The handsome, talented Jeff Lima talks to TVGrapevine.
Tell me about yourself and career.
As the story goes, I wanted a career on screen since I started speaking full sentences. I vividly remember role-playing a lot as a child. I was better able to gauge whether acting was something that I really wanted to pursue when I started junior high school.
In junior high school we learned acting theory and put on full-length productions. It was great to be in an institution where theory met practicum. While I’d describe the curriculum as being rigorous, I was completely enamored and I was sure that I wanted to do this professionally.
In education, there is a big push for college and career readiness. When I was 12, I began training as an actor and I guess the training paid off. About a year later, I booked my first film, an Oscar nominated film, Half Nelson. From there, I was better able to market myself as a serious actor.
Tell me about your role on Chicago Fire.
Chicago Fire’s Leon Cruz is a broken teenager who navigates the day-to-day of inner-city life. I have the pleasure of recurring as Leon Cruz on the series. My biggest responsibility with this role is seeing past Leons’ tough exterior and finding the humanity in his persona.
What attracted you to the role?
I have so much respect for writing that is both cerebral and three-dimensional. Derek Hass, who penned the creation of Leon, layered this character richly. My attraction to Leon Cruz came as a result of the depth of character and all of the creative allowances it afforded me!
How would you describe your character?
Leon Cruz is a very tough exterior. The walls he’s built are rooted in dark experiences. Though it may not seem the case, Leon possesses the capacity to not only do well for him, but to project that light onto those around him. Leon adapts very well and when given an opportunity to change for the best, Leon obliges. However, Leon is a poster child example that change is a process, not an event.
What would you like to see him do next?
Last we see Leon, he is in great spirits and in college. When Leon made the streets his home, we did not want to cross paths with him! Now that Leon is a completely different person, I’d love to see Leon take his goodness to the extreme. I would love to see how does his newfound light permeate to all those around him.
How do you think he has evolved since you began on the show?
Leon Cruz has grown into a likable and respectable young man over the years. To an extent, Leon displayed self-sabotaging behavior and he was able to see the implications of that in every aspect of his existence. In a miraculous episode, Leon barley makes it out of a shoot-out with corpses surrounding him. Leon allowed this to be his reality, having had other options, clearly juxtaposed by his brother Joe.
When we last see Leon, he is very much like his brother. He has made the decision to alter his reality so that he is adding value to those around him.
Who are some people you want to see guest star on the show?
Oh my god- if Eddie Redmayne or Joseph Gordon Levitt ever guest starred on the show, I’d lose my mind. These actors’ careers embody range and consistency and they’ve managed to solidify themselves as character actors, in my opinion.
What else are you working on?
I’m currently stepping outside of myself as an actor and exploring executive producing under my production company’s banner Innovative Pictures. I like to hit the ground running and so I’ve gathered a very intelligent and dedicated team to ensure that I efficiently collaborate with writers and directors who are shopping their material for a producer.
What is a fun fact about yourself that would surprise your fans?
Fun fact- I’ve been vegan for the last 14 months. The only thing that will make me reconsider my decision is learning that there is some sort of animal byproduct in red wine.
What are you watching on TV these days?
I’m a huge American Horror Story fan! Being able to watch and rewatch the episodes this season give “living my best life” a whole new meaning.
Anything else you want to tell America?
While I have the attention of America, I’d like to say “Its pumpkin spice season!”