ICYMI Jason George Interview

I feel blessed in many ways,” says Jason George, reflecting on the path he’s taken in life. “I’m a Black man from the South and I like to think my mama raised me right. I work hard. I’m confident in my abilities but I’m also humble. Nobody does anything alone, and anybody who thinks I did this by myself is deluding themselves. [GREY’S ANATOMY/STATION 19 Executive Producers] Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers are famous for having a ‘No ass****s policy.’ If you’re known for bad behavior, then they are not getting into business with you and I like to think I was the reverse of that. When I was in high school, I remember the model was, ‘Make every place better when you leave it,’ and that’s my attitude toward set.”

That philosophy has served George well after he won the role of “gangbanger-turned-lifeguard” Michael Bourne on Aaron Spelling’s first foray into daytime, SUNSET BEACH. George’s story is on the more unique side: He won the role via a national talent search. “I didn’t think anything would come of it but I thought it would be a good experience,” he recalls. “I spent most of the day watching the contest, waiting for my scene, watching people audition for this character that I knew I could play, and when I did my scene, they said, ‘Do you want to do another?’ and I said, ‘Do I?’ and they brought Sherri Saum [ex-Vanessa, BEACH] back from the hotel, because she had auditioned twice and they were leaning toward her and I will still say to this day, that scene, which was in the first few weeks of the show, we tagged it immediately. Instantly, Sherri and I were vibing off each other and I freely say that we got each other the job. It ended up being one of the best weeks of my life because I was closing a play in Philadelphia from my graduate acting program. I closed that Saturday night, flew out [to L.A.] for the contest on Sunday. Monday, flew back to Philadelphia. Tuesday, found out I got the job. Wednesday, I shot a small role as ‘college kid’ in the Denzel Washington film Fallen. The play got me my Actor’s Equity [card]. I got hired on a soap opera, which got me an AFTRA card, and I did my first movie role, which got me my SAG card. Then, I moved to Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday, I was doing a photo shoot with Sherri Saum on the beach. It was a hell of a week. I felt like I was shot out of a cannon.”

Though he’s found great success since then, George still cherishes his days in daytime. “Soaps are the best place because you’ve got to make fast choices,” he explains. “I have friends who marvel at how fast I get my lines in my head and I say, ‘I did soaps for three years. It’s sink or swim.’ You’ve got to get those words in your head and do it in one take, so I want every take to be great. I don’t want to warm up to it and finally be good in my fourth or fifth take. I want to start with something I can put on air, and then try and get better from there.”

His BEACH days were punctuated by a slew of memorable storylines, but one in particular stands out. “You know the craziest storyline!” he exclaims. “Come on. The turkey baster [when Virginia impregnated rival Vanessa via kitchenware]. That is legendary. We will still joke about that and yes, we still get together — Sherri, Dominique Jennings [ex-Virginia], Priscilla Garita [ex-Gabi]. Sherri married Kamar [de los Reyes, ex-Antonio, ONE LIFE TO LIVE] so he’s honorary BEACH, and people behind the camera. We’ve gotten into the habit of doing an annual reunion. We all remember when we were young and stupid, acting like we owned the town, knowing that at any minute it could come to an end. And then we are still here 25 years later.”

George credits Spelling as a mentor in his Hollywood education. “He put me onto my first prime-time show [as Scott on TITANS in 2000],” George praises. “This town is built up of who you know and I got lucky because the main guy I knew did prime-time as well, so that helped me get into that next level much faster than I think I would have otherwise. That’s where I really got to see him in his element. Working with Aaron Spelling, it was like I got in it just before the whole party turned into a pumpkin, in terms of classic Hollywood. I remember going to his legendary Christmas party. It used to be at his house and by the time I got to it, it was happening at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, but you walk in and there are some of CHARLIE’S ANGELS sitting with Aaron and it’s like, ‘You’re CHARLIE’S ANGELS!’ and you realize how vast his reach was.”

After amassing dozens of credits post-daytime, in 2010, George’s career took a very fortuitous turn when he made his first appearance as Dr. Ben Warren on GREY’S ANATOMY. “You have no idea,” he begins. “I got asked to do a guest-star role. It was not originally conceived to be long-term and we just had a great time. My wife got the DVD set and we’d watch it together. It was so good! And I was like, ‘I need to be on that show because it’s got the comedy, the drama, these phenomenal speeches,’ and if you’re not trained, you’ll screw up that speech. That’s why they kill these speeches at a level like nobody else can, and I’m like, ‘I am a classically trained theater actor. I want to do that!’ They hired me and I stuck around. And they kept the character alive. I kept waiting for them to have him leave or kill him off and it never happened. He just kept sticking around. It’s like that someone you were not dating but would interact with romantically once in a while but you would never quite be ready to get serious when the other one was. But it all lined up. I was a series regular on GREY’S for a couple of seasons, and then STATION 19 took off.”

George reveals he had no idea a spin-off with his character was in the works in 2018. “So, I’m vacationing with family in Virginia, and I’m literally throwing my little nephews around in a pool, along with my kids,” he chuckles. “I’m just throwing kids everywhere. I’m basically the human jungle gym and then my wife says, ‘Um, you got a call and Shonda [Rhimes] and Betsy [Beers] want to know if you’ll take a call from them at 4 o’clock.’ I’m thinking, ‘This is where Ben finally dies,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, it’s been a good run.’ When we spoke, it was the simplest question I’ve ever gotten in my life. To get the opportunity to get a Shonda show from the ground up? GREY’S was a juggernaut way before I was on there, and like GREY’S, STATION 19 is an ensemble show, but I got to be a part of building this house from the ground up. The fact that I get to do these two shows, and they pay me, I honestly am like, ‘Show me the downside because I don’t see it!’ ”

As for what’s next, George admits, “Being incredibly happy for what I have does not change the fact that I’m an ambitious person who is always looking for new challenges. That’s the whole reason I became an actor, because when you play someone else, you discover new things about yourself. I am all for new challenges.”  

In 2013, George landed on the prime-time summer sudser MISTRESSES as Dominic, and made some solid relationships there, too. “Alyssa [Milano, ex-Savi] is a friend,” he shares. “We were just texting each other pictures of our kids last week. My son with hair past his shoulders and a full beard was once running around on set when we were working together. One time, I was shooting [next door to Clark Gregg] and my kids came and got bored being on the set of a soap opera, and I walked them over to Clark’s show, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. He was taking out bad guys and they were like, ‘This is awesome!’ Meanwhile, Clark’s daughter was a fan of MISTRESSES, so she came over to my set and we just traded our kids for a couple of hours.”

Just The Facts

Birthday: February 9

Hails From: Virginia Beach, VA

Middle Name: Winston

Family Guy: Married college sweetheart Vandana on July 10, 1999. They have three children: Arun and twins Nikhil and Jasmine.

Otherwise Known As: Michael Bourne, SUNSET BEACH, 1997-99

Nomination Station: Received a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series for BEACH in 1999.

Credit Check: George has appeared in a slew of prime-time series, including EVE, WHAT ABOUT BRIAN, ELI STONE, OFF THE MAP, WITCHES OF EAST END and MISTRESSES.

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