Avan Jogia stars in the latest addition to notable horror series Resident Evil, titled Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. In the film, Jogia plays Leon Kennedy — a rookie cop adjusting to his new duties in the film’s terrifying world. But outside of the horrors portrayed in Resident Evil, Jogia is so much more than an actor. With passions for writing and advocacy for inclusivity, he proves a keen mind and a captivating conversationalist, reflecting on identity, his career, changes that have yet to be made in the industry and more. Schön! joins Jogia for an exclusive conversation.
What’s 2021 been like for you after such a globally intense year last year with the pandemic?
2021 has been sort of expansive, really, as far as my artistic life, and sort of whatever the opposite of expansive is for my personal life. Obviously we all were confined to our homes and limited in what we were able to do, but I found myself expanding the sort of art that I was after. I was able to direct a movie that I wrote and I was able to expand the sort of art that I was interested in pursuing, basically. Because of the isolation, I think it made it easier for me to pursue some art that I was interested in.
You’re starring in the latest edition of the film horror series Resident Evil titled Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. What was it like working on such an iconic horror franchise?
It was cool working on such a well-known series/franchise and well-known video game. I played the games as a kid. It’s obviously the iconic horror game that started the whole genre of horror video games. It’s cool to be part of it. It’s an exciting deal.
What’s your favourite Resident Evil game?
I played Resident Evil 4, that’s my favorite game. I played two and three as well. As a genre-defining and -creating game, I appreciate it. It’s so beloved by video game fans for multiple generations now, which is cool. There’s very few games that do that — maybe Zelda? It’s very cool that it’s one of them.
You play the role of a rookie cop named Leon Scott Kennedy in the film. How did you prepare for the role?
Honestly, I played a lot of video games, which is not a bad way to prepare for a role.
The cast of this new sequel included the likes of Kaya Scodelario, Hannah John-Kamen and Tom Hopper. What did you enjoy most about working with this cast?
I liked working with the cast , but it was weird and different. It was all during COVID. We were in our bubble and advised not to go and mingle and go out to places, so it was a different filming experience. A lot of the time when you’re filming a movie, it’s a bit like a pirate ship. Everyone comes together and we set sail. We go to a weird location and we shoot together and we bond in that way. It was less so in this movie, but it was really lovely. Everyone’s so sweet. In the time on set that we got to hang out with one another, we did really get to bond quite well, so that was nice.
You’ve starred in several films within the last few years after departing your role as Beck Oliver from the TV show Victorious. How was the transition from television into film for you personally? Do you prefer one over the other?
I think that’s sort of a contrite or cliché. The idea that ‘oh, it’s the actor who made the transition from being on a beloved teen show, and then they made the transition.’ As far as my transition from television to film or film to television, I’m just interested in being a good actor. Concentrating on that and concentrating on my work and my skills. I just measure by how much I’m growing as an actor. That has taken me all over the place. It has taken me to television shows, to movies, and it’ll take me into other things as well. I just concentrate on that. I don’t really think about the transition and I don’t scheme in that particular way. I might have when I was first thinking about it. As you get older, you think about what matters to you. The only thing that matters to me is just being a good actor.
Along with your love of acting, you’ve also shared your passions for writing and music. In 2019 you released a beautifully written book titled Mixed Feelings: Poems and Stories. Is creative writing something you see yourself exploring further in the future?
Poetry has always been a love of mine. I’ve done it my whole life. I find it grants me great solace and it’s an easy way to be creative. It takes a village when making movies or making music and to be creative or get that feeling of creation, which is what I’m always striving for, that feeling and that rush of making something. But when you’re writing poetry, specifically, it’s just you. When you make something, you have access. I just liked the idea of having access to that rush whenever I needed it. That’s what poetry’s always meant for me. It then amalgamated into this particular collection of poems, which is about my identity, my racial identity and my feeling of what mix-ness is. I do explore all types of topics; that’s not the only thing I write about. I think I’ll release other stuff that’s not about that.
What’s been inspiring your writing lately?
All the stuff that always inspires it — greed, the end of the world, climate disaster, small joys and small defeats. Writing is a way of unwiring your brain or your conscious or your subconscious. A lot of our subconscious has been filled with these sort of nightmares of the modern world, like technology and how we’re sort of marching in an inevitable direction that I don’t think anyone really anticipated or planned for. All that sort of doom and gloom stuff is always right there in my brain. But also small joys. Like I said, that’s something that I write a lot about too. It’s a therapeutic process for me. It’s not therapy because therapy is therapy, but it’s a therapeutic process for sure.
And music, too — you’re in a band with your brother called Saint Ivory. What encouraged you to explore musical projects?
Honestly, the music started off because I just wanted to explore it and me and my brother were tooling around with stuff. The record that we cut was because I’d written this book and we went on a book tour and we performed some of the poems as songs. We had done that and thought we should probably record the songs and put it into a record. So there’s the book and then there’s also a record that is like a spoken word record. It was mostly inspired by that. Sort of like my acting, whatever moves me is what I’ll explore.
What has been the personal highlight of your career so far?
I did like writing the book. It’s always in front of me, which I think can breed a lack of satisfaction in your life, which you have to be careful about. But my personal highlight is always in front of me. So far, I have trouble conceiving in that particular way or thinking about it in a particular way. The thing that is always in front of me, is what keeps me sort of marching along. At present, it’s sort of all a bit murky in front of me, actually. I feel without a very definite plan, and as a person who’s had a ‘for sure’ plan for their entire life, it’s an interesting feeling. I directed the movie that I wrote. I wrote a book. I’ve been acting for 15 years. I’m not sure what’s next, really.
In the recent past you’ve been rightfully vocal about your frustrations with the lack of diversity within the arts and creative industries. How do you think this is going to improve?
There’s creatives that we have to emphasise the stories we have to pursue, and everyone knows that. I think what I’ve always been an advocate for is people of colour not being bound to just tell the stories of their culture, but using their culture and their particular lens to tell stories that don’t directly pertain to that, meaning that their racial identity or their sexual orientation or their gender presentation isn’t the reason why their art is being greenlit and funded; meaning that the powers that be — the people who have checks — write checks to support artists from all those types of backgrounds who want to make movies about sci fi and aliens and make movies that don’t directly pertain to their identity. I find the identity tokenism of the industry is a good way to get through the door, but it’s not going to let us stay. What’s going to let us stay is finding some voices who are true authors who have something interesting to say, not just based on their identity, but based on the content of their soul. I hope that they can stick around and keep on making art.
What should we expect from you next?
I’m just in hibernation at the present.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is currently in cinemas.
direction + photography. Mynxii White @ Exclusive Artists using Leica Camera USA
fashion. Kyle Muhlfridel @ Middleman
talent. Avan Jogia
production. James Kristofik
casting + production. Alabama Blonde
first ad. Craig Bullock
grooming. Kathy Santiago
words. Esosa Aiworo