From embodying and capturing the essence and spirit of a young Michael Jackson, to singing young cub Simba’s aspirations of one day being the Lion King, Jason Weaver proves that dreams can come true.
Actor, singer, and now producer Jason Weaver is a familiar face that has grown up before our very eyes in shows such as “Brewster Place”, “Thea”, “Smart Guy”, and in movies like The Jacksons: An American Dream, ATL, and Drumline. Just like when he was younger reminding us about the magic of the King of Pop, Jason is now paying tribute to another infamous artist along with his writing partner Sky Keeton with their group called Sons of Bobby Brown.
Soul Train: What have been some of the highlights thus far in your career with acting and singing?
Jason Weaver: I would have to say the highlights of my career are having the opportunity to play the late great Michael Jackson in the Jacksons mini-series, and having the opportunity to be the singing voice for young Simba in the Lion King. Also, having the opportunity to work on “Smart Guy”–it’s a show that a lot of people really enjoyed growing up and watching. I would probably say even having the opportunity to do the record with Chingy–“One Call Away”–that was really successful when it came out. Recently, I just had a film that premiered at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville, Tennessee called He’s Mine, Not Yours. I’m starring in it and it’s my first producer credit. This is a highlight for me and a turning point in my career; this kind of lets people see what they will get from me in the future, like producing film and television projects.
Soul Train: Wow! Congratulations, Mr. Producer! What happens next with the film since it just debuted at the film festival? Will it be in theaters?
Jason Weaver: Thank you. Well, basically, it will go to a few film festivals and screenings. We’ve already sold the rights to BET. So I believe BET will air the movie sometime before the year is up. It will be available on DVD and Netflix at the beginning of 2012.
Soul Train: Do you find that when you are out and about that people totally forget that your name is Jason and call you by your character names, whether its ‘Lil Michael’, or ‘Teddy’, or even ‘Marcus’?
Jason Weaver: (laughs) Yes, I get that all the time! People will recognize me from certain things, especially when I’m back in Atlanta. I get called Teddy. But Lil Mike is something that a lot of people approach me with. I’ve been very fortunate that I have the kind of fans and support system where people are genuinely supporting me and rooting for me, so whenever I get the opportunity to run into those people they are always very nice, they just want to let you know, even if they are joking, that they respect your work and want to keep you encouraged so that you can keep doing your thing. It’s good–you can run up to me and call me Lil Mike or Teddy if you want to (laughs) whatever, just as long as you come with positivity, that’s all that matters.
Soul Train: The film The Lion King has been re-released in 3-D and it’s been well over a decade since its original release. How was it working on the movie The Lion King as the singing voice of young Simba?
Jason Weaver: It was definitely an experience that I will never forget. I take what I learned from that particular project and will use it the rest of my life. To get the opportunity to work with Elton John and Disney, I mean I was really young when I did that project; I was around 12 years old. At the time, they hadn’t even done the animation yet for the film. It was the very beginning stages so I didn’t understand how big the film was going to be. I was just doing what I love to do and I had the honor and privilege of working with Elton John. I knew that when it came out people would be paying attention to it and there’d be an audience that would appreciate it, but I had no idea it was going to be one of those animated projects that stands the test of time and garners so much success. A lot of people that approach me who are familiar with the fact that I was Simba’s singing voice. It’s people from all walks of life–you know, just a random chick or hardcore thugs that you wouldn’t think know anything about The Lion King– coming up to me saying “Man, you did your thing with the movie, man I love that movie, you did a good job.” (laughs) That whole experience taught me that you can make great material that can transcend age groups, class, race, all of that. It taught me a lot and I thank God for that. I definitely thank my mother every day for that because if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been on the project. She encouraged me to move forward with it.
Soul Train: That is awesome, Jason. Now, how did you get involved with The Jacksons: An American Dream project? How was that experience playing the King of Pop? No pressure, right? (laughs)
Jason Weaver: (laughs) I actually auditioned just like everyone else. I had actually done a couple projects before this came up. I had been a part of a show called “Brewster Place” with Oprah Winfrey, so I had some acting experience, and being from Chicago, that while it’s a big city it’s a small town meaning there aren’t a lot of opportunities that come there to be a part of project of that magnitude. Chicago is more of a commercial or theater driven type of city. I put myself on tape at the agency’s office that I was with at the time. Prior to the audition, my mother worked with me going over tapes of Michael’s performances, helping me to prepare. She was the main person in my corner. After that audition, they brought me out to Los Angeles to audition in front of the director, producers, and of course the Jacksons. I auditioned in front of all of them, and for that particular role, there were over a hundred thousand kids going for the role. It was the biggest role. It was the one role in the whole movie that really explained how Michael’s personality developed through the relationship at Motown, stardom. That role was pivotal in explaining what Michael Jackson was all about to kind of give people a deeper look into his life. With that being said, everyone was gunning for that role. So, I auditioned and must have done something right, and they sent the tapes of the three guys that they thought could play him to Michael and he chose me. I am honored to have had that opportunity to have played him and have been a part of a project that a lot of people to this day will stop what they are doing to watch all five hours of it on TV.
Soul Train: We won’t tell you that we still do that to this day as well! (Laughs)
Jason Weaver: (laughs) Well that’s cool! It’s just such a blessing. I’m very thankful to everyone that has stood behind me and by all these years. I just want everyone to know that I’m appreciative and I don’t take anyone’s love or support for granted. I get the chance now to talk to more people through Twitter and it’s a trip because all this time, I have just been living my life. You do film after film, TV show after TV show, and when you get done with the work and you go on about your life, you are working so much you never really get to understand the impact that you may be having on someone’s life or the joy that you bring into someone’s life. So I now have the opportunity to have people contact me directly through the power of social networking—it’s amazing, the outpouring of love and positive energy that I get every day. I appreciate it and am thankful. It really does mean a lot to me. I appreciate all of my fans and supporters. I hope they just continue to rock out with me and my future projects.
Soul Train: Speaking of future projects, let’s talk about your music career. You have a new group called Sons of Bobby Brown. What’s going on with that project?
Jason Weaver: I actually have a mix tape coming out with my writing partner, Mr. Sky Keeton. We formed a group, a duo actually called the Sons of Bobby Brown. Basically, we are two guys that love music, we write music, and we grew up being influenced by artists like Bobby Brown, Jodeci, and of course Michael Jackson and Prince just to name a few. We were in the studio this past summer writing for other artists, but we’d also do some stuff that we really liked and one night we played the stuff back and thought, ‘man, it’d be great for an R&B artist like Bobby Brown to come back and do some records or if Bobby was still at that point in his career when he was like that mega international super star, it’d be some stuff he could release today.’ We would just say we’re on some Bobby Brown stuff, it had an edge to it, some soul, it was on some rock star stuff, and we said we’re the sons of Bobby Brown. It started off as a joke actually, but what ended up happening is that [we thought] it’d be cool to put stuff on our mix tape that we felt good about and that can make a lasting impact in the marketplace, especially with this generation. So we developed content that could appeal to this generation but also has some substance to it, how the music was that we grew up on. We are trying to introduce it to this next generation, not necessarily the music we grew up on, but the sincerity behind the music and the energy that made it so magical. The kind of music Bobby Brown had when he was the man. The music is very real, authentic, and I think a lot of people are going to be shocked by the quality, content, and how good it really sounds. We’ve been in the studio recording and it’s coming out great.
Soul Train: When will the project debut?
Jason Weaver: It’s tentatively scheduled to come out November 14th. We’ve talked to Bobby Brown about hosting the mix tape, which will be awesome. The mix tape will be available for download. We already have a video on YouTube for “You Got Me.”
Soul Train: Now you know, the first thing that people are going to ask is, “Is Bobby your daddy?!” (laughs)
Jason Weaver: (laughs) No, Bobby Brown is not my daddy! (laughs) I’ve actually known him since I was a kid, and he’s always been someone whom I’ve admired musically and personally. I know he’s gone through his ups and downs in his life but the one thing about Bobby Brown, and the reason why I want to use this as an homage or tribute to him, is because he’s gone through a lot, but he’s still standing. That to me says a lot about a person and about their character. We all go through stuff in life but not everyone is able to bounce back and still be themselves and walk away. Bobby has always been one of those types of people that no matter what he goes through, you can never take away his talent or his spirit. I admire that in him. Of course professionally, he’s accomplished so much and influenced a lot of entertainers. Sky and I wanted to acknowledge him and show where his swag comes from. It’s an honor for us to be able to do this and attach ourselves to his name. We are just looking forward to putting out material to blow peoples’ minds. I’m really excited to hear what people are going to think about it.
Soul Train: We are excited to hear the project when it comes out! Switching gears a bit, do you have a favorite memory of Soul Train?
Jason Weaver: Yes! I grew up looking at Soul Train. I would get the opportunity to see my favorite groups on the show live so to speak, especially since I was at an age where I couldn’t really go to clubs, concerts. So seeing people like Jodeci and Bobby Brown perform, or the old videos of Michael Jackson performing on there, it was really great getting to see these artists doing their thing on a grand scale, or to see R. Kelly in that phenomenal performance that he put on at the awards last year. Soul Train has just been an outlet–it was the first and the main outlet to give black entertainers the opportunity to showcase their talent and to get that level of visibility to catapult into the stratosphere and gain an international audience. I’m thankful for the support that Soul Train has given me. I had the opportunity to perform on the show when my album on Motown, Love Ambition, was out a few years ago. It’s a show that I have always loved and appreciate their ability to raise awareness of black talent.
Soul Train: Did you have a favorite dancer?
Jason Weaver: There were so many of them. I actually paid attention to them all. They all had these different personalities. I liked the concept that they had their own individual style. They were the bomb. I have some awesome memories of Soul Train and I’m glad that you guys are still around to continue giving artists like myself a place to let people know about what we’re doing, so I’m thankful for Soul Train.
Soul Train: Thank you for that, and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us!
Follow Jason Weaver on Twitter @JWeaverJ and check out Sons of Bobby Brown’s new single “You’ve Got Me”.
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.