Make Me Blink
Jahmil French talks fearlessness, seizing opportunities and expressing himself as a multi-disciplinary artist.
It’s difficult to make Jahmil French flinch. The 21-year-old Toronto native has an unnerving confidence that allows him to hold his own, no matter what form of art he is expressing himself through. The actor first appeared on television at the age of 16 in a guest appearance on CTV’s Flashpoint and then was cast in his current role as Dave Turner on Degrassi at age 18. French has since expanded his artistic realm with appearances on stage, performing with his dance crew The Moon Runners. The young actor/musician/dancer/poet seizes just about any opportunity thrown his way, never blinking at a challenge, and practice has done him well. French flourishes in front of an audience; a fearless performer who continues to grow as an artist with each new challenge.
Lauren Pincente: When did you decide to officially call yourself an actor?
Jahmil French: I saw The Lion King when I was seven and right then, I knew that I wanted to be in movies. Plain and simple. It’s funny because there are not any actors in animated films, but I had made up my mind. [After I watched the film] I would crawl around the house like a lion.
LP: Degrassi is an impressive feat for your first television gig. How did you land the role of Dave Turner?
JF: I auditioned for a pilot called St. Brigid’s Medical that Epitome Pictures was producing in 2008. I landed the role of “Garnet” but the show never made it to series. Degrassi producers [Stephen Stohn and Linda Schuyler] saw my work and wanted to make something happen with me. And that’s how Dave Turner was born.
LP: Dave is depicted as a clear-headed, genuine guy who is a passionate artist. How true to life is your image on the show?
JF: Degrassi keeps it real. It’s the same with all of the characters on the show, I think. Dave is ambitious, passionate, confident and slick. He always goes after what he wants, no matter what it takes. I can relate to that.
LP: In Season 12, Dave is cast as the gay lead in the school play, Romeo and Jules. Was it even more challenging to take on a controversial episode when both you and your character are out of their element?
JF: There was no process involved in this. I took it on like anything else I would with the show. When it comes to acting, I’m fearless.
LP: Like your character, you are a musician and perform with a dance crew. What role do these other art forms play in your everyday life?
JF: Music is my art; it’s my biggest influence, period. I saw Michael Jackson perform when I was three and I knew I wanted to perform for people. Dance complements my passion for music and I can’t imagine a day where I am not doing it.
LP: You also train and perform with a hip-hop dance crew known as The Moon Runners. How did you get into dance?
JF: As I said earlier, Michael Jackson was my original inspiration. When I met other dancers, we became close friends and formed The Moon Runners. The name comes from a gang in the film The Warriors. We busk at Yonge and Dundas Square with a friend’s b-boy group and we are being showcased at the World of Dance convention at The Guvernment again this year on September 30th. There will be free-styling and battles… We’re just trying to keep hip hop alive on the streets.
LP: As an artist, what is your preferential form of expression?
JF: Acting is my career and discipline. I write, dance, perform and make music any chance I get because they satisfy my need to create and express myself. But I love them all equally.
LP: What philosophy keeps you going?
JF: Whether I’m sponsoring a program, performing or speaking to large audiences, I want to help people around the world. I want to bring people together through my work. I just hope that the opportunities keep presenting themselves because I want to keep growing as an artist and person.
Catch up on the new season of Degrassi on MuchMusic.com!