Steered into the acting industry by fate after injuring himself at a dance audition, JordanBolger discovered a new adrenaline rush that hit hard: “I got to be someone else, and it was so freeing.”
This sliding doors moment enabled fresh expression and movement, entering elusive, distant worlds: heading up a gang of cyborg bikers in Star Wars spin-off series The Book of Boba Fett, or travelling to Cape Town to film Gina Prince-Bythewood’s ambitious new project, The Woman King – a historical epic centred around the Dahomey Amazons, an all-female warrior unit active in the 18th and 19th centuries, lead by multi-award winner Viola Davis.
Fellow actor Tati Gabrielle, and Bolger’s co-star on CW series The 100, is also riding the high-octane Hollywood thrill, starring as a ruthless treasure hunter in the movie adaptation of cult game Uncharted alongside Tom Holland and Antonio Banderas. Bolger and Gabrielle reconnect for an honest and insightful conversation; a quick breather before their next rush.
Jordan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello SS22
Tati Gabrielle: Hello! What have you been up to?
Jordan Bolger: I’m in Cape Town filming The Woman King, Viola Davis’ new period piece set in West Africa. It’s a gritty one, it’s a lot to get into, which I’m enjoying. It’s the first time I’m getting to be a man on screen, not a young boy or playing someone younger than myself but actually someone of my age.
Tati: How does it make you feel to be able to portray this type of man?
Jordan: It’s exciting. Like a lot of people, I don’t always see my own achievements or my own growth, I still feel like a young boy who’s trying to achieve. Usually I try to avoid seeing myself on screen, it’s not really something I like. But with this, I saw a man and realised I’ve grown, I’ve matured as a person, as a human, as an actor and that just set off a whole load of things in my life. I’m excited to be working with such a talented cast. I could never imagine it a couple of years ago. What about you? What’s crackin’?
Tati: You know, I’m hanging, chilling a little bit. I’m in New York at the moment filming a new Netflix series called Jigsaw that’s supposed to come out next year with Giancarlo Esposito, Rufus Sewell and Paz Vega. It’s based on a real-life event during Hurricane Sandy in New York; seven billion dollars worth of bonds went missing from Manhattan in the middle of the hurricane and nobody knows what happened. It’s not like any project I’ve done before, the whole thing is like a puzzle and each episode is by colour instead of by number, so the audience will have the opportunity to watch it in any order they choose, which is really cool. I’ve also got a movie coming out next month, Uncharted. I’m excited about it but I’m so nervous!
Jordan: Just a little, not that busy! [both laugh]
Tati: So, tell the people how we met.
Jordan: I walked into a lift and there was this girl with really long, white dreads. I was going down to the ground floor and, in a lift, you never know if you should be like, “Oh, hey!” and start a conversation, or just ignore each other. But then this girl turned to me and said, “Are you Jordan Bolger?” [both laugh] At this point, in my head, I thought you wouldn’t know who I was from anything I’d done, so I was so confused. I’ll let you take over. How did you know?
Tati: My sweet mother. Every project I take, especially if it’s been a recurring project, she always keeps tabs on who the cast is and the new cast coming in, and so when I started my second year on The 100 my mum was like, “Have you met any of the newcast yet? Have you met Jordan?” And I was like, “No Mum, I don’t know who Jordan is,” she’s like, “Oh well he’s your age and dah dah…” and I was like, “Okay yeah, that’s great Mum, I’ll see him when I see him, I guess.” Then a day or two later I’m in this elevator and this boy steps in and I’m like, “Jordan?”
Jordan: The thing was though, you were unsure, like “Are you Jordan Bolger?” But I was like, “I’m in Vancouver, I’ve just landed here, I don’t know anyone, there’s no way… and how are you unsure also?” [laughs]
Tati: Sure enough, as the universe serendipitously goes, there you were. [laughs]
Jordan: We’re like family now.
Jordan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello SS22
“I don’t always see my own achievements or my own growth, I still feel like a young boy who’s trying to achieve.”
Tati: What was your career path to get here?
Jordan: I never intended going this route, I wasn’t like, “Oh I’m going to be an actor.” Really young, the first thing I wanted to be was a bouncer.
Tati: You wanted to be a bouncer?! I don’t think you ever told me that. [laughs]
Jordan: I was maybe five or something and apparently I just came up to my mum and was like, “Look Mum, I want to be a bouncer, I want to wear a suit and I want to be able to beat people up.”
Tati: Turning people away at the door.
Jordan: [laughs] I grew up in a house that was very eclectic, I saw lots of different artists, performers, I got to watch a lot of things. I knew that one day I was going to do something for an audience in some way. I knew that was where I was heading, but I had no idea how. Then I went through my teen years, where you have many choices and things can go different ways, and I went my own route that didn’t look like it was ending up here by any means. But at some point I got into dance, and that really showed me you can do things other than what you’re doing right now. I got injured actually, a silver lining moment, I got injured while I was at boarding school, gave acting a go and that was it. I went for auditions with nothing to lose. At that point I wanted to be a professional dancer, I wanted to dance behind Beyoncé on music videos, but I was injured so I thought, “Let’s just try and make some money or have some fun.” I did three adverts and then got an audition for Peaky Blinders, which was my door into the industry. And now we’re here.
Tati: What attracted you to acting?
Jordan: It was the adrenaline rush. Also, I got to be someone else, and it was so freeing. I love being someone else and improvising as that person, and this is something I realised later in life, but it’s so powerful what we do. If we tell the right stories and have the right intentions, we can shape generations.
Jordan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello SS22
Tati: How do you think each project has informed you, moving forward in your work and your outlook?
Jordan: As I’ve grown as a person and learned more about the world – how things work, the reality behind things – the veil drops a little bit. As I’ve gone through those transitions in life, my perspective on work has also changed, you don’t always have to be saying, “This is going to teach me lessons, this is going to help me,” it doesn’t have to [be that obvious]. I’ve realised certain things don’t serve me in the way I thought they would when I was younger. Which you expect, because we mature and a certain lifestyle looks great but in reality, it’s not; on paper this sounds good but when you try and do it, it doesn’t work. So I think I’ve fine-tuned what serves me, what kind of things I want to be attached to. Now I’m starting to look at styles of directing and what I’m going to get from each job and go, “If this was a drama school, what would I expect to come away with?”
Jordan: I think we can keep it interesting for ourselves through little things, which I’m trying to adopt now, because if you find something you love and it is your passion, it can still turn into a ‘job’ if you don’t do it in the right way. So I’m trying to make sure what I do is because I love it, and it serves an audience.
Tati: And it should always be charged with curiosity, with some level of investment that’s beyond getting a cheque. How do you feel that’s going to affect you as an actor and a person?
Jordan: It gives an opportunity for more clarity overall. When you’re attached to anything that isn’t for you – whether it’s a job, person, lifestyle choice, whatever – so many things come from it that throw off other parts of your life. Even if it’s just the fact you choose to do this one thing once a week, it will throw off something else. So if I have clarity in all areas, like, “I want to do it, I love it, I want to be here, I want to be friends with you, I want to live this way,” then hopefully I’m closer to finding zen in life. That’s what I hope it’ll bring, that my job isn’t a stress.
Tati: A saying I try to live by is, “Do what you love, love what you do.” Because of how the world is structured, the majority of our lives are spent working. So if you’re spending 75 percent of your day at work you want to still have a high quality of life and be able to enjoy that, and for it to fulfil you.
Jordan: That’s what I’ve learned through this career path. I’ve worked many jobs, at the complete opposite ends of the spectrum and everything in-between, and some of them I’ve found easier to enjoy every day than I do acting. This is a job I looked at, and most people look at, as being, ‘you can’t complain if you’re in this position because you must be a millionaire or you must be happy with life’. But I’ve realised that it is a job, and you can have highs and lows. Some days I think, “This is tough,” the same way I did when I was working in a gallery, or delivering, or whatever it was. So even though I’m here in a place that I never thought I’d be, I get to see and do things I never thought I’d do, I can still be like, “This isn’t feeling great,” but that’s because we have to have balance. And this job allows us to be around a lot of people of different ages [and backgrounds].
Tati: With that, how was your experience on The Book of Boba Fett as part of the Star Wars franchise?!
Jordan: It’s mad. Even you saying that… it hasn’t really sunk in.
Tati: It’s mind-blowing!
Jordan: I still get weird about it. I find it strange when people have seen me in anything, whether it’s an advert or whatever, it doesn’t become normal. But my name…me and Star Wars… what?! Never in my wildest dreams would I have been like, “I’m going to be part of Star Wars.” I’m still struggling to fathom it to a degree, but I’m very grateful to be experiencing this feeling of not knowing how to react. [laughs] But doing it, actually shooting it and being a part of it was so unique, it’s so different to anything else I’ve done because it’s the first project I’m watching with the audience going, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” because I didn’t get other people’s scenes, I just got what I was shooting.Tati: Oh, interesting.Jordan: I never had a clue other than what I was doing, so as I’m watching it I’m like, “Oh so that’s what that is, that’s who that person is playing.” It gives you that excitement still.
Tati: Did you find not knowing other parts of the story helped with your acting?
Jordan: Yeah, I enjoyed it. It was just such a different experience. Also, Jon Favreau [creator, The Book of Boba Fett] and his team, that place and the technology on set. I was like a child. But what’s also crazy is the people behind it, they’re not up there with their heads, they’re down to earth. I really enjoyed my time.
Tati: What was your biggest takeaway from it?
Jordan: Honestly, it was that you can achieve anything. I can do whatever I set my mind to. I didn’t have to go in for Star Wars, there was something that made me do it, but in my head, I was also going, “They aren’t going to pick me for Star Wars.” That broke something where now the sky’s the limit, if I want something I’ll do it.
Tati: You’re your own limitation.
Jordan: I’m loving the experience of watching it go out to the world and seeing what people are saying. Again, fandom-wise it’s insane. I’m very thankful to be a part of it. How was Uncharted? Because that’s also huge.
Tati: It was mind-blowing, one of my friends yesterday sent me another teaser trailer that dropped on TikTok and you see Tom Holland’s face, you see Mark Wahlberg’s face, you see Antonio Banderas’ face and you see my face, what?! I almost started crying because I would never have thought it. It was such an eye-opening experience, this is my first introduction to film and it really taught me… first of all I got to learn a bunch of stunts, which was awesome and I’ve never got to do that before. And also it really taught me how to stand up for myself working in this industry. Going through that process, we hit some bumps in the road and things but I had a wonderful mentor in Mark Wahlberg and he really guided me through certain things, like, “It’s okay, you’re not being a diva or being difficult if you’re just asking for something,” you’re basically teaching people to respect your own value. It was a really big thing I learned through that experience.
Jordan: That’s going to leave you in a great position – and to pass that on as well.
“I’ve realised certain things don’t serve me in the way I thought they would when I was younger.”
Jordan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello SS22
Tati: Who inspires you?
Jordan: My mum is the first person, because I just wouldn’t be here without her, in the most foundational way. She brought me to this world, to this life, but then also I know that I wouldn’t have a set-up without her work and sacrifice. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get where I am now without her going above and beyond, at her own expense. As I’m getting older, I’m realising how hard that must’ve been. What about you?
Tati: I’d definitely say my mum too, because similarly, she had a hard life and ever since I was little I’ve always called her my superhero. She could sacrifice and retain so much strength, it’s something I always look up to and want to be able to carry that same strength. Outside of that, I think my biggest role model since I was a kid has always been Eartha Kitt, there’s just something about her. I think it might’ve been middle school I was first introduced to her, when I was eleven or twelve. I just remember being wowed by this woman. She’s beautiful, she’s got this air about her, you couldn’t challenge her if you tried and if you did, you better get ready to have your head bit off.
Jordan: You’ve definitely got that energy now, I’ve seen it! [both laugh]
“I’m trying to make sure what I do is because I love it, and it serves an audience.”
Tati: I’m nice, I don’t know what you’re talking about! [laughs] She instilled in me the sense that I can be unapologetic, I can stand my ground and nobody can tell me nothing, I can tell me and that’s it. She was a really good female role model, there’s this one video I often show where she goes, “Compromise? What’s compromise? For what?” [laughs] So my mum and Eartha Kitt. I wanted to ask you, what do you perceive as success?
Jordan: I guess it’s similar to what I was saying earlier, what I perceived and what I perceive as success now are different things. But I have what I know is ‘success’. I know if I achieve ‘these things’ then life is successful, and then there’s what my brain fixates on because of the life we live and all these stresses, you go, “I need this, I need that.” So I know that if I can have running water, a house above my head, I’m healthy, my family are healthy, I have love in my life, those basics, that’s success. Just enjoy life and you don’t need all these extra things, but then my brain fixates to a degree and there are some things I do accept I’m still working for and I want them. Whether I will count myself unsuccessful if I don’t achieve them, I don’t know. This is what we work through in life and we learn, but for me, I want to be successful in a sense that I have financial security, not have to worry.
Tati: To be comfortable, yeah.
Jordan: I’ve already learned at this point that money doesn’t bring happiness, money comes and things stay the same. It doesn’t change the things that you really need to change. Really I want a happy, healthy family and I want to be able to see a good sunrise, a good sunset, clear skies at night for the stars and the moon.
Tati: The little things are the most fulfilling.
Jordan: What about you?
Tati: I perceive success as fulfilment, as when one can truly say they have joy in that. Fulfilment not by the way of who’s got the most money, who’s the most famous – to me that doesn’t equal fulfilment. It’s having love, having family around, being able to go out, go on a hike, go swimming in the ocean, that’s fulfilment. When you’re able to live your life without stress, without the worry of what has to come next or what else you have to do rather than what do you want to do.
Jordan: That’s a privilege, some people have that privilege their whole lives of “What do I want to do?” not “What do I have to do?”
Tati: But it makes the want so much sweeter when you’ve had to struggle beforehand, when you’ve been through the, “What do I have to do?” Then you get to see the display of your work and the display of your success in the change of the question. I don’t know if my view of success has ever changed because since I was little I always just wanted to be happy, I wanted the world to be happy. I’ve wanted a utopian world since I was a kid.
Jordan: I remember you telling me that.
Tati: I wanted to change the world through stories and so, to me, the success of that would be a utopian world – that’s what I thought when I was a kid. So love and fulfilment over everything. Love and light, that’s my motto, you got love and light, you got success, boy.
Interview originally published inside HERO 27.
Jordan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello SS22.