Jonas guest stars as temperamental popstar (though he’d prefer you call him a rock star) Eli White, who is set to perform a concert at the Sunshine Arena. If, of course, manager Ben Donovan (Perry) can keep him happy enough to get on stage.
Eli’s demands are… unique. “Here’s the problem,” he tells Ben. “I wasn’t parented properly, and I’m very rich. It’s a brutal combination. So I’m going to need you to get me a box set of the first season of ‘Brothers & Sisters.’ Just because they’re grown up doesn’t mean family gets any easier.”
We caught up with Jonas to talk about his first foray into non-Disney Channel TV acting, his admiration for Perry, and the late-night solo jam session in London that made the final cut of the sitcom.
You won’t want to miss his appearance, which airs at 9:30 p.m. EST on ABC. We’ve seen the episode, and we can definitively say that Jonas is genuinely funny — and that the show itself is already improving in leaps and bounds from its somewhat lackluster pilot episode.
What was it about this particular role that appealed to you?
I think it was the opportunity to work with Matthew Perry on his new project and kind of learn from him. It was an honor. So when the studio called and said that they were interested in me for the role, they sent me over the script, and I thought it was hilarious. So they said “All right, cool, Matthew Perry’s going to call you today, because he wants you to be a part of it.” I was like, “Whoa.”
You still get star-struck?
A little! He was really cool on the phone. He gave me a rundown of what the role would require, how long I’d be working, all that stuff. He’s just a really cool guy. I was very excited after that call.
He’s kind of a TV comedy legend at this point.
Exactly. I do admit that, when he called, we were on the tour bus, and I went up to the front lounge to talk on the phone. After we hung up, I went and saw the guys in the back of the bus, my brothers were there, and I did have to brag a bit. I was like “Oh, you guys, so, Matthew Perry just called me. Whatever. Yup. No big deal.” You have to sometimes– there are certain things you just have to brag about, and that was one of them.
Matthew Perry stars in the show, he produces it — what was he like on set?
He’s really insightful and he’s always really good to the people that are around him, which is what I look at. I think that the people who stay at the top of their game in the industry these days are the ones that are good to the people that they’re surrounded with, and he was. He loves what he does, which is always cool to see.
Did he give you any pointers?
We did a little rundown of the script before we went to film it all, and he and I worked on it together. I was asking his opinions on different lines, so we were just vibing off of each other. I just wanted to do my best because there’s a lot of pressure, acting with him, but he made me feel right at home.
We don’t see Eli perform in the show, but we do kind of hear his song in the background of one scene while we’re backstage. Did you actually record a song for the show?
This is such a hilarious story. I was in London doing “Les Mis,” and I was busy with that whole thing. The show was kind of reaching out a bunch of times about this song, saying they’d love for me to throw something together and send it their way so they could use it in the background of one of the shots. For a couple weeks they were reaching out, and I just didn’t have time to get around to it.
So finally at like 3 a.m. in London, I couldn’t sleep. I have my little keyboard in my room that I always have, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to do this.’ So I whipped up this thing in like 20 minutes in the middle of the night. I wrote a hook, and then threw some chords down and gave it a beat and sent it over. They used it in the background of the thing. I think I should actually finish it someday for real. I like that you can’t really tell it’s me — you’re hearing it through the walls of the arena, so it’s pretty muffled.
Eli makes some pretty crazy demands when he arrives at the arena – he’s got Ben running around doing all sorts of things for him. Is there anything you like to make sure you have on hand in your dressing room when you’re on tour?
We’re not as rude as Eli is! But yeah, there are things we like to have, when it’s possible, if they can get it. I’m a big pineapple juice fan. That’s my main thing. It’s really good for your voice, so it’s really nice to have. For all of us coffee’s a good thing to have around because my brothers and I keep a pretty busy schedule and we never get to sleep, so there’s that.
About a year ago, I quit drinking Red Bull and soda, and we never updated our rider to not have it there, so all year we had all these Diet Cokes and all these Red Bulls in our dressing room that we weren’t drinking. I’d get bored and walk around the venue and just hand them out to people. Like, ‘Hey, thirsty? Have a Red Bull, there you go.’ It’s a hilarious story.
So now that you’ve got a whole bunch of comedy work on your resume, are you looking to do any more dramatic TV roles?
The acting thing is a lot of fun for me. I’ve never really considered myself an actor but the chances I’ve had to act I’ve really enjoyed so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can. My brothers and I have had the opportunity to do a couple TV shows now and a movie but I have a long way to go and a lot to learn. If something comes up that challenges me in a different way, as far as a more dramatic role goes, I’d love the opportunity. If there’s another comedic role that also pushed me a bit more, I’d take that just as fast.
What other shows would you want to guest star on?
I like Sci-Fi and superheroes. I’m a big fan of “No Ordinary Family.” That’s my main show. So if I could guest star on that, that’d be cool. And there’s this other show called “The Cape,” which is my favorite as well. Those are my main choices.