Education Dramaturg Ted Sod sat down with Jake to discuss his work on ‘If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet’.

TS: Will you tell us something about your background? How did you get your start?

JG: I was born in Los Angeles, CA. I decided I wanted to be an actor at an early age. I remember watching Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester” when I was around 5 years old and being thrilled at the prospect of maybe doing what he was doing one day. I went to acting classes in the San Fernando Valley as a young kid, acted throughout high school and began auditioning professionally at 14 or so, but I have never been formally trained. My parents always encouraged me to get a formal education. They stressed that it would help in whatever I ended up choosing to be my career. At 16 I landed my first professional acting gig, a movie called October Sky.

I ended up making that movie during the second semester of my senior year in high school and then went to college in NYC after. My education is ultimately what has made me a successful actor.

TS: What drew you to If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet?

JG: Terry is like de Tocqueville. He comes into this family and he observes and comments on what he sees. I love the character of Terry and I loved Nick Payne’s writing. It was that simple. And when I went to see Michael Longhurst’s production of Nick’s other play, Constellations, at the Royal Court in London, the deal was sealed. They are an unbeatable pair. They are the new generation of British theatre talent.

TS: What do you think the play is about?

JG: I think the play is about family. And it is about the desire we all have to be seen and heard by our family and how – for many different reasons – it can become hard to hear the people we love most and how hard it can be to be heard by them.

TS: How is the character of Terry relevant to you? Can you share some of your preliminary thoughts about Terry with us?

JG: I love the way he talks, how he moves through the world. He is desperate to pull the truth out of everyone around him, but he is unable to face his own. He is a constant contradiction and like this broken, beating heart with legs.

TS: How do you collaborate with a director?

JG: The director is the leader, and I’m not sure that I would say it’s about collaboration. It’s ultimately about trying to service his or her vision. If I have an idea, I will always share it – I’m not shy. I don’t believe in a dictatorship, but in the end it’s the director’s decision as to what will be suitable to their production. I like a director who has a clear and simple sense of what they want to say. When dealing with something as complicated as family drama, it takes great intelligence to make things clear and simple for an audience.

TS: How do you keep yourself inspired? What feeds you as an artist?

JG: Variation keeps me inspired. I always like finding roles that are different from the one I played before. And I love playing intentions in scenes differently every night on stage and in every take on a movie. I always try and challenge myself and surprise my fans. It makes it fun for everyone.

Ted Sod: Finally, on a lighter note, how do you prefer your last name to be pronounced? There is a YouTube video that says it is pronounced: “Yil-En-HOO-Li-Hay”.

Jake Gyllenhaal: I believe in variation, so naturally I love the many ways that people pronounce my last name. I wouldn’t trust YouTube videos in general. YouTube can be a dangerous method of fact checking, that usually ends hours later with videos of kittens yawning or with a ridiculous kung fu instructional video. I’ll save the readers of this article some time: my last name is pronounced ‘Jill-IN-hall’.

If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet plays at the Laura Pels Theatre from 24 August to 25 November 2012.