“People like to put eyeliner on me—I don’t know why,” observes Avan Jogia whose thick, brooding brows and deep gaze make the answer to that puzzle pretty clear. The 23-year-old’s latest brush with kohl will be on display beginning July 19th on Spike’s miniseries “Tut,” in which the actor plays the titular pharaoh. Beginning just before the untimely death of his reigning father when he is 9, the show follows the iconic king’s struggle to maintain his power amidst mass civil violence and an oppressive religious movement.
“He’s a deeply sensitive person who has never been comfortable with the way his particularly myopic version of society is run,” explains Jogia of his character, for whom he lost ten pounds and trained in sword fighting and archery, doing almost all of his own stunts. “He’s not a warrior. He does things because of his will and determination to be remembered by time.”
“Tut” pairs Jogia with his acting idol Sir Ben Kinglsey—who plays the king’s vizier Ay—but as a child growing up in Vancouver, he was more inspired by a less likely thespian: Tim Curry as Long John Silver in the movie “Muppet Treasure Island.”
“He was just so committed to that character. If you go back and watch it, it’s emotional,” insists Jogia, without a trace of irony. “I would like to say it was ‘Panic in Needle Park’ with Al Pacino, but you’d know I was lying if I said I watched that at nine.”
Jogia landed an agent in his teens and at 15 had a supporting part in “A Girl Like Me: the Gwen Araujo Story.” He dropped out of high school at 16 to pursue acting full-time, first at home and later in Los Angeles. At 17, he landed a recurring role on the blockbuster Nickelodeon series “Victorious,” and when that ended quickly segued to the lead, a suspected teenaged serial killer, on the dark ABC Family melodrama “Twisted.”
The past couple of years have been filled with more grown up projects. He has four indie films in the pipeline, including this summer’s “Ten Thousand Saints,” opposite Hailee Steinfeld; “I Am Michael” with James Franco; and “Shangri-La Suite,” in which he plays Teijo Littlefoot, a circa 1970s gender fluid woman. He has also written and directed his first short “Dogs and Men,” which he cryptically describes as a “meditation on desperation.” It is resume that might suggest a compulsive need to know the source of his next paycheck. But, in fact, the actor has an almost unnervingly calm approach to his famously fickle industry. “There’s this incredibly negative expectation that one must always have work as an actor to validate the fact that you are an actor. I don’t agree with that,” says Jogia, who also paints and writes. “There could be three years where they don’t make a film that I’m right for. I always keep my phone on, but the idea of waiting by the phone is just the worst thing you can do creatively.”