The Flashback Interview: Gabe Jarret


I was first introduced to my newest interview subject, Gabe Jarret, when I saw The Karate Kid, Part III on The Disney Channel in the 90s. In that movie, he played Rudy, the club kid who who gets paid to be beaten by Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso. Many years later, Charles Sherman, who set up my 2020 interviews with  Amy Stoch and Rich Manley, connected me to Gabe, and we had the pleasure of talking to each other earlier this month. I hope you all enjoy getting to know him.

Say hello to Gabe Jarret!


Johnny: First of all, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.

Gabe: Of course.

Johnny: I have my questions ready to go.

Gabe: Oh, fire away! (Laughing)

Johnny: Let’s start off with your most recent credit, the action-drama 13 Minutes. How did you get involved in that project, and what was your favorite part of working on it?

Gabe: Well, getting involved in it is just part of the natural selection process in Hollyweird. It came through a friend of mine who had me audition for it, and I ended up getting the role, but my favorite part about it was probably doing the wind sequences. I mean, I didn’t think the fans were going to be quite as strong as they were. They had these big fans you were running through to simulate wind, but it’s not really a simulation. It’s actually blowing on you (laughing).

Johnny: So I’m guessing you had a lot of fun with that.

Gabe: Oh, yeah. I had a blast. They say the wind is going to be 70 miles an hour with the fan, but silly me. I thought I was going to be faking a lot of it, not too worried about the strength of it until my feet came out from under me, and then I was like, “Whoa!” (laughing). It’s not little wind. That was only 70 miles an hour. I say “only”…

Johnny: (Laughing) To jump credits, soon you’ll be seen in a limited series called Bring On The Dancing Horses, a project where, as Mr. Sherman’s notes tell me, all your lines are in sign language. What did that role teach you that added to your acting repetoire?

Gabe: Oh, wow. You know, a lot of acting is listening, and you have to hear what’s coming at you, while with signing, of course, you’re watching. You have to really understand what’s being signed to you.

With that particular project, John Marseire, my partner who’s also speaking in sign language, and I had to come up with signs and phraseology in American Sign Language that would work with the costuming. We had these very big leather gloves on, so we really had to watch and figure out where we were in the dialogue to know what the other person was saying, and how to time it right just like you would with speech. With that extra costuming on, it wasn’t easy. It was kind of tough. You really had to pay attention.

Johnny: I can imagine. Sadly, there’s only one bit of sign language I know, and I think it’s the bit everybody knows.

Gabe: (Laughing) Yeah. Well, that’s what everybody learns first. All the dirty signs come out first.

Johnny: Alright. Well, to switch from dirty to clean…

Gabe: Yes. Go right ahead.

Johnny: …You’re also playing a priest (Gabe laughs) in a movie called Ask Me To Dance. What is that movie about, and what is your character about in it?

Gabe: Ask Me To Dance is a romantic comedy, and it stars Tom Molloy. My character is a priest that marries a couple of characters in the film. Basically, the comedy centers around two ships passing in the night. You know, folks who are destined to have anything and everything possible that can go wrong happen to keep them apart for most of the movie until the very end when, as you might imagine, they actually find each other. It’s hysterical, the creative ways that the two end up not actually meeting. The priest is a little bit off. Let’s put it that way: My priest is a little bit resentful about being in the clergy quite as long as he’s been.

Johnny: Alright. Well, I look forward to that project when it comes out.

Gabe: Yeah. Me, too.

Johnny: Jumping back to your beginning, as the son of screenwriter Jeremy Joe Kronsberg, was show business in your blood, or did you initially want to do something different as a child?

Gabe: I’m sure I had ambitions to be an astronaut, or something along those lines, but Malibu is kind of an industry town as far as show business goes. A lot of my friends were actors, the sons of artists and directors and other folks that are in the industry. It was something I naturally wanted to do because my friends were doing it, and then I hit that moment in my career where I had to figure out if this is something I really want to do because I want to do it, or was I destined for it because my parents and close friends were doing it. I actually had an aptitude for it. It was just that so many people were involved that I didn’t stop to think about it until later.

Johnny: Alright. To go to my next question, you played Mitch Taylor in the classic 80s comedy Real Genius. What made that movie so special for you to work on?

Gabe: There were a lot of things special about that one, but number one, it was my first starring role. It was daunting being the focus of that big of a project. It was the deep end of the ocean, so it taught me a lot of stuff that would’ve taken a lot longer had I taken a more traditional way of starting my career.

Johnny: Alright. As several cast members from Real Genius have attended autograph conventions over the years, have you ever been pitched for a large cast reunion at an event like, say, The Hollywood Show?

Gabe: No, actually. I haven’t, although I wouldn’t be opposed to it. It’s just never come up. Interesting…I’ve never even thought about that.

Johnny: Well, maybe in 2025.

Gabe: I would be more than happy to entertain such a possibility. Absolutely.

Johnny: Okay. To go to my next question, you played Rudy in The Karate Kid, Part III. What do you recall the most about working on that movie?

Gabe: Oh, boy. That one was a tough one for me because, believe it or not, I had a 104 degree temperature.

Johnny: Oof!

Gabe: I know. In this day and age, everybody’s like, “You went to work anyway?”. Yeah! (Laughing) Back then, if you didn’t show up to work, your arm better have fallen off. That’s kind of what everybody’s attitude was. You would go in anyway…At least I did, so that was the first aspect that was kind of harrowing. The others are that it was an 18-hour workday, and as part of the character, Rudy, I got my butt kicked by The Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio. He elbows me in the stomach and punches me in the face, and I go flying back across the floor. Well, it’s basically a lot of stunt activity in that particular section of that movie.

It was an 18-hour workday, an *18-HOUR WORKDAY*, and part of that is that the director, John Avildsen, wanted the shot to be on my face, and then he wanted to see the hit to the stomach, the punch in the face, the blood going flying, and him sliding across the floor. Now, that means there’s no pads on the floor (laughing), and I must have hit that wooden dance floor about 50 times altogether during the day. When you combine the 104 degree fever, the 18-hour day, and hitting the floor 50 times, the whole left side of my body was not black-and-blue. It was black.

Johnny: Ooh!

Gabe: Yeah. That was probably one of the most physically demanding days I’d ever had.

Johnny: God, just hearing that description, *I* can feel it.

Gabe: (Laughing) Yeah. I couldn’t believe I got through it. I was like, “I’m a crazy person”.

Johnny: Staying with The Karate Kid, as the follow-up series Cobra Kai has brought back many characters from the films, has there been any discussion of bringing Rudy back as well?

Gabe: Well, it’s funny you should say that. There’s a part of the season that just started that has callbacks, if you will. Not to me. I mean, I’m not in it, but there is a callback to Karate Kid III, so is there a possibility of it? I bet there is. At this particular moment, nobody’s approached me, but that may change.

Johnny: Well, good luck with that.

Gabe: (Laughing) Let’s hope, let’s hope.

Johnny: Going into the 90s, you played GNC White in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13. What are your favorite memories of that shoot?

Gabe; Oh, my god. There’s a lot of favorite memories of that shoot, but probably the general comraderie that we had in Mission Control. We got to go to two weeks of ground school before we even started the movie, and thank god we did, especially the way Ron Howard shot the film.

This was one of the nicest compliments. Jerry Griffin, who was the technical advisor on the film, said that quite a few of the actors who went through ground school, he could take to NASA. We kind of knew what we were doing, and that he would be kind, but let’s just say that it was a compliment I accepted nonetheless. He said I was one of those people.

We really knew our stations, and we really knew what the nuts and bolts were, and what our jobs were, so that was probably one of the nicest things about it: Walking away feeling like I got a hardcore education about the technical aspects of going to the moon, and being at Mission Control. It was a crash course. Right away, boom! You’re in there. It was a lot of fun to do, and it was nice being part of that.

Johnny: Very cool.

Gabe: Yeah.

Johnny: Also in 1995, you played Jeff in The American President. As I asked that film’s ADR voiceover coordinator Leigh French when I interviewed her back in 2020, what was it like to work with Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue?

Gabe: Oh, god. It’s fantastic. I mean, that’s Aaron Sorkin at his best, and it’s interesting. We had a readthrough that we did on it, and everybody showed up to the readthrough. There was nobody that couldn’t make it. Everybody was as excited to run to the readthrough as they were when we first showed up on set. Good dialogue just has a tendency to come out exactly how it was written on the page. In other words, it doesn’t take a whole lot to memorize. If you’ve got the expression of the thought you want to give, it’s going to come out your face the way it was written on the page pretty easily. That’s how you know it’s good, and there was a lot of that in his dialogue.

Johnny: Definitely, and that movie was a great way for Rob Reiner to bounce back after the disaster that was North.

Gabe: Oh, yeah! (Laughing)

Johnny: Staying with Aaron Sorkin for a question, you played Jason in the West Wing episode Guns Not Butter. Was Jason a one-and-done character, or was he intended to come back in future episodes?

Gabe: No. It was a one-and-done, like you said. I think they went with the staffer in The American President, and they just carried it over into The West Wing, but that character was never supposed to come back. I think there was originally a possibility because they didn’t know if they were going to continue that storyline or not, but it ended up not happening, so it was a one-off.

Johnny: Alright. Staying with politics, and returning to Ron Howard, you reunited with him in 2008 to play Ken Khachigian in Frost/Nixon. What was your favorite part of working on that movie?

Gabe: My favorite part of working on Frost/Nixon would most likely be the motorcade (laughing). I’d never been part of a motorcade before. There was a particular scene where we were leaving one of the interviews, which did not go well. Everybody was in the cars, and we had the intensity of a very angry Richard Nixon in tow, so it was kind of cool, getting in a motorcade and looking like there was some butt we had to kick (laughing). I just remember it was really cool, and then all of a sudden, the lights and sirens go up and we’re out of there like we’re royalty of some sort. It was a kick.

Johnny: Oh, very cool. Jumping genres again, you played the character of Gabe in the 2009 comedy Endless Bummer. Were you playing yourself in that movie, or was that an example of what TV Tropes would call The Danza, where the actor and character share the same name?

Gabe: The second. We just coincidentally share the same name. The character was actually named Gabe before I got there.

Johnny: Oh, okay (Gabe laughs). Well, to jump again, you’re also an accomplished stage actor. As I’ve asked several other theater veterans, what has stage acting provided you that screen acting has not?

Gabe: Instant gratification. To be able to hear the reaction of the audience is something that you just can’t get with film, obviously, and it’s invaluable. It’s something that you really can get addicted to, and then miss when you’re doing film and television, but honestly, there’s so many things in film that you could never get away with in stage, so it’s a toss-up. It’s a give-and-take. Some things are going to be better in film, and some things are going to be better on stage. All in all, I think I prefer film and television to being on stage, but there are definitely positives to stage acting that you just can’t get when you’re doing film.

Johnny: Alright. Well, when it does come to stage, what have been your favorite roles to play?

Gabe: Probably James Leeds in Children Of A Lesser God. That one was tough because we only had about two-and-a-half weeks to put up a play that was extremely difficult, and as we discussed with Bring On The Dancing Horses, there’s challenges with American Sign Language that you don’t get when you’re just doing dialogue in English.

With the character of James Leeds, you’re doing dialogue in English and speaking ASL, which has an entirely different grammatical structure. He’s doing those two things at the same time throughout the entire play, so her dialogue is covered by me, as well as my dialogue. It’s almost like triple work for the person who’s playing that particular character, which makes it challenging.

Beyond that, we had a time restriction. We didn’t have the time that was needed, or usually set aside, for making that production work as well as it did. It did work well. We got great reviews in a very short run. For that question, I’d say that’s the one I’m most proud of because we got so much done in so little time.

Johnny: Alright. Now I come to a question I’ve been asking a lot of my interview subjects for the past year-and-a-half or so…Actually, going on two: How has coronavirus impacted the way you work?

Gabe: Oof, wow. Well, gone are the days of, as with The Karate Kid, showing up to work with any fever whatsoever (laughing). That’s just never going to happen again. What else is different? Having the structure and the necessary goal of having to get tested every two days or so, whichever structure they have on that particular set.

When I did Bring On The Dancing Horses, it was every two days, and that’s a lot. Whether you’re working or not that day, you’re no sleeping in. Everybody gets up and does it at 6:00 AM. That’s what you’re doing. It’s automatic. Even with the testing procedures we had on that production, we still had cast and crew members coming down with COVID. It still happened because of proximity.

It’s a pandemic and, unfortunately, it has people more stand-offish of each other. They’re less trusting of each other. It’s not quite as easy to bring on the comraderie that happens naturally on a set that I think is sometimes necessary for certain productions. In especially intense productions, you want to be very comfortable with the people that you’re working with, and that process takes a longer time now. That’s really sad, you know?

Johnny: I can definitely see that, and that does lead me into my next question: What are you most looking forward to once we have coronavirus under control once and for all?

Gabe: (Laughing) Wow, most looking forward to. Geez. Staying with the same thing I was talking about, not having people shy away when you extend your hand to shake their hand. A fist bump is not the same thing. There’s something about a handshake, or running up and giving somebody a hug out of nowhere because you feel like it, because the moment calls for it.

I’m looking forward to it not being political like, “Has he gotten his vaccinations?”. I’m looking forward to going back to it not being thought through when the moment arises, the situation when you give someone a hug. Those days have disappeared, and I think we’re not better off for it.

Johnny: When I interviewed Tiffany Helm last year and I asked her a question along those lines, she said it isn’t going away, but I’m the type of person for whom hope springs eternal. Maybe that’s a little foolish, but I’ve been called worse.

Gabe: (Laughing) What was her answer?

Johnny: She said it’s endemic, so it’s not going away.

Gabe: Yeah. I’m kind of hopeful along the same lines as you are. Ay yi yi, if it doesn’t, that’s it. That’s going to be a sad change for us as a society.

Johnny: Well, since hope does spring eternal, that takes me to my final question: Do you have any hints as to what 2022 will have in store for you acting-wise?

Gabe; Oh, god no. I can’t. I wish. A lot of this is going to depend on Bring On The Dancing Horses, and what kind of response the first season gets as it’s just the first season. I’m hopeful, and crossing my fingers it will get a good reaction and we’ll have a second season. 2022 is going to tell us that, and there’s going to be no hints from me, either (laughing).

Johnny: Fair enough. That does it for my questions. I again thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to me.

Gabe: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Johnny: Oh, no problem, Mr. Jarret. I hope you have a wonderful afternoon.

Gabe: Absolutely. You, too.

Johnny: Alright. Be well.

Gabe: Happy new year.

Johnny: Happy new year, and happy belated birthday.

Gabe: (Laughing) Thank you. Take care.

Johnny: Bye.

Gabe: Bye bye.

I would again like to thank Gabe Jarret for taking the time out of his schedule to speak to me, and I would like to thank Charles Sherman for helping to set up this interview.

Coming soon to the Flashback Interview will be new interviews with two talents I had the pleasure of interviewing for my previous writing base, RetroJunk. Those two are writer/actress/model Charlotte Kemp, Playboy’s Miss December 1982, and actress/producer/musician Lisa London.

Stay tuned, and thank you as always for reading.