Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rising Stars Volume I: Jesse Conklin

I first met Jesse on the set of Victims of an Earthquake in Some Country or Other, a short film written and directed by Wayne Coughlin. It was my first time working on any kind of 'real' narrative production. I had directed countless corporate videos and other genres of motion foolishness, but here I was with actors! I think being on set and working on this project is what got me motivated to finally get off my keister and get something done.
Not your typical evil German.
Jesse became one of the defacto actors in short films happening in the Rochester area. When I was ready to cast for my first, Jesse immediately came to mind. He did a wonderful job for me and you can see his performance here. So in attempt to keep writing when I am not really writing (huh?) I decided to make some noise in the blogosphere. Hence, The Fold. Under the guise of reputable journalism, I took Jesse out for an imaginary cup of coffee and E-Mailed him my questions for this interview.

<-----------THIS GUY IS A NICE GUY

I am not joking. I know when he is famous he will claim that this was an unauthorized bio-interview by some hack in Fairport, but right now he is really approachable. Actually, I jest. If there is one thing I have learned, and I have learned many things, but one thing I am certain of is that Jesse Conklin is the real deal. He'd give you the shirt off of his back - then quietly reach into a secret pocket and don his backup shirt. Did I mention he is thorough too?

Recall your fist acting experience for us.

I always joke that I got my start in theater as a child in church, participating in several “David & Goliath” plays over the years.  For some reason, I was always cast as Jesse.  One time I put my foot down and told them I wanted to play a different role.  So that year I was cast as a Philistine soldier AND Jesse.

But seriously, I’ve only been acting since 2005 when I saw an ad in the paper for “Beauty and the Beast” auditions.
I came close to landing the role of Gaston, but I think my complete lack of experience understandably made the director a bit nervous.  I ended up getting an ensemble role.  My very next role after that was Macbeth, so that was kind of a gigantic leap.

Wow, Macbeth!

JC: I never realized until I did that play how approachable Shakespeare is.  Our local theater company performs a Shakespeare play every year, and I look forward to it every time.  I enjoy the challenge of presenting a product to the audience that they will find entertaining and relevant to the present day.   Acting is all about communication.  I think that if the audience finds Shakespeare dull or difficult to understand, then I’m doing something wrong as an actor.

Who would you credit as a mentor in the craft?

It’s difficult to pinpoint just one person.  One of the things I love most about acting is that you’re collaborating with a group of creative people to make this thing that is beautiful, inspirational, thought provoking, etc.  In that regard, every person I’ve ever worked with has contributed immensely to my growth.

A couple people still specifically come to mind.  I owe a lot to Lynda Hodgins, who directed “Beauty and the Beast.”  Ever since, she has kept her eyes open and sent me audition notices for area productions she thought I’d be a good fit for, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with her several times since, both as a director and a fellow actor.  I also have to mention Jane Burk, who directs the annual Shakespeare production.  I’m still not sure what possessed her to cast a completely untested actor in the title role of Macbeth, but I’m grateful that she took that chance on me. We’ve worked together many times since, and it’s always a pleasure.  I most recently took an acting class with Frank Rossi in Buffalo, which has been instrumental in helping me reach further into myself to reach my next goals in acting.  I look forward to working more with Frank in the future.

Two roles, most fun and most challenging...go!


They’re ALL fun!  But if I have to choose, a couple of my film roles come to mind.  I loved playing the bank robbing clown in the short “Unmasked,” which we filmed for RMM’s 2011 72 hour film competition.  The whole concept was so offbeat I just loved the whole project.  And I think it turned out exceptionally well, especially considering the extreme time crunch we were working under.  The other role is Klaus, in “Disingenous,” which some local film guy wrote and directed and asked me to be part of!  Not sure why, but it’s usually more fun to play bad guys.  This role was a bad guy with an awesome twist at the end.  You just have to see the movie.  BTW—have you heard anything about that film being released yet?

Challenging? A couple roles come to mind, for completely different reasons.  I have to say that Macbeth was one of my most challenging roles, simply from the standpoint that I’d never done anything like that before.  I went from being a dancing knife to being a murderous king with at ton of lines. Delving into that character was a fascinating study for me, and probably one of the best experiences I could have had to learn what acting is all about.

The other role is more recent, but every bit as challenging. Last year (2010) I had the privilege of portraying Mitch Albom in “Tuesdays With Morrie.”  I auditioned, not really expecting to land the role because it’s a two-man play, so what were the odds?  When I got the call that I’d been cast, it was somewhat terrifying.  I’d never done a two-man play before—that’s a ton of responsibility!  The gentleman who played Morrie is a prince of a man, and he made it so natural to play off him that every performance was fresh and didn’t feel like work at all.

Well, that was just a glimpse. Jesse tells me that he has been cast in Mudjumper which will shoot in Canandaigua, NY early 2012, directed by Oscar-Winning Actor Adrien Brody. Mr. Brody's directorial debut.

Be on the look out for volume II of this series, where I make an attempt to get personal with some of the rising stars in film and theater.

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