Nick Jonas is pretty shy at first. So much so that when we meet on the roof of midtown's Viceroy Hotel—a Central Park-facing bar simply known as The Roof—I worry that there aren't enough cocktails in the world to get him to open up. But boy was I wrong. (And, anyway, I had my partner in crime, ELLE associate editor Seth Plattner, on hand just in case we ran into any awkward patches.) But we didn't—because Nick Jonas kind of rules? He's seriously funny in that repeats your joke from earlier but with a slightly keener delivery kind of way, not to mention pretty damn self-assured for a 21-year-old. Just try to give him a playful ribbing and see if he balks. He'll just sit there in his skinny jeans, his newly chiseled jaw cloaked in mossy stubble, and make another expert quip about how "deep" you went into his Instagram feed. Nick: 1, Justine: 0. Over a round of Bombay Dreams—a low-cal cocktail he invented while on tour last year—the newly emancipated JoBro talks his racy role on DirecTV's upcoming MMA drama, Kingdom, expectations for his forthcoming solo album, and the nearly nude Instagram that almost exploded the Internet.
Not to embarrass you, Nick, but I went pretty deep into your Instagram feed and stumbled upon a tremendous body shot, which you justified by saying, 'I never do this, but...'
And I haven't done that since! I got really into fitness last year. I have to take my shirt off for a lot of the sex scenes in Kingdom(I think he means his movie not TV show) and I wanted to look back and be okay with how I looked. It was actually why I created this drink. I was looking for something low calorie and low carb while we were on tour in South America last spring. I was training a lot and trying to change my diet. Traditionally I don't like vodka. I'm a beer and wine person. I mean, I'll drink vodka, because it works, but I've always liked gin. So I walked up to a bartender and told him a bunch of things that I liked. And was like, 'Please, can you make this really simple gin drink.'
No, luckily he spoke English. But you know, club soda, a bunch of pineapple juice, two limes…And it just kind of stuck. And then what happened was that everyone on the tour started drinking them. It became the staple of the tour. To the point where we'd walk into a bar and order a Bombay Dream, and they would know what we were talking about.
You said you changed your nutrition. What have you eaten today?
Today, I had a salad with chicken for lunch—very exciting. This morning I had egg whites and turkey bacon. That's pretty much my daily thing. I have a plan I follow in L.A. to become a total animal. I eat 3,500 calories a day and do two-a-day training sessions. The rule is: Any time you think that you might be hungry, you eat. I gained like, 15 pounds since that [Instagram] picture. Then I stopped training for three weeks recently and dropped 10 pounds like that.
Do you dress differently when you're less bulky?
Yeah, I have to because my clothes don't fit.
Your jeans don't look like they have a ton of wiggle room…
They're tight, right? That's on purpose. But they have a little stretch.
We know you box, but have you ever tried a more traditionally feminine workout?
My girlfriend took me to hot yoga. I was looking around the room—and this was when I was at my biggest—and noticed that the male yoga physique is much different than what I had going on. She's really good at it, so I thought I'd give it a try. I did like the breathing, though, because that's a big part of fighting, actually.
How do you motivate yourself through grueling workouts?
I tell myself, 'It's almost done.' I hate going to the gym. I really do. I don't enjoy it all.
Even when you're admiring your bulging biceps in the mirror?
Yeah, I don't do that. [Laughs] I mean, I know people who do that. I go to the gym and I just think about when I'll be done. My trainer does one-hour workouts. And that's his deal. Just make good decisions the 23 hours you're not with him.
Dude, I can't stop drinking this!
It's so good, right? You can just keep sucking them down. There's the story of how it was created, and then there's stories from after its creation. It's so smooth that you get drunk really fast. And that's happened a bunch of times…to people. Bombay Dreams make nightmares.
Okay, so, new music. You just dropped “Chains,” and you have your solo debut coming soon. What can you tell us?
In a lot of ways it's me starting over. I feel like representing who I am now is important. If you asked, 'Who is Nick Jonas?' you might be really surprised by the answer. I don't know if anyone has a real grasp on it.
Okay, now this is a question I ask everyone: What's something you're good at that a lot of people wouldn't expect you to be good at?
I think if you asked people that about me, a lot of people would say music. There's a lot of bias that I'm excited to tear down.
Wait, are pretzels in your diet?
They're not. Oh, I'm cheating. I had a photo shoot for the show on Sunday. And I was being really good. So for the first time in a while, I had French fries last night.
Okay, so something you're good at that people wouldn't expect you to be good at is music?
No, I mean, that's a joke. I hope. But maybe acting. I don't want to say that I'm good, but I really enjoy it. And I think Kingdom is an opportunity to represent what I can actually do as an actor. It's not like a Disney show, because that's not acting. This is just a different thing entirely. But something else I'm good at? Coming up with drinks! This is not the only one I've come up with. I have a wintertime drink, too. I introduced my mom to Fireball whiskey, which is great. So it's like warm milk, chai, and Fireball...
Are you worried that no one has the guts to tell you you're an awful mixologist?
You guys are sucking them down! [Laughs] It's funny that you say that, though, because I showed this to a bartender one time. And he was like, 'This isn't a real drink. You don't know.’ But then he ended up drinking them all night and got sloppy drunk.
So you play a nasty fighter on Kingdom. Have you ever kicked someone's ass in real life?
I mean I had a couple instances, but this was before I knew how to fight. With most men, the instinct is like, 'Oh, I can handle myself.' But you learn very quickly, when you're trained by real fighters, that the art of fighting is a totally different thing. I'm pretty glad I didn't get into those fights when I didn't know how to fight. The one thing I've learned is that it's all about submission. I would never kill someone, but I'd put them to sleep. It's better.
Huh. Last question: What's something you're bad at that most people think you'd be good at?
Speaking loudly. I'm very quiet. People always think I'm tired when I'm full of energy! I'm very calm. People always ask how I can be so reserved. But once you've been in real turmoil, which, at this point in my life, I've been in a few times, you kind of realize when you need to turn on the panic button and when you need to chill.
What's your fave drink ONTD, low cal or not?