At some point in life we all learn the lesson that things aren’t always as they appear. We’ve learned that this season with a few new characters on 90210, from Mark to Sasha to Teddy. But it’s Zachary Ray Sherman’s character, Jasper, that has perhaps elicited the strongest reaction along with the most confusion.
When we were first introduced to the character, he was grieving the loss of his uncle. From there we’ve seen him be mischievous (selling drugs to Adrianna), devious (pushing Navid down the stairs), talented (making his own movie), charming (praising Annie’s acting work) and suicidal (let’s just say the Hollywood sign isn’t meant for jumping off of). But who is the real Jasper? What does he really know about Annie? And what does he want from her?
With just 3 episodes left in the season, it seems there are still more questions than answers. In an exclusive interview, Sherman takes us inside Jasper’s mind (sharing a few spoilers along the way so consider this your warning!), explains just how that jump from the Hollywood sign was filmed and talks about his two upcoming movies.
TeenDramaWhore: When you first signed on to do 90210, you obviously knew who the character was and where you were starting out–what point A was. But did you know what point Z would be? Did you know where Jasper would end up?
Zachary Ray Sherman: No, I didn’t. I was provided with what the first episode entailed and I just worked from that. I would ask the writers here and there, and in the very first few weeks I would sit and talk with them and try to figure out what they would be able to let me know about what was coming up and where he was coming from. But it was sort of, in the grand scheme, unknown as to all the connections. We became aware as they wrote.
TDW: Did you watch any of the first season’s episodes to get acquainted with the show or the character of Annie [Shenae Grimes]?
Sherman: The only thing I pulled up prior to going to work was [because] Jasper cited Silver’s film project [Episode 1.17, Life’s A Drag]. So I knew I wanted to see that. So I pulled that up and I watched that. That was the only thing that I had seen. I hadn’t seen anything prior.
TDW: What attracted you to the role?
Sherman: Everything about it, I guess you could say. When I first read the character sketch, there was a lot of material right there within the sketch. There was seemingly substance to the part. That drew me to it. And it kept getting more interesting as we went. But, really, right from the beginning it was there. There’s turmoil going on with his uncle and he’s off kind of in his own space and world in relation to all the other kids at this school. I felt that would be pretty interesting to go in and tackle, somebody who’s outside of this whole “Beverly Hills 90210” high school world. That was pretty interesting. And it proved to be worthwhile and exciting to go through and discover.
TDW: I kept finding myself charmed by Jasper one minute and then uncomfortable the next. I really attribute that to the way you acted the part because the words on the page are there but through inflections and movements, you decided how things would be conveyed.
Sherman: I appreciate you saying that. What I wanted overall was a full picture, you know? It’s not just a one-sided agenda going on, where this character is a villain in the complete essence of just being that and functioning as that. However much as I was hearing that or people would say, you know, “This is what he’s here for” or “This is what he’s doing,” I wanted to try to fill it out as completely as I could and function in many different ways.
TDW: That relates directly to my next two questions. I do Weekly Polls on my site and a couple of weeks ago the question was “Is Jasper creepy or misunderstood?” They could choose one or the other, both or neither. Most people chose creepy and the second highest result was both.
Sherman: I would hope that it’s more uncertain as to just a simple definition of calling him creepy completely. Being misunderstood could mean many things. But I personally don’t approach the role as going for just being creepy, just being, you know, off his rocker. That’s relevant at times. I’m glad to hear people are uncertain as to what to think about the character because I think that’s a good reflection of life. There’s so many different ways to see things.
TDW: Right. And some people were, and I think still are, rooting for Jasper and Annie as a couple and Jasper as a person. I read a few comments from people who not only believe that Jasper can be redeemed, so to speak, but that a lot of what transpired in the recent episodes was Annie’s fault, that she kind of led him on.
Sherman: A lot of his motivation in the later half of the season, once he comes clean and admits that’s he’s a drug dealer and knowing what he knows about Annie’s connection to his uncle, it all seems to start [unraveling]. Brick walls come up from Annie in his direction and I think that’s hard for him to understand and take with their past relationship and history.
TDW: I have an unanswered question about the end of the 12th episode of the season. That was Winter Wonderland, where outside of the dance, Jasper reveals that he knows Annie killed or hit his uncle. I was wondering–because I don’t think they ever got into this–how he knows and did he know all along?
Sherman: I think that will become obvious to viewers in the coming episodes when Jasper reappears and comes back to school. That’s something I had been curious about throughout my work down there. That was a big challenge for me, coming primarily from working on film where you have a script from page one to 123. When you’re working on TV week-to-week, you’re only provided with those 50 pages and you’re well aware that things can be changed days before you work or even minutes before you work as to what the writers come up with and decide to change. I was at work one day and they entirely rewrote a scene while I was waiting to go in front of the cameras. That uncertainty as an actor is a heckuva lot different than when working on a film. To know all of the back information–maybe the writers haven’t written or let you become aware of it–is something you’re always [wondering.] It’s interesting and a challenge but exciting for the most part.
TDW: The last episode you appeared in thus far was when Jasper leaped from the H of the Hollywood sign and then he’s in the hospital and his parents tell Annie that he’s going to be under psychiatric care [Episode 2.17, Sweaty Palms and Weak Knees]. Did you know you’d be coming back later in the season?
Sherman: It was sort of up in the air. I had heard both that I would be coming back and then I heard that I wouldn’t be coming back. I think that sort of reflects what I was just saying, where the showrunner [Rebecca Sinclair] and the producers and the writers are constantly refining the story as it goes day-to-day. I was pleased to hear when it finally ended up coming back my way that Jasper was going to be coming back.
TDW: With that scene at the Hollywood sign, I was just wondering how that was filmed. How did you get up there, what was cushioning you when you fell, all that.
Sherman: Well, we shot it up on the peak that neighbors the actual Hollywood sign. I went up there when they were setting up other stuff and peered over at the actual sign. So we were very close to the actual Hollywood sign. But what they did is they built a façade of seven or six of the letters and we worked off of those. Through different character angles they achieved what they achieved with that scene. But there was one point I started on a 30 foot scaffolding up on the peak, and I was up there with a couple stunt guys who were keeping me safe and that was pretty thrilling and exciting. And then they brought me down after they got that big wide shot and put me on a mock-up, 12-foot top-half of the H and we ran the whole scene. I did my stunt from there and Krishna [Rao] directed. He’s the cinematographer who works throughout the whole season. We played on that scene for a good 45 minutes.
Sherman: It was also interesting because when I first read that that’s how they were sending Jasper away, being up on the hill and on the H, that ties into the Peg Entwistle stuff that happened back when she went up there and jumped off. So that was something I couldn’t help but think about when we were doing it. [Ed. Note: Entwistle was an actress who, in 1932, killed herself by jumping off the H of the sign.]
TDW: We obviously haven’t seen the finale yet but spoilers are slowly leaking out. We know there’s something to do with Annie, Liam [Matt Lanter] and a burning boat–and it kind of relates to you. What can you tell us?
Sherman: Jasper comes back and, you know, re-situates himself in the high school, dealing with everybody knowing what he did. He finds Annie and talks with her. From there he just sort of–you know, you’ll just have to see!
TDW: Fair enough. Not sure if you can answer this but, I’m assuming there’s a few cliff-hangers in the finale and I’m wondering if we can look forward to more Jasper in season 3. I know a while back–and this was clearly just a rumor, as you said before you didn’t know if you’d even be returning this season–there was a rumor for a while about you becoming a regular or at least fans wanting you to become a regular on the show. Any idea?
Sherman: It’s all pretty much the same as before–up in the air. I guess you can kind of play the situation out and see that Jasper is clearly around as the finale concludes so I guess it just depends on where they begin with the new season and what they decide to do. But I don’t have any details as to whether he’ll be there for good or at all or anything.
TDW: Are you getting recognized on the street at all?
Sherman: It happens here and there. It’s happened at the bank the most.
Sherman: Yeah. Also some checkers at the grocery store will say something. I’ll be walking across the street and sometimes people will shout “Jasper!” One day I was walking across Sunset Boulevard and somebody shouted “Jasper!” and I just kept my eyes forward and continued on my way. And this guy in the car next to the people who had shouted said, “Man, I think these guys know you. They want to say hi.” That was kind of new for me.
TDW: As far as I’m aware, this is one of your first big recurring roles on a weekly series. What are some of the big take-aways or lessons that you’ve learned?
Sherman: Well, it’s been a great exercise in acting, simply having to study the material to work through each week. One thing that I was quite pleased with is the way television works is you have a new director every single week. It’s sort of like strapping on new shoes each week. It keeps it fresh. You get a new set of eyes with a different person helming the episode. So the dialogue’s different, the style is different. It was cool to always have that role of director constantly changing. That was one of my favorite things about it.
TDW: I don’t know if you’re working on it right now or if you were working on it, but tell me about the movie Killer By Nature.
Sherman: That’s wrapped and it should be out, boy I don’t know, maybe within the next six months. That’s a feature film where I play a high school student–I guess he’s a senior–named Owen who has constantly had nightmares throughout his life. But when the film begins, the frequency of these nightmares have really revved up. Some of the things he’s been dreaming about, having nightmares about, begin occurring in reality, kind of around him. So it’s sort of a psychological thriller that I hope people respond to and keeps them interested. It was a good experience. It stars Ron Perlman and Armand Assante. I had a good time working on it.
TDW: That’s great. When it has a release date, I’ll let my readers know.
Sherman: Oh, great. There’s also a picture called My Suicide that will see a theatrical release in September. The guys behind that are real excited. They’ve been working really hard. I think that’s definitely a project for the audience of 90210 to look out for and hopefully be interested in. It focuses on high school kids and comes out in September, which I think is Suicide Prevention Month. They all worked really hard and achieved quite a little film that’s got awards all over the world and has been playing the festivals for a year. Hopefully people respond to that as well. I have a small but important part in there.
TDW: I look forward to seeing it. One last question. I keep track of real and fake Twitter accounts for teen drama actors and I’ve found at least one fake account for you. Can you just say for the record whether you’re on Twitter?
Sherman: There’s a fellow on there that has my name but that’s not me. I don’t have a Twitter so hopefully that clears it up.
Come back next Sunday for another exclusive interview!