Actor Jay Hayden isn't easy to put into a box.
He’s half-Korean, half-Irish. He's athletic, but also theatrical. He loves performing, but can do wonders with a drill for his design renovation company. He's steadily building his diverse resume, but he's also grounded by his family and charity work.
Originally from Vermont, Hayden realized while on a soccer scholarship in college that acting was his true calling. He moved west, and after a few years of figuring out Hollywood, he began what is shaping up to be an impressive career.
From Disney to sci-fi to comedy to sexy detective, there's very little Hayden hasn’t tried. And he's currently proving himself once again on the new ABC show The Catch, produced by Shonda Rhimes and starring Mireille Enos and Peter Krause.
Let's talk about your new ABC show The Catch. How are you enjoying it?
It's fantastic! The group of people I'm around are a dream! Mireille Enos is great. Peter Krause is hilarious. Showing up to work everyday is fun because everyone laughs and talks and then we slip into character and do our thing. It's a dream!"
How different or similar are you from your character Danny Yoon?
The first time the pilot was made, which was about a year ago, the character was already written. I auditioned and was tying to fit into that puzzle piece they'd created.
So when we redid the pilot, the great thing our showrunner Allan Heinberg did was he took us all out to lunch individually and got a sense of who we are. So Allan got a taste of my humor and my sarcastic side and then wrote the character in that way.
So really, I'm kind of like Danny. I'm very much sarcastic and very skeptical in moments. And I'm extremely loyal in other moments with people whom I trust. A lot of us in the cast are exactly the way we are in real life.
Well, then I would be scared to meet Peter…
Peter is much more of a goofball than he is on the show! His favorite thing to do is to bang on my trailer door and then run away like a five year old!
So are there are a lot of hijinx on set?
There's a lot of April Fools going on. Everybody has a lot of fun. The work load is a ton and the only way that we succeed is because everyone is having so much fun!
Where did you grow up? What's home for you?
Home is Northfield, Vermont, which is a town of 6,000 people out in the boondocks. It's the land of fish and Ben & Jerry's and the University of Vermont, which is where I ended up going to school.
And what was your major?
I went to play soccer in college because that's what everyone told me to do. You know, your coaches and your parents and your guidance counselors. They all said, "you're an athlete, you're not going to do the acting thing."
So I went for soccer but then as soon as I got there, I realized, I don't want to play soccer. I want to do theater. So I was an English major going in and then I moved into the theater program.
What pushed you into theater? Did you always know on some level that's what you wanted to do?
I did the high school musical, which was The Wizard of Oz. I was the cowardly lion, I think mainly because I was a hippie back then and had the long hair. So I looked like I had a lion's mane! It was very easy casting.
But then I went to college and I walked by the theater one day and it always interested me. There was an audition for some one-act play and I remember thinking, "I'm not gonna tell anyone. I just want to audition. I want to say the words."
So I got the part and did the play. I didn't tell anyone about it, not even my parents. And I remember being out on stage that night and thinking this is what I want to do.
What was next, New York, Los Angeles?
As I was going to school, I said "listen Dad, I'm going to finish my English major but I'm really involved in theater. I have to try this." I think they were hoping that I would eventually pick up something else, like become a doctor or a lawyer.
But as soon as I graduated, I decided I was gonna move out to Los Angeles. I knew I didn't want to sing or dance, so New York wasn't the right place for me.
And I also wanted to come to L.A. because that seemed like the hardest thing. Some of my professors at school said "don't go to L.A. because it's really hard out there. What if you fail?" And I realized that this was a challenge I definitely wanted to try.
How did Los Angeles treat you?
I came out here, didn't know anyone and I struggled really hard. The first two and half, three years, I bartended and tried to meet people and took the wrong headshots and got in the wrong acting classes.
I wondered, "where is the building where they give out the parts?" I couldn't find it! I didn't have anyone to guide me and then eventually you just meet people who tell you, "no, no, you need to go here and learn this and meet this person and get a manager and an agent."
So it was trial and error?
A lot of error!
What was your first professional job here?
I booked a commercial. I eventually ended up working as a camera operator in a commercial casting studio. And the casting director said, "you should audition for this!" And I said "no!" And they asked, "you came out here to be an actor, didn't you?" And I realized, "oh yeah!"
I panicked because I'd been here for four years and hadn't worked as an actor. So again they said, "This is what you want to do, right? Do it!" I ended up auditioning and then I did a commercial!
What was it for?
It was Comcast and it never ran. And I made the classic mistake of calling my parents and saying "See, I made it!" And then it never came out and I thought "Okay, got it, only tell them after it comes out on television."
If you could choose any director besides those you've already worked with, who would it be?
I'd probably go with the movies I love. I'd love to work with Martin Scorsese. I'd love to work with Christopher Nolan. I watch their movies and am in awe of them so that's who I'd want to work with!
And lastly, you'd mentioned being on the fast track to becoming a soccer player. If you couldn't be an actor, if that job just didn't exist, what would you do?
I co-own a design build company with one of my good friends. It's called David Vincent. Right now, we're redoing an office and two homes. We do restaurants as well. We did Spartina and we're redoing Dominick's right now.
So on the side, I stay grounded by going to work and picking up a drill and going over plans! We frame and foundation the roofs. It's a lot of work, but it's the best!