, yet sociable, and giving—hallmarks of a good subject. His series Locke & Key, which has consumed his professional life for the last couple of years, releases its final season today on Netflix. Prepping for our phone call, I realize I’m familiar with some facets of his life now… Enough to speak to him comfortably again. This time with increased familiarity and less restraint.
As you can imagine, I don’t have too many pressing questions about the show…
[Laughs] Fair enough.
Last time we spoke you were—
I was in England, in my little cottage, right?
Yes! You were in a cottage in England. You were writing a script. You were going through a transitional period, and you were talking about Heartstopper before it was out.
That turned out well, didn’t it?
It did. I love Heartstopper.
It seems like everyone loves it.
Yes! It’s now about nine months after our conversation. I’m so curious where you are in life. And what you’re talking about these days. To start—where are you today?
Well, as of last night, I am back in Toronto. I’ve done quite a bit of traveling this summer.
What are three things that are really big in your life right now?
That’s hard. I just got back from this very long trip that I was on, and I was away for five weeks. I was in Europe doing some work, seeing friends and traveling. So I really feel, I mean, discombobulated, not just in terms of time, but it almost feels like a new year is starting, even though it’s peak summer.
I don’t know if other people feel that way, but I felt that the first six months of this year leading up to this trip I mentioned— they were very much in the same rhythm as when I talked to you last. Most of my time since then, I feel like I’ve just been catching up on my life—which I felt I’d been somewhat outside of for a few years. Reading, watching things, catching up and seeing friends that I’d let drift away.
Do you feel like you’ve caught up?
Yeah, I do. I mean, to be honest, it was quite a hard six months.
Well, tell me about it…
I felt thrown out into the sea a little bit. But I think that was necessary. I’ve been lucky because I’ve been jumping from one project to another, which is a great way to live, but it’s also easy then to kick things down the road. I think in the last six months or so, I realized as I was trying to do all this, just how much I had been kicking down the road for a long time. I realized that the task of working through all of that and thinking about all of that was bigger than I thought it was. I feel fortunate that I’m in a position where I have the ability to spend six months just writing and being with myself, which was really needed. So, this trip kind of capped it off. I feel very refreshed actually. And I know I’m not answering your question about three big things in my life right now, but…
I feel like you have somehow. We’re getting there. Summer has this mystical kind of energy. Initially, I was so curious to hear what your summer’s been like, and you’ve had quite the season…
I certainly have had quite the summer. It was a very strong contrast to the spring. By choice, I had a very solitary winter and spring, and I felt like I needed that. Most of my days looked similar, which is kind of unusual for me in my adult life. I was trying to find a routine and trying to be a grownup. I mean, I know that sounds stupid—I’m 28. I’ve been a grownup for a long time. But, I really think one of the most fun parts about being an actor—but also one of the most damaging parts, if you’re not careful—is that you are treated like a child. Even when you’re an adult—your life is managed for you when you’re working.
People tell you where to go and what to do when you get there. There are schedules and people who take care of things. The heavy weight of adult responsibility that most people feel every day of their lives is just a little bit alleviated, you know, and I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.
I feel like, beyond all the other personal things I’ve been working through, part of it is also just learning how to be a functioning adult in the world. How to live in a house that I feel comfortable in and proud of; how to maintain relationships; how to keep receipts. It makes me sound juvenile, but it’s true. I feel like I’ve been kicking a lot of real life, quote, unquote, down the road, so I’m dealing with that too.
What a profound first half of the year…
Yes. That was my first half—and then I immediately jumped into the exact polar opposite this trip, where I was just constantly surrounded by people and activity and friends and concerts. It was a real whiplash, but I think, also by design, I’ve circled the bowl of myself in the last seven months. Like, I’ve really gone all around in myself. I feel ready to…
Take something on?
I guess… Yeah, I feel ready. I’ve been talking mostly in personal terms. But yeah, I feel ready to take something on. I feel capable.
Each season this year has held a theme for you, it seems—what’s the fall looking like for you?
There are a few projects that I have that aren’t talkable yet. But besides that, I have a short film of my own that I want to make in the fall. It’s been way too long now since I’ve been on set for one of my own projects. In the limited experience that I’ve had doing it, it’s the most fun that I’m capable of having. I’m continuing to write… I know it sounds boring to be giving the same answer I gave you nine months ago, but…
It’s not boring. This is an honest interview, and that’s your honest answer. Your feature that you were working on in the cabin—did you finish it?
I’ve made a lot of progress on it. Outside of the things I want to do in my personal life, my real goal is to make that feature. I haven’t finished it, but I’m much, much, further along than I was when we spoke last. Back then it was really in a state of chaos and transition and it felt like multiple ideas were colliding and breaking. I was trying to pick up the pieces, and now I feel like I have a much clearer and more ordered sense of what’s going on. So hopefully, by the end of the year at the latest, I’ll have something that’s a real movie.
What’s it like being back in Toronto with all of your things after being away for so long?
I was really excited to be home before I got home, because I missed my bed and my privacy and my routine and my stuff. But honestly, when I walked through the door, I made the fatal mistake before I left of not really leaving my apartment clean. I walked through the door and my first thought was, “I hate all of this stuff.” I live in chaos. I need to change everything.
I’m sure that will fade a little bit over the next couple days, but I do feel like I have too much stuff and it’s everywhere, and I need to get rid of a lot of it and create a little more… a little more cleanliness and order in my life. But all my plants are alive, which I was happy about. My mom’s been watering them very kindly.
What’s your favorite time of day?
Increasingly, I like the early mornings. I wake up much earlier than I used to, even a couple of years ago. I’m up most days by 6:30 am or so. Between 7:00 am and 9:00 am, I get really nice light in my apartment. I feel like the whole day is still ahead. I feel there’s a little more quiet around me, and the birds are really nice.
It feels like as the day goes on, I feel things running away, you know? The things I intended to do or thought I could do—the idea of the day begins to pollute a little bit.
The hope begins to fade…
Exactly. Especially when you’re trying to write. I find I have the most energy and optimism between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. I used to be a night person, and I used to do most of my work in the dark. But not anymore.
I love that answer. I find that as we grow older, we increasingly love the morning time. It’s a nice time to be alive and to be awake.
I also just feel like if I wake up after 8:00 am now, I feel like I’ve thrown something away. I’ve wasted a chance. In Toronto, during winter, we get so little light that it feels like the day doesn’t even start until 8:00 am and then the sun is gone by 4:00 pm, you know? So when it is summertime and you wake up to the sun and you go to bed and it’s still kind of a little bit light out, that’s a nice feeling.
I notice you carry a camera with you occasionally. Are you the type to take your camera out with you everyday?
When I’m traveling, yes. When I’m at home, not so much. But, I want to more because I’m so bored of my home. Toronto is a wonderful place to live, and it’s very peaceful, friendly, and full of my favorite people—but it is not the most visually or creatively striking place in the world. That says more about my lack of imagination than it does about the city. A photographer who I follow on instagram—Teju Cole’s photography comes to mind because his photography is not about beautiful things. But that every stone, every corner, every bit of broken fence can be something worth looking at if you try and look. I want to do that more. His work has been on my mind a lot.
It’s always so fun talking to you; our conversations are so rich.
Thank you. I find my life interesting in moments—and even that’s an exaggeration. It’s funny to think that others care.
It’s an art form, I think. You have to strike the right balance. I could continue to pick your brain—but then we’d offset the balance.
Well, it’s always a pleasure talking to you. I hope to do it in seven months from now.
Great interview! So many of these feel so impersonal and scripted but your interview style and Connor’s openness really worked. Connor Jessup is quite a talented actor imho but he has a unique gift for connecting with audiences and those don’t always go hand in hand. Thanks!