Actor Q&A: Jacob Mundell

Jacob is playing Trinculo in The Tempest. He was a member of National Players Tour 65, where he played Macbeth (Macbeth), Duke/Balthazar/Pinch (The Comedy of Errors), and Perimedes (Odyssey).

Jacob Mundell as the title role in Macbeth

Jacob Mundell as the title role in Macbeth

Tell me about your decision to join National Players.

I joined National Players because before last year I was more well-traveled outside of the country than I was inside of the country. It’s amazing for a young actor because this is one of the longest contracts that’s available. I was so relieved that last year it stepped up to a three show season, because it gives you more challenge, variety, responsibility. You get three credits, a year of work, and you get nine months to work on roles that you improve upon as time goes by.

What’s the most bizarre story from your tour?

I didn’t want to think that I would be subject to the Macbeth curse. I thought I would get away with it. I totally didn’t. The night before our first venue I went jogging at night and sprained my ankle—and that was before we performed the Scottish play on Friday the 13th. Everyone pooled in all their prescription pain killers and I did the show high on pain killers. And right in the middle of “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” a bat flew at me, just swooped at me, and I had to dodge it onstage and incorporate it into the performance. But now I have my own curse story.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned on tour?

You can’t plan anything. That’s an acting lesson that I thought Ii had under wraps, that you have to willingly embrace the moments as they come, but that’s a life lesson too: You have to have an extreme amount of emotional flexibility… Facing the coming avalanche with arms open wide isn’t just an acting lesson, but a life lesson.

You’re returning to join Tour 66 for another year on the road. Can you tell me about that decision?

 A professor told me that whenever you get a job offer, you have to ask yourself three questions: Will I have fun? Will it be good for my career? And will I make money? You only have to answer yes to two of those questions, but I can answer all three. I’m going to have loads of fun touring the country again, hopefully paying a little more attention to the places this time. It’s going to be great for my career. I got to ask for the part that I wanted in the show I wanted to do, and it’s three brand new shows under my belt. And the money is just as good.

Is there any special bond that stretches across Player generations?

The universal Player brotherhood is not unlike the universal actor brotherhood. On one of the first days of rehearsal, Craig Wallace [Prospero] said  the thing that’s crazy about tour—and he acted this out for me—is they put you on a raft, push you out to sea, and they say “Alright, if something goes wrong, fix it.” And that is kind of what it’s like; once you’re out there, it’s ten of you out on a raft and you’ve got to make it work. And it’s always fun to trade stories. Players from all tours either share stories about being in trouble or stories about bad load-ins. 

Costume designer Pei Lee's rendering for Trinculo

Costume designer Pei Lee’s rendering for Trinculo

Have you gained any wisdom from the older players while working on The Tempest?

They don’t talk down to us in that way, and I think it’s because they know that Players is an experience you have to discover yourself. They sympathize, they tell their own stories, and they give general advice like “Keep an open mind” and “Choose love over hate,” but they know there’s nothing they can do to prepare anyone for tour. And I know that as well. 

What is it like playing a comedic role? Are there any challenges or rewards that you’ve discovered while tackling Trinculo?

Pei Lee [costume designer for The Tempest and Tour 65] knows me as an actor, and she knows to give me lots of props. This year, she loaded me up with this arsenal of ridiculous stuff. I have a tutu, a white board on my chest, mime makeup—and I have this puppet. The puppet was a challenge because I wanted to endow it at first and I spent a lot of rehearsal time working on choices for the puppet that didn’t make it into the show. It was a challenge because I had to realize that the puppet’s not a person; what’s interesting about theater is humanity, and this sock puppet is funny, it’s a gag, but it doesn’t have humanity. It’s also challenging because Trinculo has his own emotional arc. It’s easy to get lost in comedy and the gags, but that’s not truth. You should focus on the characters’ stakes and their wishes, hopes, and dreams, and through that the comedy will come through. 

For you, what is The Tempest about?

The Tempest is about the life that you put yourself into. We get thrown on this deserted island, but the first thing we do is create a social structure. It might be too broad and general to say it’s about choice, because every play is about choice, but what resonates with me is that when you get ripped away from society you try to cram yourself into it again somehow. So The Tempest is about how we shape our lives with the choices we make based on safety and freedom.

Is there anything else you want to talk about?

National Players is just a wild ride, and I can’t say I’m always thrilled with it, but I don’t know what else I could do. I don’t know where else I would rather be. 

 

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