Clothing Credits: Three-Piece Suit – Musika Frère // Shirt – J. Hilburn // Tie – Musika Frère // Shoes – Gordon Rush // Socks – Charles Tyrwhitt // Ring and Bracelet – ZADEH
Jimmi Simpson did not always know he wanted to be an actor. The New Jersey native has been leaving fans of the hit show Westworld in awe with his honest and convincing take on hi character, William. We at Imagista caught up with Simpson and had the chance to get to know him a little better.
(Left) Shirt and Jacket – AllSaints // Jeans – Nudie Jeans // Shoes – FEIT // Ring – ZADEH // Bracelets – Title of Work and ZADEH || (Right) Tuxedo – Pal Zileri // Shirt – Samuelsohn // Bow tie – Title of Work // Oxfords – Florsheim Shoes // Socks – Charles Tyrwhitt // Ring – ZADEH
Coat – AllSaints
(Left) Three-Piece Suit – Musika Frère // Shirt – J. Hilburn // Tie – Musika Frère // Shoes – Gordon Rush // Socks – Charles Tyrwhitt // Ring and Bracelet – ZADEH || (Right) Shirt and Jacket – AllSaints // Jeans – Nudie Jeans // Shoes – FEIT // Ring – ZADEH // Bracelets – Title of Work and ZADEH
(Left) Coat – AllSaints // Shirt – Pal Zileri // Jeans – AllSaints // Shoes – Gordon Rush // Ring – ZADEH // Bracelet – Title of Work // Watch – Movado || (Right) Shirt and Coat – AllSaints // Jeans – Nudie Jeans // Shoes – FEIT // Ring – ZADEH // Bracelets – Title of Work and ZADEH // Watch – Movado
PHOTOGRAPY, INTERVIEW AND STORY BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
Imagista: How did you get your start in acting?
Jimmi Simpson: I went to get my English Degree and I took a theater course my Junior year and you know, I had great teachers who just opened my eyes to seeing that some people pursue this as professions which I did not realize, I had never met an actor growing up. I thought to myself “Hey! Maybe I can have a 9-5 job and do some plays at night” and that was kind of the plan. An agent eventually saw me doing some stand up and from there I was auditioning for things like NYPD Blue in the late 90’s. I got a lucky break as a little weird skinny kid, in the movie Loser, which not many people saw. However, just being in a featured film, means you get to go on auditions a little bit longer before they give up on you. That is all it is, I had a couple lucky breaks and I worked and trained really hard. You gotta have those three, you need to work hard, be somewhat talented and get lucky and I had all three going for me and I could not be more grateful.
Imagista: How was your character on Westworld developed during filming?
JS: The arc of most characters on the show was substantial, a lot of change and growth for most characters. The creators really did a bang on job in doing so. We all were given the scripts to the scenes that we were about to shoot days and sometimes hours before filming. For William and The Man In Black in particular they really were trying to keep it hidden from us. It was just the nature of all the information, they shared it as a team, what that did for all of the actors was really let you be in the moment which was beautiful. Also, I got the hint that something was going to be up with my character, I picked up on a few cues probably earlier than when they were hoping. I asked Lisa, one of the creators, if something was going on and she just kind of looked at me and said “listen, your character arc in this series is insane and that is all I am going to say.” Even though I had an inclination, I was playing William so true that when he starts breaking from the pact and then when he breaks in a larger degree that was all happening in the moment, it was not something I was trying to build towards to work towards, how can I layer in that this was going to happen, it felt really organic to me.
Imagista: Did you have any interaction with Ed Harris in terms of character at all?
JS: No, we did not work together, it is such a big show we always have a couple units going at once. We would often see each other on set and I took a few moments to tell him what an inspiration he has been to me. I was a kid when I saw Place in The Heart and I remember watching it and something resonated in me, I remember registering a truth in his eyes. I was not planning on being an actor, I did not plan on it until I was about 22, I just remember him resonating with me. I got his email from Lisa Joy after the show came out and my mother taught me to write ‘thank you notes’ and I wrote Ed Harris an email thanking him for kind of sharing a role with me and letting me be William with him. He wrote me right back and he was really sweet and kind.
Imagista: If you had not become an actor, what do you think you would have done?
JS: I think I would have been a chef. I am obsessed with fat french sauces, making them, preparing them and eating them. I was really looking at culinary schools, if we were in a different financial situation growing up I would have aimed in that direction.
Imagista: Can you describe how you grew up and how your family reacted to you becoming an actor?
JS: My mother was very involved with community theater in New Jersey and I remember she did tiny parts in a couple different plays but she loved the theater. She made sure to take us to see plays, we were an hour out of Manhattan so I was one of those lucky kids who had the best of both worlds. My mom really went out of her way to make sure we got exposed to the arts and my father supported that. My first time on stage as an actor, my mother knew I was obsessed with Jesus Christ Superstar and when I was a Junior in High School she pushed me to try out for the play and I really enjoyed it, but never thought of pursuing it. Four years later I am in college and decided to try it again. When I took the theater course, after the semester was done my teacher asked me to switch majors from English to Theater. I called my parents and asked them what they thought and they told me to go for it. My father also set that example, he worked his butt off his entire life and when I was 8 or 9 he decided he wanted to start his own business so the entire family understood that things were going to change sacrifices were going to be made and we got behind him and eventually it worked out for him. He ended up selling something he created out of nothing for some dough. Not only do I have the example of my mother aiming me towards theater but I have the example of my father willing to risk it for the bigger picture. I had loving parents, I never noticed when we were thinner with money because the love was the same, I was real lucky.
Imagista: So besides having this supportive family, do you have any career mentors or actors who you identify with, who are a source of inspiration for you?
JS: I have not had too many acting “tutors”, I just got into it too late, I was never a child or a kid. It was a lot of peers. The way I run my life, I enjoy surrounding myself with people who know more than me. I have been blessed to be surrounded by a lot of those people, I just love to absorb that. As far as artistic idols, when I was in college considering going after this as a career, there really were not dudes like me doing something that was interesting to me. However, when I saw Richard Burton’s work that was pretty profound for me because he was speaking to me in his performance in ways that no actor ever had with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, with footage of his contemporary Hamlet and the movie Becket. I had never seen an everyman just knock my dick in the dirt with their performance. He kind of reinvented what it was like to be a man and I bought what he was selling. Watching him made me realize that maybe I had something to say because I identified with what he was saying. Then of our time, folks like Phil Hoffman, Sam Rockwell, these actors that seem to be speaking their own language in a very articulate fashion.
Imagista: What are you working on that you are really pumped about?
JS: I just finished a few projects before I left the states. I got to be part of Under the Silver Lake with Andrew Garfield, which was shot right in Los Angeles. The director was such a peach and he is coming out with this kind of epic thing, I have never read a script like this, I had to read it three times to understand what he was talking about and when I did I said “please sign me up in trying to tell this story.” He is just one of those guys who gets behind the camera and all of a sudden he is electric. On the flip side, I got to have a small part in Errol Morris first kind of narrative. He is doing this 6 part thing for Netflix and for some reason he gave me a call to do this little role.