Jonathan: I'm originally from Asheville, North Carolina, but my family moved to Atlanta when I was eight; I'm a transplant, but consider myself a "naturalized" Atlantaen. I live in Smyrna with my wife, Laura!
wanderlust ATLANTA: When did you first begin acting? Was it purposefully or accidentally?
Jonathan: I was forced into it, actually. I had to participate in a school system-wide "oratorical recital" in sixth grade. My fear of being in front of people was bested by my fear of getting a bad grade.
My dad suggested doing the "St. Crispin's Day" speech from Shakespeare's Henry V—the argument that students can't understand Shakespeare is bunk, by the way—and my mom directed me.
I had a real "Aha!" moment while doing the speech. Henry's bravery became mine and I felt the awkward sixth grader with a wooden sword and homemade tunic fade away. I went to a small Christian high school, so I always kept getting thrown into productions when kids dropped out due to grades or sports, and it wasn't until I played Hamlet my senior year that I knew this was what I had to do with my life.
wanderlust ATLANTA: What was the catalyst that led you to a career on stage?
Jonathan: I had been teaching English and theatre for three years after college in the hopes that I could still be tangentially connected to acting while making "real people money". I was completely miserable. I finally just reached a point where my desire to act trumped any desire to "stick it out." I saved up money for a year to help subsidize my year long apprenticeship with the Shakespeare Tavern and have been incredibly fortunate to be working fairly steadily ever since!
wanderlust ATLANTA: What's been the biggest "Wow!" moment of your acting career?
Jonathan: By far it has to be playing Joseph (John) Merrick in 'The Elephant Man' at Georgia Ensemble Theatre. It was the most physically, spiritually, and emotionally demanding, as well as transformative, experience of my career and will be incredibly difficult to top—though I can assure you it won't stop me from trying!
There are so many things that can go wrong with a show, so when everything just gels in a transcendent way, you can't help but go "Wow!" The show really helped me break into the larger Atlanta theatre community, for which I will always be thankful!
Jonathan: The ensemble! This cast became close knit stupidly fast. They are such an amazingly giving group of actors and we all mesh with each other so organically! Sometimes the fun you see on stage is pure acting, this show is mostly real fun crafted into a story!
: I was brought on to read my character—Byron—for a twenty-minute presentation at the Decatur Book Festival
three years ago. Lisa Adler
kept bringing me back for more workshops and readings, so I was fortunate enough to see and be a part of the show and character's evolution over the past three years!
Lisa has also been incredibly gracious and kind to me, especially bringing me on when she had never worked with me before! I also have tried to make it a point this year to branch out and work at new—for me—theatres; so I'm thrilled to get to work with new people, directors, designers, etc.!
wanderlust ATLANTA: Are there any similarities between you and Byron White, your "Freed Spirits" character?
: As Daryl
kept tweaking the script, Byron and I became closer to the same person. I had the opportunity to keep jumping into this world over the period of three years as the play was developing, and each new draft felt eerily closer to reality—early in the process, I was dating my future wife who I had mercilessly pestered to go out with me ala Byron.
I have two amazing parents and an amazing wife, but that's about where the differences end. I may or may not have just pulled clothes out of my car for the promotional photoshoot...
: Horizon Theatre
has a long tradition of inviting theatre-goers to meet and speak with actors after the show. What's your personal philosophy for the most rewarding actor/theatre enthusiast interaction?
Jonathan: Oh man, as an introvert this is always difficult. Honestly, I think the adage "they're more scared of you than you are of them" applies to a lot of us! Whenever I see a show, I always try to say something specific I enjoyed—a particular scene that was emotionally impactful, the way the actor dealt with a difficult scene, etc.—something that shows I was engaged and appreciative of the work that went into that evening.
wanderlust ATLANTA: What's a show or project that you're working on that we'll see in the near future?
: I'm getting the chance to live out one of my longest running theatrical dreams by playing John Proctor in 'The Crucible
' at Actor's Express
. I also recently got to work with Dan Bush (of Atlanta classic 'The Signal
' fame) as the lead in an upcoming episode of 'Your Worst Nightmare
' which will air sometime in November!
wanderlust ATLANTA: Where do you hope your acting career will eventually lead?
Jonathan: I really want to stay in Atlanta. I'd definitely love to work in Los Angeles or New York, but I really hope to be a part of helping make Atlanta a world-class artistic city. Honestly, If I can continue to make a living acting; I'll be content.
wanderlust ATLANTA: What advice would you give to aspiring actors, young or well-seasoned, wanting to act for the first time?
Jonathan: There's no reason not to go for it! As far as theatre is concerned, there are several really great community theatres in Atlanta, as well as a vibrant independent film market here with tons of opportunities for aspiring actors!
You don't have to be a "professional" to be professional though. Whether your goal is to act for the fun of it, or as a career, take it seriously. Also, always challenge yourself; you won't grow if you're comfortable.
wanderlust ATLANTA: What do you see as the greatest challenge AND the greatest success for the Atlanta acting community?
Jonathan: I think Atlanta is still finding its voice. We have so much opportunity and talent as an artistic community as well as a lot of national attention on us because of all the film and television being produced here. I want to see Atlanta actors/writers/directors become as well-known as our city.
Our biggest obstacle to that is that we have to fight the perception, sometimes earned, that we're unprepared and untrained, and a lot of people are helping to combat that. Drama Inc.
in particular is a real force for training and community building.
Theatrically speaking, it's fantastic seeing, and now being a part of, all these newly produced plays that really speak to our unique culture. Our local playwrights are killing it!
wanderlust ATLANTA: If you could act with any three actors, local or international, living or not, who would they be and why?
: I'm going to choose young Orson Welles
, Gary Oldman
, and Liv Ullmann
. I have absolutely no idea what the show would be about, but I don't think it would matter.
Welles because he was a visionary of startling proportions and his acting always feels so thoroughly ahead of its time. Oldman because I think he is the greatest living actor. Ullmann because her face contains universes of experience in the simplest of expressions...plus she could probably get Ingmar Bergman
to direct us.
wanderlust ATLANTA: I see "Soli Deo Gloria!" on your website and in playbill bios. Why is this important to you?
Jonathan: It's a constant reminder of why I do this, and whom I'm doing it for. Not every acting opportunity is going to be "missional," but when you get those opportunities to be a vessel for a larger truth, you pray that your work transcends the theatre.
(and Jimmy Stewart
) said, "no one ever brings anything small into a bar
." I think it's also true for theatre...you never know what the pain, doubt, or fears of someone might be when they come to see a show.
It's casting a wide net, but sometimes you can touch someone's life in a spiritual way and help them on "the search", as Walker Percy
called it. Also, it keeps me from believing both extreme ditches of "you're the greatest" and "you're rubbish."
wanderlust ATLANTA: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers/your fans?
: Support Atlanta theatre! You can also visit my website
for new and upcoming projects!
Thank you, Jonathan
, for the interview!
In case you were wondering about the horseshoes, Jonathan was in the Serenbe Playhouse
production "Of Mice and Men
". The contrast of Jonathan against the character he played was alone enough to convince me that he's a brilliant and wonderfully talented actor, and I look forward to following his career. I encourage you to, as well.
Readers, you can see Johnathan now in Freed Spirits
at Horizon Theatre
(on stage through Sunday, October 30, 2016) and follow his website and social media for other upcoming projects!