When sitting down with local Bradford native Jason Edwards, one can’t help but notice the energy he exudes while talking about his career, daughter and faith. His energy and passion for life seems to be paying off.
Also known as J.P., Edwards didn’t originally set out to become an actor, director or author. In fact, after graduating from Bradford Area High School in 1998, he went to Fredonia State University in Fredonia, N.Y., where he studied pre-med for awhile and finished with a Bachelor’s in Psychology.
“In 2001, I drove to Bradford in the middle of a blizzard with $3,000 and no solid plan, said goodbye to my mom and headed out to L.A.,” recalled Edwards.
“It just so happened I got into acting by accident. I was working in a restaurant off of Santa Monica Boulevard and a customer asked me if I ever acted before,” he said. It turned out the customer was Stephen Levy, a talent manager from Frameworks Entertainment and sitting across from him was casting director, Ferne Cassele.
Edwards developed a working relationship with Levy and Cassele and started meeting and networking with more people in the film industry. He also took acting classes with Ellen Gerstein and Brian Reise Acting Studio in L.A. “I booked my first horror film in 2006 after the front runner backed out,” stated Edwards.
Success doesn’t come easy, and Edwards will be the first to tell you he’s travelled some bumpy roads along the way. He said it was initially difficult to find a manager and people in the industry tend to be very critical in regard to how you look and act. While some may have folded under pressure, he used this to his advantage. “This helped me push my body to the limit and I became a health nut,” said Edwards.
He spent 2007 working with the NBA as a host and worked on a few short films in Vegas, including one with Jeremy Helal, who recently won an Emmy for a documentary film.
In 2009, he found out his girlfriend was having a baby and he moved to New York City and stopped acting altogether. “At that time, I knew I didn’t want to go back out west because my daughter’s mother was from New York City. I wanted to be able to split time between her family in the Bronx and mine in Bradford,” noted Edwards.
Edward’s hiatus with the film industry didn’t last long. “Two years ago, I told myself that my daughter was 7. I said, ‘It’s time to go.’ I started reconnecting, reauditioning and found an agent out of Florida. In the last two years, I’ve booked multiple films,” said Edwards, one being A Wish for Giants, which has won 7 awards, including “Best Feature Film” at the Chautauqua International Film Festival.
After an apartment fire in New York City, Edwards planned on going back to the west coast, though life had other plans for him. “I was contacted by Kevin Mosher, general manager of the Pennhills Club,” he explained. He accepted a position as executive chef, which allowed him to spend time with his daughter while still leaving time to continue pursuing his acting/directing career.
Most notably, Edwards directed and co-wrote the horror short “Malign”, about a woman battling with PTSD, which has won four awards, including “Best Thriller” at the Care Awards and “Best Fiction Short” at the American Golden Picture Awards. “The sweetest part was going back to Buffalo (N.Y.) as a finalist,” he said. Edwards plays the role of Jake in Malign, while his daughter, Eda Edwards, stars as Lily.
It doesn’t appear Edward’s career will be slowing down any time soon. “I just recently committed to the lead role in a faith-based film, Aunt Maddy, by Mike Reid of God Zone Entertainment. It has a powerful message. If you go out of your way to be kind and humble — whether you read the bible or not — you are going to attract people with that kind of energy.”
Edwards will also be test screening for a lead in a sitcom that will be shooting in Texas. “If the networks are interested in it — if it’s green lighted — they will buy into it,” he explained. While there, he’ll also be meeting with the casting director for the faith-based crime drama series, Vindication.
For 8 years, Edwards had been sitting on an unpublished children’s series. That all came to an end after he met Belgium-based graphic designer Stefan Motmans through a mutual friend.
“I couldn’t get someone to capture what was inside of my head. Stefan was the first person who I met that could take my ideas and put them on paper,” Edwards said.
After designing the poster for Edwards’ horror short Malign, Motman helped bring Edwards’ first book, Lightning Bug Lights, to the printing press with colorful characters and beautifully illustrated backgrounds.
“There is a strategic plan to the book. It’s the perfect balance of a children’s reality and an adult’s reality,” said Edwards. “It’s meant to tell a story — it’s the bond between a father and his daughter.”
He described the book as a crossbreed between Pixar animation and Dr. Seuss.
The book is currently available for presale on his website at www.lightningbuglightsonline.com, where the first 1,000 will be available Sept. 15. It will also be available for purchase on Oct. 15 at Barnes and Noble, Walmart and Amazon.