ABOVE: JEREMY LUKE. IMAGE COURTESY OF MARC CARTWRIGHT
Actor Jeremy Luke has been working the guest beat for over a decade on everything from Las Vegas to CSI; he also stars in his own web series, Turbo and Joey. This weekend, he’s set to make his box office debut in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon. In Don Jon, New York native Luke proves he’s the quintessential bro, high-fiving Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Jon Martello every time they see a “dime” at the club. He’s the hype man you want on your side on the dance floor.
It only gets better for Jeremy Luke; he’s slated to appear in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys adaptation in 2014. Before that hits theaters, Luke will return to the small screen with his own series on TNT, Mob City. On the show, he plays 1940s gangster Mickey Cohen, who runs the City of Angels into the ground and is a hot kingpin on every sergeant’s list. We spoke with him about his definition of success and what it’s like working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
NIKI CRUZ: Just to get this out of the way, being that we’re both from Staten Island, and it’s incredibly small, we happen to know a few people in common.
JEREMY LUKE: Who?
CRUZ: Gaetano Briante.
LUKE: Gaetano!? He’s the last person I thought anybody would bring up. Really? Me and Gaetano grew up together. He was my first friend. We’ve been friends since we were six years old. Gaetano’s my boy!
CRUZ: He’s married to my cousin.
LUKE: Get out!
CRUZ: Yep! Getting down to business, you’ve been acting for well over a decade. Do you feel like you’ve made it now?
LUKE: The thing is, I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, but I don’t know. If you were to ask me that question 13 years ago, after I got my first television show, I would have said “Hell yeah, I made it!” Now with Don Jon, again it’s like, “I made it!” After I did my first season of my TV show Mob City, I said, “I made it!”
CRUZ: With that said, what’s the definition of success for you? Do you have a definition?
LUKE: That’s a good question. The definition of success to me is not necessarily a price tag, not fame, but having a good life, and being able to say I did the right thing at the end of the day. Of course, the price tag is definitely part of it, but it’s not the whole thing in my book.
CRUZ: What was the process of getting cast in Don Jon?
LUKE: I went in for the audition, and then right when I walked out, the casting director said, “You’re going to meet Joe tomorrow.” And I was like, “Who’s Joe?” And she said, “Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” and I was like, “Oh shit.” I went in, and Joe and me had a conversation, and we kind of hit it off, so I wasn’t really holding back. I was giving him bear hugs and stuff like that. That was pretty much it, and then I got a call a week later saying I got the part, and I went outside and yelled on Hollywood Boulevard, and then I thought I made it.
CRUZ: How was he to work with?
LUKE: It’s funny. This is Joe’s directorial debut, and this is my first big film. He was great. I was the only one of the leads that wasn’t really a name, and he treated me just as equal as anyone else. The guy is innovative, and he’s the future of Hollywood.
CRUZ: Definitely. Especially how he integrates his thoughts on the media with his work. He seems to be tuned in to everything that’s going on around him.
LUKE: Yeah. The guy is super smart. He’s on it and he knows exactly how people perceive him. He’s in the game. I think the marketing for this movie is genius. My friend went on PornHub the other day and he saw us, which is great. [laughs]
CRUZ: Does that help you as an actor, to see how aware other actors are when it comes to social media, and how the media filters out a certain perception?
LUKE: Yeah. I think so. Watching Joe and the way he works, and his lifestyle, for me personally, it had a lot of impact. For the lifestyle that he leads, he’s such a nice guy. It’s just the way that he treats other people. He knows there’s a bigger picture than himself. He’s not a celebrity. The guy is an artist in every way, shape, and form. He puts things together, and he uses what he has on a positive note. His hitRECord thing is great. He gets people out of their shells as artists. You know that song, “My Way”?
LUKE: That’s his song! He made his movie. He didn’t have to go to a studio to make it. He didn’t have people telling him to change it. He did it his way, and it’s commendable, and I learned a lot just by watching him.
CRUZ: Were you at Sundance? The reception was amazing there for Don Jon.
LUKE: Oh, Sundance was crazy! People were stopping me in the streets, and I’m an actor, but nobody has ever seen me before. [laughs] The first night we went the energy was just dynamic. I was out every night partying it up and living it up with my friends. We bought a convertible up there.
CRUZ: In Utah?
LUKE: [laughs] We were freezing cold and we had a convertible. Ask Gaetano! Can I mention Gaetano in this interview?
CRUZ: Yeah, I’ll give Gaetano a shout-out for you. I don’t know if my editor will leave it in.
LUKE: Yo Gaetano, what up! Your cousin is interviewing me for Interview magazine, what up! Put this in! Editor—don’t edit this out! [laughs]
CRUZ: [laughs] Going back to your chemistry with Joe. It felt like I was watching two guys just hanging out and having fun. What did you guys do to build up that relationship?
LUKE: Joe was really busy, but we got together, we went out, we saw Prince, who was playing in a small venue in Hollywood. None of it was improvised. It was all scripted material.
CRUZ: Being from Staten Island, there were a lot of social cues that I recognized with the general attitude of the characters. Was that something that appealed to you in the script?
LUKE: Yeah. You know what really appealed to me? Working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt! [laughs] To be totally honest, that was the number-one thing. Honestly, when I read it, I was laughing out loud because it was a very fucking funny script. Obviously, the Staten Island stuff was all there. I’ve seen a lot of that. What I’ve seen mostly is the bad clichés, but Joe got it. The way that he got it was paying attention to the details. How his character goes to church, how he treats his friends and his women. That kind of thing is what really makes a good script.
CRUZ: Are you worrying about being typecast? It seems if you’re an actor from New York, it’s a hard thing to escape.
LUKE: That’s a good question because it’s something that I’ve always dealt with. I was typecast for 10 years. I was just getting pulled into NYPD Blue and all these shows where I’m handcuffed and someone’s smacking the shit out of me. Nobody can do me like I can do me. I don’t think of myself as a New York actor, I think about this guy who’s an actor, who happens to be from New York.
CRUZ: The film deals with so many important thematic elements. It has a lot to do with the perceptions of a relationship; but the most refreshing is the film’s conversation on the media’s sexual exploitation of women.
LUKE: Yeah. There’s a lot of messages in there. It can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It took me the second time to watch the movie to see exactly what I had interpreted out of the movie, but yeah, there’s a lot of exploitation of women. There’s a lot of coming-of-age stuff. There’s a lot of how women and men see each other, and the expectations they have of each other.
CRUZ: You just got cast in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys adaptation. That must be really thrilling.
LUKE: I don’t even know if I can talk about it. All I’m going to say is that I worked with Christopher Walken the other day. I can cross him and working with Clint Eastwood off my bucket list! I’m playing this character named Donnie, who’s a loan shark. It’s great.
DON JON OPENS IN THEATERS TODAY, SEPTEMBER 27.