Jarrett’s extraordinary dance career
If you’re a fan of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, you’ve likely seen Jarrett Carlington at work.
You also may have noticed him on the Hulu series Woke or in The Christmas Chronicles 2, the Netflix film that was a hit with families over the holiday season last year.
“My parents were always supportive of me chasing my dreams as long as I was happy and could support myself doing it,” said Jarrett, who moved to Vancouver in 2011 and has been trying to make his way as a dancer ever since.
“I did have other family members constantly asking what my back-up plan was. They were very well meaning and I don’t hold it against them, but once I decided to dedicate myself to the arts I knew there wasn’t a back-up plan, just ‘the plan’.”
Malachi Simmons, a friend who taught at United Dance Productions, introduced him to the basics.
“We learnt a lot from YouTube,” he said. “There was not really a hip hop scene in Bermuda at that time. It seemed like we were the only ones doing it.”
He moved to Canada for university shortly after graduating from the Berkeley Institute. Distracted by dance, he dropped out of the business programme he’d enrolled in and signed up for classes at Coast Academy of Dance. To extend his talents, he also joined an acting class.
“I wasn't sure what career to follow,” he said. “I decided to do what made me happy and that was dance.”
For years he gave producers what he thought they wanted to see in auditions, and struggled to get noticed. When it came time to try out for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, he decided it was time for something different.
“I went into that audition and just threw my hands up and thought I will be me, unapologetically,” he said.
A few days later he learnt he’d been hired as a dancer on the musical comedy-drama series produced by NBC.
The show centres around Zoey Clarke, a software developer who hears people’s innermost desires through popular songs.
With as many as 12 dance numbers per episode, there are always hundreds of dancers coming and going; Jarrett is one of only six with a recurring role as a programmer.
“It involves acting as well,” he said. “The role is not as narrative-heavy as the main cast but the bro-grammers do get lines here and there.”
A huge bonus is it allows him to work with Mandy Moore, the choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars, and Jillian Meyers, who has choreographed for entertainers Janet Jackson, OneRepublic, Banks and Kesha.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist debuted in 2020 and won an Emmy Award for best choreography in September.
“I did not win the Emmy myself,” Jarrett said. “But I like to joke that I am Emmy-adjacent, especially since I am in the team that helps the choreographers create the dances. I am part of the creative process.”
Vancouver’s film industry has not been badly hit by the pandemic. Although Ontario has been under a stay-at-home order for months, British Columbia’s Covid-19 cases are on the decline. Last week the province hit a record low since October with 250 cases and three deaths.
“We have restrictions,” Jarrett said. “There are no large gatherings allowed still, but we are allowed to eat outside at restaurants. There is no curfew. Vancouver is a little bit more chill than most places, but masks are still worn indoors everywhere. There are occupancy limits on things.
“Season two for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist ran from August 2020 to March 2021 and I was employed through that.”
The Christmas Chronicles 2 also filmed over that period and hit the number one spot on Netflix last December. Jarrett danced “in the airport scene”.
He has also appeared in commercials for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and other products.
“Zoey’s is on television but also streams on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and NBC’s website. You need an American IP address to watch it,” he said, adding that his parents, Elvin and Amy Carlington, live a couple of hours away from him in British Columbia and are his biggest supporters.
“My mother has a Facebook messenger group with all my aunts and uncles and posts about what I am doing,” he said.
He does not know if there will be a third season of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist but the indicators are there for it.
The show has been chosen by viewers in several popularity polls. In February, the show’s star Jane Levy, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the role.
Jarrett’s advice to Bermudians who would like to get into the industry is “go where the training is”.
“You will make it if you are too good to ignore,” he said.
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