James Austin Kerr has been selected as the 2019 Young Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador. Kerr is an actor, writer, director and producer from Edmond who now lives in Hollywood. He has modeled for Vogue; acted in popular television shows including “The Mentalist” and “Scandal”; and starred in a variety of short and feature films, a few of which he wrote and directed himself.
For the past decade, Creative Oklahoma and the governor have given Creativity Ambassador Awards to famous Oklahomans from Blake Shelton to Leona Mitchell to Bart Conner, but Kerr is only the fourth person to be selected as a Young Ambassador, joining Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter John Fullbright, “Criminal Minds” and Broadway actress Annie Funke and “America’s Got Talent” winner Darci Lynne.
Kerr’s journey from Edmond to Hollywood started, as you might expect, at his local movie theater in Kickingbird Square. He loved going to the movies with his dad and making VHS tapes with his brother Wilson to send in to “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but he never really considered acting as a way to get on TV.
“Senior year of high school, I just wanted to get out of my shell,” Kerr recalls. “It was less about being interested in film and more about gaining confidence. When the movie Ivory came to Oklahoma in 2007, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and audition to be an extra.”
Kerr was hired as both an extra and a stand-in on Ivory, which offered him the rare opportunity to watch every part of the filmmaking process from the best view in the house. Plus, it introduced him to casting director Chris Freihofer, who taught Kerr how to audition and offered him classes through The Actor Factory in Norman. He got some local film offers, and after a year at UCO, he decided to take the leap and move to Los Angeles to pursue acting full-time.
– James Austin Kerr
Once in California, Kerr was unsure of how to get started, since he knew virtually no one and had limited acting experience. He stopped by a modeling agency to get side work while he figured everything out, and the choice proved prophetic.
“I went in to the Ford Modeling Agency with super-long hair,” Kerr remembered. “They loved it and thought I had a great California look, even though I was from Oklahoma. They lined me up work with Hot Topic, PacSun and T.J. Maxx. The print work got me a commercial agent, which led to a manager, which led to a theatrical agent. But it really started with modeling.”
All of those agents have kept Kerr busy for the past few years. He has acted in 13 movies and television shows in the past three years alone, ranging from guest-starring turns on “NCIS” and “Queen of the South” to leading film roles opposite Judd Nelson and Francesca Eastwood.
Kerr has also enjoyed the opportunity to return home to Oklahoma for projects, including award-winning short films Culpability and You People. And earlier this year, Kerr starred alongside Jonathan Rhys Myers in a movie called Wake Up, filmed in Guthrie.
“The reason I have a career is because of the values and work ethic I learned from my family in Oklahoma,” Kerr says. “This career is filled with constant rejection that many people can’t handle. I like defying the odds. It is the continual bounce back that I learned from Oklahoma.”