Born in Stockton, California, Jazz Raycole started performing at the age of 22 months. It was at her mother’s dance studio that Jazz developed her onstage skills, studying an array of dance styles. She then began acting at the age of four, when her mother took her to a workshop in Beverly Hills, and quickly progressed from there. By five years old, Raycole had booked her first commercial and by age six, she had booked both her first pilot and her first movie role, appearing as Angela Bassett‘s daughter in the classic film Waiting to Exhale. But her big break came at the age of 13, when she won the role of Claire Kyle on ABC’s hit sitcom My Wife and Kids opposite Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Now, Jazz Raycole plays Lyric Ballentine on TV Land‘s newest original sitcom, The Soul Man alongside Cedric the Entertainer, Niecy Nash, John Beasley, and Wesley Jonathan. And of course you know she had to stop in with a quick chat!
Charli: Hi Jazz! First, of course I want to hear about how you became an actress, as well as a dancer! What inspired or motivated you?
Jazz: Well I did this workshop where I got found by all of these agents and managers, and I’m like “Whoa! Let’s try this!” And I was a kid, must have been around 4 or 5. I started off with commercials and then my first movie of course was Waiting to Exhale. Then I kept working pretty consistently. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an actress; when I was about 15. I did this episode of Law and Order. At that point I was a kid, I was a kid actor. It was a lot of sitcom stuff, a lot of guest star stuff. So I got this opportunity to do Law and Order, a dramatic role, and I wasn’t sure if I could act at that level. And I ended up looking at it and decided that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. [laughter] So it was a combination of that and a combination of Lord of the Rings. When it first came out, my brother had me watching it, and I’m like, “I don’t want to watch all of these goblins and stuff!” [laughter] And I remember this one scene with Elijah Wood, and I liked the way that I felt when that scene happened. I was like I want to make people feel that, feel my art, my work. So a combination of several things! [laughter] Yeah! So all of that happened when I was around 15.
Charli: [laughter] Right! And you’ve literally been on the go, busy… I don’t know if it was IMDb, but I’ve looked at your resume and you definitely have the experience. Pretty lengthy! And of course the dancing, I did read where you started off as a dancer. So are you balancing that with acting now?
Jazz: Well of course I was doing that for a really long time and doing live performance; plus working on random stuff like doing guest starring. But that would be difficult. I mean it was a lot to deal with. Yeah! So I was in a ballet company, and when you’re doing that, you can’t dance full time and act full time. That’s like 8-12 hours a day, not to mention if you’re touring. It’s really hard to keep up with sometimes. But I do dabble with dance now. I still work with both of my coaches. I did a ballet festival a year ago. So I still dance, but I’m not fully concentrated on dance anymore. You know just because my angles don’t agree with me much anymore [laughter].
Charli: [Laughter] Trust me I know! So just one more background question, what do you think has been your biggest challenge thus far?
Jazz: It’s all about staying to true to what you know is your art. What you know you want to do. It’s really hard to find good projects. Especially you know, for an African American woman. It sucks, but it’s like that. So yeah, that’s always a challenge. It’s a challenge for any actor. Sometimes you get stuff that you really don’t want to do, and do it just for the paycheck, you know! [laughter]
Charli: [laughter] And now you’re on The Soul Man. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes, but what’s it been like to work with Cedric the Entertainer, Niecy Nash, and of course the remainder of the starring cast?
Jazz: Cedric is… absolutely incredible. At first I was intimidated because it’s Cedric the Entertainer, and when you find out that he’s just as funny as he is on camera, it’s okay. [laughter] He’s down to earth… very nice and smart. He has this great vision for the show and knows what he wants. He’s like the coolest guy in the world and on top of that, he’s hysterical. He’s constantly rapping. He makes it a very chill environment. Niecy is like… she’s like my second mom. She’s incredible. She’s definitely one of the few comedians that’s really positive. She’s just an all around incredible person. So watching her and learning from her is a joy. Then you have John Beasley who has been around forever and you think about all of the works he’s done and all of the people that he’s worked with. He’s absolutely incredible. He’s completely wise, so wise and knowledgeable about so much that he’s opened to sharing which is so amazing. And Wesley Jonathan is like my big brother! [laughter] We have a lot of fun on set. He’s good in the business. He too is absolutely incredible to work with.
Charli: For fans that have not yet tuned into this show, what can you say to really draw them in to begin engaging and become fans that watch it regularly?
Jazz: Well I would say that it’s a family show. Right now, on TV, there aren’t a lot of family shows. Like I grew up watching The Fresh Prince and The Cosby Show, and Full House; and now they don’t have shows like that. You can’t turn on the TV and find a sitcom with a family that works together and loves each other. Opposed to a lot of reality TV where people are bashing each other. So it’s great to turn on the TV and watch a family that loves each other and treats each other with respect. So it’s about the family life and that’s something that I think should be valued on TV right now.
Charli: Yes, that’s a great point. I know most of my friends are always talking or tweeting about how there aren’t any sitcom like the ones we grew up to… such as the ones you’ve spoken on, The Fresh Prince, The Cosbys…
Jazz: Right! For sure.
Charli: So outside of The Soul Man, are there any other projects that you’re currently working on?
Jazz: Yeah! I’ve done a couple of guest things recently. I have an episode on Perception that airs on TNT. Not sure of the exact air date but maybe 2 or 3 weeks from now. So yeah, and I’ve kind of started this… not an outreach program, but a space for people to come and talk about a lot of things that aren’t really talked about… like bullying and technology. It’s like we express a lot of things and provide a place where people to come and share their stories. It’s very organic, very raw. Nothing that is professionally done. Just an open space for you to share your feelings about life. One of those types of spaces. It’s very new, we just started.. just doing what we want to do. So that’s just a couple of projects. I have a couple of more things lined up for the summer. I kind of want to take a couple of months off and go train. But it’s a couple of little things, but nothing solidified or ready to be talked about just yet. [laughter]
Charli: Cool. Now, how can fans connect with you via social networking websites? Facebook, Twitter…
Jazz: Well I don’t use Facebook at all, like I don’t know how to use Facebook. I know that’s so corny [laughter] I’m probably the only one in our generation that doesn’t know. But you can stay connected with me on Twitter. I do try to tweet regularly. My twitter is @JazzRaycole So that’s my Twitter. I’m going to try and start a Facebook [laughter].
Charli: Haha! [laughter] Well this was really good Jazz, really enjoyed the chat. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Jazz: Oh! No that’s it! I think you’ve covered it. Thank you so much!
Charli: No problem at all. Best of luck to you!
Jazz: Thanks and same with you!