Jerry Harris Gives an Update on Life After Netflix's 'Cheer'
Netflix’s Cheer became almost an overnight phenomenon as the series lifted the curtain to reveal the little-known, but big, world of competitive cheerleading. Viewers raved about the Navarro Cheer Team’s incredible tricks, extremely difficult training regimens, and, most of all, team member Jerry Harris’s iconic “mat talking.”
“Mat talking” is a concept that used to only be known in the cheerleading world. It’s the action of encouraging your teammates and hyping up their successes on the mat during practice and at competitions. It’s a way to lift each other up and keep pushing.
Harris quickly came to be known as the “king” of mat talking. His energy, drive, and positivity are infectious, and the entertainment industry recognized his powerful capability of brightening the spirits of others as soon as the show became a hit. Since the show’s release, he has been able to put his optimism and enthusiasm to great use in a variety of ways. Most recently, through his partnership with Cheerios and No Kid Hungry, he’s created a “Mat Talk” series on his Instagram page that encourages everyone to work together to spread positivity and work to end childhood hunger.
Here, Harris discusses his journey into the spotlight and how he hopes to use his newfound fame to make a positive change in the world.
Were you surprised by viewer reactions to Cheer? When did you realize that people started to recognize you?
Jerry Harris: I feel like people started to recognize me from the show when we went down to go be on the Ellen show. We were walking down Hollywood Boulevard as a team to go have a team dinner at this California Pizza Kitchen at this mall, and people would just stop us who had seen the show and just express how much they loved us.
We didn’t expect it to be as big as it had gotten. We just expected it to be something really big in the cheer community. We thought only cheerleaders would watch it, not that it would get as big as to having football players watch it and celebrities watch it and then just falling in love with it and sharing it with their friends, their family members, their fans. It’s really cool to see how big it really got and how people really enjoyed the show and loved it for what it was and just loved our stories and how genuine and sweet we were. It was truly amazing.
At the end of the first season, you were accepted to the University of Louisville, and then you returned to Navarro for one more semester. What was it like returning to the team?
It was an amazing feeling. It was like a feeling of being finally reunited with your family after being gone for so long. Being there for two years already, the team really grew on me a lot, and I was kind of happy to leave because I was tired of all the hard work we had to put in because it was so much work.
Leaving to experience something else made me really miss being at Navarro and getting pushed that hard and all of the crazy perks that we would have, so returning and meeting all of the new people that were on the team and reuniting with people who I had been on the team with the past years, it made the experience so much better and it made it absolutely amazing. I got to bond with all the new people. I got to get even closer to the people I had been on the team with. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to return.
Unfortunately, Daytona was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus. Does that mean that you’ll stick around longer to help Navarro defend the title next year?
I’ve been blessed with a lot of things since the show has come out. I have a lot of exciting projects that I have coming up, and I’m really just trying to pursue all of the amazing things that have come from it. As of right now, I’m not going back for this semester, but second semester… I don’t know. I’m just trying to see what’s there, what comes from it.
If I do end up back there, I love that place, so it would be very exciting to me, just to be back with my coach, my former teammates, and to meet the new people and have the same experience that I had back in January. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m excited to experience and chase those other opportunities that are there, because I feel like they’re once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and I feel like I’d be dumb to pass them up.
You’re doing this big collaboration with No Kid Hungry and Cheerios. Give us the rundown on that. What’s the big mission?
I partnered with Cheerios because I love how their message is to spread positivity. I also love Cheerios, don’t get me wrong. I also love that they’re partnering with No Kid Hungry, as well. No Kid Hungry is trying to end childhood hunger in America, and that’s something that’s near and dear to my heart because growing up, I had food insecurity. Not knowing when my next meal will be, not knowing what I was going to eat for dinner, there was a whole lot of uncertainty and a whole bunch of unknown answers that I had. One in four children actually face hunger today, and it’s very sad to see.
A lot of kids depend on those school lunches, school breakfasts, and they really help the child and help the families that work during the day. Unemployment is high, too, so parents are home more, and they’re not bringing in as much income as they normally would because of everything going on in the world. So it’s sad to see many kids face childhood hunger to this day. It is a real issue, and a lot of people aren’t aware of it. I want people to be aware of it, and I love that Cheerios also made a donation of $1.3 million to No Kid Hungry. They’re trying to help as many people as possible. And with me sharing a little bit about me, a little bit about how I had insecurity and all of that, I hope it helps the next set of family members out and helps kids out, because it is a real issue, like I said, and I want people to help people that are able to help people.
As everyone knows, your “mat talking” has become so popular and loved by fans. You’re now starting a “Mat Talk” series on your Instagram. What’s the motivation behind that and what is that going to look like?
It’s been a very different year for all of us. I was excited to partner with Cheerios and they came up with this amazing idea, so I was like, “Of course!” I love mat talking and I love making people feel good, everybody loves it. It’s a mat talk series that’s happening every Tuesday. It’s going to be in the morning [from August 11 through the first week of September].
It’s going to be an amazing way for people to get some morning positivity and make them feel better during whatever task they’re doing. They may be going on a morning walk, going to work out, maybe going to work, or they may just be starting their work day at home, because we’re working at home now. It’s going to be a great way to start the day off right and start the day off feeling amazing. So that’s why I’m having my morning “Mat Talk” series to get you up and energized and ready for the day!
What projects are you hoping to do in the future? Do you think you’ll stay in the cheer world or open up to more things in the entertainment world?
I don’t think I really have any missions for the future set in stone, I feel like it changes every day. I hope to experience as much as I can experience. There’s no future for cheerleaders, there’s no professional team or anything like that, so at some point in time, everyone has to leave the cheer world, or they can’t be a cheerleader anymore. I want to try as many things as I can right now in the entertainment industry, of course, and just see what comes from it. I tend to jump on any offer that comes up, because it’s all so amazing and I’m just really fortunate for it, so I’m definitely looking forward to trying new things in the future in the entertainment industry.
If you could mat talk to your fans right now, what would you say to lift them up during this difficult time?
I would definitely say things are tough for everyone, but nobody is alone. Everybody is going through the same situations right now, so it’s very important that we are uplifting towards one another and being as sweet and genuine to the next person as we can and not really focusing on some things that are bad in the world, but focusing on making each other happier and building each other up one step at a time.
Cheer, Streaming Now, Netflix