It's My Life PBS Kids Go!
Celeb Scoop: James Maslow

By It's My Life on November 25, 2009 1:24 PM | No TrackBacks

jamesmaslow1.jpgLife is about to change for 19-year-old James Maslow, one of the stars of Nickelodeon's new series "Big Time Rush." James is no overnight success, however; he's been working hard at music, acting, and dancing ever since elementary school. Now TV audiences will be able to enjoy his many talents, but we have a feeling he won't let it go to his head. James has a sweet, smart approach to his life and his work that we found really inspiring (and crushable) when we recently spoke to him.

"Big Time Rush" previews on Nickelodeon this Saturday night, November 28th, at 8:30pm (and again on Sunday at 12 noon).

IML: First of all, tell us about "Big Time Rush." It looks really cool!

James: It's about four friends who grew up in Minnesota and were hockey players. My character, James Diamond, always wanted to be a pop star. He's a lovable narcissist, if you will. He follows trends and is very fashionable. This "American Idol" type competition comes to our town and we hear about it at the last second. They end up picking my buddy but he says he won't go without the rest of us, and the four of us go to Los Angeles to become a music group. They're trying to turn us into this terrible 80's/90's boy band but we don't want to do that. Instead, we become this funny "anti-boy band" as sort of exaggerated versions of ourselves. I think it shows how normal kids can go off and do something extraordinary.

IML: We're assuming that the "lovable narcissist" part is one of the ways you and your character are different! How else are you different, and how are you similar?

James: Well, we're similar in that if we have to go to an event, we'll both get dressed up. But James Diamond is ALWAYS dressed up, always has his hair done and looking good and trying to impress people. Whereas my favorite outfit is a tank and some running pants or jeans. I pretty much wear whatever's clean that day! I'm just a little more laid back about things. We're both very driven, however. James Diamond is incredibly driven by this urge to be famous and be a pop star, to get his name out. I'm far more driven by the idea that I can do what I love, and if I work hard and do a good job, hopefully I'll get to do this for the rest of my life. So his goal is fame, while my goal is to be as good as I can possibly be at something I love.

IML: What are your fellow cast members like? Do you get along?

James: They're terrible people! I can't stand them! Ha ha ha. Honestly, they're just great. It's a dream come true to be working with people that I actually get along with. Logan and I have known each other for two years now, since we first auditioned, and Carlos came in during the third screen test. The last member, Kendall, just came during the last few months but already he's absolutely clicked. We've become like brothers onscreen and off. Onscreen we're best friends and offscreen we really can rely on one another. We're shooting single camera, which means 12, 14, 16 hour days and we're recording the album. It's so nice to have guys there who are in the exact same boat. We all just want to do a great job. And they're so talented.

IML: Have you watched past shows like "The Monkees" to get inspiration?

James: Funny you should ask that! With our show, the creator looked at "The Monkees" and in some ways we are a new age version. Because although we were created for the show, in real life we are becoming a band. There are a couple of episodes where we do little goofs on The Monkees. We all goof around just like they did. Some of it comes up in little gags in the show. I don't think we're trying to recreate it in any way, but the mentality is there. They did such a good job and they're so fun to watch. They all just enjoyed each other's company. It's fun to watch them being best friends. I've definitely gone back and watched some of those episodes. To be compared to them would be an honor!

IML: It sounds like the show has a lot of positive messages.

James: Yes, I think every character puts out a good message. James Diamond, for example. He really, really wants to be famous and wants to be a pop star. He does focus on himself, but in the end he doesn't do that to the detriment of his friends. It's always "friends first." Kendall is a great example as well. He doesn't want to go and do this on his own without the rest of us. And that's a larger theme -- that each one of us would not go far without the others. That's a great message: hold strong to your friends, and stay positive about what you're doing. And continue to be caring. I think the second you become selfish, things may work out for you initially but in the long run, I don't think people are ultimately happy when they're by themselves.

IML: You've been singing for a long time. You joined the San Diego Children's Choir when you were little, right?

James: I was 5 or 6 years old. That's one thing I will accredit to my mom. Because I didn't even KNOW I was joining the choir...I was just kind of signed up! Someone happened to drop me off at a rehearsal I didn't know about! And I hated it for the first 2 weeks. Then something clicked and I just fell in love with singing. I'd always sung before that, like in the shower or around the house, but to realize I could actually do this and make a sound, and sing with other amazing people who could contribute to that enormous sound. It was really cool, and really got me started in everything because that led to opera and musical theatre and then film and television.

IML: That experience of being part of something larger than yourself -- what did that add to your life as you were growing up?

jamesmaslow2.jpgJames: It's interesting, because I grew up playing sports. I don't know if most of my friends knew that I sang, because it was kind of two different worlds. But I was always friends with everybody. It taught me that other people had their own unique interests, whether it was drawing, cooking, etc. That's their thing and that's cool, and you have to learn to respect that. I started to realize how much I loved singing and how good that made me feel, maybe because it was something unique to me and I found something I loved. You have to respect and honor how people feel about what they do. And singing in a group like a choir... The sound that we could create as a group can move people so much more than just one voice.

IML: Then later, you started to do more musical theatre. What was your favorite role?

James: I was in Les Miz ["Les Miserables"] and I got to play Marius. That was probably the most influential role I had in musical theatre, as a transition to film and television, because I was just so emotionally connected to that character. During the months I spent rehearsing, I found things in my voice singing a song that I'd never found before. Back then it was like a discovery and so exciting. It was also the first time I ever watched myself back on tape. I remember thinking, "That's really cool. If I could ever combine this with film and TV it would be a dream come true." And guess what -- I'm living that dream come true!

IML: Why do you think it's important for young people to participate in the arts, even if they don't think they have any talent?

James: You know, I think it's silly when people say they don't have any talent. I think all that means is that they haven't discovered it yet, or they ignore things they just don't realize they're good at. Even at a performing arts school where there are so many talented kids, there are still those kids who say, "Oh, I do art because I can't sing," and then you hear them humming later and you think, they have a miraculous voice! The arts bring out confidence in people. In general, people in the arts are so open and so loving and caring, it's such a welcoming environment. There's something about everyone doing this because they love it, and they love to be around other people who love it. And for kids who are afraid to jump into that drama class or whatever -- I played sports too. There doesn't have to be a separation. Just do what you want to do and have fun. Chances are, you're better at it than you think.

IML: You're a songwriter too. What inspires you to write a song?

James: You know, there are some songs that take a long time. One of the first completely finished songs I wrote, it took about a year and a half to finish because I was focusing on one thing...One person, actually. And so, people in my life, whether it's relationships or family, will inspire me to write something. Then, recently I was sitting down at a piano with a friend of mine and we started playing a tune, and starting thinking about something, and we came up with this song idea on the spot and it just felt right. And I consider that song to be just as good as the one that took a year and a half! Because it was fun and uplifting compared to that year-and-a-half long ballad. Like a lot of people, my surroundings and the people that surround me drive my songs. I think most of my songs are based on an emotion and in every song I write, there's at least a partial truth.

IML: Is there a charity or a certain cause you're passionate about? If you become a big star, you might be in a position to really make a difference somewhere.

James: There are so many amazing charities out there, it would be tough to single out a few. But something that I've always been very passionate about is health in this country. I was originally going to be a personal trainer before this career took over. I've always been very active; I grew up doing martial arts and climbing. I have so much fun doing that stuff, and I try to do something active every day like a hike or run. I'd love to help get that message across to kids that you can absolutely go out and be active, be healthy. It's so easy. I'd love to open up sessions at a Boys and Girls Club or something where kids can learn nutrition and how to exercise in a fun way. Especially for young guys. I'd love to be an inspiration.

IML: You just mentioned that you're involved in a lot of outdoor activities. What do these add to your life and how do they fit into your music and your acting?

James: It's absolutely my biggest stress relief. Sometimes I'm literally going and boxing for an hour. Sometimes it's just a preventative measure. Being healthy -- that means there's one less thing I have to worry about. Actually I was a little bit of a chunky kid myself so maybe that's part of it. I don't want to deal with that again. These days it gives me a bit of an edge. When we go do these long hours on the show, I tend to get tired less quickly than other people. I tend to stay healthy because I've been eating right and exercising. It makes life so much easier when you're healthy. I also like to challenge myself by making my own physical goals and beating them.

IML: So we love to ask this question. Most of our readers are in middle school. What were you like back then?

James: I was a chunky kid, but I didn't let it get me down. I loved to be active but I didn't think about it as much. A lot of people say they were stuck in cliques in middle school, but I was never like that. I was friends with all different people and all different groups. And that led me to being friends with a few people who didn't even go to my school. Now I have the most amazing collection of friends of all ethnic backgrounds and upbringing and financial backgrounds. I learned that you find the best people when you hang out with people from every single group and area. I went to a lot of different schools and jumped around, so I was able to do that. I know some kids make it very hard to break out and do your own thing, but that sort of goes back to the arts thing we were talking about. Break away and do what you want to do!

IML: Well, you've certainly done that! We can't wait to see the show, and we wish you all good things to come. It sounds like you deserve it!

James: Thank you!

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