JK Simmons–best supporting actor frontrunner | Inquirer Entertainment

JK Simmons–best supporting actor frontrunner

By: - Columnist
/ 12:40 AM January 24, 2015

LOS ANGELES—JK Simmons, this awards season’s best supporting actor, broke into that wry half-smile of his sadistic jazz college band instructor, Fletcher, in director Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash.” He was congratulated for his mentor character’s range of moods, going quickly from charm to indifference to menace.

“Thank you,” he replied. “You could have stopped after ‘range.’”

JK has been sweeping the Best Supporting Actor category in the awards shows, and is predictably the frontrunner in the coming Oscars. Miles Teller, as a young drummer named Andrew who gets in the perfectionist Fletcher’s band, is equally effective.

Simmons. Masterful performance. RUBEN V. NEPALES

Simmons. Masterful performance. RUBEN V. NEPALES

In person, JK, 60, is genial and smiling, a complete opposite of his scowling, insulting instructor.


“Going home is delightful—it is my favorite part of the day because I love my wife and kids,” said JK, who is married to actress-producer Michelle Schumacher and with whom he has two children.

“I’ve learned how to maintain the intensity at work but not have to take it home with me every day.”

Does he believe that individuals need to be pushed in order to be great, like his instructor does? “Greatness requires work. People are born with talent…Greatness does not need to be pushed, pulled, extracted or driven in order to achieve its highest levels. At the end of the day, is that worth losing your humanity over?”

Who motivated him in his personal life? “I had some football coaches. There were a couple of professors who were perfectionists, without being abusive at all.”

On the best concert performance (Fletcher’s obsession) he has seen, JK said, “The best was the one that I was involved in—being one of 40 voices in a choir, singing Schoenberg’s ‘Friede auf Erden,’ which is a brilliant piece of music.”

JK did bring a musical background to his character. “My father was a musician, a teacher and a choir conductor. So, as a kid, I was around music all the time. I had to take piano lessons, just like my brother and sister. I was very bad at the piano. My teacher was not great. I was miserable.


“My mother realized that the piano lessons were going to make me hate music. She pulled the plug. They just let me go play Little League and do my thing.

“It was years later that I realized that music was what I wanted to do. I started singing in choirs again and majored in voice in college and studied composition and conducting.”

People recognize him more often these days, thanks to his “Whiplash” performance. He said that before “Whiplash,” some folks identified him from his various work, depending on where he was.

“I often find that it’s a geographical thing,” he said. “When I am in New York, it’s still very much ‘Oz’ and ‘Law & Order’ because those are very New York-esque kind of shows. When I am in the Midwest, a lot of times it’s more ‘Spider-Man’ or ‘The Closer.’

“But a man recently came up to me and told me how much he loved an off-Broadway musical that I did in 1984.

“I love when somebody comes up to me and says, ‘I saw you in ‘A Few Good Men’ on Broadway’ or in ‘Guys and Dolls,’ some of the older stuff. That always feels great.”

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TAGS: “Whiplash”, best actor, JK Simmons, Oscars

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