August 2017 - Cover Story: The Heart of The Night Shift: JR Lemon
More than just pretty face and killer abs, JR [James Roch] Lemon is proving to have some serious acting chops. Currently playing the character Nurse Kenny on NBC’s hit show The Night Shift, Lemon is enjoying his decision to make acting his passion. But this decision didn’t come naturally. During filming of Night Shift’s Season 4, Lemon took some time out to do a photoshoot, answer questions about how he got started in the business, and share his goals for the future.
You received a BS in Management Science and Engineering, yet you choose to pursue a career in acting. Where did the desire to act come from?
I was signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders right out college, but I got cut during camp later that year. I originally came to Southern California to train and stay in shape. While training, I met a few guys who were doing sports commercials and making great money. Once I decided that I liked it, I put myself in local acting classes. I realized about 5 months into acting class that this was what I wanted to be my job.
Your first gig—what was the experience like?
Night Shift was the first theatrical set I had ever stepped foot on. And yes, I was terrified. I remember that in my first scene, all I had to do was deliver one line and and try to be funny. I realize now the impossibility of that task.
Shadow Love was an interesting series. How did you get involved, and what was it about Amir that you found connected you to the character?
A good friend of mine approached me about being in his web series. I honestly thought that he was creating a platform for himself. On day 2 I realized the entire thing was about my character. I really like the heart of Amir.
You have experienced both big and small screen—which one would you say was a greater challenge?
They both present different challenges. TV can move so fast that sometimes it can be tough to get a grip on what is going on. But the cool part of TV is that you could spend years working on the same character. Each year you get a chance to improve on what you were maybe doing before. Ultimately, it’s all just storytelling, though.
I got to experience what it's like on the set of The Night Shift—you guys have a lot of fun producing that show. Do you remember when you got the call to play the role of Kenny?
I remember it very well. I had originally auditioned for the role of Paul. Robert [Bailey Jr.] and I did the network and studio tests together, and I had heard about him getting the role. I was walking down Abbott Kinney in Venice Beach, and I remembered getting the call from my managers that they wanted to book me for another role they had me read for the next day. It was this nurse role, Kenny, and he was described as a dry-humored Asian-American male…the rest is history.
What is it about Kenny's character that resonates with you?
I’m very much so drawn to Kenny’s deep need for family. It’s why he’s everybody’s best friend, why he’s like the bartender of the ER, why he’s always hopelessly looking for love.
This season we seem to see a little bit of an insecurity with Kenny as he watches a new nurse, now a doctor, Cain (played by Mark Consuelos) come into the picture. What direction will Kenny be taking for the rest of the season?
Up until episode 6 or 7, we see Kenny increasingly going downhill. He’s testing the family that he’s always been there for. Seeing if they’re willing to put up with his stuff. With Cain, Kenny smells something fishy. He knows the underworld of shady people probably better than any other staff member. Not long ago he was beat up by a loan shark that he couldn’t pay back (black eye in first 2 episodes). So I think Kenny sees something similar going on with Cain. Not all the way on the up-and-up.
What can we look forward to with Season 5 of The Night Shift?
Coming up, Kenny has some of the biggest relationship news that one can have. I’ll let you do the math!
What upcoming projects can you share with our readers?
Coming out in August is a project I’m really excited about. It’s going to be the first ever story mode in the Madden NFL video game. I play the lead character Devin Wade, and you get to track and play my story, from being a college football washout quarterback to a potential member of an NFL team. It’s going to be awesome.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I have done my job if we all as people begin to realize that we are a lot more similar than we are different. The issues that we face within our country need to not only be addressed with our intellect, but even more importantly, with our empathy.