Actor JJ Totah might be the only fifteen-year-old that’s made me feel like I’m twenty-seven going on thirteen. I felt immature in his presence; it was like some sort of existential crisis. Whether he was talking about his newest film Other People, the acai bowl he always orders at Harvest Bar or the fact that he would have been a Criminal Defense Attorney or Behavioral Psychologist if not an actor, he had me rethinking my own life choices. ‘Where am I going?’, I thought to myself.
But I digress…this is about JJ after all. I caught up with Totah just in time for the recent release of his new film, and loved hearing about the silver sequin suit he got from a Glee auction for his 15th birthday, the time he “pulled a Hillary” (i.e fainted at work), and the reason his first words were “coo-coo” (his sister was in a production of Sound of Music). Get to know the coolest fifteen-year-old you’re likely to come across…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Harvest Bar’s acai bowl for breakfast, my Aunt Lynn’s Mac & Cheese (Martha Stewart’s recipe) for lunch, and for dinner my Mama’s hummus with red bell peppers and carrots, and some veggie Tikka Masala. Yummy!
What were your favorite and least favorite foods growing up?
I used to eat a lot of meat, especially in stuffed grape leaves and mahshi (stuffed zucchini), but now I hate meat and have been a vegetarian for about two years. My Mom and I have learned how to cook all my favorites without meat and it’s delicious, but my favorite food is red bell peppers.
You started acting and performing at a very young age; what made you want to get into the entertainment industry?
When I was one, my big sister was in The Sound of Music, so my first word was “coo-coo”. My sister, brother and I loved musical theatre growing up. When my sister landed a role in the touring company of Whistle Down the Wind, and performed in the big theatre, I was hooked. When I was nine, I was cast in Seussical Jr. as the Cat in the Hat and realized that I was funny too, so I knew that I wanted to make people laugh. That’s what I love.
What was our favorite part about shooting Other People?
I loved every single minute of filming Other People, even though my role was filmed in one day. I didn’t want it to end. I really idolized Chris Kelly because he is from my hometown in Sacramento and made it big time! He’s super smart and funny, and not only did he write the film, but he directed it too. I really admire him. And of course getting to work with Naomi and Adam Scott (the producers); they are just about the nicest people I have ever met. My favorite part was just to be a part of something that you could just tell was going to be awesome.
Can you recall any funny anecdotes or stories that happened on set throughout filming?
I kind of pulled a Hillary Clinton and fainted after doing the dance scene like twelve times in a row. We filmed in Santa Clarita during the summer, so it was about 110 that day, and they had to turn off the air conditioner in the house because of the sound. I had to go in a bedroom and take a cold shower!! So, that was embarrassing.
If you weren’t already an actor, what career would you have aspired to?
If I wasn’t an actor then I would be a Behavioral Psychologist or a Criminal Defense Attorney.
What are you favorite cities for food? Your favorite restaurants in each?
San Francisco – Eric’s for Chinese Food, Happy Donuts and Chloe’s for breakfast. Los Angeles – I love going to Cafe Gratitude, Veggie Grill and The Nice Guy. In New York, I love The Smile for coffee and banana bread, ABC Kitchen and of course John’s Pizza.
What’s your favorite thing in your wardrobe?
I love my Gucci jacket, even though it’s too small for me now. It was a gift from the Back in the Game wardrobe team. Also, my silver sequin custom suit from the Bar Mitzvah scene in Glee. My manager Susie got it for me at an auction and gave it to me for my 15th birthday! Best present ever!
If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead who would you have over?
Dinner party guests would include Shonda Rhymes, Robin Williams, Alexander Hamilton, Kerry Washington and Ryan Murphy (but I would sneak in Chris Kelly!)
What is your go-to breakfast?
The issue you feel most passionately about right now and why…
Right now, I am very passionate about letting people pee where they want to. It’s ridiculous how Transgender people are treated by the Supreme Court! Whatever happened to “Justice for All”?
The song you have on repeat right now…
I am currently obsessed with the musical Waitress. The song I have on repeat right now is “I Didn’t Plan It.”
Will you get the new iPhone? Why or why not?
Check my twitter dated 09-09-16 at 12:45 AM “SOS I’m on 5 computers and I need to know when is the iPhone 7 coming out.” I ordered the phone by 2:32 AM.
Do you have any favorite apps? What are they?
Snapchat, Uber, VSCO
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ in fashion, what’s the new potato right now?
Well, food-wise I would have to say that the vegan chicken nuggets from Veggie Grill are legit lit!
*JJ Totah, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann. Groomer: Erica Sauer