INTERVIEW: Jeff Teravainen Talks UTOPIA FALLS, Acting and Music
Jeff Teravainen went from music to acting, and currently stars as Gerald in Hulu’s Original Series, Utopia Falls. The new sci-fi show explores a dystopian/utopian future in a very unique way that has not been done before. Jeff talks about the show and what makes it stand out from the rest.
Hi Jeff, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! UTOPIA FALLS is so much fun to watch, it’s so different– how would you describe the show to someone who hasn’t watched it? Can you tell us about your character in the show?
Thanks for having me! First off, I will say it is NOT a dance show or a musical! It’s a great sci-fi show with some cool musical elements. Utopia Falls is set 400 years in the future after humanity almost ended. It is an amiable place on the surface. For example, there are no issues with race etc. However, there is a lot of nefarious things going on underneath it all, which the public knows nothing about. When my daughter Aliyah finds a cave in a restricted area full of artifacts, music, history, things start to change very quickly. Things are not as they had been seen.
Gerald, my character is Aaliyah’s loving dad but he is also one of society’s rulers. As the season goes on, he will be constantly tested on his beliefs, his duties and his family values.
Your character, Gerald, faces the difficult task of racing a daughter in a strange and utopian world. What is his biggest challenge this season in your opinion?
I think raising his daughter alone was a challenge that he rose to. He has no romantic things going on as he was focused on the job and his girl. I think it is always hard to see your kids growing up and making choices. You worry. But Gerald now sees a strange influence coming into his daughter’s life. One that could ruin her or worse! I always try to imagine, what if you found out after all your life that the way you lived and what you believed was actually wrong. How hard would it be to change? Some people will never change. It is all they can comprehend. While others will embrace it. We get to see what Gerald does at the end.
How do you relate to Gerald? How are you different from him?
I loved playing him so much! I am extremely fortunate to have an incredible relationship with my own daughter. She is my everything. So when I met Robyn Alomar I had an advantage of transferring that feeling over to her character. But then Robyn turned out to be such a sweetheart it was just natural. We shot the very first shot of Utopia Falls together and it was so organic and real. It just built from there. We have a scene on the last episode especially that is just beautiful. As far as me, I have the closeness in real life, but I would be throwing my weight around a lot more than Gerald does! Maybe if we get a Season 2 he will surprise us.
There is a lot of singing and dancing in the show, and I understand you were the lead singer for an award-winning band, THE LIFE. Did the musical aspect of the show attract you to the project?
If anything it worked against me wanting to do it. I am not a musicals guy. Though I live for music. But once I was told how the show would flow and saw the script I soon realized it was not a musical. Having watched it now, they have just the right amount of the music part that it never felt too much taking it into another territory. The music is important due to its involvement in changing the kids ideas about life. And of course it’s based around the cultural competition, The Exemplar. But in between those moments are some hard hitting topics.
If you could pick any music you would want to add to UTOPIA FALLS, which would it be?
I love so many types of music it is hard to pin one down. Where to begin?? The Prodigy? Bernard Herrman? Jimi Hendrix? Too many!
What influenced you to pursue acting after having success in the music industry? What was the most challenging part for you and how did you push past those challenges?
My lack of success in the music industry! Seriously though, I always dreamed that someday I would act. But I was so naturally musical I pursued that. After giving everything I had to music, it was the business that chewed me up and spit me out. So much backstabbing. We were an alternative band so we were not rolling in money that is for sure. So there I was, going into sales and trying to make a life when I got scouted for modeling at a club. That led to a commercial and the realization this might be possible. I am painfully shy normally. I remember in my first commercial I was so nervous my eye was twitching! In the end my scene got cut, probably because the “actor” looked like he was going to throw up and had a bizarre nervous twitch! So I had to overcome that sort of thing. I was quick to learn how much I needed to learn. So I started doing schools etc. I still coach when needed as the day you stop learning you are done!
Finally, if you could pick one super power which would it and will you use it for good or evil?
Again, so hard to choose. Impossible really. Growing up I wanted to be Aquaman as I love underwater. But flying!? Invisibility!? Help me here!