Hayden Byerly stars as Jude on the hit ABC Family original drama The Fosters. Ahead of tonight’s mid-season finale, we caught up with Hayden to discuss the struggles his character has faced so far in season 2, what it’s like on set, what’s coming up next for Jude in the summer finale, and more!
Check out our exclusive interview with Hayden Byerly below:
What initially attracted you to the role of Jude?
When I first read the role, he was a very different character from most TV kids that I had watched on television. He was very different in the sense that he wasn’t a kid who was raised in a family – you know, first of all, he was adopted, and that was a very appealing thing because there’s not a lot of shows that I know of that are about [that], so I thought it was a very appealing role in that sense, and also he was a sweet, kind kid who wasn’t troubled but was going through a lot of hard times in his life, and he was very emotionally attached to his sister Callie and was also confused about his sexuality. So I felt like there was a lot of very interesting stuff there that a lot of kids do go through in their daily lives, so I thought that was so interesting and appealing that it really made me connect with the role.
This season, we saw Jude struggling with his sexuality, and unfortunately that had an impact on his friendship with Connor. Are we going to see more of that in the finale?
A little bit, yeah. I feel like that’s always gonna be an issue with them because if Jude is gay and Connor’s dad doesn’t accept that then that’s always gonna be hard for Jude and Connor to be friends. I’m not saying that Jude is gay – I mean, we still don’t know – but if he is, then Connor’s dad is gonna have to try and accept that and he’s gonna have to try and, you know, really be comfortable around Jude and be comfortable with Jude and Connor hanging out.
What do you think it is about Jude and Connor’s relationship that resonates so much with viewers?
I think that it’s an amazing friendship because it shows that this kid, who has been through a lot and doesn’t have any friends and just has his sister, goes to his school and he does something completely different by painting his nails, which not many boys do. It makes everyone very attached to Jude because he is who he is and he’s trying to be different and he’s trying to be who he wants to be. I feel like something that really makes people excited about Jude and Connor’s friendship is that Connor then goes and paints his nails blue for Jude to make him feel comfortable and to make him feel welcomed at the school and to make him feel like he has a friend, and I feel like that’s something that’s very special about their friendship and that’s why people connect to it so much.
The other big challenge for Jude this season was the news about Callie’s biological father and the fact that she had this whole new family, which obviously really affected him. Was it hard going through a whole episode without talking and only being able to act with your body?
Yeah, I mean, a lot of people would think it would be much easier to not have to talk, you know, just kind of basically stand there and not do anything, but for me I found it very difficult because you are in a scene with someone and you are acting something out with them and you are trying to have a relationship and communicate with them but you’re not speaking to them and you’re not giving them an answer or actually saying anything to them, so it was very difficult, but it was very interesting and very fun to play.
Jude has really been embraced by the entire family, but he seems to have a particularly special bond with Lena. Would you say that’s true and maybe give us some insight into that?
I would say that’s true. I feel like Lena really connects to Jude because she was the one who initially felt really bad for Callie and Jude and really kind of talked Stef into letting them stay and adopting them. I feel like she’s always had this bond with Jude because she loves how he’s different, she loves how he’s not like every other kid, she loves how he’s experimenting and he’s painting his nails and he’s finally making friends and doing good at school. I feel like that means so much to her, especially coming from her family where she had a very strict mom and she was always raised by a mom and a dad, she feels like it’s her obligation to make sure that Jude feels very comfortable and that he’s happy, and she just loves seeing him and being with him. It’s awesome being able to work with Sherri and do those scenes because they’re very powerful, you know, they mean a lot. Lena’s a very smart, adult role model for Jude and Jude really looks up to her.
The Fosters has been a massive success for the ABC Family network. What do you think it is about the show that sets it apart?
I think that something that makes the show very successful is that it’s so groundbreaking. It’s incredible that this show brings two lesbian moms raising a group of mixed kids, biological and adopted children, and they make a family. And it shows that even though, you know, there’s two moms or two dads or there’s adopted kids or biological kids, it doesn’t matter. You know, love is what really makes a family, and that’s something that we’ve always promoted – that DNA doesn’t make a family, love does – and that’s very important. Everyone on the cast, everyone always believes in that, and I feel like that’s something [that really appeals to people] because we’ve seen – you know Modern Family has the two dads who adopt the little baby girl?
Yeah, that’s a great show.
It’s a great show as well, but I think The Fosters kind of takes that to a whole other level with having, what, five kids in the house, and having two moms, like it’s just a crazy family but they all love each other so much and at the end of the day they’re still a family, and I feel like that’s what really makes it a special and important show that everyone loves.
So you said that everyone really believes in the core of the show and the whole message about how love is really what makes a family. What is it like being on set?
Being on set is really fun. Everyone is very professional, they’re very good at what they do, but it’s also very fun. Everyone’s very relaxed and very excited to film. The whole cast is exceptional. They’re always very professional and it’s always so much fun to do a scene with them or anyone, so it’s very cool. A day on the set is just exhilarating. It’s so much fun. I have a great time. Especially being at such a young age and working with kids who are much older, you know, an older cast, they still treat me like one of them. They treat me very well and make me feel like a kid and make me feel happy, so I feel like that’s really cool.
What do you do about school?
I am homeschooled, so I do all of my school on the Internet. I do it on set, so there’s a bunch of rules about how you have to do school so many hours a day on set, and there’s a teacher on set that helps me, so I mean, it’s a really good school system and it adjusts to your needs but you can also get a good education. It’s really cool.
What can we expect from the finale – maybe something that Jude is involved in?
Well, Callie’s got a lot of stuff going on with the Quinn family so Jude is obviously along for the ride because he feels very attached to his sister. He doesn’t like the fact of her having to be a part of this other family but he accepts it, and I think that that’s something that we’re gonna see a lot throughout the rest of the time that the Quinns stay in the picture and they’re filling out paperwork, and I feel like they will always kind of have some weight on his shoulders.
Any other projects in the works for you right now or are you just working on The Fosters?
We’re on hiatus – we go back to The Fosters in early/mid September, and right now I’m just kind of hanging out. I’m not doing anything right now but just chilling, having fun over the summer, and I can’t wait to get back to school and stuff like that. So I’ve just been hanging out and relaxing.
Keep up with Hayden Byerly on Twitter @HaydenByerly and tune in to The Fosters summer finale tonight at 9/8c on ABC Family.