We were fortunate enough to talk ish with Rapper & Actor…Jonathan McDaniel!!! Formerly known as Lil J, he has been rapping & acting from a young age. Jonathan has also been in several movies and television shows such as “That’s So Raven”, “In The Hive” just to name a few. He is now starring in the hit Vh1 series, Hit The Floor. Let’s get to know more about Jonathan McDaniel…
3 Voices: What inspired you to become an artist? Who were some artists that have influenced your music career growing up?
Jonathan McDaniel: My number 1 inspiration was Michael Jackson. Since I was a kid I just was in awe of his performance abilities. The way he was able to entertain people, whether it was through acting, music, dance…he just really knew how to entertain people and he was a great humanitarian at the same time. He was somebody I constantly looked up to and wanted to be like as far as an entertainer is concerned, so growing up I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to have the same ability that Michael Jackson had as far as the work ethic and to be able to entertain people and make them laugh and cry and enjoy themselves and at the same time have a really humble spirit doing that. You have to understand that we’re given a gift and if you have a talent and you are using that talent to entertain people then that’s a gift from God and you have to use it wisely and take advantage of it. He’s just somebody I have always kept as one of my biggest influences.
Other than that, I grew up with parents that listened to the oldies. My mom was a huge Aretha Franklin fan and an Anita Baker fan so I listen to all the oldies. Stevie Wonder is another one of my favorites. Marvin Gaye, the Jackson 5, of course. I just listened to a lot of classic music growing up, listening to the same music that my mom did. That’s why I think people say I am an old soul. I’m so in touch with that side of myself as far as being really about real morals, respect, values and having a certain respect about yourself. I think nowadays we’ve kind of lost that, with a lot of artists and a lot of people out there. That’s just been something that I stay focused on and keep with me throughout my career.
3 Voices: What are some things you rap about in your music?
Jonathan McDaniel: I tell a lot of different stories in my music. I got some records, like one of my records on my last EP that’s on iTunes right now it’s called I Cry and that’s a true story record that’s based on my life story and me and my coming of age story and also making it in this industry. I had to go through a lot of ups and downs. I was homeless on the street, my family was broken up. I grew up without a father figure for a long time and it was me and my mom out there on the streets trying to make it and use my talents as an ability to not only make a means for my family, but to also fulfill my dreams as an entertainer and things I wanted to do with my life. They supported me the whole way.
Honestly, I like to tell stories, especially when it comes to music for the ladies. I like to tell stories about romance and having a good time. Different things other than the usual popping off, popping bottles, and having fun in the club type thing. Those are great club records and they make people feel good for the moment in the club, but at the end of the day it’s all about storytelling when it comes to writing. That’s just one of the things I love to do. I love to be a part of storytelling and having the ability to share true stories about myself and true stories that I’ve heard and use that to be able to help people. I feel like music is therapy. It’s the universal language that speaks to everyone so I’m just about making good music and if I feel it and it feels good to me and I like it, I’m going to put it out. I’m not in the industry to please anybody else besides myself.
3 Voices: Who are some artists that you are currently working with or would even possibly like to work with?
Jonathan McDaniel: There are a lot of great musicians out there that I would love to work with. Kendrick Lamar is one of the greats out there right now that is putting a lot of good music out. I feel like besides him, there aren’t a lot of people on the hip hop side that I would like to necessarily work with. I wouldn’t mind working, writing, and collabing with other people, but it’s not one of my main goals to just go work with every rapper. But as far as just music in general, I would love to work with Sam Smith, he’s like one of my favorite artists right now. I would love to work with Maroon 5, they have been one of my favorite bands for a long time, so I would love to maybe write a record with them someday or do a feature or something like that. My genre of music is very versatile. Hip hop wise, like I said, I would love to work with Kendrick Lamar or somebody like that who has a nice vibe about their music, makes positive music, makes music for the people as far as stuff for people to relate to and have emotions about. There’s a lot of different people on the singing side Jhene, I would like to do a record with her, she’s dope. I would love to work with Chris, Chris Brown continues to always stay true to his heart and stay true to his music so I would love to work with him and do a record with him just to get that creativity out on both levels.
3 Voices: You’ve accomplished quite a few things. What would you say has been your most memorable experience thus far?
Jonathan McDaniel: Honestly, hands down, I would have to say it would be the birth of my daughter. I just had a daughter 15 months ago, so she’s just over a year old. Becoming a father and joining that fatherhood club and being able to share my life with someone like that and raise them and teach them and share growth has been one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me in my life. One of my biggest accomplishments as far as anything that I have ever done is having a child and being able to be there for that child. Like I said I grew up without a father so to be there for my daughter and be in her life and support her and be her whole way and see her grow into whoever she is supposed to be in life and to support her the way my mom supported me that’s all I really want.
Other than that, I feel like I’m well accomplished as far as being a working actor. I feel like I have accomplished that now where I have continued to work on shows and movies and stuff like that and that’s all I really want to continue to do. I just want to continue to be a working actor, continue to put out music and write music and be able to provide for my family by doing that. It’s never about trying to be the most famous or trying to be the richest out here or the most balling or any of that I just want to be a working man who takes care of his family. I want to be able to do it by living my dreams. I feel like there’s nothing better. I’ve always done that, ever since I was a kid I followed my heart, I went after my dreams. I’ve succeeded because now I’m actually living that and I do that for a living. I enjoy that and really embrace that blessing to the fullest. I would love to just continue to do that for the rest of my life.
3 Voices: You starred on quite a few shows and movies such as That’s So Raven, The Hive, Hit The Floor & etc. If you were given the opportunity to play any role in any movie, what would your ideal role be?
Jonathan McDaniel: Honestly, I would really like to play a character that is not meant for my particular person of interest. You know in Hollywood we have movies and television shows and there’s characters that are given out and they put certain ethnicities in certain characters and there are only a certain amount of roles for certain people and I would like to be able to break those boundaries. I feel like that’s a great move and a great opportunity when you get the chance to play something outside of the obvious. I would love to play someone that people wouldn’t expect me to play. That would probably take a lot of script reading and just figuring out which character would speak to me for something to really jump out and hit me. It would just have to be a character that’s really something that I haven’t done. That’s something I’m about now as far as my growth in the acting world, I’m really about picking projects and trying to work on things that help push me and help me succeed as an actor as far as getting better and perfecting my craft.
I don’t want to continue to only do boyfriend roles or sports roles or character roles like that. That’s why I feel like it was one of the greatest twists that I’ve ever been a part of and in television history when made me the killer of [Hit] the Floor at the end of season 2. That was to me one of the greatest twists of the season and it really meant a lot to me for that to be a part of the storyline because it gave me the opportunity to really understand what’s coming and what the writers and creators of the show are really trying to give me the ability to do as far as creating the layers to this character and now there will be a whole different element that people never saw coming to this character. Now people assume that he has a dark side to him based off of what they saw at the end of season 2. It really gives me the opportunity to bring so much more now as German Vega on Hit the Floor.
I love that type of thing and it’s giving me the opportunity to play people that I have never had the chance to play and different characteristics that I’ve never had the chance to play. Now going forward I just feel like to continue on with that and just play characters that speak to me. That is something that I haven’t done before. It helps push me and hopefully that’s something that people see and they say, “Wow, I’ve never seen him play that character before and I love the way he did it.” That’s really what I’m about now is just trying to grow as an actor and show my ability to the industry and let people know what I can do so therefore I can start getting casted in movies and television shows that help show those type of characters.
3 Voices: You spoke about the ending of season 2 of Hit the Floor. With season 3 of “Hit The Floor” approaching, what can the viewers expect to see? Any surprises that we should look out for?
Jonathan McDaniel: Honestly, I can’t even speak on next season because I don’t even know what’s coming myself. I would be completely lying if I told you anything about season 3. Obviously, if you’ve been a fan of the show from season 1 and even if you joined in during season 2 and you saw the ending of season 2, then you will definitely know that season 3 is going to be very interesting. There’s going to be a lot of twists and turns, there’s going to be a lot of the normal Hit the Floor drama. I feel like we continuously bring great dramatic moments to television on our show and I give so much credit to the writers, James Verosa, the director and creator, the producer of the show, plus all of the actors.
We have such an amazing cast of actors and people that just love their job. They come to work and want to give great performances and want people to really get involved in our story. None of us come to work just wanting to act or just put together whatever comes to mind. We really take our time and make sure everyone gives great performances on the show and try to make the show a great show for people to tune into the show. Honestly, it’s great writing, so season 3 is just going to be, I can only imagine myself, being an actor on the show and also watching the show what’s to come. I would just tell people to stay tuned. Definitely check out Vh1.com to see any updates on what’s going on with the show. They can follow me on instagram @Jonathan_McDaniel for any updates and stuff that’s going on with the show. Twitter @liljsback. Really at the end of the day just get ready, like I said, season 2 ended so crazy I can only imagine what’s coming next.
3 Voices: You spoke about being a father of a beautiful baby girl and you are a soon to be husband. How do you balance your professional career with your personal life?
Jonathan McDaniel: I’ve been doing entertainment my whole life so it’s not anything that I really have to focus on as far as saying I have to balance it a certain way to make it work. I think that it’s a combination of the people that you have in your life, the people that surround you who are involved in these things as far as my family is concerned, my wife, or anything like that. It’s really about surrounding yourself with great supportive people who are going to love you and be there for you because this industry is a very hard industry to be in. Really just knowing what’s real and what’s not real. I feel like when people get into the entertainment industry they tend to get lost and kind of forget about who they are as a person and lose their sense of direction of what they are actually in the industry for to begin with. The fact that I grew up in this industry I’ve seen a lot come and go, I’ve seen ups and downs not only through other people, but for myself. Now I’m at a place where I’m mature enough to handle my career and my work for what it is. I’m living my dream so every day when I go to work I feel like, man, it isn’t work to me. It’s just me being me.
It’s second nature to me to be an actor and a musician so going to work and being able to do what I do to make a living it’s not something I have to worry about balancing as far as mixing it with my personal life because with great people surrounding me I stay grounded, I stay humble, and I stay keeping my family first and understanding what’s important and what’s real. To know that I am having a great time in the industry and living this type of life and what comes with it, but also I’m just a regular person who just wants to be able to work and provide for their family. I’m just using acting and music to be able to do that.
At the same time, still giving off positivity to other people because I feel like energy is everything and when you have the ability to touch people in this industry, which I do through my work, it’s all about putting out positive energy to deliver the people the right message in the right way. I just want people to know me as that type of person. When fans see me and ask for autographs and pictures it’s all love, as long as everyone keeps it respectful. That’s just who I am, so I don’t really think it’s the balance I have to worry about, you just have to be wise in who you choose to keep around you and who is in your circle when you’re in the industry when you’re trying to do this because it’s a very hard industry to be in, it really is. It takes a really strong person to make it.
3 Voices: What’s next for you? Are there any exclusives you can share with us?
Jonathan McDaniel: I have a film called My Many Sons that is a true story based off of a college coach by the name of Don Meyer. He was one of the most winningest coaches in college basketball history. He’s a legend when it comes to college basketball. It’s a film we made about his life and I actually play a real person who was a player and student of Don Meyer from a university in Tennessee and he went on to take on the mentorship that Don Meyer had given him over the years and started his own coaching career and he is still coaching to this day, 20 something years later.
It’s a great story, it’s a family story. I think it’s going to get a lot of people’s attention because of Don Meyer and the impact that he made with his life. I play the role of Pete Froeden who was a basketball player and one of the so called sons that Don Meyer mentored in the film and that’s why it’s called My Many Sons because even though they weren’t biologically his kids it was the way he mentored these kids who played underneath him that he really truly cared for and he treated them like sons. That will be out next year. I’m thinking maybe around April, March, hopefully, no later than next summer that will be out.
Besides that I’m working on a lot of music right now, writing for a lot of people, so hopefully you’ll be able to hear some records from some artists that people love out there written by me. Just continuing on and I’m looking for the next movie, auditioning just like everybody else that’s out there. Trying to find that next role that really helps my career and pushes me as an actor and makes me better. Meanwhile, I’m really loving my role on Hit the Floor right now so I hope that doesn’t end any time soon. I hope that we can continue on for many seasons because I really love being on that show and I think the people love the show. As long as we can continue to give them great television they’ll keep us on air.
3 Voices: How can the people reach out to you on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and etc.?
Jonathan McDaniel: Like I said, Instagram @Jonathan_McDaniels. Twitter @liljsback. You can go on my website jonathanmcdanielfans.com. Definitely check me out. I always keep my fans updated on what’s going on with me and my next projects.
Here’s Jonathan McDaniel from Season 2 of Hit The Floor:
Here Jonathan McDaniel: