Inspirational & Talented Actor, Jordan Ross
Jordan Ross is an insanely talented actor that has had to navigate Hollywood with a disability.
He joined our Charan Prabhakar on the Lemonade Stand Stories podcast to tell his incredibly inspiring story.
Jordan went from audition to audition with directors shunning him for his disability. It made auditions even more difficult as he became more self-conscious and even felt shame. Eventually it lead to years away from the screen until he was cast by Dallas Jenkins in his current role as “Little James” in The Chosen.
Jordan opened up about how the show and the cast have helped him overcome and build confidence and how his connection with the character of James has given Jordan the opportunity to inspire others who might be going through the same things as he has.
You don’t want to miss this full episode. It’s amazing.
More About Jordan Ross
Jordan Walker Ross, popularly known for his role in The Chosen, is an American citizen, born on February 8, 1990, to Shannon Ross. His grandfather is popular actor Barry Corbin. He is a nephew to Christopher Corbin, Jimmy Barry Corbin, and Bernard Corbin and is from Fort Worth, Texas. His great grandparents were Kilmer B Corbin, a Texas lawyer and politician, and Alma Corbin.
Jordan was born with many health complications. By the time he was seven years old, he had already gone through six surgeries. At the age of two, Jordan was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to use a brace every day for 24 hours.
At seven years old, the disease had affected his spinal cord so much that his curve was at 90°. Jordan became the youngest person to undergo a posterior spinal fusion and anterior procedure to correct the curve.
Despite the health challenges, Jordan didn’t lag in life, and at the age of six, he was already interested in acting and performed as Tiny Tim in a regional theater play. The challenges he went through when growing up helped him mature faster.
Jordan was more mature than most of his peers. He loved acting from a tender age and grew the talent despite the many challenges he faced.
As mentioned earlier, his health challenges started right after birth. He was born earlier and later developed severe scoliosis and minor cerebral palsy. By the time he was a teenager, Jordan had already undergone several extensive operations.
In 2008, less than two weeks after his 18th birthday, he caught pneumonia, which triggered asthma, and he had to undergo a medically-induced coma for two weeks. He spent a month in the hospital and lost over 30 pounds.
Despite facing health challenges, Jordan made remarkable achievements from an early age. When he was eight years old, Jordan was recognized as the National Human Association’s “Be Kind to Animals” kid and became their spokesperson for 1998.
Jordan loved animals, probably because he lived on a farm where he cared for many animals and even rescued some from the woods.
At school, he had to endure a lot of bullying, especially in high school, because he walked with a limp and was not as fast as the other kids. This did not deter him from achieving his goals or looking at the brighter side of life. He dared to turn around what many perceived as weaknesses into strength and used it to achieve his goals and actualize his passions.
Jordan Ross’s Career
Although it was not easy for Jordan to penetrate the acting industry, he worked hard to build a successful acting career. Jordan Ross had to face his insecurities and the negative attention the limp brought along.
For instance, the first thing that casting directors noticed when he walked into a room was his limp. Despite the challenges, he didn’t give up or feel sorry for himself.
Jordan achieved his big break when director and writer Dallas Jenkins discovered and gave him the role of Little James in the TV drama The Chosen. The film is based on the life of Jesus Christ. Jenkins realized Ross’s innate acting skills and went ahead to create immense power into the role he played as Little James. He used his illness to draw a lot of strength to the character.
Today Jordan Walker Ross is a successful actor-producer and writer. He has 27 credits as an actor, 3 as a writer, 3 as a producer, and 2 as a director.
His most notable roles are in Walker: Texas Ranger, which he acted when he was six years old, The Puppy is Present: Incredible Animal Tales at eight years old, and Texas Tales and Legends at ten years.
Jordan has performed in over 40 professional theatrical productions in California and Texas, several TV shows, and films. He received an associate degree in film acting at the Kim Dawson Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts in Dallas, Texas, in January of 2010.
Jordan has trained with notable acting instructors such as Katherine Hartt, Terry Knickerbocker, Bryan Chesters, T.A. Taylor, Richard Liedle, and Joel Goldes.
How Jordan Is Inspiring People
Despite the many challenges, he has worked hard, probably harder than other actors, to achieve his goals. He continually inspires many people worldwide not to abandon their dreams or goals when they encounter challenges. As an avid footballer enthusiast, he inspires many to live their best life, have fun and celebrate achievements.
Jordan Ross Podcast Transcription
Charan: Hey guys, thank you so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand Stories Podcast. Today my guest is Jordan Ross who plays Little James on The Chosen. Now, we had to do this podcast through video conference and due to wifi connections, sometimes the audio got a little glitchy. But the podcast itself is amazing and Jordan gives some really insightful comments about his life. So please enjoy.
Charan: Hey, what’s going on guys? This is Charan Prabhakar with the Lemonade Stand Stories Podcasts, and I’m here with my good buddy Jordan Ross who I had the privilege of meeting just in November actually. It wasn’t that long ago, but we’ve become fast friends, and we got to work on a really, really wonderful project together called The Chosen. Jordan’s a regular on that show, and I happened to just be there for that one day. He made me just feel so welcome. I remember going there and being like, “All right, this is a cool set.”
Charan: I was in Utah filming and I live in Utah, so it all made sense and it was comfortable that way and I knew a lot of the crew. But the cast I definitely didn’t know, and I didn’t know what the experience was going to be. I think Jordan is one of the first people I talked to on set while I was getting my makeup done and he was getting his makeup done. I don’t know, he just made me feel so welcome like I was a part of the clan. And I loved it because every set, every show has its own energy and you just don’t know where you fall. So I appreciate that, Jordan. So thanks so much for being on this podcast. I’ve been doing it for a little bit and happy to have you here, man.
Jordan: Of course. And you fit right in right away. We talked about a little before the podcast, and I’m sure we’ll get into it, but having spent time in LA and I’ve been pursuing this, I’ve been acting since I was six and pursuing it as a career since I was around probably 10 or 12 or something. So I’ve been on my share of sets as a guest star or a featured extra or a stand in or whatever. And like it’s whenever you’re the new guy, everyone else, it’s you’re going to a new school where everyone already knows each other. So I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t belong or to feel like you’re the odd man out or whatever. And it’s… I always try to make an effort to make anyone that comes onto the set feel welcome because that means a lot to me when others have done that for me.
Charan: That is awesome, man. I remember particularly I was on a show called Silicon Valley, it’s a show on HBO. And when I did the show, I did the first episode, the pilot episode, I remember the cast they were really nice and stuff, but definitely I felt like they were there and I was here. I was a part of the green room so I could hang out with them, but they were doing their own thing. But there was one or two that were really friendly and really open and welcoming.
Charan: But what was funny, and I didn’t even realize this, was after I performed, after I did my scene, suddenly I was a part of the clan. It was almost performing was a rite of passage and all of a sudden they’re like, “Dude, you did amazing.” And all of a sudden they were welcoming me. And then season two, I was back on that show and they were it was almost like I was a part of their family. But I didn’t feel that with The Chosen. I felt like I didn’t have to perform to be welcome just being there. So I really appreciated that experience.
Jordan: Of course.
Charan: No, that’s awesome. Now, you said you started acting as a career when you were just a kid, like 11 or 12, right?
Jordan Ross Talks About Getting Into Acting
Charan: So let’s talk a little bit about that, I’d love to hear how you decided, “Hey, this is what I want to do with my life.”
Jordan: For sure. Where to start? So my mom, whenever she… I’m going way back. So when my mom was born, her birth parents they were living in California. They were young, boyfriend and girlfriend, they split up. Not long after they split up, my grandma, my mom’s birth mom, found out that she was pregnant. And rather than telling her ex-boyfriend and making it awkward, she had my mom and put her up for adoption. My mom adopted by a couple in Arlington, Texas, my other grandparents. They raised my mom. She grew up knowing she was adopted but never knowing anything about her birth parents. Years later when she was 25, she had me, I have all sorts of medical issues: scoliosis, cerebral palsy, severe asthma, all this stuff. So she wanted to see if any of it ran in the family and if there was anything else you needed to look out for.
Jordan: So she tracked down a private investigator to find out who her birth parents are. It turned out that her dad, who still had no idea that he had a 25-year-old daughter and a grandson out there, her dad was Barry Corbin, the actor from Northern Exposure, Lonesome Dove, Urban Cowboy, a ton of other things, No Country for Old Men. So she tracked him down and he actually moved back from California to Fort Worth because my mom and dad were going through a separation when I was really young. He was like, “You know what? I didn’t get to spend the first 25 years with you; I’m moving to Texas.” Because he was originally from Texas as well. He said, “I’ll move back to Texas, I’ll fly to LA when I need to shoot something. But I’ll fly down there, you and the kids come live with me, and we’ll get to make up for lost time.” So we did.
Charan: No way.
Jordan: So I technically have three sets of grandparents now.
Charan: That’s amazing.
Jordan: So my grandpa I grew up going on film sets with him, seeing people come up and recognize him, and that was just commonplace, it was just the norm, but I never thought much. I loved watching movies with him and also my other grandpa, the one that adopted my mom, those two grandpas are the reasons that I love movies. We’d watch old westerns and stuff together. When I was six, I was super shy, I would only really talk to my immediate family no one else. And we went to audition with some family friends for a community theater production of A Christmas Carol. I got up on stage when my mom went to the restroom. We were just waiting for them to audition and we were going to go eat afterwards. But she came out and I was up on stage, singing “Silent Night.” And she broke down because I did not talk to anyone, but for whatever reason I was like, “I got to get on that stage.” And I did.
Charan: That’s so interesting, that’s so amazing that you were able to come alive when you’re on stage.
Jordan: Right. And I was still shy off stage, but for whatever reason I loved being on stage. And from 6 to probably 14, I did 40 to 50 professional productions. And somewhere in between there, when I was probably, I think, I was seven or eight when I did my first TV, I was an orphan on Walker: Texas Ranger.
Charan: Oh, nice.
Jordan: Then I did a little episode of Barney, which they used to shoot out in Las Colinas. Then whenever I did a pilot and then I did a short film actually with my grandpa in Austin. And after I did both of those, those were more… I actually had stuff to do in both of those, I had some lines and I got to experience what it’s like to be on a film set, to be acting. From then on I was like, “Yeah, there’s nothing else for me, this is it.
Charan: I love this. So were you just there the whole time in Texas or when did you say, “Hey, I want to move over to LA?”
Jordan: So I went to LA; basically I was in and out. I went to a couple private schools and then I’d homeschool for a little bit if acting stuff got busy. Then in ninth grade, I ended up going to my first public school and it was way different than anything I had experienced. Again, like we had discussed, going on to a new set where you’re not a regular, you feel the new kid in school, I literally was a new kid in school. And these other kids had gone through elementary school and middle school together and then I show up. I’m this weird kid that wears Hawaiian shirts that are way too big and I had, as someone who has a disability, I have a limp and it’s something that it’s not so severe that it’s taboo to make fun of me, but it’s just different enough. So bullies felt they had a free pass.
Jordan: So like, “Okay, cool. This kid he’s not mentally disabled or anything and he’s not in a wheelchair, so I guess he’s fair game.” So it was a weird middle ground, where they felt it was okay to cross that line. It was strange because I had never… Going to private schools and being with the same kids my whole life before that, it was smaller, more intimate, all the kids knew me for years. So none of them thought anything of my limp.
Charan: They accepted it as you [crosstalk 00:11:40] and it was awesome.
Jordan: Yeah. And then at this new school, I was like, it was my first time experiencing people… because I never even thought of it. But then I started thinking about it when other people started pointing it out. And it was rough. I’d eat lunch between the vending machines so I could see the bullies coming and be hidden.
Charan: Oh my gosh.
Jordan: And it was brutal. So I ended up talking to… At first I lied to my mom and I was like, “Oh yeah, I have all these friends.” Because I didn’t want her to be worried. And eventually I was like, “Yeah, I can’t keep going there. I just want to act, that’s all I want to do. I just want to focus on that.” So I had already the previous summer in LA for a summer acting bootcamp at this acting school for kids and teens. And it was run by a woman named Donna Jean Goheen and she was also a manager. I was like, “I just want to go out there and do that and sign with her and go audition for things and take classes.” So my mom was like, “Okay.” So we homeschooled that summer right after ninth grade. And I basically fast-tracked high school. We did this homeschool program where I just went through it as fast as I could. And within the next year, I had finished 10th through 12th grade.
Jordan: I moved to LA and I was out there most of the time from about 14 up to 18. Then I came back to Dallas to go to Katie Conservatory, the acting school. I got my associate’s there in 15 months, and then I went back to LA for about three years full-time, then it was LA. Sorry if I’m rambling, by the way.
Charan: No, no, keep going.
Jordan: If you have another question.
Charan: Don’t worry. I’ve got some stuff, but don’t worry, keep going.
Jordan: Okay, cool, cool. So LA, I really liked it. I made some good friends. I had done a feature right after graduating college. It was this tiny town in Texas. It was a really low-budget movie called Beyond the Farthest Star. I did that and I made some really good friends, a couple of which lived in LA. I had all of my friends from the acting school out there so I felt comfortable moving out there. But then I quickly realized, even when I’d see my friends, you have fun then, but for such a busy place, it can be very lonely.
Charan: Oh yeah, 100%.
Jordan: As you know, you feel very isolated, you feel, and I’ve talked about this a lot with my cast-mates on The Chosen, but it’s easy to feel like you’re just lost in the shuffle or that people don’t really care. It’s all about, “Oh, what are you working on?” And trying to figure out how you can get involved with other people’s projects, and everyone’s always hustling. Which I get, that’s part of it, but there’s not a lot of substance.
Charan: No. It’s like relationships are thrown on the back burner a little bit. Instead of just, “Hey, how you doing?” because you really care to know how someone’s doing, it’s more like, “‘Hey, how you doing?’ but really what I want to know is what are you working on and how can I be involved in it.” It’s a little cutthroat and stuff like that. I remember my experience there, don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful experience in LA. But because I had great friends and that is my one thing I always tell people, is like, “Well, before you go to LA to get into acting and all that stuff, go there and make some really solid good friends, people that are probably not even involved in the industry. Go make friends with them and have a base where you can find a sense of normalcy, a sense of reality. Because LA will just eat you alive.”
Jordan: I heard, I can’t remember who was it, Damian Lillard, I was listening to a podcast with him and he said that… I wrote it down because I loved it so much. He was talking about… He teaches acting sometimes and he’ll tell his students that pursuing a career in acting going to LA, it’s being a gazelle trying to cross the Sahara Desert. And if you’re doing it alone, you’re probably going to die of thirst or you’re going to get eaten by a lion or you’re going to get lost and just wander forever. The odds of you making it all the way across that desert alone are slim to none. But if you can find a pack of other gazelles to travel with and to be with throughout the process, then you can look out for one another, you can protect one another, and the odds of all of you making it to the end of the desert are much higher.
Charan: I like that.
Jordan: And you saying that having a group of close friends is key, I think now… I’ve actually been talking to my wife about possibly, if things keep going well with The Chosen and other opportunities come up, going back out to California for a little while. Before, it was the same type of thing, where we weren’t sure if we wanted to live there. And ultimately I do think I want to be in Texas long-term, but to just keep the momentum going now that I have a true group of friends from The Chosen, most of which live in LA, it’s like for the first time I would have that big support group, that big family out there. I think that would make a big difference.
Charan: I love that, man. It’s interesting, before I moved to LA, because I moved to LA in 2008 or 2009, excuse me. But 2008, the end of the year, I did a feature film and the rest of the cast were all LA-based. They were like, “Dude, you got to come to LA. Come and we’ll help you.” I think that was the encouragement I needed to go there. Even still, I was lonely. It was just like, “Man, what do I do?” I’ve been fortunate in that I was shy growing up, too, but I grew out of that and I started learning to just network and make friends and all that stuff, and that really helped a ton. But I think the biggest thing I learned was, “Hey, have a good set of relationships that you can rely on and just go hang out with and play with.” So a bunch of my friends ,we’d always go to the beach, we’re always go do these things, just normal things that we could do to keep ourself sane.
Charan: I found that for me, my success in LA actually came as a result of my emotional wellbeing already, if that makes sense. I wasn’t in it with the scarcity mentality. I wasn’t trying to chase all these projects down and stuff. I just felt good with where I was and I was just happy already. As a result of it, especially the latter part of my time in LA, a lot of TV shows came into my life. I think it was just this feeling of, yeah, I just felt good. I just felt good being there and everything flowed nicely. So yeah, it’s very interesting to see how things had changed. So for me, my reason for moving out of LA wasn’t because projects weren’t coming through; it was I just wanted to create my own stuff. It was easier to create stuff outside of LA in Utah, so that’s where I moved.
Jordan Ross Talks About Overcoming Shame
Charan: But before we get into The Chosen, I wanted to unpack something with you a little bit. Because I feel this definitely, I don’t know, this struck a chord with me. You said growing up, going to school, you never felt different, you felt accepted and loved in your private school. But then when you went to the public school and people started pointing out some of your minor disabilities or just different things, it caused a shame in you, right?
Charan: So much so that you hid behind vending machines or whatever it was so that you wouldn’t have to see the bullies come and everything. How did that impact just your own confidence? And how did you overcome that sense of shame? Because I feel like a lot of kids nowadays struggle with shame in different forms. And some of them are physical, you can see them, but a lot of them aren’t, and they try to hide it, especially if it’s emotional pain or emotional impairment, people try hiding it. So what did you do to overcome those challenges?
Jordan: It’s still a journey. There’s a lot that… Part of it was, at the time I had the most supportive mom in the world and I could talk to her about anything. She’s the type of person that if I told her today, like, “Hey, I don’t want to act anymore; I want to be an astronaut.” She’d be like, “Okay, cool. Let me look up astronaut schools and let me do everything that I can to help you.” She’s the most supportive person. So having that definitely helped keep a little bit of confidence in myself even throughout all of that. But the thing that was really difficult was going to LA after experiencing that, then going there, and I booked some things here or there, and I was a part of some cool projects. but there was a lot of dry spells and there were several instances where casting directors… And it is getting better, Hollywood and the industry in general, at being inclusive, whether it’s gender, race, disabilities, whatever it is, they are becoming more inclusive, which is great.
Jordan: But at the time, it was still something even just 10 years ago or 5 years ago or whatever, it’s been improving, but it was a lot worse then. And there were several times casting directors would comment on, one was like, “Hey, can you lose the limp?” And then another one asked if it was a character choice. Like, “Yeah, I’m not sure how I felt about the limp. Can you try to get a…” They thought that I was just doing that as part of the character. And after that, then I booked a national commercial. I went through several rounds of auditions, I got it, I went and did the fitting. And while I was doing the fitting, the director came over, and it was a commercial that was supposed to air during the Olympics; it was a big one. This director came over and he noticed me walking. Because normally I have lift in my shoe so it’s not as noticeable, because one leg is longer than the other, basically.
Jordan: But at the fitting, I was trying on all sorts of clothes. I had my shoes off and I was walking and he noticed, so he came over and was like, “Hey, are you okay? Did you get hurt?” And I explained it to him. He asked me if I would be able to do what the commercial required. And the commercial was someone playing a VR basketball game, so it’s me just acting like I’m playing basketball with a VR headset on. I was like, “Yeah, I did it in all three rounds of auditions, you were there, you saw me.” And he was like, “Okay, I just wanted to make sure.” But he looked really concerned. I showed up on set and I saw one of the other actors that was at the audition for that character wearing the same costume I was wearing. And they add them; there’s a backup in case my limp was too noticeable. At the end, they just cut that part of the commercial out altogether.
Jordan: So there was a lot of moments that it was frustrating, because I knew… It’s like, “Okay, I’m booking things, I’m getting good feedback, but the one hang-up is this limp, is this thing that makes me different.” And it’s like, that was discouraging, because I felt if I was just a bad actor or I wasn’t getting the material or whatever, I can work on that; I can get better. But this was something it’s like, I can only do so much. I can’t change that just like you can’t change your skin color or whatever.
Charan: I was literally going to say that for me being an Indian actor. It’s like I’m limited to certain types of roles.
Jordan: They’re like, “Do we need an Indian for this character?” But the thing that’s frustrating is when it’s something totally out of your control, you can’t do anything about it, and that sucked and it hurt, because then in auditions I was no longer thinking about the material or the character or trying to do it justice, I was thinking more about, “Okay, cover up the limp, cover up the limp.” I would see that. There’s so many times I’d be doing it ,and after as I’d be walking out or when I would walk in, that was even worse, I would notice the casting director’s eyes glance down and see it. And maybe some of them didn’t; maybe it was me overthinking it. But I would notice on several occasions where I would notice them notice it. And that just threw me and I bombed so many auditions because of that.
Jordan: Then long story short, being in LA going through that struggling, I ended up coming back home to get a hip surgery. And it wasn’t for the lamp, I had some issues with that because of the cerebral palsy. I moved back home after that. I ended up getting married shortly after and I was like, “Well, let’s just stay in Texas.” Then it was several years, because I recovered from the hip surgery, which took a while. And I hadn’t acted in a couple of years at that point and that was really rough, because that’s when I’m truly happiest.
Jordan: Yeah. So I started doing this gunfight comedy, Wild West Show at Six Flags and doing little things like that just trying to get back into it. It was itching that scratch for me or scratching that itch, whatever it is, scratching that itch. So I was doing that stuff, but there was still times where it’s like, “Oh yeah.” I would hear back from other people that I didn’t get a role because of the limp and things that. And it was still just there at the back of my head. And finally I, you asked how I overcame it, I still am, there’s still a level of shame, which now I can acknowledge. Before I couldn’t even identify the shame, I just felt bad and I couldn’t put a finger on why or what was causing it and all of that. Now I acknowledge it.
Jordan: So if shame comes up, I can silence it and I know how to deal with it a little better now. But it was booking The Chosen, honestly, was what, and I’ve told Dallas this, who was on your podcast, it was a great episode by the way. But I told Dallas that booking that and then meeting that group of people and being part of that cast has done more for my confidence than anything. And it’s actually funny, because I booked that. I did two rounds of auditions. The second one, Dallas was there. And then I waited a week or so. I got called.
Charan: Did it come through Texas?
Charan: Because I think Beverly was casting that, I believe.
Charan: So it came through Texas?
Jordan: It did, yeah. I was actually the only local hire that got a series regular part on it. Actually, at the time, the school I went to in Dallas, where I graduated from, I went back there after my hip surgery and after I did the Wild West shows and stuff. I was like, “Okay, I’m not paying the bills; this isn’t that much money.” I had one kid; now I have three. But I was like, “We have a kid. I got to have some sort of consistent income, but I want to stay in the arts.” So I went back to that school, I started teaching some kids classes, and then I was an admissions rep there.
Jordan: The funny thing is, at that school, casting directors would rent out studio space there to hold auditions, mostly for commercials and stuff that. But I was scheduled to do a few interviews that day for potential students and tours of the school. I got a notification from my agent that I had an audition coming up that day, and I saw that it was right between two of my interviews. And I was like, “I don’t know if I can make this audition. I may have to cancel it.” I hadn’t booked anything, I hadn’t done anything on film or television since, oh man, probably 2014.
Charan: So it’s been a minute.
Jordan: Yeah. Maybe 2014, 2015. But it had been awhile; it had been at least three years, four years. I’d done some theater, little things like tiny little commercial stuff that, but it had been a while. So I was discouraged. Anyway, it’s like, “Okay, fine. I’ll just cancel it. I’m not going to book it any way.” Then I looked at the location and I was like, “Well, maybe it’s nearby because a lot of them are nearby in Dallas, so maybe it’s close.” I looked and it was in our building, literally a 30-second walk from my desk. And I was like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll do it.”
Jordan: So I did the audition, I did the call-back a week later, and then I found out I booked it a week after that. I was on set the first day and Dallas, because I was wearing my lift in my shoe for the auditions, and I get on set and I have to wear these ancient looking flip-flops and so I can’t wear a lift. So I’m there and I’m walking out of my trailer. Dallas comes up and gives me a hug. He’s like, “Hey, man, welcome. We’re glad to have you.” I saw him stop and look and he was like, “Are you okay, by the way?” I was like, “Oh, here we go.”
Charan: Here we go.
Jordan: “He’s going go recast me; he’s going to make my role smaller.” I was bracing for it. And I explained it to him and he was like, “Oh, okay.” And then we finished those first four episodes. I only worked four days on that. And then he was like, “You’re going to be back a lot more for the next four.” And I was like, “Okay, cool.” So the next four came around and he came up to me one day early on in that first week and was like, “Hey, so we’re thinking. We’re starting to plan the future seasons.” Because they had already had, for the most part, the first season written. He came up and was like, “We’re planning out the future seasons. Would you be okay with me incorporating your disability into the character and making that part of Little James?” And I said, “Yeah.”
Jordan: But part of me was worried about it, because it’s something I’ve spent my whole life trying to hide and now it’s like, “Oh, so you’re going to draw attention to the thing I’m most insecure about in front of hundreds of millions of people?” Because we just crossed, I think, 117 million views. So it’s like-
Charan: Yeah, it’s insane.
Jordan: Yeah. And it’s like, “Now all these people are going to be looking directly at the thing I’m most insecure about.” So part of me was nervous. But then the more I thought about it, I was like, “No, I need to do this because of the other kids and other people that have similar insecurities, whether it’s a physical one or not. I need to do this to show you can accomplish your dreams; you can make it in spite of your insecurities or your disabilities or the things that maybe other people might judge you by or whatever. You can overcome those things and you can still accomplish your dreams and what you set your heart to.” I needed to do it for that, because I’ve always wanted to help other people that struggle with that. But I also needed to do it for myself because essentially Little James is… I don’t know if you saw the most recent episode, episode three of season two yet. It just was released last night.
Charan: I didn’t even know episode two came out. I need to watch both of those.
Jordan: Yeah, two came out last night and then Dallas is like, “And surprise, here’s episode three.” But in episode three, I won’t give any major spoilers here, but I do have a scene where I’m talking with another one of the apostles. And he’s basically asking me, “Why hasn’t Jesus healed you? Is it hard for you to watch him heal all these other people and he hasn’t healed yet?” I’m like, “Yeah, it sucks. I’m afraid to bring it up, though, because I don’t want him to feel different about me. I’m afraid of what he’s going to say if I ask him to heal me.” So it’s this dilemma, this struggle. But I love that they’re showing Little James’s shame; they’re showing the thing that he’s insecure about. It’s like that feeling of “Why me? Why did I have to be the one that’s different?”
Jordan: I think that Dallas has said this, and he mentioned this in an interview. He was like, someone asked about Little James like, “Oh, is Little James is going to be healed eventually?” And Dallas was like, “Well, in order for Little James to be healed, the actor playing Little James would also have to be healed.” And he was like, “I believe in miracles, but odds are that’s not going to happen. So odds are a Little James won’t be getting healed either.” And that’s the case. It’s like, how do we justify one of Jesus’s apostles having a physical disability that isn’t healed. To me that the justification that we came up with is not everyone needs healing and that you can use your disabilities and your differences to inspire others and to help others, and it can become a strength. That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m excited about this journey with Little James and to see where it goes. Because I will be going through the exact same journey as he is and trying to come to terms with all the same things that Little James is coming to terms with.
Charan: Have people given feedback on episode three?
Charan: How has it been received?
Jordan: So episode three is a very unique episode. There’s a tracking shot, a one-shot that’s 15-minutes long that features 12, I think, speaking roles in the scene. So technically it’s amazing. And then narratively, there’s a lot of conflict. You get to see how all these disciples’ personalities mesh. But the feedback that I personally have gotten has been awesome. I’ve had several fans, like a mother of a daughter with cerebral palsy reached out and said how much that meant to her. She said she could picture her daughter in that seat saying that exact same thing. I’ve had a lot of people. I actually was contacted recently by an administrator for a support group on Facebook for young girls with scoliosis and their parents. And they asked like, “Hey, would you be willing,” because a lot of them are fans of the show, “would you be willing to write just a little encouraging post on there and just give them a little bit of inspiration and encouragement?”
Jordan: And I was like, “Yeah.” So I wrote out a thing talking about what we’ve been talking about. And I got dozens and dozens of comments and messages from parents and young girls saying things like, “I’m bullied a lot, so you sharing that really meant a lot. Thank you so much.” And other parents saying that they worry about their kids getting a… One of them has a surgery coming up in a week, and it’s the same spinal fusion that I had. They were like, “Thank you for sharing your story.” It was just really, really amazing being able to share my story with these other people that are going through the same thing. That’s the reason I don’t care about… I’m not saying I’m famous at all, but I don’t care about getting famous or being a recognizable person other than the fact that it then gives you a platform to try to reach other people. So a big thing.
Jordan: Now, I’m feeling very driven recently to start getting involved with organizations, whether it’s involving scoliosis, cerebral palsy, or any other physical disability. But also getting involved with anti-bullying campaigns. And I’m going to reach out to my old high school to see if I could go there and talk to some kids one day. Just the anti-bullying and then talking to kids with disabilities, both of those things are super important to me. I’m going to try to use this platform that The Chosen is starting to give me to try to do that.
Charan: Dude. Honestly, there’s so much I can discuss with you regarding that topic because there’s a lot of parts of my life that I’m focusing in on doing that. As you know, there’s a show that I’m creating on Angel Studios, which is what Chosen is, called Let’s Get Epic. And the whole idea behind that show is helping kids realize that they’ve got power within themselves and that they can face challenges with confidence. Because a lot of times they’re facing cyber bullying, depression, all kinds of stuff. A friend of mine, last year — this was actually right before I did that episode of The Chosen — he created an organization called Save the Kids and he would go and speak to schools everywhere about the dangers of social media and about the dangers of cyber bullying and all this stuff. Unfortunately, he passed away. He had a heart attack; he passed away. So his organization is still being carried forth. So we can definitely talk more about that if that’s a mission of yours, because I feel like I’ve got a lot of connections in that world and I would love to help you to go and speak. I think that’s fantastic.
Jordan: Yeah, I would love that.
Charan: Dude, honestly though, your story to me is so inspiring. Do you know an actor by the name of R. J. Middy? Do you know who that is?
Jordan: Yes. So this is a funny story. So are you friends with RJ?
Charan: I am. I actually acted with RJ in a show.
Jordan: So I was, this is really funny, I was runner-up for Walter Jr. So I was in California and I was so bitter for a long time. Because the big hang-up for me was every other thing I had ever auditioned for, it’s like, “The limp is too noticeable.” Then I audition for Breaking Bad and Sharon Bialy and Sherry Thomas, the casting directors, send in my tape. At the time, they still had to put it on a DVD and send it to be viewed, and they sent it. They wanted actors that actually have cerebral palsy. So I went in and they said, “Do it as yourself; don’t try to ham it up or make it look it’s more severe than it is. However severe your CP is, that’s how we want you to do it.”
Jordan: So I went in and I did the scene just like this, and they sent it in, and Vince Gilligan was like, “I can’t tell that he has cerebral palsy.” It’s like, “Oh man, for once my disability is not severe enough.” So then Sherry Thomas called me and was like, “Hey, can you come back and get some forearm crutches and work on slurring your speech?” She was like, “I know they don’t want people to play it up or anything,” but she was like, “They loved your audition; it just wasn’t as severe as it needed to be. So I’m going to have you come in and do this again.”
Jordan: So on her off day, she brought me back in and worked with me for a long time with the crutches, slurring my speech, and it went great. But by the time it got back to them, they had cast RJ and he was local and all this stuff. And she was like, “They really liked you; it just didn’t work.” So since then, I’ve now auditioned for Better Call Saul, I think, 16 times. Because it’s like I think she feels bad, so she’s like, “We’ve got to get you something.” But yeah, I love RJ. And I was bitter. I wouldn’t watch that show for the longest time. I was like, “No, forget that guy; that was my part.” And then finally I watched it and I was like, “Dang it, this is my favorite show of all time.” So yeah, that’s really cool.
Charan: RJ. I met RJ actually at a Comic-Con Convention. I was doing a sketch thing with a bunch of the celebrities there. Because the guy that started the Comic-Cons is a friend of mine. So I got to meet him and I got to do this sketch with RJ and he was just so cool. Fast-forward a few years later, I was cast in a Sundance pilot. And it was actually for deaf people and I had a very small scene, but RJ was in it. So I went up to RJ, in like, “Dude, do you remember me?” And he totally remembered me and he’s like, “Oh my gosh.” He’s like, “Dude, I haven’t seen you in forever.” And we ended up having this awesome conversation.
Charan: I just remember thinking, “Here’s a guy that’s he just owned who he is.” And I feel you’re doing the exact same thing. I think that’s the beautiful blessing I really feel God gives everyone, is the ability to take whatever they have and use their voice and create their own path. Gosh, man. Here’s the interesting thing, I’ve known about The Chosen for a long time, because I was doing my kids’ show around the time that The Shepherd was barely even being finished; it wasn’t even finished. So I’m friends with the Angels Studio guys since 2017. I heard about The Shepherd. Dallas hadn’t really done much in the public eye. He had done a couple of things. But they were like, “Hey, we have some pretty strong belief in the show; we think it’s going to do well.” I was actually having a conversation. After they finished the first four episodes… I don’t know if you knew this or not, but I am a part of a company that did the visual effects for The Chosen.
Jordan: I think you mentioned that when we were shooting our scene [crosstalk 00:44:59].
Charan: So when we were shooting. So I got to see all your faces and everything like that. I had a conversation with Jonathan Rumi at NRB and he was, he’s like… You know Jonathan; he’s a very nice guy, very humble guy. And he was like, “I really hope that this show will do well.” At the time, The Chosen had a very, very small booth, a little small room in this California theater. And there was this other big show, a Christian show, that was taking first stage. It was just so big and The Chosen was the small, small thing. But I remember having this conversation with him and I said, “Dude, I really think it will. I think once enough people see it, it’s going to touch people’s hearts in a massive way.” And the way Dallas has crafted the characters and their tenderness and their realism and their insecurities and their wanting to be apostles and serve the Lord, but they themselves are feeling weak and sad inside at times…
Jordan: And human.
Charan: And so human, it makes it so relatable. So I just love the fact that you’re able to use this character as a platform to empower people. That is just so huge and so amazing. The fact that even though it was hard at the time to go through all the shame that you did go through, the fact that you were able to come out on the other side, now you can be a voice of hope and a voice of reason to a lot of people that feel like, “I can really relate to a Little James and I can really feel my own insecurity.” Because your insecurity, your shame, represents so many different things to so many different people. But in you it’s physically manifest so they can see that. In them they could be like, “But my shame is I feel dumb in school. I feel I can’t progress or I can’t do this.” So I just think it’s so massive, man, so congrats to you. I think that’s a huge thing.
Jordan: Thank you.
Jordan Ross Talks About Working on The Chosen
Charan: I want to talk a little bit about just working on the show itself. Have you seen any miracles for yourself just being a part of this production?
Jordan: Honestly, the entire concept of The Chosen is a miracle. The fact that they raised $10 million off of this little short to make season one. And then for season two, having a budget of almost $2 million an episode and raising that in the middle of a pandemic. And none of us like the way we were all tested several times a week, and we’re in a bubble, but there are 200 people on set every day. Sometimes, like when we did the Sermon on the Mount, there were thousands of people on set. But it’s like there was never an issue; there was never an outbreak. It was a very… just the logistics of all of it. It’s crazy when you really sit and think about it. But yeah, there’s been some really crazy moments. So episode one, I’m not going to say too much for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but have you seen episode one of season two?
Charan: I have, I have.
Jordan: So the opening sequence where you’re seeing a bunch of apostles and they’re talking, and that’s all I’m going to say. But it’s an emotional sequence. And that whole day was… It’s all shot in this room. And as we were all going in there to do all of these quick little scenes, there was just this, as soon as you step foot in that room, it’s just this heaviness and you’re just like… Like all the air is sucked out and it’s still. I got chills just now talking about it. It was one of the most surreal feelings, I can’t even describe it, I’ve ever had on set. And getting to go through it with that group of people, it was just so special.
Jordan: And then that was more just about the… Because we’re talking about some heavy stuff too. So it’s just putting yourself in that situation, being with this group of people, imagining what it would be like to go through all of that, it was just so, so powerful. But then there’s all sorts of things that have happened on set. Like in episode two, I mentioned we have this long 15-minute tracking shot. And for people that aren’t in the industry, that’s super-
Jordan: Challenging, yeah, and ambitious. And unless you’re Alejandro Iñárritu or Martin Scorsese or something, most people don’t try that because it takes a lot of choreographing. And also the operators of those steady cams — it’s like you have to have a lot of stamina and a lot of strength because those things get heavy fast.
Charan: One mess-up and you’re like, “All right, back to one guys, start over.” Right?
Jordan: Yeah. And we rehearsed all morning into the early afternoon. We started shooting, and just little things were happening. The camera would turn away from someone when it wasn’t supposed to; the camera man would need a break because his legs couldn’t hold him. And finally, Dallas told this story last night as well in the livestream, finally towards the end of the day, we had a 20-minute window to get this shot. Because the sun was going down and we had this 20-minute window. We had already moved a lot of stuff back because of weather and all this stuff. So we were already behind schedule and there was this tiny, tiny window before it was totally dark outside. And Dallas was like, “Okay, let’s try it. Let’s knock it out and let’s just hurry.” So we all went back to one, we started, and within the first 30 seconds, one of the actors flubbed a line. So he’s like, “Okay, back to one already.” We started again and the exact same thing happened.
Jordan: So then we literally had exactly the amount of time we needed to get through the scene. So there could be no more mess-ups. So we went back to one, we had 15 minutes to get through the scene, which is exactly how long the scene is. We start and we’re going through and it’s getting closer. And that’s the scene I have where I’m talking to Joey Vahidi, who plays Thomas. And by the time it gets to me and Joey, it’s towards the end of the scene. And a lot of the other takes, we had had to cut before then or during or whatever.
Charan: You couldn’t even get to your part.
Jordan: Yeah, yeah. So we’re doing scene and then we get through that and then we get up and the final part of the scene is a group of us standing in a circle talking. So when we get up and we get in the circle, you can feel everyone looking at each other, like, “Are we about to get through this?” And we did. And right as Dallas said, “Cut,” the sun set and it was dark right then. So the immediate scene after is a dinner scene around the fire. So you literally are watching the scene and watching the sunset in real time, and then the next scene is a dinner scene. So all day there’s all this stress, we’re trying to get through it, and finally the only take that we could use was the perfect take. So there’s a lot of stuff like that that happens on this set, where you’re just like… I would say I can’t believe it, but it’s like now with this show, the number of people that have watched it, everything about it… It’s number four on iTunes. All this stuff, I’m not surprised by it anymore.
Jordan Ross Talks About What Brings Him Joy
Charan: It’s amazing. Hundreds of millions of people have watched it and have been inspired by it. I just think even me getting on that show was just such a crazy thing and how that all came down. I’ll tell you, it’s just so interesting to see how many things happen. And I’ll tell you tracking shots are hard, long-take shots are hard. But a 15-minute one, that’s so difficult. So to be able to pull that off and to make it what it is, that’s a miracle, man; that’s so awesome. So I want to just wrap things up, but ask you a couple of more questions. First off, right now, what brings you joy?
Jordan: My kids, my family, my wife, just being home with my wife and kids and getting to play with them. Because right now, before I was doing marketing, I was in an office between seasons of The Chosen. But now I’m just doing some freelance videography work and acting and just doing that. So that’s been really nice, just being able to be home with the kids more. Because that’s the hardest part about working. Whenever I was working the 9:00 to 5:00 job and then going and doing acting stuff, it was taking a lot of time away. So that’s been really nice, so that brings me a lot of joy. And then the art, just creating art, whether it’s taking a picture or acting or writing, I do a lot of screenwriting. Just doing that is very, very fulfilling. Then watching movies, I am an avid Blu-ray collector, I have over 1,500 Blu-rays.
Charan: No way. That’s amazing.
Jordan: So yeah, just that stuff. Going outside, exploring, just being in nature — those are all the things that make me happy.
Charan: I love that, man. It’s funny, this wall back here, this whole wall, you can’t actually see it. But the whole thing is covered by movies. When I put my projector on-
Jordan Ross Talks About His Greatest Fear
Charan: …my projector covers the whole thing and I just sit in my bedroom, watch movies. It’s amazing, I’m like, “Dude, I’m reversing this role, it’s awesome.” I love that man and I love connecting that fact you’re able to connect with your family and all those things right now, it’s awesome, it’s so great. What is your greatest fear?
Jordan: So it’s funny you said this. I actually talked about this with some of my cast-mates when we were in Utah. We were just hanging out and we were asking each other that, and some people it’s like, “Oh, sharks or death or whatever.” But mine, the more I thought about it, I was like, “I think my biggest fear is one, not being good enough, just in any facet, whether it’s acting, as a dad, as a husband, as a friend, as a person. Not being good enough or not being worthy. And then another of my biggest fears is… Because back to not being good enough, I’m not afraid to fail, because I’ve done that plenty of times. But if I do something and if I myself am not good enough to reach that challenge, that’s scary, that thought is scary.
Jordan: This season, I had that fear on several scenes. There were some big scenes, including the big tracking shot my scene there. There were several moments where I’m like, “Am I good enough to do that? Am I going to be able to pull that off?” And now seeing those, it’s given me a lot. I can breathe and I’m like, “Okay, good, I feel good with how it turned out.” But that and then being forgotten is a big one.
Charan: That’s an interesting one.
Jordan: I think just being forgotten, not leaving an impact. I want to, with my work and with not just acting but going out and charity work and working with foundations and talking to kids and stuff that, whatever it is that I do in life, I want to leave some mark. And I feel like if I’m forgotten, then I didn’t leave a big enough impact. So those are probably my biggest fears.
Charan: That’s interesting, man. I like that. And it is, it’s a thing that urges you every day, right?
Charan: I look at my life and it’s just full of so many blessings, I would say, just miracles and blessings. I feel very similarly, if I don’t… Sometimes I go a little too crazy because I’m trying to do too many things at the same time. But honestly, if I don’t feel like I’ve really helped people out or lifted someone up, that worries me, that terrifies me. Because it’s just like, “Oh man, what more could I have done?” Very sadly, a friend of mine who… So I did this movie right before we did The Chosen. I was telling you guys. But his film I was working on. And one of the people on that show, he was helping us produce it, very sadly he took his life two weeks ago.
Jordan: Oh wow.
Charan: It was very sad.
Jordan: Sorry to hear that.
Charan: It’s okay. And it’s interesting, because you go very introspective very quickly, “What could I have done? What more could I have…” In fact, the last time he texted me, I actually came and visited you guys on the Sermon on the Mount. And because I was so busy, I didn’t really get a chance to respond back to him in the way I wish I would have. It makes me think a lot like, “Could I have done more? Could I have been more?” It’s interesting, because everyone thinks that, everyone I’ve talked to that knew him, was like, yeah, I wish I spent more time with him here and did this there. But it always makes you realize, “Hey, life is very precious and it’s also very fragile and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Charan: And if you can do good work and make someone feel loved in some capacity, then that’s a beautiful life and I feel you’re doing that already. Your path that you’re on right now and playing this character that you’re playing, I’m very excited to check out episode three now or two, whichever one it was. But I’m very excited to see the impact, not just Little James has with the apostles in the show, but what Jordan has with the world.
Jordan: Thank you.
Jordan Ross’s Advice to His Younger Self
Charan: Because of what you’ve been given, the gifts that you’ve been given. So last, last question to wrap it up, what would you tell your younger self?
Jordan: Let’s see. I would probably tell my younger self that, going back to what my fears and insecurities are, that you’re good enough, that you are enough, and just to remind myself that you’ve been given… Because I don’t necessarily, I wouldn’t want to tell myself anything to avoid the bullying or the rejection or the failures, because I think all of that is important. I think that made me who I am, but maybe just to have the confidence in the back of my head of like, “It’s going to be worth it. You’re going to come out on the other side.” My favorite quote is, Tom Hanks says that a lot, it’s “this, too, shall pass.” I think that just to sum it up, is what I would say. Is like, no matter what you’re going through, whether it’s good or bad, it’s going to pass and you’re going to go on to another chapter. So I think that’s what I would probably tell my younger self.
Charan: It’s amazing, man. It’s great, it’s fantastic, and I love, that because it helps you realize life is ever evolving. At the same time, there are things that you can do to have joy with the evolvement of life. So I love that you were able to find the joy for yourself and also be a light into the world, man, and share your light and gifts with others. So thank you for your work, not just in The Chosen, but in life, which is awesome.
Jordan: Thank you too. You’re doing some really cool stuff. I watched the trailer for your show; it was really fun.
Charan: It’s going to be fun. It’s interesting, because it’s very high-energy. And it’s interesting, because I played a lot of different characters, but it’s fun to comically play an alpha male just because that’s just not who I typically play.
Jordan: Yeah, same.
Charan: It was a lot of fun. So anyway, thank you so much, Jordan. I really appreciate you taking the time and good luck in your future endeavors.
Jordan: Of course, thank you. I appreciate it.
Charan: Awesome. Have a good one.
Jordan: You too.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to the Lemonade Stand Podcast and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback and reviews. And if you know someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.