Jazmyn Simon’s got herself a good gig. She’s currently the only female series regular in HBO’s new dramedy Ballers, which makes its debut on Sunday, June 21 at 10pm ET. Like Entourage was to the movie industry, Ballers is to the male-dominated world of football — both, though, lightheartedly depicting the whirlwind lifestyle and real-life problems of their respective industry and both hailing Steven Levinson and Mark Wahlberg as EPs.
“If you just like good TV, you’ll love it. Football, I would say, is 45 percent of it, 55 percent of our show, is life,” Simon tells. “It’s people, it’s relationships, and I think the most important part of any TV show is having really strong relationships and you get that with this show. I think it’ll be something for everybody.”
Dwayne Johnson plays the lead as Spencer Strasmore, a retired football superstar trying to reinvent himself as a financial manager for current and retired players. Jazmyn Simon plays Julie Greene, the wife to one of Spencer’s former linemen, Charles Greene (Omar Miller, CSI: Miami), who is finding it hard adjusting to civilian life.
“You never would have thought that a show like this would have a woman character, a female character that was strong, but the way Lev [Steven Levinson] wrote it, they did give me an opportunity to show that,” Simon tells of her character.
Julie’s actually total badass and would serve as a good role model for any athlete when considering a future partner — someone who isn’t going to take any of their bullshit.
“It’s funny because all of the characters are slightly scared of Julie, including Dwayne’s,” Simon laughs. “Which is funny because I’m the teeniest, tiniest woman and all these guys are so big and they’re all like, ‘Julie let you come out?’ ‘Oh, how are you going to tell Julie?’ Everybody’s intimidated by Julie. They’re always trying to make sure Charles does the right thing because they all know that he’s going to have the wrath if he pisses me off, which is funny.”
Much of that attitude comes from Julie being equally successful, she’s a doctor and doesn’t want Charles sitting on the couch for the rest of his life. She wants him to get out and get a job, so she takes a leading role in their family.
“She wears the pants in the family,” Simon tells. “When you think of a woman married to a football player, you automatically have an idea of what kind of woman she is. You really don’t think smart doctor married to football player. She’s a very unique character in that way and I love that the writers gave her some depth, because they could have made her anything, but they made her very smart. They made her a career woman.
“Julie’s role for him is as coach in their life,” Simon continues. “She’s like his cheerleader, she’s his coach, and so in the series you just see her and him navigating life together after football.”
Navigating life after football is an all-too-real topic. Although this is a comedy, Simon was actually stunned at what she learned after reading the initial pilot.
“I never gave it two thoughts prior to working. The opening page of our pilot, Lev [Stephen Levinson] did a great job writing the pilot and it said, I think it was, the ‘life expectancy of an NFL player or football player is 55 years, and their average playing time is 3 1/2 years.’ That is ridiculous. If someone told me I could only act for 3 1/2 years, I would be devastated. These guys work their whole young and teenage lives to get to college, to get to the NFL, and to play pro ball overseas and then they only play for 3 1/2 years. I never thought, ‘What do these guys do with the rest of their lives?’ It’s a true thing. What do they do? This is a good show to show people that ‘yes,’ we do idolize these people and ‘yes,’ they do have the best of everything and they have all this money, but everything that glitters isn’t gold, because it ends very abruptly.”
In the series, Julie and Charles’ relationship is far more idyllic than most of the other players Spencer tries to help (much of the comedy comes from those hot messes). While the first episode of Ballers feels a bit more drama than comedy, the show has plenty of lighthearted moments to follow.
“There are a lot of points in the pilot that are a little more drama-based, but I know shooting the rest of the series that we really lightened it up. Our head writer, Evan Reilly was definitely like, ‘Look, this is a comedy and we’re going to make it a comedy,’ so it does get funnier.”