EXCLUSIVE: Jason Lewis On Making His Modeling Comeback At 50, What Smith Would Be Up To Now, And Whether He’s In The SATC Reboot….

by Freya Drohan

Nineties supermodels are undoubtedly having a Renaissance, and one of the era’s most prolific heartthrobs is now ready to enter the chat too. Jason Lewis, who first found fame on the catwalks of Paris before becoming one of TV’s most beloved boyfriends as Sex and the City’s Smith Jerrod, has just signed with Soul Artist Management. What’s next for him? Well, like his fictional alter ego, he’s down to take on any projects—once they satiate his lifelong love of storytelling. From the epic fantasy books he’s currently working on to the fashion characters closest to his heart: here’s his own tale of adventure.

How did you initially get into modeling? Was it the classic story of being discovered at a mall?
A bartender shoved me into it! As a kid, I didn’t really have much awareness of myself in that way. I was more of a young California skater guy. But a bartender at a restaurant I worked at encouraged me. I said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ and pooh-poohed the idea. He ended up picking me up after my shift with a clean shirt and drove me to a casting. That’s what kicked it all off. A short time later, I met with some agents. I really had no intention of pursuing it, but I’d been fascinated with the idea of travel as my grandparents are big travelers. I thought I’d return back to my life after making it to Paris, but I didn’t want to go back. I was intrigued by what I was discovering. I loved the creativity and loved being in Europe, so I tore up my return flight ticket.

Did things take off pretty quickly for you? How long did you stay in Paris? 
I begged, stole, and borrowed to stay! I literally stole food to survive. I lived in Paris full time for about three years and kept an apartment there for about five. I was pretty fortunate that there was some immediate work. My first show with Jean Paul Gaultier happened within months of getting there, and some others, like Sonia Rykiel, happened pretty soon. But really, everything kicked off after my first GUESS campaign. That’s when I started getting international work.

Jason Lewis walks the red carpet at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party on February 09, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

I feel like this question answers itself, but what were the perks of being a male model in the 1990s?
It was the discovery, the opportunity to travel, and to be in these incredible locations and intermingle with some of the most eclectic people. At that time, you didn’t have the corporatism that surrounded the party scene and the artistic culture that you do now. It brought art, travel, and different echelons of life to me. I’d book a job in the south of Spain, then have four or five days until I had a job in Sweden, so I’d rent a car and just drift.

You mentioned parties, what was the scene like during such an iconic time for modeling?
Well I was a young man, so it pressed forward my arrogance and narcissism a little bit I’m sure! But it forced me to contend with that and find a deeper sense of self. There are definitely some parties that stood out—the Versaces always threw a wild party!

You walked for Gucci during the Tom Ford years! Did you ever get to keep any clothes? That orange suit, for instance…
Ha, I’m not much of a keeper. I walked in, I think it was anyway, his first revival show. Yeah, the orange suit…that was fun! He is so talented. The creative talent that was conglomerating at that time; it was so incredible. I love fashion, it’s such a creative space—from the photographers and designers to the stylists. It will always have such an important place in our society.

Jason Lewis walks the Gucci runway in 1995 (Getty Images)

What other people that you met during that time impacted you the most?
Richard Avedon. He was such a grounded guy. He really clued me into something: I always felt awkward in front of the camera and I would tell myself stories and make up these little plays in my head to counteract that, instead of just smiling. He was so warm and he would have lovely conversations with me. All of art is a story told, and being in front of the camera is to capture a story in a moment and invoke feelings and emotions.

You were acting even back then! Was acting always the end goal?
I grew up being told it wasn’t a viable path, but I was always a geek for storytelling. I would hide in libraries and movie theaters growing up; I’d steal change from my mom’s purse to go to the movies because you could go for change back then. I even worked in a library and I learnt the Dewey Decimal system. My first acting job eventually came from being on a cover—I can’t even remember which one. But I knew acting was something I wanted.

Are you still in touch with your peers? I see you in a lot of backstage videos during the ’90s with Alex Lundqvist.
I haven’t seen him in a long time. I last saw him in New York when I was doing the press for a TV show and he is as lovely now as he was then.


Enrique Palacios, Alex Lundquist, Jason Lewis in 2006 (Patrick McMullan)

It does feel like a real revival of 1990s models right now.
It’s nice to see it. Jason Kanner [agent at Soul Artist Management] reached out to me a while ago and his whole thing was that he could see this was happening. I’d been going to some fashion shows pre-COVID, which really reawakened my love of the industry by being around that creativity. I started thinking in those terms, and I became more interested…

So you’ve just signed with Soul. What’s the goal?
Ideally, I’m open to everything. We live in a very different time now. The boundaries and borders are less acute, so there’s no reason not to mix everything that you can do. Personally, I am working on writing and producing too. I think that all of these mediums of creativity inspire one another. I’ll put as much as I can on my plate.

Do you think your career would be different if you were coming up now, with the advent of social media?
I’d have to do a lot more social media than I do. I’ve been a bit lax with this digital world. Nothing against influencers, but self aggrandizement is so fucking boring to me! It lacks an element of creativity and the story that begs to be told, it doesn’t invoke any greater self. It just says, ‘Check me out!’ It’s grade school shit. If I were to be doing it all again now, I’d be stuck with the social media thing, and I’d be really challenged with it. But there seems to be a resurgence of true photography and there are lots of people using the platform to express that creativity, instead of just promoting themselves.

Jason Lewis attends Christian Cowan S/S 2020 Fashion Show at Gallery II at Spring Studios on September 10, 2019 in New York. (Photo by Aurora Rose/PMC)

Who are those people?
One that stands out is Lachlan Bailey. He just did the WSJ. Magazine cover [with Shalom Harlow, Amber Valetta, and Carolyn Murphy.] It’s a gorgeous cover. He has a cinematic style; it invokes a story and you wonder what was going on before and after. I love his work!

You’re turning 50 in June. I think a lot of men, and probably women, would want to know…what’s your skincare routine?
Skincare routine starts with the inside, man! Eat well. Kill the processed food from your diet. Move, exercise. I’m like everyone, I can put on weight and I did put on a little during COVID I’m working with a trainer and doing rock climbing, and I try fit in a surf every day. You gotta move. No lotions or potions are going to do it for you.

Let’s talk about “the show.” I read you had a tough winter right before you were cast. Tell me about that time.
I had just enough money to throw everything to the wind and put everything into wanting to act. I had years of not getting that much work and ripping through what savings I had. I was living in L.A., and not feeling creatively fulfilled, so I made the decision to work my way towards New York. I put my two dogs in the suburban I had and spent four months camping across the U.S. with no plans. I came to New York and was doing acting workshops, and any creative theater stuff I could get my hands on. Then came the winter…I was so fed up and frustrated by the cold that I went down to Costa Rica for a quick surf trip. I came back and, maybe it was the tan or being in the right frame of mind, but my friend suggested going in and auditioning for Michael Patrick King…

Jason Lewis and his now-fiancé Liz Godwin in 2020 (Shutterstock)

How was that? The show was already so huge. 
I think I could embody the openness of the character and I really understood his story. I never really talked to Michael Patrick King about this, but the scene where I do the full monty in the play, that was one of my auditions. So I did my rendition and I said to him, ‘I think I should do it a little more austere.’ And he said, ‘You’re right.’ I got the job and I think it was the fact that I really knew the character.

The show seemed to kind of mirror your own life, trying to make it as a serious actor, paying your dues doing modeling gigs, and then becoming a huge star. Does Smith as a character resonate with you in other ways?
He’s somebody to attain to. I think I’ve maybe become more like him as I got older. I tend not to hold grudges as much as I would have when I was a young man and I exercise my empathy a great deal more now than I used to.

Sex and the City finished up over 15 years ago, but its impact still remains. I think it’s the reason most of my friends even moved to New York! Why do you think it’s remained so popular?
I think a good story well told lets us know we’re not alone in the world. It speaks to universal themes that matter to all of us. And it was a very viscerally entertaining show: beautiful sets, clothing…shoes! Those dramatic life experiences. Michael Patrick King was brilliant, he was so damn human. He spoke to things that matter. These things and human struggles that we have, they don’t go away just because we get some new technology. You can go back and read Marcus Aurelius—we’re still dealing with the struggles the Romans were!

Jason Lewis at the Calvin Klein fashion show in 2004 (Patrick McMullan)

How do you think your own life would be different had you not have landed that role?
Oh shit. Probably less acting… I don’t know! Different.

Maybe you’d be still in Costa Rica! We know Samantha’s not going to be in the reboot, but have you been approached?
I have not, but I would be the last to know! As much as I appreciate the flattery, the conversation is about the girls.

Do you think Smith and Samantha would still be together?
Umm, no. I don’t. I think that they moved away from each other. I think the was was only going to go towards a bigger ego, and Samantha was there to be a big character. But I think they’d still like each other!

What’s the character arc you imagine for Smith?
I think he was a facilitator. I think he went into production. He was a lifter of others, so he would have moved past [acting]. Which is where we differ! But I think he would still be in the industry.

New York, L.A, Paris: if you had to go on a night out with your former co-stars, where would you go, what would you do?
Paris! Why not?! I would want definitely take them to a little bench I know right under the Eiffel Tower. I’d bring some nice rosé, some breads, cheeses, pâté, and Nicoise salads. We’d get nice and randy drunk! I’d want John Corbett there. He’s such a lovely, good guy with so much heart.

Jason Lewis, Chris Noth iin 2007 (Patrick McMullan)

That should be the whole plot of the reboot! What’s in the crystal ball for the rest of the year?
Well as you said, I’m turning 50! I’m working on a series of novels; a series of fantasy epics. I’ve been day dreaming on them for years. I’ve written things and tucked them away as they haven’t reached the level that I wanted them to be. This series is going to be six-parts, and I have the rough outline for the six stories. I want to have a rough draft of books five and six finished by my birthday. I’m writing a horror film with my friend too, which we want to start by turning it into a graphic novel.

 

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A post shared by Jason L Lewis (@jasonleelewis)

I read that when you knew you were going to propose to your partner, Liz, your horoscope basically helped you pick the date. How much trust do you put in the cosmos?
I don’t read my horoscope religiously but I believe in a universe of energy and I think we get reflected back on to us that which we put out. I certainly have had my ups and downs. In terms of asking her, the asking was secondary to a relationship that I’m grateful to have. It’s taken years of self analysis and a little therapy to build that kind of relationship…and a bit of luck.

Lastly, what do you think the best item on the menu at Raw was?
Haha! Samantha.

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