Jason Eftimoski. That’s me. January 30, 1988, in Hackensack New Jersey, the day I decided to make my escape. I had a notion there was going to be some resistance from within but, I didn’t care. I was going to see the light of day one way or another. Even if it meant I had to punch and kick my way out and come out screaming head first….Well that’s how I pictured it at least. It was probably more like my mother screaming in pain and my father next to her sweating bullets barely able to watch as Dr. Magio pulled me into the world.
And just like that, with a smack on the ass, and the cut of a cord, Steve and Lydia; two Macedonian kids from Garfield, that met in high school, and married a few years down the road, had birthed a son.
That’s about all I know about that day. The days to come were just like you hear anywhere else in America. Two new parents, buy a house, get a couple dogs, and decide I need a partner in crime. My sister Samantha, was introduced to the cast. I don’t really remember how we were when we were babies but I know as we got older we fought constantly. As children tend to do. But Samantha liked to scratch and shriek like a banshee when we’d bicker. She scratched the shit out of me, I hated it. I would get asked in school if I had a cat because my arms would be clawed up from holding her down when we fought. I could probably find a scar somewhere, to this day, if I really looked. . Like I said, we were your average family that set up shop in north Jersey. We did what families do. Vacations, birthdays, and holidays (Macedonian and American), family events, all that good stuff. Being Macedonian, also meant I had a lot of cousins, aunts, and uncles. It got confusing, but interesting…
Now, growing up, (in my early years when I was first getting my start); my great gradmother would babysit my sister and I while my parents pulled their double shifts at a kitchen appliance store and Telesource. When I wasn’t in school or with friends I would have to entertain myself somehow, I mean don’t get me wrong I love my Baba, but for Christ sake she was like 80 years old then, and my sister ate rocks. I felt like I was taking crazy pills! Soo, I’d watch TV and movies, and wrestling and cartoons, then go outside and imitate everything I saw. I’d do voices, characters and make up little story lines and play them out with my GI joes. At the time we lived across the street from a neglected half ass playground, on a street swolled by woods. It was heaven. Once in those woods there were no rules, responsibilities, or homework. My friends and I created universes in there that only we had the key to. Now kids have ipads and game consoles that create those worlds for them. It makes me sad to think that kids nowadays are being, in a way, robbed of an imagination. But who am I to say how to raise a kid, I don’t have any of my own. That I know of.
Those were my summers. Then there was school. Im gonna be honest, being a fat kid growing up, definitely isn’t easy. But for me, it was an advantage. I figured out early that if I could get people to laugh, they’d be too distracted to say something about my sweet pecks and shredded glutes. And I must say it worked.
School was school, I was no different than any other kid there. Life was pretty good, and with the addition of my brother Tyler as the third member of the cast, I finally had someone I that wouldn’t scratch me if we fought and teach things to, like how to be “cool”…. My friends and I would ride bikes, get in fights, and trouble, and chase girls all around town. Get lost on side streets, and find hidden bike paths, made by kids just like us, back when they were growing up. We knew every shortcut and back road there was. We’d be able to get around faster than a car if we knew where we were going. There was the boys and girls club birthday parties, Soccer, baseball, football, and carnivals and ho-downs. We’d go fishing, something my grandfather and myself shared an enjoyment for, and there was paintballing, camping, riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers, you name it, we did it. Small town USA, small town Jersey.
I don’t know if I can say that I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was growing up. But I did know that I was pretty good at entertaining people, and I liked doing it. That was enough for me, then. I had other things to worry about. I cant say that I ever went out for a school play, or talent show back then. I was too embarrassed to do so. The last thing you need when you’re a fat kid that speaks two languages, is to embarrass yourself in front of everyone, right? I thought so then. It’s a should’a, could’a, would’a situation.
I can say the same for my high school career. Being more concerned about sports and parties, and girls, and getting a job, and responsabilities, blah, blah, blah…High School was a good time for me, I will admit. It wasn’t until later in my junior year that I began considering the idea of being an actor. By the time senior year rolled around I was signed to a talent agency and had done background work for some TV shows. Upon graduating I became more interested in possibly acting. So, to sort test the waters a bit, I signed up for an acting course at the CCM, or Harvard on the hill as it was called. That community college opened my eyes a little on just how terrifying acting can be. I fell in love. I thought, as we all do at that age. By then I had done a few more guest spots on several other tv shows, but the big deal one, was when I was on set of the final episode of The Sopranos. That was the first time I thought to myself, well shit, I’ve been doing this a couple years now, how come Im not in front of the camera like that guy.
I had broken up with acting. Set it aside for a minute, while I figured out which miserable job was going to consume me for the rest of my life, like everyone else. So I dropped out of college and joined the work force.
By then I had already been spending my summers working with my uncle and his fence contracting company, or at Carnival Spot ( a local Pizza Parlor) or pumping gas at Franks. I’ve done everything from, rake leaves, to pushing snow in a plow truck, to pumping out septic tanks. I had been working for a friend of mines lawn mower repair shop as a manager, when I applied for a job with a utility company.
It sucked. I knew it then and I know it know. It was the sort of job that you get, that makes you content with yourself and where you are. And before you know it, you’ve lived your life in the same corner, never experiencing anything so average as an annual summer vacation or cruise to somewhere everyone else goes when on vacation. I was miserable. I hated it, and I knew I had to make a change.
Opportunity knocks, and when it does you answer that shit. I’m stuck working this shitty job, through rain, sleet and snow, and boiling summers. Day after day the same route the same thing. Finally, thanks to a certain weather related incident, I was given the “opportunity” to leave the company. And leave I did. I was going to leave everything. My job, my home, my family, my friends; they were all shortly going to be in the rearview.
I decided it was time to give acting another shot. A few weeks after I left that job I had sold, my truck and motorcycle, and whatever I could get money for, to pay for my acting classes. This was it. It was my last choice. I had to make it work. I found a school that met my needs in New York City. I was signed up and once September came to be I was en route to getting my BFA. I would take the NJ Transit bus every morning at the ass crack of dawn to get to school. I had fallen in love again. Whether it was attending class or just walking through NYC, I was blessed to meet incredible individuals. I had learned more in my time there than I had ever learned in my entire life what it was to be a person, a human.
Acting changed my life. Every aspect has been changed, from the way I view others, and the way I view myself. Everyone has a story, and sometimes that’s better than any movie, play or book.
After I had gotten my certificate, I joined my acting instructors not as a student but as a colleague. Now what? I thought. I did everything I was told to do. I got new head shots, put my resume together, got a reel. Off I went. The summer I finished my courses I had landed a spot on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire . From there I went on to do a few short films, music videos, what have you.
By august, I was in need of a change again. It seemed like the perfect time. At home, in my family’s personal life, things weren’t going so well. I could see it all around me. It was beginning to decay, and I wasn’t about to go down like that. I was going to make it right again.
So August 1, 2012, I left. I packed up whatever clothes I had, a tv, and a computer, and I was gone. Chad, a brother more than a friend, joined me on my road trip to the left coast. Hollywood, was my eventual destination.
It took us 7 days to drive from New Jersey to California. Along the way we stopped in New Orleans, and Houston. Those were to be our only stops, until we hit Los Angeles.
Coincidentally, another friend of mine had taken up a Job as a traveling nurse, and was in need of a roommate. The Universe had lined up. Everything was falling into place, solidifying for me, that my decision was not a hasty one.
My first year in LA was incredible. Everything you can ever imagine (except for a Dunkin Donuts for God knows what reason) was at my fingertips. Soon after settling into a home that I had found on craigslist, I was given the opportunity to meet with several legends within the field.
February 2013 is set as a milestone in my life’s journey. At the time, thanks to an old middle school teacher of mine, I had the pleasure of meeting with director Mark Pellington, to introduce myself and speak of potential projects. Mark had put me in contact with a lot of great people that had spent most of their lives in the industry and knew the all the ins and outs, like the kid on his bike in his hometown. All while this is going on my sister ,Samantha, is 9 months pregnant and ready to pop. I had some planning to do.
What happened next was something not even I could predict. The morning of February 27, 2013 I was set to have a meeting with casting director, Michael Sanford, a big deal. Around 5am I received a message via text from my sister. And it read: “ MY WATER BROKE!!!”. Are you kidding me?! I thought. Im hours away from being an uncle, and I have to get through this meeting, then get on a plane to meet the new cast member?!
The moment I stepped out onto the sidewalk after my meeting with Michael, I received the picture of my new born nephew. And just like that A’millian was introduced to the cast. From there I jumped in my car, raced home, booked a flight and that same day was on an airplane back to Hackensack, New Jersey.
A’milli was born a fighter; he had to be. We had found out shortly after his birth,that he was born with a heart condition. A’milli had a hole in every chamber of his tiny heart. And if that wasn’t enough for my sister to bare, he was also diagnosed with mild Downes Syndrome. Now what? You push forward, and you be there for your family.
After spending about a week home, it was time to fly back to LA. I was exhausted. I had a connecting flight in San Francisco, before landing in Burbank. It was around 3pm on a Friday, I was waiting to board when Mark called me. “ Hey Jay, can you make it to Fox studios by 5? I want you to audition for my pilot.” What?! “Yes of course!” I told him. Thank God the flight from San Fran to Burbank is only about 45 minutes, and I also live about a ¼ mile from the airport.
As soon as I landed I was picked up by my roommates. We got home and I got right in my car and headed towards Fox.
If you asked me then what was going through my mind; I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I don’t remember. My mind was a million places at once and my nerves were shot. I made it to the studios. I had about an hour to try and memorize the sides for the audition. I didn’t know what to do. I’m not gonna get this, I thought to myself. And then, it was my turn. Nothing to it, but to do it, and do it I did. I made that audition my bitch. Everything that my family and I had gone through the past 9 months, and mostly the last 7 days, had all come together. When I finished the audition, I silently thanked the casting directors for their time, and somberly walked to my car. For about an hour after that, the only thing I could do was cry. Tears of sadness, joy, anxiety, fear, happiness, anger, every emotion you can imagine was pumping through me. I could barely drive, which probably wasn’t a good idea now that I think about it.
The next day I received a phone call. I was offered the role. My first year in Hollywood, and I landed my first pilot. I had found myself; who I am, where I belong, and what I need to do was all perfectly clear now.
Since I’ve began my journey into this, crazy mixed up business, I have done many films, television shows, commercials, theatre, and all of the above. I’ve had the pleasure of working with legendary people such as, Clint Eastwood, Robin Williams (may he rest in peace), David Chase, James Gandolfini, Martin Scorsese, Matthew Modine, and Kerry Washington to name a few. This past year I had made my Directorial debut with the help of my friend, and lead actor, Danny Page, and writer/poet Hayden Croft, in a short film we call: Eleven. The story of a young man, who struggled with the sexual abuse at the hands of his step father, is forced to face those demons in his adult life. Currently the film is playing in the film festival circuit all over the globe.
This brings us to where we are today. My time here in Hollywood has been an incredible ride, and continues to be. It is a road with peaks and valleys, (mostly valleys), highs and lows. A ruthless, devouring, industry that, if you’re not careful and wise, will swallow you head first, and crap you out in a ditch without having second thoughts. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
We all have our struggles, we all have our stories. That’s what makes us human. Everyone has a gift, everyone has a dream of being someone or something else. And everyone has their way of expressing themselves. Some are just more visible than others. And that’s what makes life such a beautiful concept. Im just a small town kid from small town Jersey, that wanted to do something different with his life. So I became an actor. Its not my profession, but my calling.
Jason Eftimoski. That’s me….