While exciting, being a child star is also hard work; The Torch speaks with teen TV and film actor Jet Jurgensmeyer

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While exciting, being a child star is also hard work; The Torch speaks with teen TV and film actor Jet Jurgensmeyer

Jet Jurgensmeyer (right), with Tim Allen on the set of Last Man Standing, spoke with The Torch about the ups and downs of being a child actor.

Jet Jurgensmeyer (right), with Tim Allen on the set of Last Man Standing, spoke with The Torch about the ups and downs of being a child actor.

Jet Jurgensmeyer (right), with Tim Allen on the set of Last Man Standing, spoke with The Torch about the ups and downs of being a child actor.

Jet Jurgensmeyer (right), with Tim Allen on the set of Last Man Standing, spoke with The Torch about the ups and downs of being a child actor.

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Lights, camera, action! 

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Hollywood star? According to one teen actor, life’s not all that different. Besides, of course, having your face seen and voice heard on millions of television screens every week.

The Torch had the incredible opportunity of interviewing teen star Jet Jurgensmeyer and Emmy-nominated producer John Amodeo about their experiences in the industry.

Jurgensmeyer, 14, has starred in a variety of different television shows and movies, including Last Man Standing, Adventures in Babysitting, Grey’s Anatomy, Black-ish, and American Sniper, while also voicing in children’s television programming such as Bubble Guppies and T.O.T.S. 

Amodeo has been the face behind numerous shows such as the Emmy nominated comedy series Arrested Development, Sports Night and Last Man Standing.

For Jurgensmeyer, life has always revolved around the entertainment industry. His parents owned a dinner show restaurant in Nashville, where as a young child he would be excited to tell jokes and sing in front of crowds. By the age of four, he had an agent; at five, he was acting in Los Angeles. 

 While acting can be both rewarding and fun, it definitely comes with some challenges, especially for one entering the business as a child. Jurgensmeyer admits, “I have the best job in the world, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices when you are working,” Jurgensmeyer explains. “You are committed to work and have to miss things you’re invited to, like a party, a family event, or something else and can’t go.” 

Jet Jurgensmeyer

Just like the average teenager, Jurgensmeyer diligently focuses on his school work while also making time for extracurriculars. However, he reveals that his days working on set tend to be easier than his school days. “I am home-schooled, and I will try to put in long days when I am not working to stay ahead,” the teen star explains. 

Jurgensmeyer also pursues other hobbies such as music, sports, work on his family’s farm in Missouri, and ham radio (or amateur radio, where hobbyists use radio frequency for private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communication). In fact, he has recorded several albums and hopes to write more songs and scripts in the future. His YouTube channel is updated weekly with new songs and covers, and he has been featured on Radio Disney. Maintaining all these preoccupations is not an easy task, but Jurgensmeyer enjoys what he does and is extremely grateful for his supportive family.   

Similar to Jurgensmeyer, drama students at Olympic Heights must also make compromises in order to balance out their acting passions with their academics and other interests. Both Vice President Elijah Rios (who will be playing Tito Merelli in OH Theatre Department’s production of Lend Me a Tenor) and President Hannah Berkowitz (Maggie Saunders) of Troupe 4992 have had to manage their time wisely in order to carry out their respective duties in theater. Rios admits that he has a “set routine” when he comes home, all in a “very productive fashion” so that he can make the most effective use of his time. Comparably, Berkowitz divulges that she gets her schoolwork done well before the due dates because she acknowledges being in theatre is a “big responsibility and commitment.” 

A teen actor’s schedule is not easy either. One surprising fact is that child actors go to school on set with a teacher when filming. When school is in session, minors aged nine to sixteen may be at the place of employment for up to nine hours, the sum of five hours work, three hours schooling, and one hour of rest and recreation. When school is not in session, work time may be increased up to seven hours, with one hour of rest and recreation, according to Amodeo, who works with Jurgensmeyer (Boyd Baxter) on the current Fox sitcom Last Man Standing that airs on Friday nights at 8:00 pm. 

“A normal day, if I am filming, is that I arrive to set about 8:00-8:30 and start school. I have to do a minimum of three hours of school on set each day with a teacher. We have rehearsals for three-to-four hours too.” Jurgensmeyer adds, “Some days I have to leave there and go on to my voiceover series and record for that. When I get home, I usually spend time with my family and friends, play my guitar, or get on my ham radio.”

This is one reason many employers prefer to hire adult actors rather than those under 18. In an article from Teen Vogue, Marcia Ross — who cast 10 Things I Hate About You and Clueless — elaborates, in most cases, “actors under the age of 18 need to have guardians on set and work a limited set of hours because of schooling.” Older actors are also naturally more mature both physically and mentally; thus, we see 39-year-old Olivia Newton-John playing Grease’s Sandy and other adults pretending to be teenagers on countless current and past television shows and movies. 

Senior Hannah Berkowitz can definitely relate with the difficulties of becoming a child actor. She is currently the president of the OH Theatre Department with a fervent passion for stage management and directing, but reveals that there is heavy competition among those applying and auditioning for various roles. “I found that pursuing theatre is not a guaranteed career,” she admits. “This really showed in high school where almost the entire class auditions for the same part.” 

Likewise, both Jurgensmeyer and Amodeo can attest to the obstacles faced in the TV and movie industry. From a rising celebrity’s perspective, Jurgensmeyer details, “There can be disappointments. You may really want a role in the project and have worked really hard, but then you don’t get the part.” He sees this as a downside to his acting career, but nonetheless does not let it interfere with his wholehearted adoration for his daily work. Additionally, producer Amodeo compares the entertainment industry to that of a “business“ noting that producing can be both a “fun and challenging job.”

 Amodeo is aware of the dangers of getting involved (“hitting it big”) in Hollywood. He has even produced a short documentary about scams and threats, which place inexperienced young adults dreaming of grand roles in further danger. “Be cautious of people trying to sell services that will ‘make you a star,’” he warns potential artists. This broad range includes spending money on acting classes, head shots (photos), casting services, and other methods scammers utilize designed to pocket the ignorant’s cash. 

Unfortunately, many child stars have either been exposed to terrible adult cruelties or have chosen the wrong path. For instance, Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at age sixteen, was fed amphetamines by MGM to keep her clocking up 72-hour shifts in order to maintain her position as breadwinner for her family. She suffered through groping and harassment as well by Louis B. Mayer, the famed producer and co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. 

Similarly, Drew Barrymore was a child-star who developed a drinking problem, became a drug addict, and attempted suicide all before the age of fourteen. These are the dangers of Hollywood and the glitz and glamour that selectively fades in and out. Lucky for Jurgensmeyer, he has not experienced such horror and can only relate his positive experiences. 

If Berkowitz could ask a child actor anything, she would ask if starting acting at a young age was worth it. Jurgenmeyer is fortunately able to answer that question. “I have a lot of fun. I am really lucky that I get to do what I love,” he discloses. “I have been doing this so long I really don’t remember what it was like not to be acting or playing music. I’m not sure what else I would do if it wasn’t for both of them.” 

As for advice Amodeo would give to teen actors starting out, he asserts it’s best to start at the local level. “Most towns have small theater groups even school productions can be a learning experience,” he explains. 

Jurgensmeyer also suggests, “You really just have to be passionate about it, and it has to be what you love. You also have to be willing to put in the hard work and dedication.”

While there are obstacles placed in the path of those aspiring for fame in the acting world, as long as one has the motivation and love for the profession that they are striving to obtain, they may conquer these barriers and hopefully attain their dreams, following the footsteps of Jurgensmeyer and other successful teen stars. 

Question and Answer with Jet Jurgensmeyer

Outside of the TV world, do you feel like you lead a normal life? 
I live a very normal life. My parents make sure of that. If I am not working in California, I am at our house in Nashville, and I get to be with family and friends and work on my music. If I am not in Nashville or California, I am usually at our family farm in Missouri where I am on a horse or a 4-wheeler every day and working cattle. I have always been home-schooled, so my day always has some part of that I am working on. While filming or at the farm, I take it [school work] with me and try to get something done.

What got you into acting in the first place and how old were you when you first started acting?
I pretty much have always been raised around the entertainment industry. My parents owned a place in Nashville and we would have dinner shows and live entertainment every day. I was always wanting to get on stage and sing or tell jokes. We had a family friend who suggested to my parents to try acting with me. I got an agent in Nashville when I was four years old, and I started booking jobs from my first audition. My Nashville agent had a connection in LA and sent me out there to meet with an agent and manager. I signed with them and started working in LA when I was five.

Do you want to continue acting in the future? Do you want to pursue other interests? Do you plan on going to college?
I for sure plan to go to college. I would love to go to Belmont in Nashville. I know I want to keep acting and playing music. I want to continue to learn more and become a better writer. I want to write more music and write and develop scripts too. I want to produce projects with my family. I also want to help with some of my family business at the farm and continue to grow that.

We understand that you have a ham radio license. What was the inspiration behind that interest when most kids don’t even know what it is?
My Dad and I started getting interested in ham radio because of my work on “Last Man Standing”. A lot of people on set have their license, and before each live taping they get on the radio and talk to people around the world. I just thought that was so cool, and the fact that my Dad and I studied together and took our tests at the same time, it was sort of a bonding moment for us both. We really are having fun with it.

What else do you like to do when you’re not acting or singing?
I really love spending time with my family and friends. My parents and I are really close and try to do a lot of things together. I love sports! I am a sports nut. Right now is football season, and I am really into my fantasy football league with my cousin. I hate to admit it, but. I’m not doing so good.

Do you ever wish that you had a simpler life and how do your family/friends feel about your success?
Not really. I mean my life is pretty simple. Again, my parents make sure things stay normal for me. I am treated just like any other member of the family. My older cousins pick on me just like they do any of the others. They don’t see me as anything different from them. It’s really funny because we are all very close, and it just doesn’t matter what any of us do. We are all just kids in the family.

What is it like working with celebrities such as Tim Allen? Do you ever get starstruck?
I don’t normally get starstruck. I think that has a lot to do with being raised around people in entertainment and my parents telling me that people are just people. Don’t judge someone just because of their job. It was funny though, on my first day of rehearsals at Last Man Standing, we were there watching Tim rehearse a scene, and he said something like Buzz Lightyear (the character Allen voiced in Toy Story). It hit me, “I am working with Buzz Lightyear!!” It was really pretty funny because it hadn’t occurred to me yet!

Is there anything else that you would like to add or comment on. 
I would love if everyone would check out my social media and my music. I just released my first album this past summer. It is available on all digital platforms, and can be ordered on my website. Also, check out my YouTube channel. I post new videos every week. I would really appreciate the support on there.