Recently, Nick Jonas was nominated for a Golden Globe for his song “Home” and attended the premiere of his first Hollywood Blockbuster, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, in the same day.
He refers to it as “one of the craziest days of (his) life.”
“What’s incredible about this moment right now is that 13, 14 years into my career… I’m still having new experiences and days where I wake up to a dream of mine coming true and close the day with another dream coming true,” the 25-year-old actor and singer says. “I’m really proud and humbled and thrilled to be in a spot to be able to keep this thing rolling.”
Jonas stars alongside Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Karen Gillan in the standalone sequel to the 1995 fantasy adventure film starring Robin Williams. The original film features a mysterious board game that traps its players in the game until they finish it, presenting a slew of dangerous surprises in the process. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle follows a similar storyline, but with a 2017 twist; instead of discovering a board game, four teenagers are sucked into a videogame and must work together to save Jumanji — and each other.
Jonas plays Alex, whose character in the game is an anxious pilot and de facto expert on the perils of the Jumanji world. Jonas says his character is the “emotional anchor” of the movie, which will also leave audiences biting their nails one minute and stifling laughter the next. But how does the movie introduce nuances that are applicable to newer audiences while still paying homage to the original?
Jonas says the cast made it a priority to keep the original story in mind while simultaneously creating their own.
“It was about finding a way to tell a new Jumanji adventure, a new story and it felt fresh… (we were) able to take this beloved classic and introduce it to a brand new audience,” he explains. “As a fan of the original myself, I was thrilled to get the chance to take a title like this that people love so much and find a way to give it a new and exciting edge.”
Jonas has been taking chances since he found fame through the Disney Channel, starring in several movies, including Camp Rock, and the TV show, Jonas, with his siblings and Jonas Brothers bandmates Kevin and Joe.
In 2014, he showed promise as a successful solo artist, adding a host of awards to his arsenal. He hopes to continue making music while he “rides the wave” of his burgeoning acting career.
“The fun of making an album is that you get to tell your stories and your own journey creatively and it’s really individual to you, whereas with a film, you’re telling somebody else’s story and working with a group and it’s really a team effort,” he explains. “I love the fact that I get to switch it up and jump between the two… Having both is the greatest gift.”
Jonas says in every role he plays, he takes something from his real life and connects the dots creatively to his character. Each character in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has strengths and weaknesses that can help or hinder them from achieving certain things in the game. The crew must work together to get to the final level before losing all three of their lives. Alex’s weaknesses include mosquitoes — he almost loses one of his lives to the pesky insects.
“His strengths are making margaritas, which is not the most useful tool in the jungle as well as flying, although that’s challenging for him as well,” he says. “In my own life, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses would be. If I had to categorize it like a video game, I would say that my strengths would be that I’m very driven and very focused. My weakness would probably be I get in my own head sometimes and overthink things.”
Jonas can relate to Alex’s fear of flying, so he’s happy the helicopter scenes were all done in front of a green screen. In one scene, he has to fly the squad to safety, despite a damaged aircraft and some serious reservations about his prowess as a pilot.
“It was a fun scene to shoot, (but) challenging because it’s all green screen and you really have to use your imagination,” he says. “The four main heroes in the film, they kind of come to a pivotal moment and they need to escape. My character, he’s been so crippled by fear because of his past attempts not going as planned, but he has to get in his helicopter and go. Obviously, craziness ensues.”
The scene starts with Jonas dramatically putting on a pair of aviator glasses.
“Looking back on it, it’s kind of one of those things you dream about being able to do as an actor,” he admits. “To have one of those cool movie star shots, putting your sunglasses on and whipping a helicopter around, so I’m pumped about that.”
To make Jumanji’s exotic locale authentic, the film was shot in Oahu, Hawaii.
“We were literally in the middle of a jungle of Hawaii and it was a fun time and a great experience. I’ll just remember for next time to bring more bug spray,” Jonas says with a coy chuckle.
The bugs were a big factor, he says, especially for co-star Kevin Hart.
“Dwayne caught wind pretty quick that Kevin Hart was not a fan of the bugs, so he made sure to plant a bunch of bugs everywhere that Kevin was, even if they weren’t real,” he says. “He would just find some fake ones and film Kevin’s reaction.”
Though Jonas describes it as a “very prank-centric set,” the cast and crew were very serious about conveying their connection to the original movie while appealing to audiences of all ages.
“Everyone had a connection to it and to Robin Williams and his legacy, his brilliance and I think that’s why we really approached this with a lot of care and a real focus on… finding a way to give the audience something really fresh,” he says.