By: Latoya Coleman
Edited by: Madeline Blue Schussel
Photos by: Jasmine Durhal
Styled by: Fairfax Copenhagen
Grooming by: Dion Xu
It’s another perfect, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day in LA, and I sit across from an electric energy. He has a signature
Skywalker-inspired rat tail slightly peeking over his shoulder and wears checkered pajama pants and a pajama shirt with an American Eagle plastered on the front. When I ask what he is wearing, he tells me he isn’t sure. “I just rolled out of bed and picked up something that was not too clean, but not too dirty,” he smirks. “You know I want this rat tail until I’m forty. And I want it to grow to nipple length!”
He laughs, but I get the sense that he’s quite serious.
He grabs a blow-pop out of the candy bowl on the table between us. “Umm, the watermelon lollipops be hittin’,” he chuckles, nodding his head in agreement with himself. On this Sunday morning, we are in a studio loft downtown that has all the things needed for a photoshoot: open concept, floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed piping, a station with a makeup artist, a flaming red backdrop, lightboxes, and a rack full of clothes. Trevor Howard Lawrence Jackson is a young man who finds it hard to sit still. He sees my keys on the table, picks them up, and starts fiddling with them. “Is this a New York Library card?” he asks. As we talk, he uses his hands relentlessly to animate his many stories. This 23-year-old is already doing it ALL: acting, singing, touring, writing, producing, and directing–you name it. I notice his impeccable concentration, even as he toys with my keys.
“Have you ever played spike ball?” he asks me. “It’s fire. It’s like a little net sitting on the ground and you hit a ball off of it and you only get to pass it between you and your teammates three times before it goes back to the other player.” He pretends to strike a ball in the air. “And it’s like, you know, cool–kinda like volleyball. It’s intense.” He tucks his watermelon lollipop into his right cheek. He continues to describe a chill Trevor-Jackson day, that more than likely, he says, starts with a pepperoni hot-pocket. “You know, I might even have an Oreo cookie! Depending on how I feel…” He peeks over at my notepad. “Oh–make sure to write double-stuffed Oreo cookies, cause I can’t stand regular,” he chuckles again. He goes on to describe playing Mortal Combat–a symbol he has tattooed on his left arm–calling over the homies and maybe catching some waves: the things he likes to do when he isn’t gracing our TV screens or cooing lyrics into our ears.
Trevor began learning to manage everything he does at the age of eight when he first started performing—just Google “Trevor Jackson tap dance on Showtime at the Apollo.” It’s perhaps why in this studio loft filled with sun and with people–a makeup artist, a stylist, photographers, his manager, and at least four others I can’t quite place–it feels like only Trevor and I are here. While everyone else happily waits on their time with him, we chat breezily as he switches between his lollipop and Dansi water, making it feel like the time for our interview is limitless.
An endless supply of creativity oozes from him in the form of charm, and of a laser-sharp focus on whatever he happens to be saying or doing in each moment.
Trevor’s 78-character-count Instagram bio reads: “Singer that acts or an actor that sings… whatever makes you feel better.” He does not seem too concerned about what others think.
“People try and box you in. No matter what I’m doing–‘cause I’m doing a lot of stuff–I just think of it is as whatever’s in front of me I try and execute to the best of my ability,” he says. “Once people see that you take it seriously–the music isn’t subpar and neither is the acting stuff–I feel like it speaks for itself.”
And nothing Trevor has done seems at risk of being perceived as subpar: This 6-foot-2 actor just wrapped playing Aaron in Season 2 of the critically-acclaimed comedy Grown-ish; his busy schedule hasn’t granted him time to watch his own work on the show yet, even three weeks after the finale aired. You might also recognize Trevor from his starring role in the Superfly film, which was produced by movie legend Joel Silver, rap superstar Future and directed by the acclaimed Director X. But you also might have heard his latest music project, Rough Drafts 2, which was released in June and already had sold-out shows in Atlanta, New York, and Chicago. He also co-directed the music video for “In My Crocs,” a song off that album, which is already a hair shy of one million views.
Trevor has been in the entertainment world since the third grade, but it hasn’t always come easily. Music is a newer venture for him. Just back from the last leg of his latest tour, he admits “the tour came right in time…a time where I was doubting.”
Rough Drafts 2 is an intimate look into Trevor’s life. You get a taste of his confidence and humor from “In My Crocs.” You get a sense of his vulnerability from “Spam in a Can.” “That was probably the quickest song I ever wrote,” he tells me, leaning in closer. “That day we had worked on four other songs, but then my producer Money was like, ‘I got one more beat.’ And when I heard the beat…I think it was just coming from a place of like, F that…because so many people now, especially my age, put so much pressure on themselves to be perfect.” The album title Rough Drafts 2 embodies that same “fuck it” mindset. “There’s nothing that happens overnight, and there’s so many things that must, you know, happen for you to get to who you’re meant to be,” he adds.
Trevor has some wild tour stories. “I had people grabbing my genitalia while on stage. I got pulled into the crowd, which was kind of scary. And people following my Lyfts for miles.” His fans have gotten “Rough Drafts” tattooed on themselves. “That was big, that was big. That was really big,” he says. He shares with me how knowing that people connect with his music allows him to take a breath.
As Aaron, the woke, unapologetically Black campus babe on Grown-ish, Trevor has helped the show to rank among women as a No. 1 cable comedy and to get renewed for its third season. He shines along with other heavy-hitting cast members, including Yara Shahidi, Francia Raisa, Emily Arlook, Jordan Buhat, Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Luka Sabbat, and Deon Cole. He describes this group as his family. “I haven’t seen any of [the show yet,] but–just knowing how much work was put into it, and you know how talented the cast is–they really do inspire me.”
Trevor attributes some of his acting skills to his great memory. “I look at the script right before they say action…If it’s like, a character-based movie, you need an accent and you need to know how to move, I’ll study that for a long time. But in terms of the words, I just get there [for the shoot and am like] cool, let me look at this real quick. And I’ve just always been better [that way]. For me, it’s just more natural.”
To date, his favorite role was playing SuperFly. Growing up watching Blade and The Matrix, he couldn’t have asked for more. “I loved the hair. I got to do fight scenes. That was, like, my dream: to be in a leather jacket whooping ass.”
Somehow, through the busy-ness of work success, Trevor is also able to focus on his real family. He makes sure to constantly be FaceTiming with his grandma (whom he steals his shirts from), dad, cousins, and more. Every Christmas, he blocks off three weeks to go home to Indianapolis and “recharge.” He even has a matching tattoo with his dad, and his very first tattoo (on his left arm) is of his mom’s handwriting: it’s also the scripture of the first Bible verse he learned from his grandma:
“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Trevor recently learned about the Yin and Yang and how it represents the relationship of the good and the bad. “I forget his name, the guy’s name–but he was talking about how it’s kind of like a dance–and instead of trying to have one beat the other, it’s about enjoying the cycle of it all.” Trevor uses his pointer finger to draw a circle in the air.
Trevor wants to keep getting tatts, with a focus on developing the left side of his body. According to Chinese mythology, the dark left swirl (Yin) of the Yin and Yang represents femininity, acceptance, and Earth’s strength. So Queen Nefertiti, Prince, Bruce Lee, and the Ninja Turtles already live on Trevor’s left-most skin, while he has many others on deck in the idea queue.
But Trevor is so brimming with ideas, it can be hard to predict his exact next move. He is already gearing up to release his next music project, but he’s torn between calling it Rough Drafts 3 or ZMD (which he made up to sound like the name of a love drug.) Right now, he’s producing two films based on his life that are set to come out early next year through his own production company, Born Art. He chose the shark as his company logo because it’s the only sea creature that would die if it stopped swimming–so it even has to keep moving in its sleep.
“I always have to be doing something. Acting and music saved me,” he confesses. I ask him from what. “From being bored,” he smirks.