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John Thomas of JT Talent reveals how he got his start (Part 3 of 3)

Courtenay Turner and John Thomas
John Thomas

John Thomas (J.T.) of JT Talent is an influential event coordinator who hosts networking events, soirées, and red carpets throughout NYC.

J.T. introduces budding entertainment professionals to industry veterans, and facilitates relationships between actors, directors, patrons of the arts, and business owners. In addition to presenting VIP events, J.T. is an experienced talent manager, prolific casting director, and a producer, actor, and publicist.

In part one of my interview with him, J.T. discussed the dozen or so film and television projects he is currently working on. Part two detailed his talent management business, networking events, and how he began working with Andy Troy.

In this final installment, J.T. reveals his beginnings in the entertainment industry, and the one person that became paramount in his life and in the creation of JT Talent-- Courtenay Turner.


J.T.: I came from Brooklyn... Bensonhurst. Actually Bergen Beach, Bensonhurst, same thing. I used to run a lot of nightclubs in the city. My guy, Paul Antonelli, trained me and taught me a lot, and [also] Paul Principe. These are guys I grew up with. Through the years, I got this popularity status, and I never had that [before]. I met this guy who says, ‘I got this guy who will hook you up. He’ll have you audition all these films, and he’ll get you involved in all these different things, and he’s really big.’

I was like, ‘Ok. Why not? I got nothing else to do.’

He goes, ‘I’m starting a modeling company, so you should come with me on the modeling company.’

I said, ‘Ok. I got nothing else to do.’ I [didn’t] have a job anymore; I quit my job.

So I come to the city. I [used to] never go to the city. This is over 14 years ago... barely ever been to a club in the city. When I got there, it was all a lie. This guy knew how powerful I was in Brooklyn, and he thought I was going to bring an army to an industry event. It was the first time I’d ever been to an industry event. I walk in, not knowing anything. Everybody’s talking about this big talent manager that’s coming from Brooklyn, and I want to meet him. I’m all excited. Did I know it was me? No!

Apparently, he set me up. People were coming up to me asking, ‘Hey, can I give you my headshot?’ I didn’t know what a headshot was. I didn’t know what a z-card was. ‘Zed card,’ that’s what comp cards used to be called. I’m in the dark. I knew nothing about the business. I was just thinking about starting a modeling company, and he jumped the gun. And then I saw her: Courtenay Turner.

She was not only the most beautiful person I’d ever seen, but I felt the strongest energy I ever felt with anyone in my life. I felt like my destiny was in front of me. She came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Thomas,’ which I thought was funny. She said, ‘Here’s my headshot. I’m an actress. I owned a theatre company, and I’d like to work with you.’ I spent all night just talking to her.

She knew I didn’t know much about the business because she’s super intelligent. We agreed that she would teach me about managing, and I would manager her in the acting world from the connections that I’d met, and we’d build a partnership. Six months later, I needed to get an office. So at 20 W. 20th, I got an office for $750 a month. That night, I called her up and told her, ‘We’re going to celebrate.’

We celebrated all night. That night, when I was coming home in a cab, I lost everything I had. I lost my license, my ID, my credit cards, my birth certificate, my Social Security card... I lost everything in the cab. The police couldn’t find anything.

BROWNIE MARIE: You had all that in your wallet?

Yeah, because I was moving. I was starting to relocate; I was staying with Courtenay.

Oh, so you two were dating?

No, not at all. I wanted to at the time, but never did anything with her. She was just somebody that I really cared about.

The next day, we went to look at the office. I told the guy, ‘My credit’s not that good. I got all my ID’s stolen, but I sent you my info, so you do have it on file. If you run my credit, I’m not going to get this office. But if you give me a shot, I’m going to make a name for myself in New York.’ This is the first six months [of me being in business].

That guy looked at me, and he goes, ‘I’ll be back.’ He came to me, and he didn’t say anything but, ‘You’re approved.’

But, they needed the money up front... $1,500. Where was I going to come up with that? I just got everything taken! So Courtenay wrote a check and said, ‘Let’s get this office.’

I started building [the company] and starting working, and after a year and a half, I started to have really heavy feelings for her. I would stay with her, sleep in the same bed, never did anything with her. But I was in love with her. It was incredible because we were so tight. I told her how I felt, and she she’s like, ‘I love you like a brother, you’re like my guardian angel.’ So for about a whole year, because she thought it would upset me, she didn’t date anyone. She thought it was going to hurt me.

After about two and a half years, I started realizing that it wasn’t that I wanted to be with her, it’s that she’s like family. She’s like the family I was missing. She was the only person in New York that I actually loved and cared about.

Originally, I was only going to manage her. Now it’s 14 years later, and there’s so much, and I’ve done so much, and she’s been behind me. She moved to L.A. four years ago, and I speak to her every day. And she’s in a lot of my films. That’s how my company got started.

What’s next for you?

I’m going for my talent management license, and I’m going to be becoming a corporation again. I’m getting my life coach license, and I’m going to continue helping people. I’m going to continue casting, and doing films, and having a great time living life.

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