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All That Jazz

Caleb Landry Jones talks about his role in the musical drama ‘Low Down’

Amy Albany’s memoir Low Down: Junk, Jazz, and Other Fairy Tales from Childhood charts her life with a talented, tormented jazz musician father. In the recent film adaptation, Albany is played by Elle Fanning, her father by John Hawkes and her young boyfriend Cole—also, of course, a musician—by Caleb Landry Jones.

The movie charts Albany’s uneasy teenage years—her father weaves in and out of her life and her mother remains a non-presence. Cole and Albany’s grandmother (Glenn Close) are the only two people on whom she can rely.

Here, Jones discusses his role, his own musical talent and the surprise co-stars he brought along with him.

What made a character like Cole interesting to you? 

I’m looking for good stories, stories that I feel are important and really show interesting characters.  Cole was an interesting character because he was bright, full of hope and a very expressive individual. I knew I could bring something to that because I could identify with it. 

He’s also a musician.  Are you?

Yes, I do musical stuff.  No one counts it as a talent; it’s just kind of for myself.  Not for myself I suppose as much as by myself. 

In the movie, Cole is a drummer. Is that your instrument?

I used to play the drums. I played them on Friday Night Lights. It was a small part, but I was in a band on that show. 

In that scene in Low Down when I play the drums, the band members were actually some of my friends from high school that Jeff [Preiss, the director] allowed me to fly in so they could be in the film, which is very cool. Maybe it adds just a little bit more reality.

He’s also got a health problem: he’s prone to seizures. Was that difficult to play? 

I don’t want to sound horrible by saying this, but playing that part was a lot of fun.  Not just the seizures, but Cole was so lighthearted. And it was helpful knowing that no two seizures are the same, meaning I’m not going to have to portray the same seizure twice.

It’s a heavy movie. What was the mood like on set?

The mood wasn’t light, but the first day I showed up, Jeff wanted me to introduce myself to Elle, and she seemed to be bright and positive and having a great day. And I met some of the crew, and they seemed to be happy and positive. Then, I heard John wanted to meet me, so I met him and he was in character. That made it easy to jump into. They’d started shooting by the time I arrived.  Then again, I was playing Cole, so most of my job is to be upbeat, and so if there was anything too heavy, I probably wasn’t around it. 

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