ACTING UP: Jean-Pierre Yerma.

Busy year for actor who calls Airlie home

JEAN-Pierre Yerma is living proof that it is never too late to try something new in life.

The man better known as "JP" was born in the south-western French town of Pau before emigrating to Australia with his family at the age of six.

Life Down Under was good and even better when he found his true home in this part of the world three decades ago.

"I started my time in the Whitsundays in 1989 when I began working at Hayman Island," he said.

"My brother had come here four years earlier and told me that I had to visit, but once I got here, I called it home ever since."

Despite holding different jobs within the hospitality industry or in training and development, JP's real love was acting, which he only started to explore when he turned 40.

His first on-screen appearance came in the 2005 television show Australian Princess.

"Prior to that, I hadn't done that much, but I had a passion for the performing arts and it stoked the fire inside me," he said.

Having found himself an agent, JP was soon contacted for a film role, not that he knew what it entailed at the time.

"My agent called saying that there was an available role, but I had to sign a confidentiality form," he said.

"I had no idea what the movie was and the only instruction I got was to dress up like a diplomat.

"I reported to Fox Studios at 6am and ended up being in the final scene of George Miller's film Happy Feet."


Jean-Pierre Yerma
MANY FACES: Actor Jean-Pierre Yerma during his various acting roles. CONTRIBUTED

A look at IMDb, the world's most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity contest, lists JP's maiden movie role as advisor to the Russian diplomat.

He then starred in a wide array of commercials, with an appearance as La Perouse in the famous lamb ad featuring Richie Benaud and Sam Kekovich, before a role as a neighbour on Paul Fenech's series Housos.

That was followed by appearances in the films Love of my Life and Mary: Making of a Princess.

"I did a few different things between 2012-2014, but it wasn't until 2015 when I started to think I've got a good feel for this," he said.

"I started taking it more seriously and was flying from Airlie Beach to Sydney quite often for roles."

JP's rise from a peripheral figure to more of a major player received a major boost when he was accepted for the renowned school NIDA just shy of a major milestone.

NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) has been a breeding ground for many of the country's most famous names such as Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving and Sam Worthington.

"I auditioned in my mate's studio in Cannonvale (Steve Wickett of Whitsunday Film Musical and Theatrical Society) for NIDA and was accepted," he said.

"It was a great thrill to study screen acting where many of our best actors have trained. "I graduated at the age of 50, so it's never too late to follow your dream."

It also opened many new doors as roles on some well-known Australian television series' emerged.

"I appeared in Rake as a correctional officer and Here Come the Habibs!," he said.

"There's also been more film work (credits include The Osiris Child, Rip Tide and 2:22), which set the scene for this year."

2018 has been JP's busiest to date, with a number of films either in the production or post-production phase.

"I appeared in Xavier's Harvest where I play a father and three other films titled Greed, Cops Enemy and Out For Vengeance where I play Lieutenant Franco and travelled over to Holland for that film," he said.

At the moment he is in the process of getting a visa for the United States where he is set to appear in a feature film from October.

"I've got a great agent in Gina Stoj and that helps, but you've got to put the hard yards in."

He has been so busy that he has spent more time than he would have liked away from home, relocating permanently to Sydney.

"I've had to come here and make sacrifices in a bid to establish my life and brand," he said.

"The hard part about being in Airlie Beach was when someone wants to call you in for an audition. Being in Sydney I can get to those much easier.

"I'm looking forward to the time when I can get back home, but right now every visit to the Whitsundays is a flying one."

As for what the future holds, JP has a clear vision.

"Right now it is purely acting, that is my passion and that is what I love to do," he said.

"One of the best things I did recently was called the Screen Diversity Showcase where they pick 10 unheralded actors, six writers and six directors from all across Australia, and put them in front of producers, directors, casting directors and agents.

"You perform two plays each and the scripts had changed four times in the first three days before the showcase.

"So you had to redo your lines and learn them late, something you need to be ready for in showbiz "last minute changes", but I was really happy with how it all went, it was a great experience working with the actors, directors, writers and getting the opportunity to perform in front of 300 influential people.

"So yes, acting is right where I want to be."