Jack Justice, a sophomore film student at the University of New Mexico and local actor, had his most recent project, “When You Finish Saving The World,” which was directed by Jesse Eisenberg, screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival on opening night on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Jack began acting when he was seven and joined the Screen Actors Guild at 11 years old. His career was prompted by his parents placing him into an acting class when singing lessons were unavailable. Despite his devotion to the art of acting, there were certainly struggles.
“I was thrown into it pretty young … I had to communicate with adults at such a young age that peers didn’t always understand what I was doing outside of school as a kid. I had a lot of responsibilities,” Justice said.
A long-time friend of Justice and fellow “When You Finish Saving The World” actor Marika Sayers experienced this with him, also learning to maneuver the entertainment industry as a child. When peers were learning to use crayons and jump-ropes, they were studying Meisner and Stanislavski.
“I’ve known Jack since we were super young,” Sayers said. “We’ve been acting together, taking classes and stuff for a really long time … It’s given Jack and I a sense of being responsible, being together, being on time.”
While he was living like an adult in many ways, learning to navigate the entertainment industry and his career within it, he was still very young and also faced the trials of childhood.
“I was bullied and picked on by all (my) peers… I was always a really small, skinny kid,” Justice said. “(But) when I was going to people who wanted to see me for roles, I never felt (uncomfortable).”
In acting, he found that pressures to fit in fell away. His greatest strengths as an artist were the aspects of his personality that broke the mold and made him stick out in school. He first came to understand this at one of his earliest auditions for the Disney television series Hannah Montana.
“I remember walking in and it was a whole room (where) every single person in there looked exactly like me,” Justice said. “Standing out was what made me feel better.”
Sayers saw a willingness in Justice to be completely himself and attributes many of his achievements to this genuinity. Despite common misconceptions of conformity being the end-all-be-all in film and television, Sayers said this individuality is one of the greatest strengths an actor can have.
“Uniformity is often encouraged when uniqueness is actually going to get you where you need to be,” Sayers said. “That’s why Jack has been so successful.”
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Because of the constant rejection of the audition process, another tool for any actor is resilience, something Justice has built through skateboarding as well as acting.
“Skating taught me a very similar lesson (on resilience): lots of rejection, lots of falling back down and getting back up,” Justice said. “Once you land it, it’s quick. Get back up and (think), ‘What can you do next?’”
After having been on a handful of sets together and essentially growing up beside one another, Sayers has only praise for Justice’s work ethic and talent.
“Jack is extraordinarily good at his job. He fully commits to everything that he does. He always puts 110% of himself into everything,” Sayers said.
As hard as he might’ve worked independently, though, he recognizes the community that brought him to the place where he is. He accredits a long list of friends, teachers, agents and mentors with the success he’s had in his fourteen years working.
“I have a lot to thank and owe to the local casting directors Angelique Midthunder, Jo Edna Boldin, Kiira Arai, Kathryn Brink. They all watched me grow up and since I was able to nurture those relationships as a kid and stayed in it, they’ve stuck their foot out there and got me seen for stuff like this,” Justice said.
To Justice, the local community is familial. The pool of professionals in the local industry is small enough that the cast and crew can always find one another and be supportive.
“When you get on a film set, all the Albuquerque guys, they hang out together, and when they see an Albuquerque actor, it’s only love. That’s all I’ve felt,” Justice said.
Natalie Jude is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @natalaroni