DJ Jimmy J and the Party in America

Actor Justin Rogers smiles past the camera in a blue shirt and sunglasses. Behind him is a yellow wall. With the show in full swing, we took a moment to catch up with our Mrs Krishnan’s Party actor, Justin Rogers.

Including the development run in 2017, this is the show’s third season in Auckland. How has your character, James, evolved over this time?
James has grown with me over the years. When we premiered the show, James felt younger and had less at his disposal to hide things. We’ve had a few re-writes since then which helped age him up a bit and make him a bit more self-aware.

James is still figuring out who he is and what he wants to do. Do you relate to him at all?
I can relate to that feeling of being in the unknown and having to go with it anyway. Like James, I’ve often ended up in awkward situations, saying the wrong thing or messing something up… so James is my soul brother in lots of ways!

Before becoming James, you studied acting at Toi Whakaari, what’s one thing you’d tell your student self?
I’d tell myself to chill out and stop trying to get everything right. There’s magic in mistakes and they’re a necessary part of art and life. I’d also tell myself to invest in bitcoin. Actor Justin Rogers as DJ Jimmy J acting as a DJ

A part of the show’s charm is that the audience interacts with you. Do you have a particularly memorable interaction?
One of my favourites is when this older Indian lady heckled me. I have this line that goes, “it’s for you my friends that god created… DJ JIMMY J!!” I put on my DJ sunglasses in the dramatic pause in between. This one night this woman chimed in…

ME: It’s for you my friends that god created…

I nearly lost it, it was so funny and so perfectly timed. I love that lady.

Last year you got to take the show to your home town. What was that like?
It was great to play to a home crowd! One night I had my parents, all my nephews and nieces, a few cousins and my grandma in the audience. I felt like a kid again putting on my annual Christmas show for my family. It was special.

Actor Justin Rogers stands between two audience members as they cook rice and dahl

A world away from Whangarei, how was this year’s North America tour?
It was awesome! And it was so cool to kick the North American shows off in Pittsburgh because so many films were shot there – Kaly and I spent a bit of time excitedly scoping out filming locations for films like Batman and Inspector Gadget.

Being set in the backroom of a dairy means the show’s got a Kiwi vibe to it. How does that translate internationally?
The show was really well received overseas [but] it felt different from the New Zealand shows because there were a few key cultural differences: We couldn’t use the word “dairy” (as in Mrs K’s shop), for instance. We had to change it to “convenience store”.

Why do you think the show’s been well-received overseas?
I think the specificity of the story is the thing that makes it so universally relatable. The audiences really get to know these characters and they can recognise their difficulties and needs. I also think the improvised aspect of it is really exciting for American audiences – we’re not giving the same cookie-cutter show night after night and that seems to be attractive over there.

Any standout moments from the tour?Actors Justin Rogers and Kalyani Nagarajan stand behind a curtain looking out towards the camera
In Canada, we found Kiwis in the audience! That was cool and we caught up with them after the show.

The show’s going back to America in November, how are you feeling about the tour?
Definitely excited to be heading back to the US! I’m trying to do a bit of research about each place we’re visiting. There’s this creepy UFO ranch in Utah I heard about that I might visit and I know Kaly is excited to visit the Museum of Baseball Caps in Sonoma – she collects them! It’s also such a gift to be able to travel AND act. I feel very grateful.

Best party advice?
Always talk to strangers!