For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-director-teaching artist- facilitator-moderator Russell G. Jones. He has been a member of The Labyrinth Theater Company since 1995. He is an OBIE, Auldeco, BTAA, NAACP Theater and SAG Award winning actor. In addition to his multi-award winning theatre work, he has a recurring role on the hit FX show The Americans and was recently seen in the Netflix series Godless. To learn more, visit www.russellgjones.com.
Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.
I am currently acting on Broadway in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan starring Condola Rashad as Joan of Arc.
Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?
This was one theater audition amongst several that for the first time in years was not a new play. It is neither a play nor playwright that I had imagined working on and therefore presented a new challenge.
Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?
One of my artistic heroes is a former professor and one of only three black acting teachers that I’ve had, Jim Spruill. He is no longer with us but his vivacious and unabashed love of storytelling and his keen understanding of the line between business and art made it seem like a career was a possibility for me. He was an early example of a actor-director-teacher-husband-father who embraced the socio-political climate with his life onstage and off. I love what Don Cheadle, Geoffry Wright and Viola Davis have been able to carve out for themselves.
Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?
My community continues to inspire me. Although Facebook definitely has it’s downside, being able to see a wide swath of my peers creating opportunities, exploring, and booking enables me to keep the dream aspect alive.
Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?
I have an ongoing side project called Blind Spot. It is an effort to normalize conversations about systemic oppression and implicit bias so that our theater community can embrace anti-racism. I just finished a year long salon series with Ensemble Studio Theater and prior to that a concentrated version at HB Studio. Both organizations have really taken to the work and have asked me to join the organizations in a more hands on manner. I continue to look for ways to infuse my longtime artistic home LAByrinth Theater Company with these values.
Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?
Blind Spot is definitely one example but an even more concrete example is that my last vision board had the goal of appearing in three films and three TV shows in 2017 and I shot three films and three TV shows. And this is after making a conscious choice five years ago to book more film and TV.
Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?
Directing TV and film.
Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?
Access to the directing pipeline and the self-confidence to create my own way in.
Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?
Having a near three year-old keeps me on my toes creatively, whether by finding new ways to engage and teach him or by watching the ways he does so for himself. That and being involved in play development.
Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?
Racism. White supremacy colors so much of the world we live in and rooting it out of myself requires much of my focus.
Q: What is your favorite piece of art?
I have been moved by many works of art and it’s hard to name a favorite. Right now I have a water color that my castmate Max Gordon Moore painted of my character in Saint Joan that I am really enjoying. Last year Rueben Santiago Hudson directed a production of The Piano Lesson that was perfection.
Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?
Dick Gregory. He maintained his creativity, integrity and our attention for 6 plus decades.
Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?
Enabling and empowering scores of other artist-activists.
Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Late night binge watching.
Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?
This is the best path for you.
Q: Where would you most like to live?
Someplace that values and practices justice and equality with all people and nature. I thought that was the Bay Area for a while.
Q: What is your idea of success?
When love is visible.
Q: What is your idea of happiness?
Q: Final Thoughts?
I love being an artist! Thanks for letting me share about it.