Three Great Things: Avan Jogia

The actor, musician, writer and director, whose new comedy The Exchange is out this week, on a trio of works that have excited him creatively.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the July 30 release in theaters, on VOD and on digital of the new comedy The Exchange, the film’s multi-talented star Avan Jogia – who later this year will be seen in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City and is currently directing his first feature film, Door Mouse shares some of the things that have had the biggest personal and creative impact on him recently. — N.D

La Haine
I go all the time to The Rio in Vancouver, which is my local movie theater, and I recently saw La Haine there for the first time on the big screen. It was amazing, just really cool. I’d seen it before, but after being inside for basically a year and a half, I’d forgotten just how fun it is to watch a really good movie in the cinema with a bunch of people. The film was directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, who also plays the young skinhead in La Haine; Kassovitz is maybe best known for playing the love interest in Amelie and is a brilliant, interesting, creative guy. The film is about police brutality, but really it’s about toxic masculinity. A young Vincent Cassel plays the lead character – it’s such a fabulous role and he’s so good in it.

I must have been 15 years old when I first saw La Haine. Like a lot of arty kids, I went through a phase where I tried to see every French film I could get a hold of; a lot of French New Wave movies, but also some of the ’90s French films, of which La Haine is the crown jewel. It’s an incredible film and has so many similarities with Spike Lee’s work, particularly Do the Right Thing.

It’s such a well-executed film, and it holds up so well in 2021. It’s about police brutality, retribution, class, and all the things that have been rearing their ugly heads for years and years. An unfortunate aspect of things not changing is that a lot of our art that’s about those subjects doesn’t actually become dated. That was one of my biggest takeaways watching it recently.

Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood
I’m currently reading Danny Trejo’s autobiography, Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood, which my friend Donal Logue wrote with him. Donal’s a great actor (he’s in my directorial debut, Door Mouse), a fucking awesome and deeply interesting guy. He sent me the book, and it’s incredible – I really enjoyed reading it. Danny Trejo is a genuinely inspirational person, in terms of his life prior to acting, but mostly his work with addicts in recovery. He writes about navigating how a place like Hollywood sees you when you come across a certain way or you’ve lived a certain life, and his desire to change how he’s viewed by an industry that found a slot for him by always casting him as gangbangers and other kinds of criminal characters. I was also struck by his gratitude for the work and for the place. His outlook on life is incredible.

In the earlier part of his career, he was definitely echoing back to his time in San Quentin and his time involved in criminality and addiction, but what I find so interesting about it is how this other person emerged when he found sobriety and he then became completely committed to focusing on that side of himself.

I think he also explains really well the wonder and excitement of being on a set and making movies. It’s nice to know that some of our experiences are similar, like the excitement about the beginnings of a career, but also the practice of gratitude about how amazing it is to be able to act for a living. I don’t come from a background like Danny’s, but I didn’t come from a place of comfort or privilege. Acting was outside my sphere of experience. And I love my life now and really resonate with the awareness Danny has about how truly incredible it is to be able to pay your bills by being an actor.

Stranger Than Kindness: The Nick Cave Exhibition
I’m missing the Nick Cave career retrospective exhibit that’s happening right now in Copenhagen. I really want to go to it, but I’m not going to, which makes me sad. I’ve always been a big fan. I think he’s an incredible musician and writer who’s committed himself to continuing to make very interesting work and I would love to see his whole process. If the event was extended for some time, I might have an opportunity to go to Copenhagen, but it ultimately doesn’t make any sense to travel thousands of miles and then attend a public gathering of that size. It would have been really cool to see it, though.

I became a Nick Cave fan in high school, listening to like the early Bad Seeds records and some Birthday Party stuff too. When I heard Kicking Against the Pricks at some point in high school, I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. As a young person, I was excited and interested by burnouts, people who make quite a very bright light and then sort of find themselves snuffed out. But as I’ve got older and matured, I’ve become really drawn to artists who have been able to maintain even as their lives become different or evolve. Who go back to the well, who are able to keep on finding a way to pursue the work that they want to pursue without letting go, without being destructive to their lives. I’m more interested in these heroes who can figure out a nine-to-five aspect of their life, even though there’s never any kind of consistency with being an artist. Nick Cave was one of the first people that I found who showed me that one’s career can start as chaos and madness, but then it can evolve.

He’s definitely been an inspiration to me. As a creative person myself, I’m just deeply curious about stuff – and then I get obsessive and find myself doing that thing a ton. Which means I’m writing a book or directing a movie or getting into music. But most of the people who I admire, just like Nick Cave, seem to be hungry and curious about multiple different mediums of work – they’re not just actors or painters or musicians, they have a multitude of different modes of expression.

Featured image shows Avan Jogia in The Exchange, image courtesy Quiver Distribution.

Avan Jogia stars in the new comedy The Exchange, out June 30 on VOD and digital through Quiver Distribution. He is currently shooting his feature debut as writer-director, Door Mouse, and will be starring in Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City later this year. He was recently seen in Zombieland: Double Tap, the Quibi series The Stranger, and Gregg Araki’s series Now Apocalypse. Avan previously directed the short film Of Dogs and Men and a short series for VFILES, Last Teenagers of the Apocalypse. (Photo by The Riker Brothers.)