Q&A with Taylor Grad and OCTOBER BABY Co-Star Jason BurkeyBy Jim Garringer Published: Mar 22, 2012
In the five years since Jason Burkey graduated from Taylor University, he has appeared in film, television, music videos and commercials. But on Friday, March 23, Jason’s career will reach a new milestone with the nationwide release of the motion picture OCTOBER BABY. Jason is the male lead and is cast as the lifelong friend of Hannah Lawson (portrayed by Rachel Hendrix), who is devastated when she unintentionally learns the details of her birth and who her real mother was. OCTOBER BABY was produced by Jon Erwin and Andrew Erwin.
What was your major at Taylor?
Did you draw on any Taylor experiences during OCTOBER BABY or other projects in which you have worked?
Jason: In previous projects, I’ve played that good guy next door. I was fortunate enough to have Jon (Erwin) and his writing partner Theresa write this role for me and tailor it to my personality. I was just putting myself in that scene and these situations and honestly reacting to what was going on.
Were you in any theatre productions during your time at Taylor?
Jason: Yes. My last one was my favorite – Flowers for Algernon – that was in 2006, I believe. I grew up doing theater since middle school and knew that I wanted to do it at Taylor.
Do you consider OCTOBER BABY to be a Christian film?
Jason: OCTOBER BABY is considered faith-based, but not what you expect. For some, faith-based media can be preachy – OCTOBER BABY is not forcing an agenda. It’s just a good character-driven story with topics that are universal like forgiveness, truth, hope. And, it’s also a love story.
How did you get the part in OCTOBER BABY?
Jason: Rachel Hendrix, most of the cast members and I had worked together on a TV pilot in 2009 – it was one of those God-ordained things. We came together and immediately clicked. We became this tightknit family. The TV pilot didn’t get picked up but we wanted to work together. In 2010 the Erwins said, “We are getting the band back together.”
How long was production?
Jason: In terms of film production, it was a quick shoot. We filmed for 20 days; we got a lot accomplished. There was a lot more story that had to end up on the cutting room floor. The whole thing was shot in Alabama in Mobile and Dawson.
What is the story about your character’s relationship with Hannah?
Jason: We are childhood best friends, but I play this role for her when her whole life becomes a question mark. I’m kind of the one truth she has to hang on to while she’s going on this journey of self-discovery. She was the girl next door and we always had these unspoken feelings for each other and they kind of came out on this journey she goes on.
What do you hope will be the outcome of this film?
Jason: I know the Erwins’ goal, as it is with all of us, is to tell a good story and not have the right answers, but ask the right questions. I hope this film will spark conversation and provoke thought. We’ve been doing screenings all over the country and heard countless stories of people being healed from it, whether they’ve had an abortion themselves or known someone who has. I think that is what is cool, is seeing how the lives of some of these audience members have been touched. I hope that it will continue to do that, but really just be an entertaining, good, solid story.
What impact did your faith have in the process?
Jason: The biggest thing for me, faith-wise, was during the production of it. It was a fun project. I was doing what I loved with people that I loved. It was just a cool thing. I didn’t realize how big it was until we started doing these screenings and seeing how God was using it.
God has taken this thing and has blown open doors and is reaching people with this film. The impact I can have in this industry and how the Lord can use me in acting is the thing I’ve come to realize in all of this.
What was it like working with John Schneider – did you ever watch Dukes of Hazzard?
Jason: I caught a couple of reruns. He was Clark Kent’s dad in Smallville – that was more my generation. It was kind of surreal. I met him, like, 10 minutes before we started shooting. He was very approachable. We got to share a few scenes together. He’s a professional; he’s been in the business for quite a few years. He raised the bar for me in our scenes. He’s just a great guy and I’m honored to share the screen with him.
Fellow Taylor alumnus Andrew Belle has music in this film – did you know him in school?
Jason: I went to school with Andrew from third grade through Taylor. All that time I really didn’t know him that well. I live in Nashville now and he was in Nashville a couple of years.
Your sister, fellow Taylor graduate Heidi Burkey, is a documentary film maker who has chronicled the plight of post-earthquake Haiti and child soldiers in the Congo. It seems you both are having an impact.
Jason: I know we are both honored to be in this industry and the Lord has paved the way for us to do that, which is awesome.
Do you stay in touch with your Taylor friends?
Jason: I do stay in touch with my Taylor friends. I lived on 2E Wengatz. I run into random Taylor grads everywhere. It is random who you run into, but it is always good when you do.
What happens next in your career?
Jason: With this job you never know what happens; it can be scary but it is exciting. You just keep doing it because you love it. I am not in it for fame or money. I just feel like I’m in it because it is where the Lord has me. I’m going to take it one day at a time.
OCTOBER BABY opens March 23.