Even as his latest single, “Made For You,” continues to climb the country music charts, Jake Owen finds himself talking more about his performance on movie sets than his work in the recording studio.
Which is understandable.
By any measure, Owen’s big-screen debut in the recently released “Our Friend” was impressive – so much so that one of the film’s headliners, Academy Award winner Casey Affleck, encouraged him to continue acting.
In a Sirius XM Radio virtual Town Hall last month, Affleck praised Owen’s acting, saying the 39-year-old singer-songwriter from Vero Beach “fit right in” and “did a great job” and “brought a lot of life and energy to the set.”
Affleck said he wasn’t surprised by how easily Owen, who had never taken an acting lesson, made the transition from performing as a musician to performing in a movie.
“I’ve seen it happen before,” Affleck said, referring to other musicians who have crossed over to acting. “I always think, ‘Damn, that guy, he’s really good at that other thing, and now he just shows up in my part of town here and he’s great at this thing, too.’
“That’s what Jake was like,” he added. “He just came to the set and nailed it, and everyone is just scratching their heads: Why is this dude who’s never done any acting so comfortable being on set and killing it?”
Owen, whose previous acting history was limited to music videos, was as flattered by Affleck’s praise as he was nervous when he first appeared on the “Our Friend” set with a cast that included Jason Segel and Dakota Johnson.
Appearing on the same virtual Town Hall – along with the film’s director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite – Owen said he was grateful she was willing to “take a huge risk” and put an acting novice in “such an incredible film.”
For those who haven’t seen the movie: Owen doesn’t play a major role, but he handles his lines well and makes the most of his scenes in which he portrays the film’s least likeable character.
He appears comfortable. He doesn’t over-act. He’s believable.
The singer is a good fit for the tug-at-your-heart-strings film, which is based on the real-life story of journalist Matthew Teague, his wife, Nicole, and a college friend, Dane Faucheux, who moved in with them to help after Nicole was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
After his wife died in 2014, Teague wrote about Faucheux’s selfless sacrifice in an essay published by Esquire magazine in 2015. In the movie, Affleck takes on the role of Matthew, while Johnson plays Nicole and Segel plays Dane.
The story is compelling, even inspiring. The acting is superb. And while the movie jumping back and forth to different years can be distracting, “Our Friend” was worth my two-hour investment of time.
“I think everyone knew the responsibility of this film and the story line, and the fact that we were in the town where it happened,” Owen said, referring to Fairhope, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay.
“l learned a lot from being in it,” he added. “And not just about being an actor, but about how fragile life is and your relationships with the people around you.”
Owen’s most memorable scene places his character at the Teague’s house for a dinner party. Seated around a table with friends, “Aaron” shares that he ran into Faucheux while in New Orleans for a conference.
He then proceeds to poke fun at Faucheux, disparaging his job and small apartment, as well as his tendency to be too open with his feelings when he drinks – all of which makes the Teagues uncomfortable and is not well received by the other guests.
“I’ve always been intrigued by challenging myself to do things that I’m not necessarily comfortable with,” Owen said in a People magazine interview about getting a part in the movie – an opportunity his agent sought out.
“No one hired me for this because they saw me act in a film before,” Owen added. “They’re putting faith in me that I can do this, and that gives me some energy.”
Still, he admitted in other interviews that he was slightly intimidated filming his first scene one-on-one with Affleck, who won an Oscar for Best Actor in “Manchester by the Sea” in 2017.
“They don’t tell you what to do; they just assume you know what you’re doing,” Owen told host Bobby Bones on his Nashville-based, nationally syndicated radio show. “That’s what was crazy: Not one person treated me like, ‘Hey, I know you’re kind of a new guy. I’ll show you the ropes.’
“I was like, ‘Is somebody supposed to yell, ‘Action!’”
But Owen said it didn’t take long for him to adapt to life on a movie set, and he enjoyed the experience so much he’d welcome the opportunity to read for parts in other films.
“This wasn’t something that I ever dreamed of,” Owen said during the Town Hall, adding, “Hopefully, this will lead to some other chance to do it again.”
Not that he plans to give up his day job as an established country-music star with a can’t-miss hit in “Made For You.”