I spoke with Jazz Raycole from TV Land’s The Soul Man. She talks about her character, Lyric Ballentine, working with Cedric the Entertainer, Niecy Nash, our mutual favorite guest star – Community’s Yvette Nicole Brown, and so much more. She will also be featured in an episode of Perception on TNT in September. The Soul Man airs Wednesday nights at 10/9c on TV Land.
Lena: You got a chance to incorporate your dance skills in a recent episode of The Soul Man.
Jazz Raycole: It was actually really funny when I read the script for it because most of that was supposed to be this terribly bad dance. I was like, “How bad do you want it?” To me she would be doing some weird abstract modern dance instead. Which actually ended up working better but it wasn’t really me dancing [laughing]; it was me just gyrating around.
Lena: Will we be seeing any more dancing, perhaps proper dancing, from you in future episodes? [Jazz is a professionally trained dancer.]
Jazz Raycole: One of the producers was just asking me about that last week. They were saying that if we actually get picked up for a second season they want to have me really dance, which is exciting. Hopefully, we get picked up and I get to do some more dancing.
Lena: Is there a dance style that you enjoy the most?
Jazz Raycole: I grew up doing everything from ballet to hip-hop but I went to the School of American Ballet and signed with a ballet company that toured the country, The Boston Ballet. My passion was ballet but I got injured severely when I was in the company and on tour, so my ankles don’t agree with pointe shoes anymore. I’ve switched around from being a strict ballerina to more contemporary. I enjoy all kinds of dance whether its ballroom, modern, jazz, ballet…I just love to dance. Whatever it is, I enjoy it.
Lena: Can you talk about having Cedric (the Entertainer) and Niecy as on-screen parents?
Jazz Raycole: They are awesome. Cedric and Niecy (Nash) are probably the most down-to-earth and funny people that I have ever worked with, as far as parents go. Cedric is really, really smart and he knows what he wants for the show. He has a really great vision for the show, and he is always open to suggestions on how to make things work. On top of that, he’s just a really cool guy and he has kids so the way that he is is very, very chill. Niecy, she has kids so we do a lot of girl talk. She’s also really smart. She’s always up for helping, and it’s amazing to get to work with such veterans of the business because you get to grill them and as a young actor, you are growing.
Lena: With a cast like that I have no idea how any of you can keep a straight face.
Jazz Raycole: We laugh so much on set. The funny thing is that we actually get done at a pretty decent hour, which is amazing because we are completely ruining takes. We are also all really passionate about our work and we all work really hard to make the show. At the end of the day, we have so much fun but the work is really important.
Lena: Who ruins the most scenes by laughing? Who is the worst offender?
Jazz Raycole: I would have to say Cedric. He’ll throw something at you, and he’ll do it with a straight face, and the ends of his mouth will start to move up and down and his shoulders will start to move and once you see that he’s about to laugh, it’s over.
Lena: Poor Boyce, it seems like all of his favorite things have been “lost in the move.” What do you think Lolli really did with all of his things? Do you guys have a fun backstory about that?
Jazz Raycole: [laughing] No, we actually don’t. I was just telling her that my mom used to do that. My mom used to hate some of my dad’s clothes so she would throw them away. I think that’s what happened is that she threw them away. We really don’t have a backstory.
Lena: I was curious if you guys had made up a story about that. Maybe, at some point, we will see one of the church members wearing his things?
Jazz Raycole: That would actually be really funny.
Lena: What is it like living in Lyric’s world and having a famous singer turned pastor for a father?
Jazz Raycole: It’s really interesting. It’s an interesting dynamic for her because she goes from this amazing glitz and glam lifestyle of the city to St. Louis, which is kind of a suburban town. She’s not very happy. She’s not having any of that and now her dad is a pastor. A lot of things got taken away from her and she’s concerned with her image and her friends. It’s an interesting dynamic that she goes through. Living in Lyric’s world is kind of like a struggle between wanting to not only be respectful but encouraging to her father’s new career but at the same time hating it because it’s not what she wants.
Lena: Are we going to be seeing more of her in upcoming episodes because we really don’t know a lot about her yet?
Jazz Raycole: That’s something that the producers are trying to figure out. The first season is about getting the characters structured well. It takes time for that and we only have twelve episodes to do that. You have to try and develop at least five characters and, on top of that, we have a lot of guest characters that come on. We have a lot of story to tell in only about twenty-three minutes. They have the main core of the characters developed it is now just about fleshing them out. There are so many rewrites that we do because of the guest stars. We have such amazing talent on the show that we have a lot to keep up with.
Lena: My favorite guest star so far has been Yvette Nicole Brown from Community. What was it like working with her?
Jazz Raycole: She is my absolute favorite. She is probably one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. She is one of my favorite people in life. It was amazing. We talk every so often, and she has inspired me in so many ways. Her stories that she has are just incredible. Her spirit is just amazing. Working with her was a joy, the biggest joy ever and when I run into her I get so excited. We almost seem like little girls screaming up and down [laughing].
Lena: I’ve met her a couple of times at the NBC Comic-Con parties, and she is always so nice. You can just tell that she is just one of those people that brings out the best in everyone.
Jazz Raycole: Yes.
Lena: One of the other characters that I love is Stamps, played by Wesley Jonathan. Can you talk about working with him and the rest of the cast?
Jazz Raycole: Wes is kind of like my big brother, literally like my big brother when it comes to anything. He’s been in this business for as long as I have. We’ve been acting since we were both kids. We grew up being child actors. He’s very knowledgeable, especially about sitcoms. I did a lot of sitcoms when I was a kid, especially single camera stuff with a lot of dry comedy and it’s a different dynamic from going from that, for so many years, to being in front of a live audience. He gives me a lot of insight and on top of that, he is just one of the coolest guys ever. On-screen and off-screen, he is just amazing. John Beasley is the best. Actually, he was my date a couple of weeks ago. We had to go to this BET pre-dinner party and Wesley was doing his thing, he’s a social butterfly, and so I told John that he was going to be my date. He’s amazing and his knowledge is just out of this world. He has been acting for so long and the people that he has worked with, because he has done so much theater and film. I just ask him tons of questions and just listen to him talk. I am so lucky to be able to work with the people that I work with. We love our job. Everybody comes to the set and we love each other. We really are a family.
Lena: That’s fantastic. TV Land really puts a lot into their shows.
Jazz Raycole: Yeah, very much so and the network is just so great. Stan (Lathan) was just saying, during an interview, that the great thing about TV Land is that they actually trust us, and let you do what you think is organic. They are not looking over your shoulder and saying that it has to be this way or that way. They give us a lot of freedom, which is great on a show. You get to explore and flush things out organically.
Lena: That is fantastic. You guys also have Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner from Hot in Cleveland and Grimm on as executive producers.
Jazz Raycole: Oh man, the producers that are on the show are absolutely incredible. Everybody is so well season and knows what they are doing that it just makes it great, and they are a joy to work with.
Lena: Do you watch Hot in Cleveland and Grimm?
Jazz Raycole: Grimm scares me; I can’t watch Grimm. I’m not going to lie. I am so terrified of Grimm. Hot in Cleveland, I’ll catch a couple of episodes. I’m really bad because I refuse to have Tivo in my house because I know that I’ll watch every single show that my favorite actors are in. I’ll end up spending hours and hours in front of the TV not doing anything remotely creative or productive. My parents watch Hot in Cleveland so when I go over there I will watch some episodes. It’s Betty White’s show. How can you not like, the legend, Betty White?
Lena: Oh yes, she is amazing.
Lena: Do you have any guest stars coming up that you are really excited about?
Jazz Raycole: We have a few coming up which are exciting. Cee Lo (August 8th) is guest starring and he is absolutely hysterical. We have someone coming up on the finale, which I’m not allowed to talk about but we are thrilled. We have Robert Forster. Robert Forster is incredible and an Oscar nominated actor. My favorite has been Yvette Brown, hands down.
Lena: Any funny behind-the-scenes moments that you can share?
Jazz Raycole: One of the funniest moments I have is when we can’t get a scene right. When you are laughing the entire time and you just can’t get it right. Those are the times that are the most fun, especially for me, because the way that I am used to working is very serious, and this has taught me to play a lot. I get locked into my work and I’m very serious when I’m on set. Being here, you don’t have that option.
Lena: What do the fans of the show have to look forward to for the rest of the season?
Jazz Raycole: The amazing guest stars and the comedy, there is a lot of good comedy coming up. That is all I’m going to say [laughing] before I get myself into trouble.
Lena: You are also going to be guest starring in an episode of Perception on TNT.
Jazz Raycole: Yes, I actually shot that before I shot this. It was a while ago and it was really exciting. I got to work with Eric McCormack who was on Will & Grace with Sean Hayes. I said the stupidest thing to him. I keep on looking at his face. I never watched Will & Grace when I was growing up because it was an older show. I watch Will & Grace and Friends now but back then I didn’t know anything. I walked up to Eric and said, “Were you on Will & Grace?” Not knowing that he was actually Will on Will & Grace. I’m such an idiot (laughing). But yeah, I got to work with him and Rachael Leigh Cook and they are both just absolutely fantastic. They are just as sweet as can be. It was a fun shoot, for sure.
Lena: What character do you play?
Jazz Raycole: I play someone (Vicky) that they are basically interrogating to find out if she killed someone on the show. [“Kilimanjaro” airing September 3 on TNT]
Lena: That sounds like fun. You also have a nice little Will & Grace connection with Sean and Eric.
Jazz Raycole: Right [laughing].
Lena: What else do you have coming up?
Jazz Raycole: I want to take a month or two off to go and study and train somewhere. We have some stuff in the works right now but it’s really important to me to stay true to the art of it. Sometimes when you are filming constantly you kind of get sucked into everything else and not remaining at the core, which is something that should never happen. I might go and study somewhere in New York or maybe Frisco. I’ve been looking at some places in London. I don’t know just yet. Either that or I may stay here. We have a company that I’ve started and we are about to start producing short films and such, so I don’t know. I’m still up in the air, but some good things are in the works. We are wrapping up our last episode and hoping that we are getting another season.
Lena: I’m sure you will. TV Land does a great job supporting their shows. They really stand by them. Some networks don’t and they wonder why their shows fail.
Jazz Raycole: They really push the show hard and they believe in it so much, which is so great.