Joanna "Jojo" Levesque is perhaps best remembered for her years as a teenaged pop star and for her turns in movies like AQUAMARINE and RV, but the now 22-year-old beauty is focusing is all grown up (yeah, you hate when we say that but we have to) and ready to chart a different course. Still intent on following her music career, JoJo is also focusing more heavily on film, with the high-school comedy G.B.F. (which stands for "Gay Best Friend"; official site HERE) serving as the opening act; it's her first movie in over five years.
Speaking with JoJo, I found an intelligent, honest and forthright young woman unafraid to speak her mind regarding touchy subject matter (depression and addiction), as well as someone who has a bright outlook on the world and is ready to tackle the next chapter of her life. Definitely hoping to see more of (and hear more from) JoJo after this interview.
What can you tell me about your role in G.B.F., and why it was appealing to you.
I loved the script and was excited about the cast. I hadn't done a movie in a long time, and the idea of doing an independent film like this was exciting to me. When the role of Soledad was presented to me, I thought it was a no brainer; I've wanted to play a character who is kind of eccentric, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to do that. She's definitely intense and passionate and will stop at nothing to keep what she deems important alive.
Would you say she shares any traits with you?
I'm an intense and passionate person, but I would never "out" someone. (Laughs) Someone's lifestyle is totally not my business. So I think she's very wrong and very off there. She's definitely a little f*cking crazy. But definitely the intensity and passion I have.
You had to call upon your inner crazy a bit.
Which is definitely lurking below the surface, it wasn't that hard to call upon. But delving into other peoples lives, that's not my thing.
Does G.B.F deal with themes that are important to you?
I think it's necessary to tell stories about communities that aren't represented well. And I think the way this story was told in a kind of lighthearted, funny way. I think it's important that people who think they might be alone know they're not. Although it is a movie about gay love, it's really about love and friendship. I like that it isn't preachy, there's nothing preachy about it. You can walk away from it just feeling good, it's not a public service announcement.Is this a film genre that you enjoy?
I enjoy being a part of it as well as watching it. You could even call it a guilty pleasure. I like to laugh, I think there's a lot of seriousness in the world. I watch too much new, read too many articles, so to have a deviation from that is healthy.
Is it true that you've been acting since the age for four?
I think it's more like six. It's around that. I started acting professionally in Boston when I was really young in theater, and I did an independent film when I was maybe eight. I've been acting a long time, but I haven't really taken it seriously the way I'd like to. I've really been working towards being able to release music again, so I wasn't in the right mindset. After the experience of doing G.B.F. I missed it, I like the schedules, the challenge that it brings.
Do you think you're going to do it full time?
I don't know about full time; I don't try to limit my aspirations and there are a plenty of things I'd like to be involved in and I take it on a case by case basis as opportunities come along. My greatest passion in my life is music, but I'd definitely like to explore the actor side of myself and invest in that.
You've been in the business for a long time but you've kept your nose clean and stayed out of trouble - what's the secret you learned that some other young stars clearly didn't?
Look, I'm no angel; I've certainly made some mistakes behind the scenes. I think one piece of advice is literally to keep your nose clean. I don't mess around with that stuff, and maybe that's because I come from a family where addiction is very prevalent. I'm thankful that I've never been curious enough to try those things out, because I would probably like them. I have no interest in it. What I've found in my life these last few years is that I want to get high as possible without the use of drugs or alcohol, and that might not sound very exciting, but you can have a great workout, great sex, great conversation. There are plenty of things you can do to really live a life in high definition without being off your rocker.
What lesson would you try to impart to a teenager trying to make it in the entertainment industry?
I would say, don't compromise who you are. If you have a solid group of friends and family, keep them close to you. Listen to the advise of people who know more than you, but use your spirit of discernment to figure out what's best. You also don't have to follow someone else's path, you can carve your own. Don't be discouraged, because most success stories start when things looked like they were coming to an end. Just take it one day at a time, focus, and work your ass off.
When you do go out, what's your favorite thing to do - what is your favorite night out consist of?
Well, I love a good beverage. I love to make my own signature cocktails, I'm kind of a chemist. I love fashion, going to the boutiques; living in L.A., there's a lot of room for that. And I just like exploring new places, going to new towns and finding new restaurants.
In terms of the drinks, what is your favorite? Give us a recipe.
Let's see. Something that I've been making lately is something called Angry Ball. It's Angry Orchard hard apple cider with a shot of Fireball whiskey. It's so good, and super simple. I also make a kickass sangria, I make it for the holidays.
What's your favorite guilty pleasure food?
Recently I cut meat out of my diet, so I'd say my comfort food right now is vegetable pho. It's a Vietnamese noodle, I make it really spicy. I also like eggplant with a garlic miso. I'm finding lots of vegetarian dishes that are still wicked yummy and I feel like I'm being a little naughty when I'm eating them.
Cutting out meat, was it a health decision?
Yeah, I was just reading about how animals are injected with growth hormones, and for my own health I didn't want to risk putting that stuff in my body. I've been reading a lot about the benefits of a plant-based diet in terms of health, so I wanted to give it a try. I'm 23, and I don't want to have health problems when I'm older, so I might as well look into it now. I feel really great, I don't miss meat.
How about guilty pleasure TV show?
Oh, I don't feel guilty about much of anything. I'm very dedicated to watching "Scandal", I can't wait for that to come back. I like my political thrillers.
Everybody tells me to watch that.
Oh my god, you're going to be f*cking obsessed with it!
I'll binge watch it.
That's what Netflix is for, right?
Who is your celebrity crush?
Ohh, celebrity crush. I saw The Wolf of Wall Street last night, and Leonardo is so sexy in that. Yes, he's a massive cokehead, completely ridiculous, but he looked so great… That guy Jason Momoa, he's hot. He's married to Lisa Bonet.
He's in "Game of Thrones."
Oh yeah, I haven't started watching that, but because he's on it, I think I will.
Thank you so much for your time, JoJo. Good luck with everything.
G.B.F. is available in select theaters and via VOD right now. You can follow JoJo on Twitter right HERE.