The 31st profile in the Cleveland Performing Arts Examiner ACTOR PROFILE series features JEREMY PAUL JENKINS. This series (in interview form) is in process to “get to know” some of our own northeastern Ohio talent. Profiles will feature equity and non-equity actors, stage and screen actors, as well as young, old and in-between actors. These are your peers and your neighbors – please enjoy!
Full Name: Jeremy Paul Jenkins
Years acting: 9 years
“Day Job”: Server/Trainer @ Chili’s in Macedonia
Resident city: Akron, OH
Official acting training: In 2008, I graduated from Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre & English, then moved to NE Ohio that summer. I consider every project I have worked on since to be incredible and intensive acting instruction.
Kate Miller: I see you went to school in Tennessee – what drew you to Cumberland University?
Jeremy Jenkins: At first, I was accepted into Western Kentucky University in pursuit of a degree in Journalism. At the time, my band (Left Four) had been together for a little over a year and growing a fan base in Nashville. I knew my entrance into WKU would eventually break up the group, so I sacrificed and decided to stay grounded close by. Fortunately, it was one of the greatest decisions I have made thus far. I entered Cumberland with intentions to transfer to the school that my three band mates would be attending, but I got cast in CU’s Spring production. The rest is bliss.
KM: What brought you back to Ohio?
JJ: I followed a girl (insert cheesy joke). I was accepted in the M.A. in Theatre program at Missouri State University, but once again, sacrificed and moved north so she could pursue her Master’s in Neuroscience at Kent State University. (Un)Fortunately, we both realized we were being steered in opposite directions.
KM: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JJ: I always wanted to be involved with the arts. I grew up watching the timeless movies on AMC and classic TV shows on Nick @ Nite. You never saw a happier 13-year-old than when the I Love Lucy music began to play. However, for a brief period, I convinced my parents that I wanted to pursue a career in chiropractic health care. I guess I did not want them to fear my stability and thought cracking backs would be stimulating. Then, I thought I would be a rock star. For two years, I played drums for my band in Nashville called Left Four.
KM: And tell me about Left Four – country music?
JJ: Ironically, not. We were more of a throwback to classic/southern rock. We primarily performed original songs, but to give you an idea of our style of music, we covered such artists as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
KM: Why did you start acting?
JJ: I have always enjoyed telling a story, and being able to play it out within the constraints of live theatre is such an adrenaline rush. My hope is that the audience is able, like me, to walk away with a further understanding of the human race and the reasons we do the things we do. Plus, you get to meet some intelligent people in the process whom you will hold dear to your heart.
KM: Are there any other actors in your family?
JJ: I am the lone wolf in the family participating in the arts. However, they are incredibly supportive of my endeavors. I am very lucky. I do believe that my sister would be marvelous onstage – when we are together, the hilarity ensues!
KM: So you’ve done the band thing, so obviously you sing.
JJ: I do. I am a baritone. I have been in such classics as HMS Pinafore, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The Fantasticks, which I hold near and dear to my heart.
KM: And what about dance?
JJ: As a fellow actor once said, “I can be choreographed.” I did take one year of tap in college.
KM: Are there any particular local venues where you work primarily?
JJ: Since my move from Nashville, I have mainly worked in Akron theaters. My first gig was with the Illusion Factory, one of Akron’s touring children’s theatre. I am so blessed to have had that as my first “out of college” experience. I love children’s theatre. I have also performed on the stages of Weathervane Playhouse, Coach House Theatre, and the Ohio Shakespeare Festival (OSF).
KM: What experiences have stood out to you?
JJ: I had one of the best audition experiences with Terry Burgler for his 2009 OSF season. It was a workshop! He opened up my eyes to ideas I had never thought of before. I credit Terry and his wife, Nancy Cates, as being responsible for my recent growth as an actor. I was also fortunate enough to work with the legendary Dorothy Silver and Sarah May in Wings at the Beck Center. Currently, I am performing in Present Laugher with All My Children’s star Daren Kelly at Coach House Theatre.
KM: What did you learn about acting and performing from a seasoned stage veteran like Dorothy Silver?
JJ: Never settle for great. Do not get too comfortable. There is always an opportunity to build on what is already working. That being said, unnecessary fluff should be avoided. Just live in the moment. The opportunity to observe Dorothy as she created a challenging character is probably one of the best acting lessons I have been fortunate to be a part of.
KM: I saw that production – it was amazing! On to your process – how do you prep for an audition?
JJ: My main objective is to become familiar with the show. Then, to focus on the character that I deem suitable for my type and/or that I connect with. From there, I begin to create the world around that character and hope it comes across effectively at the audition. If sides are available, that is very helpful, and I try to get off-book beforehand.
KM: For you, what’s the hardest part about acting?
JJ: To me, the hardest part is knowing from when/where the next project will come. The pursuit is invigorating. It is like chasing after a girl. You spot a hot prospect, go out for the kill, and hope you snag a winner. However, like dating, you can be rejected. The key is not to take it personally and to keep the fire burning deep inside, because there is another project beyond the horizon.
KM: What’s your favorite role that you’ve ever played?
JJ: I really enjoyed playing Peachy Weill in The Last Night of Ballyhoo at Weathervane Playhouse. He was a red-headed prankster that was so unaware of his surroundings. You couldn’t help but like the guy. Other favorites include Leonard Vole in Witness for the Prosecution, Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew, and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
KM: And your dream role?
JJ: I yearn to play Adam in Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things. The range of emotions displayed by this poor guy is immeasurable. I also hope to play any male character in Death of a Salesman (my favorite play), Ken in Red, Boolie in Driving Miss Daisy, and Amos in Chicago. Honestly, I could go on forever. There are so many great roles out there!
KM: Who are your favorite actors and actresses?
JJ: My e-mail address pays homage to my favorite actor Abe Vigoda. There is something about his deadpan delivery and hunched posture that intrigues me. I also respect Art Carney, Hal Holbrook, Bea Arthur, Elaine Stritch, Tom Hanks, and Betty White. Again, I could go on and on!
JJ: Cooking, exercising, reading, and hiking during the warmer months. When I was in high school, I began collecting autographs through the mail from my favorite entertainers. I have compiled over 250 signed photos.
KM: And here’s the random territory – do you have any pets?
JJ: I had a fish named Jerry, but he died when I moved from Stow to Akron. I don’t really like to talk about it.
KM: Paper or plastic?
JJ: Anything with handles.
KM: Democrat? Republican? Other?
JJ: Grew up Democrat and have not had reason to budge since.
KM: You’re an Akron guy, so are you a LeBron James fan? What’s the atmosphere in Akron like these days with regards to the NBA and that whole situation?
JJ: I am not going to knock someone for accepting a position that would further their career in different ways. However, in the case of LeBron, I was unsettled with the process he chose to disclose his decision. Needless to say, there are still some very disgruntled fans down here.
KM: How did you celebrate the holidays?
JJ: I drove home to TN for a week. We always exchange gifts on Christmas Eve night with finger foods. Then, on Christmas Day we gorge ourselves in turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, etc. Believe it or not, I have never seen It’s a Wonderful Life, so my goal was to view it before Christmas this year. (Let the profanities proceed!)
KM: What are your tips for surviving a cold Ohio winter?
JJ: Before moving to NE Ohio, I never appreciated the use of a scarf. BUY ACCESSORIES! Get gloves, earmuffs, boots, etc. Protect your car with specific agents and drive cautiously. I am the very proud driver in the right lane when conditions are horrible out.
KM: What are your favorite “winter” things to do?
JJ: Shoveling snow? Snow angels? Avoiding yellow snow? Nah, I attempt to fill my time with projects. And lots of coffee!
KM: What’s your favorite spot to eat in Cleveland?
JJ: I go to the Rush Inn in Lakewood! However, for a great meal in Akron, enter Nick Anthe’s! They have anything you want, plus the best bread and kidney bean salad. Afterwards, make your way to Pub Bricco or the Noisy Oyster.
KM: Finally, JJ, why do YOU think Cleveland rocks?
JJ: Cleveland offers a wide variety of arts participation. When I moved, I was astounded by the amount of credible possibilities available in the community, and that is why I have I stayed for over 2 years and hope to ground myself here.
Do you have a Cleveland area performing arts related story or event? If so, contact Cleveland Performing Arts Examiner, KATE MILLER at [email protected] with your pitch.