Ajay Friese is best known for his recurring roles on television shows such as Lost in Space, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and Riverdale, as well as for his lead role in the critically acclaimed 2019 film Riot Girls. But the curiosity that drives Friese has always led him to cast a wide net in terms of his creative pursuits and passions.
That passion is now available as his debut EP “light a match… then run” which was recently released, along with a music video for the single “Blackberry” which was directed by Ajay’s good friend and Lost in Space co-star, Mina Sundwall.
Enjoying the outlet of music, Ajay sits eagerly awaiting the third and final season of Lost In Space, which comes available on Netflix in its entirety starting Wednesday, Dec. 2.
You have your debut EP out. Tell me about it.
The EP is my debut EP, but it’s really a culmination of my favorite songs I’ve written over the past decade or so. I started writing music when I was in middle school and it was produced and recorded in New York City by my friend, Everett Bradley, who is a member of Bon Jovi.
You’re known for acting, so what made you want to go into music?
It’s always been my dream ever since I was about 12 when I started writing music, that’s when I made my first album plan on my mom’s old red Mac Book. I could probably still pull it up if that thing even turns on. I just kind of felt like now was the right time. I had an audience from acting and I had connections from acting to the music industry and I just felt like it was the right time to go for what I had been dreaming of doing throughout all my teenage years.
You only started dropping music videos on YouTube about 10 months ago. So this is all fairly new for you.
Definitely. It all came about during the pandemic actually. My acting agent got a cold call from this really good music manager and it was totally unexpected. My acting agent phoned me up in early October, about a year ago today. And that’s kind of when it all started. I had these songs recorded already, but that’s when we started planning the releases, making music videos, and everything else.
You mentioned that you worked with your friends, Everett Bradley, who of course is a Bon Jovi and E Street Band member. How did you guys connect?
Well, actually I was pretty lucky. My dad and him worked at the same restaurant when they were in their 20s. My dad was a waiter and Everett was the entertainment. They’ve always kept in touch and Everett’s been around from time to time, as I’ve grown up, and I think he really saw the musicality in me. Then as I got older and he started to hear some of my songs that I had written, he was really enthusiastic about producing a project with me. And of course I said, yeah, and here we are.
Did Everett pass down any wisdom to you along the way and what was it?
So much. We worked probably a few hundred hours on this project together. I learned so much from him, but probably the biggest thing I learned from him is that you can be too much of a perfectionist with music and especially with music recording, because you have the digital files, right. You can do anything to them, but when you’re too much of a perfectionist and you nudge it by a millisecond to make it right on the beat and everything, then it just starts sounding lifeless and it starts to lose that really human feel to it. I think that was one of the biggest lessons I took away from this whole experience.
Let’s talk about the EP’s focus track “Blackberry”. Tell me about that song.
“Blackberry” is the oldest song on the EP because I wrote it at the back of science class when I was in grade seven, after I accidentally burned down a hill that very dry summer by my house. And luckily no one got hurt and the fire department arrived pretty quickly. I was left pretty impacted from the intensity of it all. So I wrote that song and it’s really about hiding a secret, hiding the truth and how it kind of chases you everywhere you go. And then the release that comes with finally telling the truth.
Your castmate Mina Sundwall is producing a video for “Blackberry”. How did this come about?
Mina’s incredible and she’s also into directing and this is her narrative directorial debut. I showed her the song casually when we were on set for Lost in Space season three early in quarantine. And she really liked the song and I kind of discussed what I just told you about the backstory. Then she just cold calls me three months later out of the blue with this whole idea shot for shot, story for story, everything that you’re going to see in the music video, she told me over the phone and she’s like, can we make this music video? I just thought of it. She had written up this whole Word document with all these concept photos and everything. And it was really amazing working with her. I think she’s going to make some really incredible pieces.
As an actor, how important is the music video part of the music for you?
I think it’s pretty fun because it’s where I get to mix my two mediums, especially when I’m doing narrative music videos, not just performance pieces, but where I’m acting. I think hopefully for fans, it’s cool to see that bridge, me acting in my music videos.
The new Lost in Space season three trailer has been released. Are you a bit excited for season three to be coming out?
Yeah, I’m super excited. I think honestly I loved season one. I thought season two was even better and I really do mean this. I think season three is the best season we’ve done. I feel like it just keeps on getting better and better. It was so fun to shoot. And honestly I think it’s going to be nuts.
Without giving too much away, can you tell the fans what to expect this season?
I don’t think I can say anything really. Well, as you know, I like to act and I also like to sing, so maybe that’s a clue.
Tell me about your character in the show and how you created him.
Well, my character’s name is Vijay Dhar. Original name was actually Sebastian Mendoza and I auditioned for Sebastian and after they cast me, they changed his name to Vijay Dhar, which is pretty funny, because it’s super similar to my name Ajay. He is the son of the colony leader Victor Dhar. He’s also the love interest slash friend of Penny Robinson who’s the middle Robinson child. For creating the character, it took a lot of creation, but then after filming the first season, you just step back into it every season and it comes really naturally after that. A big part of acting is just making the lines feel real and perceivable to yourself. And then when you say them, it’ll just come across way more believable.
And so there was a poem in season one where I talk about how I battle my fear of heights. And I actually have a bit of a fear of heights and so to prepare for it, I just wanted to feel something genuine when Penny read out that line where I said, I battled my fear of heights.
And so I actually jumped off of my balcony at home when I was home alone one day and it took me 45 minutes to will myself to do it. And I jumped onto a couch, but it was scary. Honestly, sometimes it’s just stuff like that, like you’re really in it and then you’re emotionally connected with the character.
You’re also on another big Netflix series, Riverdale. What can you tell me about being in that one?
I was on five episodes playing a smaller character. I played Eddie, one of Dodgers street kids, and it was incredible. Every single one of my scenes was with K.J. Apa who plays Archie. And that was really fun meeting him because I had also been such a fan of the show since the pilot actually. And he is really, nice and funny. That was great getting to work with him and getting to be on the set of a show that I loved so much. And ironically, the season that I’m in is the only season that I haven’t watched.
I’m not really sure why, but I mean I’m fully watching season five right now. It’s incredible. The finale actually airs tonight as we are recording this interview.
Are there more roles coming up for you that you can talk about?
Nothing I can talk about. I can say that Lost in space, season three, is going to come out on December 1st.
Last question for you. If you had to choose just one career path, would it be music or acting?
Part of my brain thinks acting because even though they’re both pretty unstable, acting has a bit more financial stability to a degree, but I don’t think I could pick that because music is my true love and it’s just what comes out of me. I would definitely just have to choose music and put everything into it, which is what I’m trying to do.