In the feature film The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay, Jayden McGinlay plays Teddy alongside a cast including Izabela Rose, Ella Proberts and Allegra Teo, with the film having a US premiere with Disney and an Australian premiere at the Gold Coast Film Festival, both earlier this year. Jayden appeared in horror film Sweet River as Max, and he will be seen as Cecil Williams in the upcoming release of the prequel to Stephen King’s short story – Children of the Corn, which was filmed entirely during the COVID lockdown. Having previously worked on stage, Jayden played Friedrich in The Sound of Music, understudied Louis Leonowens and Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I, as well as being Swing for the child ensemble, and he had his first professional role as Jeremy Potts in the Australian Tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We spoke with Jayden about playing Teddy in The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay, the upcoming Stephen King prequel Children of the Corn and his stage experience.
How did you find the experience playing Teddy in the new feature film The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay and can you tell us about the character?
Yes! So, Teddy is a vlogger hoping to get famous through his YouTube channel, and he’s on a mission to find the treasure that went missing in his family’s history. He’s quick-witted, has a unique sense of humour, very optimistic, and breaks into dance at random times! Our director, Christine Luby, allowed a lot of freedom for us to explore our characters, ad lib, and play around with different ways to do the scenes, so we got to make the characters our own and that was so awesome.
How was it filming with the rest of the cast and working on set?
This film had the most amazing cast and crew. Bella (Rose), Ella (Proberts), Allegra (Teo) and I all clicked as soon as we met, and you can definitely see those genuine connections on screen. We shot the whole film across 15 days in Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia, in all different, beautiful locations. The cast and crew were awesome to work with and put so much passion into making this film in such a short space of time. There was always such a great vibe on set. Everyone was so nice, and I loved every minute working with them all.
Was there anything that drew you to the film and do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role?
Prior to shooting this, I was a part of two horror films, so I loved that this was completely different. I loved the humour in the script, and how light-hearted the character of Teddy was but that he also had depth. I was looking forward to showing the more fun side of my personality, which I hadn’t really been able to show on screen before this. I loved the themes in the film and how wholesome and heartfelt the script was. I was ecstatic when I found out that I’d booked the role!
How was it attending the premiere at the Gold Coast Film Festival earlier this year and what was it like seeing the completed film for the first time?
It was so amazing attending the premiere at the Gold Coast Film Festival! It was really exciting to watch the whole thing for the first time. I always love seeing how the films come together because as the actor you give your performance, but you have no idea what they’re going to do with it in the editing room. In that sense, I loved that it was very familiar but also unfamiliar.
What are some of your favourite memories from filming as Teddy and why would you recommend watching The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay?
I have so many great memories from filming, so it’s hard to choose a favourite! We filmed at so many awesome locations. I loved filming the snorkelling scenes as I’d never snorkelled before, and I learned how to do that. I also got to come literally face-to-face with sharks, so that was amazing! Bella, Ella, Allegra and I instantly became such good friends and all the moments spent with those guys behind the scenes were highlights! People should watch The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay because it’s a fun family film, which also has some great themes and messages, like the importance of friendship, community and protecting our earth. They also get to see a side of Australia not always depicted on screen.
What was it like working on Children of the Corn and having it be the only film in the world to shoot entirely during the COVID lockdown?
That was an insanely incredible experience, and we were so fortunate to have been able to shoot in the midst of the pandemic, thanks to Lucas Foster, Sean Harner, Mathieu Bonzon and John Heaney who pushed through all the odds to get the movie made. While every single production in the world shut down apart from one other in Iceland, they made the decision to keep going, wrote safety protocols, and created a COVID safe bubble. They risk assessed and managed every single scene, adapted to constantly changing rules, went to extreme measures to keep everyone safe and happy, and worked insanely hard to make it possible. It was a mammoth effort and hats off to them. I’m proud to have been a part of such a historical shoot and I can’t wait to see the result of all that hard work everyone put in when the film comes out.
How was it being part of a film based on Stephen King’s work and was there anything you enjoyed most about playing Cecil?
It was surreal being a part of a film based on Stephen King’s work. I’ve been a huge fan of his work for the longest time – I love the stories he tells and how he tells them. Because this is a prequel to the original film that was directly adapted from King’s short story, the characters are original, and I love that because it allowed a lot of possibility for creating Cecil and figuring out who he was. The producers and directors were incredible, and it was such an honour to work with them.
You play the role of Max in horror film Sweet River, what was the character like to play?
I actually loved playing Max and getting to be creepy! The character doesn’t have many lines in the film, which meant I definitely had to communicate more with my facial expressions and body. I’ve never played an antagonist or a monster before, so I had an awesome time experimenting with the character and breaking down how he would behave and feel. It took about four hours a day to apply my makeup and prosthetics – I remember the first time I looked at myself in the mirror, I scared myself! I also had red contact lenses and I hadn’t worn contact lenses before, so that was definitely a learning experience!
Can you say about the film and how was your time filming this project?
The film is centred around Hanna, played by Lisa Kay, who is trying to solve the mystery of her son’s murder. She goes to the town where the killer died, and her son’s DNA was found. She stays at a farmhouse and realises that it’s a community full of sinister secrets. My character, Max, is a zombie/monster/antagonist for most of the film! Even though the film is pretty dark, on set it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone was really nice to work with and it was really light-hearted behind the scenes. Jack Ellis, who plays the killer, is actually one of the nicest people ever! When we were filming the scene where I’m riding away from him, I skidded on the gravel and got really bad grazes on my hands, knees and hip, so had to go to hospital to clean them up after we finished shooting the scene. I have a heart-shaped scar on my hand as a memento from that movie! Haha.
On stage, you played Friedrich in The Sound of Music, how was this?
Yes! Over 1,000 kids auditioned, and we went through round after round, day after day. It was so intense! They had to get the voices matched up well as we had all the harmonies, and they also had to have the heights just right. So I was very grateful and blessed to land the role. It was an amazing show and I’m really proud to have been a part of it. I have to thank my grandma who looked after me and drove me to Brisbane for all the rehearsals and performances because my mum was in Asia with my brother who was simultaneously performing as Gavroche in the Les Misérables tour!
Can you tell us about your time in the cast of The King and I and how did you find the experience understudying Louis Leonowens and Prince Chulalongkorn and being a Swing for the child ensemble?
That was an amazing experience with an awesome cast including Lisa McCune, who took me under her wing and really looked out for me. I was actually surprised I was cast in that because I knew they were looking for a certain look to play the Thai kids, Chulalongkorn and the ensemble; and also, a certain look to play Louis, who was Lisa McCune’s character’s son. I didn’t fit either kind of look, so didn’t think I would be a part of the show, but the producers knew me from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I was invited to understudy both lead roles, which was such an honour. I was also the understudy for all the child ensemble roles – I had to know all their parts so I could jump on at any time! There were two teams and someone from the other team broke their arm the day before the show. I had about an hour and a half to get from my house on the Gold Coast to the stage in Brisbane and perform his part, as I had been on call for the opposite team and wasn’t at the theatre that day! That was pretty insane but an honour to have that responsibility.
What do you remember most from your first professional stage role as Jeremy Potts in the Australian Tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and do you have any stand-out highlights from this production?
Flying around in the car was a definite highlight! The car is listed in the Guinness World Records as the most expensive stage prop ever, at about $1,000,000. I felt like the luckiest person to be able to perform in that each night! What I remember most was how nice everyone was. The director was so awesome and I’m grateful to him for making an exception for me by casting me. I was two years younger than what they had agreed to as the minimum age for the role for all the cities in Australia on that tour. That was a dream come true.
As a writer, director and producer, your short film The Rainbow was selected as a finalist in Tropfest’s Trop Jr. and the Independent Shorts Awards International Film Festival in Los Angeles, can you say about this?
Yes! I was 12 at the time and I came up with the idea while I was playing the piano. I decided to write a script about a boy who had huge dreams of becoming a concert pianist, but he had an accident and then was treated differently, so he lost all his confidence and gave up on his dream. It’s a story about hope and following your dreams no matter what gets in the way. I composed the piano music for it and performed as the main character in the film, and my brother played the younger version of me! I got a heap of friends together for the crowd scenes. They were so supportive and were great at being directed!
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
Yes, acting was definitely something I always wanted to do. From when I was really little, I showed interest in acting and performing, so my mum enrolled me in a local theatre school when I was six years old. So that was my start, and when I was eight, I landed my first professional stage role. I started acting in short films and things like that and I got an agent when I was nine.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I love so many films and TV shows, so it’s hard to choose my favourite ones! Joker (2019) is up there, and I love Ghost and The Sixth Sense. I love Stranger Things and older TV shows which I have seen every episode of, Everybody Loves Raymond and The X Files! Away from acting, I love making my own music, spending time in nature going hiking or bike riding, and having friends over for movie or game nights.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career?
Well, Children of the Corn is set to be released later this year and I’m finishing high school in November, so the sky is the limit and I’m really excited!
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