Interview by Jana Letonja

Actor and musician Jahi Winston will be seen starring in Netflix’s upcoming comedy ‘We Have a Ghost’,which premieres today (24th February). Jahi has taken the industry by storm in a relatively short amount of time, working and learning alongside some of the biggest talents in film, television and theater.

Jahi, we’ll be seeing you in Netflix’s ‘We Have a Ghost’, a film where after discovering that their new home is haunted by a ghost named Ernest, Kevin’s dad creates a YouTube channel and makes the ghost and his family Internet-famous. How exciting was it starring in this comedy horror film, especially alongside such an incredible cast?

This was an incredibly exciting experience. We had a lot of fun filming and created a great bond. Everyone in this film is very talented. I hope that, coupled with the genuine chemistry we had, really shines through to the audience. 

You star as Kevin in the film and of course not eeverything goes smoothly, as when Kevin and Ernest start to uncover the truth about Ernest’s past, they become a target of the CIA. Tell us more about the whole story, without spoilers, and about Kevin.

The story of Kevin and Ernest is one of friendship, loyalty and compassion. Kevin sees himself and Ernest as somewhat outsiders and there is an immediate connection. He desperately wants to help Ernest find answers about his death and free him from being stuck.

You actually began your career on Broadway, starring as Young Simba in DisneyThe Lion KingHow would you describe your experience of being on the Broadway stage?

Being on Broadway was incredibly formative. I had never performed in front of crowds that large. It was exciting and intimidating. Broadway was really a place of training in professionalism. You don’t get a second take so you have to be ‘on’ every time you step on stage. The immediate gratification from the crowd is infectious.

What made you go from Broadway to TV and film?

I’ve always wanted to work in TV and film. I was just really blessed that the opportunity came relatively quickly. 

When did you know that acting was your biggest passion? What are your goals you want to achieve in your career?

I’ve known acting was one of my biggest passions at a very young age. I began acting in church plays, then school plays and then on from there. It’s something I naturally gravitated to, along with music. I’m equally passionate about both acting and music. The acting career just took off first. I’m working on music now and will have something out soon. 

In a relatively short amount of time, you’ve got to work with and learn from some of the biggest talents in film, television, and theater. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve got to learn from these talents?

Yes, I have been blessed to work with some of the best. I’ve learned so much, but some lessons that stand out the most would be to stay ready, treat everyone on set with respect and kindness and to take on projects that I’m passionate about to have a long meaningful career. 

When being presented with opportunities to star on a project, what attracts you to a project the most?

What attracts me most is the story being relatable and challenging. Also, the character’s journey is important. 

Being a young, upcoming actor of color, what are some of the biggest challenges you have encounteres and what issues are still the most pressing in the industry for artists of color today?

As an African-American young man in this industry, I believe one of the biggest challenges is the lack of roles that are written with us in mind and the lack of stories being told from our perspective and with our authentic voices. Also, the industry does not always recognize that we are not a monolith. We can play diverse roles and tell diverse stories. 

Besides ‘We Have a Ghost’, what are some of your other upcoming projects that we’ll be able to see you in soon? 

Right now, I’m really working on my music project. I have a few possible TV and film roles in the works, but you’ll just have to wait and see. 

Jahi, besides acting, you’re also working on your non-profit organization ‘You Can Too’. Your mission is to encourage kids to pursue their dreams in arts and education. Why is this so important to you and why did you decide to create this non-profit?

This is so important because often times youth are not encouraged to pursue serious careers in the arts. A lot of kids don’t see the possibilities that enable them to live out their dreams and passions with their natural talent. I want to help shine a light on their endless goals and aspirations.

photography KEITH SAUNDERS
interview JANA LETONJA