He was the d-bag frat boy who mocked Rumer Willis in the Anna Faris comedy The House Bunny. He was the cute guy (and father of a future president) who hops onto a train to sit next to the girl of his dreams in that nifty, flashback-in-time AT&T commercial. And he's currently the star of one of Hulu's first original series, Battleground, the workplace dramedy that's changing the landscape of original web content. As we speak. Seriously.
He's Jay Hayden, a name you'll want to remember because, if his list of credits is any indication, the dude's recent wave of success is only going to get bigger.
Touted as The-Office-meets-The-Ides-of-March, Battleground centers on Tak Davis (Hayden), the manager of a senatorial campaign who has to balance his professional and personal life while overseeing a ragtag group of volunteers in their Wisconsin headquarters. Created by JD Walsh and executive-produced by Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man, 500 Days of Summer), the show manages to woo both fans and non-fans of politics, each 22-minute episode capturing the chaos and last-minute decision-making that goes into backing a public official.
Taking advantage of a gorgeous Saturday morning in L.A., Hayden and I meet at Larchmont Bungalow to chat (we converse on Tom Hanks's most memorable roles), catch up (we have several friends in common - such is Hollywood), and drool over some red-and-blue velvet pancakes (just pretend they're low-cal). And as we shoot the shit and talk shop -- we both admit to crying during 50/50 -- I learn a few things about the actor and his multicultural upbringing (Dad's "a military guy," Mom's Korean).
After living in Los Angeles for nearly a decade, he fondly remembers his New England childhood: "My dad would pull me out of school early to go to a Red Sox or Celtics game...I grew up loving Boston." While taking a year off from the University of Vermont he worked every horrible job imaginable: "I did manual labor until I figured out what I wanted to do. I did construction, replaced chicken wire under buildings to keep skunks out, and I was a bagel maker." And now, happily assuming the role of husband and father to a 3-year-old, his perspectives have changed: "Whereas as an actor, you were like, 'Oh I can just live in a cardboard box and be happy.' And suddenly you're like, 'Now I have to pay for college...and private school.'"
He's hopeful that things will continue to pay off, and there's no doubt they will as his plate is fuller than the dish that has just been served to him (an omelette and fruit cup, if you're wondering). We both toy with the idea of indulging in one of the Bungalow's trademark desserts, but we resist temptation. Don't get him wrong; Jay does enjoy a cheat day every so often. But how does he manage to stay in tip-top, actor shape? He plays soccer: "I play in two different leagues...and I also have a weight trainer who kills me every day."
But back to that starring role...
HIH: Has working on Battleground made you more political? Do you tune into CNN and pretend you're a pundit now?
JH: If by "more political" you mean do I turn on Crossfire, stand in front of the TV, and start yelling non-sequiturs, then yes. Yes, much more political.
HIH: Did you have to load up the DVR with cable news and read the Constitution to prepare for your role or what?
JH: I watched a couple episodes of The West Wing and Spin City, and the entire first season of Game of Thrones to fully prepare for the role. Unfortunately they ended up cutting the scenes where I kill dudes with my broad sword.
HIH: How did you fall into acting? (loaded question, we know) Or did it fall into you?
JH: I was walking by the University of Vermont Theatre Department when I first arrived on campus my freshman year. There was a casting notice for a one-act play. I thought to myself: "I just want to see if I'm good enough to do something like this." I got the part. Been acting ever since.
HIH: Who would you thank in your Oscar acceptance speech?
JH: There's a lot of people on that list. But I'd definitely make sure to thank all the people that DIDN'T believe in me. All the people that told me I wouldn't make it, or wasn't good enough. Those people helped drive me even harder.
HIH: What''s the best piece of advice you've ever received?
JH: "It's hard enough knowing what the f**k you ACTUALLY wanna do in this life. If you're lucky enough to figure it out, don't you DARE let anyone tell you if you can succeed at it or not. You go f**king do it. And keep doing it because why the f**k do anything other than what you want to do? And when you're kicking ass later, they can kiss it." - Lee Hasey.
HIH: Who would you love/kill/backstab to work with?
JH: I'd love to work with JD Walsh. Again. On the second season of Battleground...I hope Hulu is reading this.
Comedy -- JD Walsh
L.A. -- Traffic
Fear -- Audition
Audition -- Fear
Red Carpet -- NOT fun
Emma Stone -- Yep. I would.
Childhood -- Vermont
Cocktails -- Are awesome and delicious.
Justin Bieber -- He's the kid with the hair, right?
Battleground -- It's a good show dammit!!!
HIH: Finally, what do YOU think is Hotter in Hollywood?
JH: The Hunger Games. The book was sick. Movie looks like it's gonna be sick. Totally sick…er…hot, I mean.
New episodes of Battleground premiere every Tuesday on Hulu. You can follow Jay on Twitter @jayhayden00. And be sure to catch him in the current issue of our affiliate, BELLO Mag (available in the App Newsstand!).
- Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)