When Nick Jonas was five years old, his father rented him the 1995 VCR tape Jumanji. He and his brothers, Kevin and Joe, watched the film three or four times in those seven days—well, sort of. The film scared him so much that he had to turn it off periodically, allowing his curiosity to manifest into the courage to tune back in. Growing up, Jumanji was frequently on television and became a fond childhood memory for the trio. Everything came full circle, Jonas explained, when he got the call that he landed a role in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), turned on the TV and saw that the 1995 original was on.
Nominated for the 2018 Best Original Song Golden Globe for his track “Home” and playing the role of Alex, the mysterious pilot that closely aligns with Robin Williams’ character in the original film, Jonas has come a long way from the five-year-old that cowered away from the TV screen.
Coming to theaters on Dec. 20, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is directed by Jake Kasdan and boasts a star-studded cast including Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Bobby Cannavale. The film, which is a modern day standalone sequel rather than a remake, is centered around four teens that come together in detention and discover a video game. Shortly after, they are sucked into the game and embody their previously selected avatars, battling their way through the jungle as a part of the game.
“It was about finding a way to tell a new Jumanji adventure, a new story. [We wanted] something that felt fresh and something that was able to take this beloved classic and introduce it to a brand new audience,” said Jonas. Promising fast-paced action and comedy, he ensured that the original Jumanji energy and dialogue are alive and well in the sequel.
The 2017 film serves as a tribute to Robin Williams, who passed away in 2014. “Everyone has a connection to it [Jumanji] and to Robin Williams and his legacy, his brilliance. I think that’s why we approached this with a lot of care and with the focus on honoring the original but finding a way to give the audience something really fresh,” said Jonas.
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, each avatar has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, ranging from the power of super strength to the power of margarita-making, an asset that might not be the most beneficial in the jungle, joked Jonas.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what my strengths and weaknesses would be if I had to categorize it like a video game. I would say that my strength would be that I am very driven, very focused. My weakness would be that I get in my own head and kind of overthink things,” said Jonas.
The set and cast, however, were far from serious. Jonas described the cast as being extremely “prank-centric” during their time shooting in Oahu, Hawaii. Johnson consistently planted fake bugs around comedic rival Hart to catch him by surprise and proceeded to plaster the reactions all over social media. As for Jonas, he and Black formed a Hawaiian bromance.
“We had a really great vibe both on-screen and off-screen. We would jump around to different spots on the weekend to eat food and hang out. [He’s] one of my favorite guys and someone I hope I get the chance to work with again,” said Jonas.
Busy promoting his music and diversifying his acting career, Jonas sees Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as a new beginning.
“I’m still having new experiences and days where I wake up to a dream of mine coming true and close the day with another dream coming true. It’s about stepping back and looking at moments and really just expressing gratitude and taking a minute to think about the stuff it takes to get there,” said Jonas.