Extra

Actor and Author Erik Jensen: “We are not born “BAD”, we grow up in environments that train us into what we think, and which ultimately determines the actions we take.”

Actor and Author Erik Jensen was born in Manhasset, Long Island. He was raised by a single mother which was fueled by alcoholism, physical, mental and verbal abuse. He would write stories when he was younger, and create characters as a means to escape his reality. He wanted to express his pain to the world in a way that it would be understood. Acting became a dream of his, then eventually a reality.

He decided to run away for the first time at the age of 11. His life went into a tailspin. He was charged with robbery in the second degree, promoting prison contraband, and criminal possession of stolen property in the 4th Degree. He ended up serving 12 years collectively in the New York State Department Of Corrections. He did his time at Greene, Franklin, Watertown, Bare Hill, Five Points, Attica, and in 2011-2012 at the now infamous Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. It was there he became well acquainted with inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt. On June 6, 2015, the two convicted murderers pulled off one of the most daring prison escape in recent history.

During his imprisonment, Jensen was a witness to atrocities perpetrated against fellow inmates by several of the guards. He also observed abominable behavior inflicted on inmates by each other. This convinced him that the U.S. penal system takes in the bad and instead of rehabilitating, it makes them worse.

He is now a self-taught scholar in the field of prisoner transformation. He uses his own personal experience to revitalize the mind and spirits of men and women who have shared a similar path in life. Through his words, Erik illustrates that we are much more than the worst thing we’ve ever done and that the potential for doing good resides within every one of us.

Jensen recently helped to create write and act in “Escape at Dannemora,” an 8-hour limited series Directed by Ben Stiller and starring Benicio del Toro, Patricia Arquette, and Paul Dano. “I was contacted by Brett Johnson, from Mad Men, and Ray Donovan on Twitter. He asked if I would like to help him and Michael Tolkin, create a show about the true-life escape. “Ben Stiller came to me and asked if I would like to play the role of JAB, a skinhead/Aryan brotherhood gang leader. I auditioned in front of Rachel Tenner, Ben liked my tape and that was my break. I was given a lot of creative freedom since I helped the writers with the scripts, so I wrote or changed a lot of my lines.”  

“Escape at Dannemora,” is based on the true story of the 2 murderers that seduced a female, civilian employee at Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Richard Matt and David Sweat both had an intimate relationship her and manipulated her into bringing them hacksaw blades hidden inside raw hamburger meat into the facility, and ultimately to them. They find a way to escape and led authorities on a month-long manhunt, Matt getting shot and killed, Sweat getting shot and recaptured.  

Jensen worked as a Consultant on ”Escape at Dannemora.” I consulted on everything from background casting (I cast every background inmate you see), to hair and makeup, props, set decoration (everything prison related), the writers sent me the scripts to make it more like “New York.” “ I created scenes, characters, and dialog. I worked with the lead cast because I was in Clinton and knew the real players.” “After about 2 years, we finally got greenlit by Showtime.”

What makes a great Actor? “I have sat and spoken for hours with Benicio del Toro, Ben Stiller, Paul Dano, and Patricia Arquette, and have worked with them over the course of 11 months (from June 2017 to May 2018). What makes me a great Actor is this, I have been through the most painful and real situations in life, parentless, homeless, and prison. But, I have also experienced the greatest things in life like love, raising my children and living an honest life. I feel I am different, because I have lived on opposite ends of the spectrum, negative and positive, and can relate and feel for characters on either side.”

Can Hollywood do more to open the eyes of the public on the prison issue?

“Television, Movies, and Music are the most influential avenues to reach society. If we use real people to tell a real story, I believe we not only create the most realistic environment for the subject, but we also show that formerly incarcerated people can change and do something other than crime. Believe me, I have cast over 200 formerly incarcerated people for background in Escape at Dannemora.”

Social Media 

Twitter: @erikjjensen81

Instagram: @erikjjensen81

Facebook: Erik Jensen

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2 comments

  1. Absolutely wonderful read. Proud of Erik & all his accomplishments as well as his colleagues.
    This is a man who has shown that change is possible.

    Like

  2. Great article, I appreciate this background info while waiting for each new episode. I was interested from the beginning because of having friends in the NY prison system, a couple of them were at Clinton in June of 2015. I appreciate what I’m seeing in the episodes because I always wondered what it was like for my friends on the other end of the line there, no matter how many times they told me it was ok and not to worry, the youngest was 18 when he went in for 5 years and this will be his first Christmas and birthday home. He is doing very well with a job and keeping busy catching up with his family and staying patient while he rebuilds his life. I’ll be sure he reads this article. Eric gives all of us a great example and true inspiration and hope! Congratulations Eric!

    Like

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