James Maslow Interview: "Big Time Rush" Star Talks Movies, Music and Marriage
Image attributed to James Maslow
New York native James Maslow rose to fame portraying James Diamond on Nickelodeon’s musical comedy TV series Big Time Rush. He is a former member of the boy band of the same name, which also includes Kendall Schmidt, Carlos Pena, Jr. and Logan Henderson. The group members put the band on hiatus in 2014 in order to pursue solo careers and reunited virtually in 2020 to share some wishes to their fans about the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2014, Maslow competed as a contestant on the 18thseason of Dancing with the Stars, in which he reached fourth place. His film credits include My Boyfriend’s Meds, Wolf Hound and We Need to Talk. In addition, he can currently be seen in the romantic comedy Stars Fell on Alabama, which is on VOD/digital right now. In the film, Maslow portrays a successful Hollywood agent who returns to his hometown for his 15-year high school reunion. The cast also includes Ciara Hanna, Zebedee Row, Mike Bash, Lesa Wilson, Johnnie Mack and Justin Clark. Alabama native and former American Idol winner, Taylor Hicks, appears as himself in the film performing “Porch Swing,” and a cover of “Gives You Hell.” His version of “Stars Fell on Alabama” was released in tandem with the movie.
"Quite frankly, Stars Fell on Alabama, We Need to Talk and Wolf Hound – those rom-com, raunchy comedy, action movie projects – are exactly where I want to continue to live and work on film."
Smashing Interviews Magazine: James, how are you doing during the pandemic?
James Maslow: All things considered, I’m doing well thank you. I’m very lucky to have a studio in my house, so I’m able to work remotely and make some music at the very least. I have a gym in the garage, so we’re doing our very best, my girlfriend and I, to keep up with everything and trying to keep some semblance of normality in our lives.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you bingewatched any particular series?
James Maslow: You know, I have. One thing that’s been nice is to have fun watching a little bit of television. In previous years, I haven’t had a lot. I’d have to say Hunters on Amazon Prime is probably my favorite show to bingewatch this last year, closely followed by The Queen’s Gambit. Whoa! Is that a good show! I’ll have to say The Mandalorian. I’ve never been a huge Star Wars fan, but wow, that was an entertaining show.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I believe the last time you and I spoke was in 2017, so it’s good to catch up.
James Maslow: Wow, how time flies. Let’s call it two years. I’m not counting this last year.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Agreed. Stars Fell on Alabama is a sweet film. What interested you about the project?
James Maslow: Well, when I read it, I had just come off doing a very funny but much more inappropriate, raunchy comedy called We Need to Talk. Before that, I did a big action movie called Wolf Hound. Both of those will come out later this year. Before that, I played a serial killer and a psychopath (laughs).
I came across this script and said, “You know what? I don’t have anything like this.” (laughs) I didn’t have anything that was just a good family friendly, classic rom-com, and I thought it was well written. I found out my friend, Ciara Hanna, was attached to it, which was enticing just to know someone going into the project. Then speaking with V.W. (Scheich), our director, he had everything so specifically worked out. He knew exactly what he wanted to get, and I’m attracted to that level of professionalism and preparation, so I knew that going into this, you’re definitely going to create something of quality. And man, it was just a ton of fun. I’m really glad I decided to do it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: In your own words, tell me about the film’s message.
James Maslow: I can relate to Bryce Dixon (my character) in the sense that he’s a very successful Hollywood agent, and his hometown has this idea about who he is with the money, the success and the women. But his world gets to him a little bit, and he feels the need to pretend. He feels the need to lie when he goes home amd says he’s got a girlfriend, a relationship, all these things that aren’t true. I don’t even know if he knows why he’s doing it. I can understand that to a point because from an acting and singing perspective, there’s this kind of undue pressure that I used to feel but far less now though since I’ve grown up in this world. But I used to feel that I needed to put on this show, have this performance of a character.
But what’s nice about Bryce is that he does come from a small town, and he comes from a grounded town with great friends. So when he goes back home in this movie, he’s reminded that none of the façade is necessary. So he kind of gets caught up in his own BS and in his own little lies but realizes that’s not who he ever was. So it comes back around full circle where he remembers where he’s from and actually ends up falling in love in the process. So it’s very sweet.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: The very talented musician and Birmingham, Alabama, native Taylor Hicks performs in the film.
James Maslow: Oh, he’s great!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I expected you to jump on that stage and sing also (laughs).
James Maslow: (laughs) They coerced me into doing some line dancing, and that’s as far as we took it. I got to be a spectator and watch Taylor Hicks perform. That was good enough for me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Johnnie Mack, who plays David Jackson, is also from Birmingham, and there were some other actors from the South, so the accent was actually pretty much right on target.
James Maslow: Johnnie Mack’s my favorite, man. He’s a class act through and through.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Were there any strange reactions from South Carolina residents to the Alabama shirts and “Roll Tide” signs?
James Maslow: (laughs) Oh, yeah. There was actually a game going on one of the days we were filming an exterior, so we were walking around in Bama gear. Most of the town was well aware we were filming. In fact, we were welcomed with open arms. Each day, a different restaurant would host us for lunch. It was beautiful and unlike any experience I’ve ever had, to be honest.
But of course, if a passerby didn’t know we were filming, they’d be hollering at us that we “were going down.” (laughs) It was pretty funny in the middle of filming. We’d have to say, “Okay. We have to go back to filming now.” But there were just so many remarkable moments and heartwarming moments people showed us while we were out there filming.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I have to confess that Bear Bryant the Tortoise was a favorite of mine. Just adorable.
James Maslow: Right. Moving that big boy though …
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Ah, not too easy, I’ll bet.
James Maslow: Yeah. A funny little story. They put coconut oil on his shell beforehand just to make him look nice and prettier. These were the owners and caretakers. But then they asked me to pick him up at one point in the scene. This is like a 100-pound tortoise, and picking up a 100-pound stone that’s been lubricated with coconut oil was very difficult, to say the least (laughs). But it’s pretty cool getting to work with such an old and extraordinary animal. And so strong. If he wanted to get away, he could get away.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: For you as an actor, is the character preparation easier for a comedy such as Stars Fell on Alabama more so than a dramatic, action role like playing Captain David Holden in Wolf Hound?
James Maslow: I think it’s definitely fair to say that it’s more lighthearted. If it’s a dialogue-heavy project, often times comedy will be far more so than an action film. For example, there’s a different level of preparation you need. When I filmed the next movie coming out called We Need to Talk, from day one, we went through 16 pages of dialogue straight. We were playing a game. As you can imagine, it was like I was talking to 16 other people. But there’s no need to cut because the scene is going to go on and on for pages. So the only way to do it effectively is to be off book and pretty much know the script backwards and forwards.
Whereas, you go into an action film, there’s a lot less dialogue but a lot more plays in the emotion in the eyes and the looks. You’ve got to convey things differently. You’ve got fight scenes. You’re flying planes and doing all these other aspects that take different levels of education and work. So I love them both, but they’re definitely both very different. It’s an easier job to go and do a comedy, in my opinion. At least, comedy comes naturally for me, and if you’re not laughing your ass off all day long, you’re probably not doing your job very well.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: The Young and the Restless star, Christel Khalil, is a gifted actor.
James Maslow: Yes, she is. She plays my lovely girlfriend in We Need to Talk.
Smashing Interviews Magazine:Is Wolf Hound based on a true story?
James Maslow: It’s a true story that, thank the Lord, didn’t come to fruition. The Nazis essentially wanted to Trojan horse a B-17 American plane to drop a bomb over London. That’s essentially what the story’s about. Our B-17s and B-25s get shot down, and they're trying to stop this plan. No spoilers but quite an adventure. I actually did fly a plane. Because of that movie, I started getting my pilot’s license. I think I’ve clocked about seven hours. The director and his father, who is my instructor, and all the pilots felt comfortable enough for me to switch seats in a B-25 towards the end of the movie and let me take the controls and dogfight a little.
The coolest part about that is they’re actually filming us up in the air. You’re going to see me flying the plane. There was a co-captain sitting next to me, but they CGI’d him out, so it’s me flying that plane. It’s pretty incredible how they got that. You can’t fake that, you know. You can’t fake the flying part after you fake get rid of the co-captain. But it was pretty remarkable. Then of course, there’s the fight scenes and explosions and lots of work with munitions and firearms. It’s a pretty exciting film. I really can’t wait for that one to come together.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Big Time Rush had a virtual reunion last year and surprised fans with an acoustic cover of “Worldwide.” Will you guys get together again?
James Maslow: Over Christmas, we decided to put together a little acoustic version of one of our songs, “Beautiful Christmas.” We didn’t try to publicize it or make a big deal out of it. We put it out for the fans and made a sweet home video. I think a lot of the fans enjoyed it. But we’ll see, you know.
This last year, we’ve definitely been in touch more than previous years and wanted to do several things just to bring some levity and some “stay positive” nostalgia to our fans in such trying times. The reaction’s been pretty fantastic. So what that means, I’m not certain. I think we need to get past Covid before any of us are touring individually or collectively. But something may be on the table. We’ll see how things turn out this year.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: And you will be 31 this year!
James Maslow: Yeah, in July. I’ve got about a half a year to go (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have there been regrets in your career thus far, or are you happy with the career path?
James Maslow: I think I’d say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and all the peaks and downs throughout my career have led me to be in a place where I’m just grateful to continue to be working. I’m working on exactly the type of projects that I want, which is such a blessing. Quite frankly, Stars Fell on Alabama, We Need to Talk and Wolf Hound – those rom-com, raunchy comedy, action movie projects – are exactly where I want to continue to live and work on film.
On the music side, I’ve pivoted to doing EDM music the last couple of years under the name LTX with my best friend. So making dance music and DJing with my best friend and the films, I just want more of that, and I’m just extremely grateful.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: When I spoke with you in January of 2017, you said that you were focusing on your film career and had “no marriage plans for the moment.” So you definitely have the film career covered, and you and Caitlin have adopted an adorable puppy, which usually means a serious relationship. Will things progress even further to the next step?
James Maslow: I mean, she moved in. We live together. We’re very happy. I tell you this. There are no plans for diverting what’s going on right now (laughs). But in terms of anything much more serious, neither of us are in a rush. She’s 26. I’m 30. I think if we were in the South, there may be a little more pressure, but over here, I think a next step would be inevitable, but I’m not so sure it’s in the next couple of years. I don’t see the rush.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Happiness is really all that matters.
James Maslow: I agree, and the rest of it should be wonderful and come natural and not add extra pressure. With the world, life, work and relationships, there’s enough pressure already. So we’re very happy, and we’re focusing on that. I don’t want anything to distract from that.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What’s coming up after the pandemic, James?
James Maslow: More filming and more touring. I really can’t wait to get back on the road. I was DJing the top of last year with LTX already. We’re still slated to play Summer Camp Music Festival, which was postponed to May, I believe. It may get pushed again. But until then, I’ve got more music coming out. Our next single is called “Unforgettable,” and it’s really one of my favorite pieces of music I’ve ever created. So lots to look forward to from the film world and the music world. God willing, this Covid stuff will be over soon, and we can do more in person.
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