Tuesday, October 7, 2014

James Ryan Daley's "Jesus Jackson"

James Ryan Daley is a writer, editor, and digital designer. After majoring in English at a strange and wonderful school called Prescott College in northern Arizona, Daley went on the earn his MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004. Over the years that followed, he worked as an Acquisitions Editor for Dover Publications and an English Teacher at a small Catholic high school (and no, the irony of the latter is not lost on him), before beginning his freelance career in the spring of 2008. Now, he spends most of his time writing fiction for teenagers, creating websites about video games, teaching writing to college students, and editing anthologies of speeches and short stories.

Here Daley dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Jesus Jackson:
Well first of all, like a lot of authors, I’ve probably spent a thousand hours daydreaming about my work becoming a movie. Red carpet premieres, selfies with celebrities, the terrible, movie-based covers that sell millions of books: I’ve fantasized about it all. So obviously, I got quite excited by the idea of dreaming up a cast for Jesus Jackson.

The only problem, I realized, is that Jesus Jackson is almost entirely populated by teenagers… and all of the “teenaged” actors I thought of would now be better suited to play my characters’ parents (thus dashing my dreams of Molly Ringwald as the cute sophomore…). Luckily, I have a 14 year-old daughter, who (though she had never even heard of Judd Nelson) proved competent at assisting her teen-idol-ignorant father with the particulars of young Hollywood.

So, with a big shout out to Antonia for her help, here we go:

Jesus Jackson: Russell Brand

Although Jesus Jackson may resemble his biblical namesake, his character is a far cry from anyone’s idea of a savior. Somewhere between a new age guru and a car salesman (with a little rockstar thrown into the mix), Jesus Jackson acts as the protagonist’s philosophical sounding board, confidant, and friend. This was easy. I’ve been picturing Russell Brand as Jesus Jackson since I first started writing the book.

Jonathan: Asa Butterfield

Jonathan, the protagonist and narrator, is a smart, sarcastic, 14 year-old atheist, who finds himself investigating his brother’s death at a Catholic high school. The character is a complex one, struggling with grief, family, religion, and romance—all while trying to unravel a mystery that nobody believes in. It would take a certain type of actor to pull him off, but anyone who can play both Ender Wiggin and Mordred would certainly do him justice.

Cassie: Maisie Williams.

Cassie is the quirky, cute, agnostic sophomore who becomes Jonathan’s love-interest, and happens to be the prime suspect’s little sister. In many ways, Cassie is the linchpin of the story, as Jonathan must choose between being honest with her and finding the truth that he seeks. The character is a long way from Arya Stark, but Maisie Williams is so damned cool, I’m pretty sure she could do anything.

Henry: Noah Ringer

Henry is Jonathan’s one and only friend. A fellow non-believer, Henry is a science-minded fan of detective novels who must overcome his social awkwardness (and debilitating fear of girls) to help his friend solve the mystery. Noah Ringer (from The Last Airbender) would be great.

Ryan: Logan Lerman

Technically, Ryan dies at the beginning of the book, but he appears frequently in flashbacks, so it’s certainly worth casting him. More than just Jonathan’s brother, Ryan is his idol, mentor, and the person who first helps him to question his religion. Logan Lerman (from The Perks of Being a Wallflower) has the perfect mix of brainy-charm and hero-cool to nail the part.

Tristan: Dakota Fanning

Tristan is the pretty, popular cheerleader who was Ryan’s girlfriend before he died, and winds up helping out Jonathan with his investigation. She’s probably the character who most outwardly displays her grief, though she seems to have a secret hidden beneath all those tears. Obviously, an actress as talented as Dakota Fanning’s could pull this off magnificently.

Alistair: Alexander Ludwig

Alistair is a brutish jock who becomes the prime suspect in Ryan’s death (and is not too happy about Jonathan dating his sister). He’s the kind of guy who leads the class in prayer and then later threatens to beat you up for your lunch money. Alexander Ludwig played Cato in The Hunger Games. So, you know: perfect.
Visit James Ryan Daley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Jesus Jackson.

--Marshal Zeringue