[EXCLUSIVE] @JONCHAFFIN : THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS
If you’ve been following the last few weeks, you’ve seen the various features we’ve run here at UGD in support of The Haves and the Have Nots. This week, we catch up with Jon Chaffin, who plays one of the show’s most loved and hated characters, Warlock. Without going into heavy detail of his character, Jon Chaffin displays some of the best acting we’ve seen with his character, and it undoubtedly has taken the show to amazing heights. He’s got millions of fans tuning in each week to see what’s going to happen next on the show. The season is currently reaching it’s climax, and things are getting really heated right now. Jon sits down for a few moments to talk with us about the show, what’s to come, and also the many amazing things he has going on in his career outside of HAHN.
U.G. Digital Mag: First off Mr Chaffin, this is a tremendous honor to connect with you because you are one of the best I’ve seen do this. I imagine you hear it a lot, and I know the type of person you are so you don’t feed off it, but I still imagine you get it a lot. Even with what you are doing with The Haves and the Have Nots, it’s inspiring to so many. Not even fronting, I watch the show and am a die hard fan. I have said for so long that I wanted to connect, not just about the show, but also your journey. Many want to do this, and get into entertainment, acting, or more, and they get discouraged. With all you’re doing, you show people they can do it, do what they love, and make a living. They can prosper financially and professionally. I haven’t seen anybody else deliver what you do with HAHN. We regular push this man, in terms of following your passion. I walked away from career to build this publication that offers an alternative, and something that’s culture bending, and just not the norm. We love to show the positivity in people like yourself. Thank you for that. I know it’s a mouth full.
Jon Chaffin: Wow. I appreciate it and am really humbled by it.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s cool, too, because again, people easily get discouraged, and I’ve been there. This initially made no money. I had to maintain family and all else for something I love. Looking at you and so many others, you see first hand that when you put your heart and passion in, it works out.
Jon Chaffin: Yes sir. I appreciate that so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: My goal has been to connect with everybody from the show. It’s funny because I reached out to Crystal Fox, who plays Hanna, and we did that. Then I reached out to Presilah Nunez, who plays Erica. That’s running now. You’re will run here on the site and in the issue. On a side note, you worked with Markice Moore in a films that we’ll discuss later in our conversation, and he’s doing the cover. It’s so cool to see what’s going on with HAHN, and how big it has become. Getting into the show, how did War come about for you?
Jon Chaffin: It was an audition. My agent sent it to me. I did it the old-fashioned way. They liked it and brought me in for the callback. I had to go in to do it in Atlanta because I was in LA at the time. I’m still in LA. But I had to go to Atlanta for Tyler and the producers. I did my thing, and initially, I knew who this guy was. I grew up with people like him, and been around people like him. I was able to find the connection and bring it to life. Through the process, I was able to dive deeper into the psyche and personality. It was all done the old-fashioned way. I gave them my take and they liked it. As they say, the rest is history.
U.G. Digital Mag: Someone like myself, I have watched since day one. I DVR’d because I worked so much. Now I take an iPad to work with me to make sure I catch it. I binge watch at times just out of love for the show. What’s cool is it unites people with families. I watch with my mother, my wife loves it, my son loves it and begs me to DVR it. It’s funny because we watched last night, and I work a night shift gig. We watched, and as it went off, he was saying he wished another episode was coming on. Did you expect this type of success with it, especially reaching all age groups like it does? People either love or hate War.
Jon Chaffin: Yea. I had no idea. Initially it was one episode. Candace had come to him because she had gotten all her belongings taken. It wasn’t written that I would have a long shelf life. When I did it, Tyler really liked it, and he said he would write more for the character. You just never know, which is why you have to focus on the work and not so much the outcome. I didn’t go in with the idea that I would love for it to be a regular character. I just did my things, and that opened up the opportunity for more. I was totally surprised by what this role had become because like I said, it wasn’t written for that. I had no idea it would go this far, or fans would gravitate to it the way they have. It’s been an awesome ride. They either love me, or hate me. They love to hate me, hate to love me. It’s what we hope for as actors, is that the audience gravitate to the character and the work. We want to move them in some fashion, and the fact that I did that means job well done. They love the character and it’s been a blessing.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s cool because a lot of characters in many of Tyler’s shows are that way. Presilah Nunez said the same thing. She was only there for three episodes, and it grew. Crystal Fox was to be there long term obviously, but it’s great to see the smaller roles growing the way they do. I never imagined it would get this big, even though i saw big things. On Facebook, there’s a ton of groups, and I usually do some promotion there. People are like die hard fans. They have groups and everything with thousands of members. They LIVE chat each week, and they go in hard. I know Angela chats live sometimes. She actually did the cover of our first issue. Do you find time, even with how incredibly busy you are, to get on Facebook and chat?
Jon Chaffin: Oh yea. I get on, and try to respond as often as I can. i try not to live my life on social media, though. We’ve become a society that’s glued to our phones. I post and reply, but not all day and everyday. Sometimes, I LIVE tweet if I can catch the show. I am active in responding, and try to thank the fans. Without them, the show would not be what it is. We need the fans to love what we do so we can continue. I’m grateful for social media because it gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the fans. The comments, and gifs, have me cracking up. It’s hilarious, but it goes to show, like you said, how invested people are in these shows and characters. I go back to say it was unexpected that it would become this beloved character. I’m grateful. I try to reach out and thank them, or retweet. I can’t reply to everybody, but I try to like comments and let them know I see it and appreciate it.
U.G. Digital Mag: Keeping it real man, I know you can’t give nothing away, but I’d be crazy not to ask for a tidbit of intel?
Jon Chaffin: [Laughing] You just gotta watch. Let’s just say the journey comes to full circle. Hopefully, the audience will enjoy the next episode. it will definitely put some people on the edge of their seats.
U.G. Digital Mag: I say again that you guys reach all generations. I also work with someone who’s in their seventies, and she asked me last night about the show. It’s cool that you can bring people together this way. It’s amazing what we can do through entertainment.
Jon Chaffin: Yea man. It’s a blessing to affect people that way. That’s the beauty of what we do as artists, whether acting, writing, or doing poetry. Our job is to reflect the times in which we live. When we can reach and connect with people, that’s it. It’s good when people are affected in a positive way.
U.G. Digital Mag: So this is where I start to transition into some of your other work. I love how supportive the entire cast is of each other. No matter what it is, everyone supports. You did King Hedley II and you also did 96 Minutes, which paired you with Evan Ross, David Oyelowo, Markice Moore, and Hosea Chanchez. You did really good with the character, which was also somewhat villainous. In 96 minutes, what was it like bringing the role of JJ to life?
Jon Chaffin: That was an awesome experience to work with Aimee Lagos, who wrote and directed, David Oyelowo who is amazing at what he does, Evan Ross, and Markice Moore. It was really great. I knew people like that character, but it was also a learning experience. This was earlier in my career. It was a good learning curve to be on set with those veterans. I tried to learn as much as I could, and bring honesty and truth to the role. You never know how it will come out or how people will gravitate to it. You hope for good. I’ve played a variety of roles. To me, I don’t get caught up in the role. Each person has a story to tell. We are all humans and capable of the same thing. Each character deserves the same respect. I don’t get caught up in the idea of being type-cast. I make it a point not to play each role the same way because they’re all different.
U.G. Digital Mag: The phrase you said, “I Love what I do”; that’s where we all want to get. That resonated really good in King Hedley II. I haven’t seen it yet because I’m in Ohio, but I’ve seen the promo. I’ve seen your postings on social media, and I see the postings from others. It appears to have done extremely well for you.
Jon Chaffin: Yea. King Hedley II is one of August Wilson’s plays. It’s set in 1985 in his ten-play cycle in Pittsburgh in the Hill district, about King, who is returning home from a 7-year prison stint, and he’s trying to reingratiate himself into society, his wife is pregnant, and he’s trying to start a business to make money to get going in life. I play Mister, his best friend, side kick, and sometimes business partner. It was a great opportunity to get on stage and do this play, and say those words. Michele Shay who is an August Wilson-ian; she originates the role of Louise in Seven Guitars. She and Viola Davis did it on Broadway. She’s done a number of August Wilson’s plays, and she directed this production. Like you saw on Instagram, we had a great turn-out. A lot of my cast members came out, and a lot of celebrities came out. It’s a timely piece. It’s set in ’85, but the challenges they were dealing with are prevalent today in what we deal with in society. To be able to go on stage and do theatre; there’s something in that. There’s an energy you don’t get with a television show or movie. In theatre, the audience is right there and in the moment. They laugh at things you didn’t expect them to laugh at, and then they don’t laugh when you thought they would. It’s like, you have to be totally focused and in a zone with theatre. It’s a great workout, and I always wanted to do something by August Wilson. When the opportunity came, I jumped in with both feet. I plan to do more. I hope to do another play if not this year, definitely next year. We did this out here in LA, which is not known for theatre, although they’ve done some great theatre, and it was great to get the response we got.
U.G. Digital Mag: What’s the biggest lesson in your journey?
Jon Chaffin: Not to expect anything. Roll with the punches. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything, and don’t expect a return on your investment. We want what we want right then, but a career takes time to develop. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned to work hard, and believe in myself. In acting, moreso than any other career or vocation, you use yourself, and need to know who you are as a person. The more you know, and the more comfortable you are, the more you can look at your flaws and embrace the imperfections, and the more you can give to the character and story. That’s what makes a great actor. They’re able to give freely of themselves, and unblock the extra. I’ve just learned to be a professional but not expect anything and work hard.
U.G. Digital Mag: What have you taken away from the level of success black actors are beginning to see? You have people like Gabrielle Union, and you have Sanaa Lathan who was doing Shots Fired which was shockingly canceled… I thought it was so dope … but even outside of that, people like Tyler Perry are doing so amazing, and bringing opportunities to the table. I know when you came into this, the opportunities were fewer, and farther between. There’s been so much growth.
Jon Chaffin: Everything happens in waves. If you really think about it, in the nineties and earlier 2000s, we has a lot of shows, but we also were building the networks up. The CW was there, then they canceled Girlfriends, Fox had Martin and Living Single, NBC had The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. We had a lot of shows and then they died off. But now, especially with social media, people can express what they want to see, and everybody has the ability to voice their opinions as far as what they want. The conversation is being blown open. It’s a great time because there’s so much content, and so many avenues to get it out. It’s not just the major networks anymore. Sign up for cable and you get hundreds of channels. Then the streaming services. Netflix and Hulu. All these avenues, and everyone vies for attention. People are watching television on phones and laptops now. It’s a great time for artists of color to get opportunities, and create their own opportunities. Shots Fired, I thought it was great as well, but you also realize it’s a business. Shows will come and go. Sanaa Lathan will be on something else when you look up because she’s amazing. Its hard to get a show to a second season, third, and fourth. I can’t even go through all the shows that are out. People ask me if I’ve seen Game of Thrones, and I haven’t. I’m like, it’s seven seasons in. Ain’t no point of even jumping in now. I would literally have to spend my whole week or two glued to the television. I just don’t have that time. That goes to show how much is out there. You try to find what you like and ride with them. You miss a week or two and get left behind. The way the shows are done now is changing. They don’t do 23 episodes in a season. Now they do 10 or 13. They air the first 10 in the spring, and then you don’t see it again until the fall. I was just talking with my fiancé about when How to Get Away with Murder is coming back on. I feel like I haven’t seen it in forever. It’s so many other things you’re watching. It’s good and bad. Right now it’s a great time for actors, writers, and producers. There’s such a need for content, and so many more avenues to get it out.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re right, though. I’m the exact same way in the fact that I work so much that I miss a lot of TV. My wife and I just started streaming, and we’re doing Roku now.
Jon Chaffin: Right. That’s where the industry is going. People were hanging on for sports, but you look at Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and soon the services will be as much as cable because you’ll have 5 or 6 subscriptions.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. I just binge watched Survivor’s Remorse, and saw how amazing it was. You’re definitely right about the content out there. What are you most thankful for?
Jon Chaffin: Just being able to do what I love. Having the opportunity to pursue my dreams. I’m thankful for life and good health. We take for granted the little things. I‘m grateful I’ve been gifted this talent to entertain, and the opportunity to pursue it, perfect it, and work at it. We spoke earlier about you leaving your job to do what you love. I’m a firm believer of not living your life with what ifs. As you have children, and I don’t but hope to some day, you want to push them to pursue their goals some day. It would be hard if I didn’t do it for myself. I want to lead by example. Go after what you truly desire in your heart because tomorrow is not promised. We’re all going to die at some point, so when you realize that, you come to realize nothing is as serious as we make it. Live a life that it pleasing to yourself that you can enjoy. Try not to hurt anybody in the process.
U.G. Digital Mag: Everyone has watched your journey. We saw that you went to school and put yourself in a place to be noticed. What advice do you offer to those out there who dream of this type of life, or any profession?
Jon Chaffin: I would say learn as much about the path that you are about to take. Understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Have a talk with yourself about the reasons for wanting to do it. I get asked a lot about how someone should start, and when you tell them, they have a look like “I actually have to do work?”. What are you doing it for? Do you want to be seen and famous, or is there something you have to get out, or stories you have to tell? That’s why I ask people. If this is something you want to do, you have to believe it is possible. You can’t get discouraged by the naysayers. Fulfill the promise to yourself. Push yourself and strive to go that extra mile. What people don’t understand is it’s not hard. It’s just hard to believe. That’s the hardest part. Once you conquer that part, the rest is about putting in the work and letting the chips fall where they may. You have people who pursue for years and it’s like there’s nothing; then you have people who step off the boat and jump and they blow up. I can’t say it will take ten years, or ten days. Every path is different. I say to stay encouraged. Learn the business and craft. Study it. You’ll have to study it for the rest of your life. You’ll never have it all. We grow, evolve, experience life and change, and you have to incorporate it into your work. You have to believe in yourself. That’s what I believe is the formula. If you need to listen to motivational speakers to keep you motivated, do it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t second guess sometimes, or wonder if something was going to work. I also ask myself if there would be anything else that would make me more happy, and luckily that answer has been no. That’s how I know I’m on the right path, but if there’s something else you can do to make you happy, I say go and do that. This is a tough business and it’s not for the faint at heart.
U.G. Digital Mag: I thank you for so many things, especially the encouragement that I and so many others get. Again, we watched you work from the bottom up. I take it back to the show as well. I love the show and character. I’m counting down til next Tuesday. It’s dope and I love what you guys do. I appreciate your time. It’s cool to connect with people you admire.
Jon Chaffin: I appreciate you man. Thank you so much. The words gave me life today and I needed that.