On Wednesday October 4th, I met my fellow Theatreworks alum and audition grind soulmate, Jamie Boswell for coffee at the cutest nook in Harlem, The Monkey Cup. After meeting him two years ago during his six month National tour with Curious George, I thought it was only fitting to to take him to a coffee shop that specializes in monkey face latte art. With our smiling lattes, shelves of books, and ivy lined walls, we discussed how to stay positive in NYC, babysitting, and the delicious carrot muffin we shared (not included in the interview below).
*Ideal cup of coffee: I actually don’t drink coffee much. I recently started drinking coffee more…but only at work! I started when I was working at Ralph Lauren. Usually it’s with a little bit of half and half and two sugars or it’s iced… then I go hardcore like an iced mocha latte which is basically caffeinated chocolate milk!
AF: How are you drinking your coffee right now?
JB: I’m drinking a “Monkey-chino” with Skim Milk. I don’t know what it is… It’s just a Cappuccino. Extra strong!
AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.
JB: Passionate, driven, optimistic realist.
AF: Cheers to that! Speaking on being an optimist realist, how have your first few years in New York looked like and how has that characteristic helped you…?
JB: I moved here just over two years ago, July 2015 and then in the following month I was cast in a new play out in Brooklyn called, Patronage. While I was in rehearsals for that I was cast in a Theatreworks tour. The play finished and then I went home for the holidays and then rehearsals started for Curious George. I did that for 6 months…and that’s when you and I met at the van garage! When I first got here I moved in with some friends on the UES, literally sleeping on their couch. I would wake up and go to auditions. Since it was summer and auditions were slow, I went to EPAS and ECCS and got seen! One of the first auditions I went to was for Telsey, Diner the musical. They were doing an out of town tryout in DC. Justin Huff was casting. I’m bright eyed, green as can be. I went in and auditioned and felt really good about it and the following week I got a call from Telsey asking me to come in for Kinky Boots! I went in for one of the angels! Since I’m 6’4’’ I understand why they would bring me in for that. I prepared everything and felt ready but it was a weird season and my allergies went to hell. So I pushed through but of course the vocal track for the angels is stratospherically high. They had said if we wanted to, come in with some element of drag….so I go, “Okay…I’ll just put a little eye liner on.” I go upstairs, was the last appointment of the day, four guys in front of me in booty shorts and heels, and I was like oh… I go in and Justin’s like, “Let’s start the song…” I hit the notes and acted the hell out of it…but it just wasn’t the prettiest sound! I finish and Justin goes, “You know what buddy…this part is written for unicorns.” And the accompanist pops out and goes, “Yeah, alto unicorns…” and we all shared a laugh. So that was a whole experience. I actually just auditioned for him since that last time at the My Fair Lady EPA and it went really well and I felt like I redeemed myself!
AF: What attracted you to a career in the theatre in the first place?
JB: When I was a little kid I had crippling stage fright. I don’t know what it was…I grew up in a household- my parents are both ministers but my mom’s undergrad was vocal performance. My mom has a gorgeous mezzo soprano voice. Every time I listen to her sing it’s just, “the BEST.” And my dad’s undergrad was in History but they both did choir and did shows. So I grew up in this household watching Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and Brigadoon. My mom was in Brigadoon in college and there’s an amazing picture where she’s playing Meg Brockie on this chaise lounge and she’s so sassy. I sang in the church choir and always stood in the back…also because I was one of the tallest kids but I was always terrified that people were looking at me! I was cast as the Nightingale in a Christmas pageant called, The Birds of Christmas. One Saturday we’re having rehearsal in the sanctuary, nobody was there except for a few parents, some kids, and the choir director and I stand up to do my solo and immediately start hysterically crying and hide behind the narrator. My mom came up to me and was like, “What’s going on?” and I’m like, “I can’t do it!” So I kept the solo but I ended up singing into a microphone kinda hidden in the corner. This was in fourth grade. I don’t know what it is was but in my Middle School I auditioned for theatre troupe, an after school program that my older sister had done. My twin and I decided we would do it. So for our auditions, we had to go in and sing the National Anthem. I’m thinking I’ll just be in the ensemble. When they called us back in middle school, I don’t think it was for specific parts, it was just to hear us sing again…the cast list went up and I didn’t know I was even really being considered for any leads, and then I got Daddy Warbucks! I was the same height as Annie and we were both Sopranos. I don’t know what came over me after that but my mom said, “You have a job to do!” And then it clicked. The rest is history…
AF: What/who is your biggest motivator to keep on going in this business?
JB: I want to be able to move people. I want to be able to share my voice and abilities. I want to have that intimate experience with people… just to know that they’re there and I’m baring my soul. It’s so interesting because as actors we’re so vulnerable but then we need to have this glossy exterior. I like to tell my family that I’m in it for the long haul… as long as it takes I’m here. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Some people are lucky and book Broadway or a TV show right out of school. I have a friend that’s been hustling for a long time and doing lots of great work but said, “I always do these shows that I never expect to be in…but I’ll never book something like, Hamilton.” Fast-forward to him booking Hamilton. You can just never expect where things will go.
AF: What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment to date as an actor?
JB: Obviously Daddy Warbucks…where can you go from there? I was very fortunate in college. A major turning point was my fall semester Junior year…such a tough year. I was in the play, MARAT/SADE and played one of the leads, The Marquis de Sade. It was one of the most gratifying theatrical experiences. I remember in one of the rehearsals my director asked me to pick one word that embodied my character and where that would come from in my body and I thought of the word, “Passion.” He said focus on the word, and take the time to embody that and something just dropped in me. All of a sudden I had this transformative experience. In school people would always jokingly be like, “Musical Theatre Boy” so to be in an intense play, I feel like I proved myself. Then after graduation and moving here, I got my Equity card. I did it on my own terms. I didn’t have representation and still don’t which is a little frustrating at times…but being able to do that solely based on what I brought to the table is gratifying. Taking your card is different for everyone…but if you know it in your gut… then it’s the right time. I wanted to be taken seriously for certain roles…I needed my card.
AF: What is the hardest and the greatest thing about living in the city?
JB: The hardest thing is how expensive it is, how crowded it can feel, and the MTA. The amount of times that I have been late because of stupid train delays is absurd. It’s so easy to let that get to you. But the greatest thing about the city is that there is so much to do and I haven’t even tapped into it all! It can run you ragged but can also inspire you in a split second. Yesterday I was picking up one of the kids I babysit for at Lincoln center because her dad is the tech director there…and her mom is the standby for the mothers in Dear Evan Hansen– so I got there early and I sat down right outside the Lincoln Center Theatre building and I had a moment of sudden peace. You know how you have your place in the city? I thought maybe this is my place… where I feel the most zen and also the most inspired.
AF: How do you evaluate success?
JB: I feel like success can be seen in a lot of different ways. I think being successful professionally in this career is if you are continually called in for a casting office…even if you don’t book but are maintaining a good report. And then as a human… if you can survive here that’s success in and of itself. I need to remind myself often that I’m making money and working and making it happen. For the last nine months I’ve gotten no callbacks, received good feedback but nothing ever turned into anything. And then out of nowhere I was called in for called in for a casting office for a show I hadn’t even submitted or auditioned for.… so I thought I must be doing something right! I had a coffee date the other day with a friend and I was feeling really uninspired and I said, “I’m just not jonesin’ with it right now.” And she said, “What is it that’s keeping you attached to it?” And I said, “Because I know it’s what I’m supposed to do…it’s just there.” There’s no question that I’m not supposed to do this… there’s that inner voice that is like, “You’re on the right track!”
AF: It’s so important to tell yourself you’re doing everything right! It’s hard to remember that. What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve taken away from a contract or a role?
JB: I think technically with Theatreworks tours… it has really made me appreciate rituals and doing warmups and stretches and taking the time you need to feel show ready and really take care of your instrument as much as possible. When I was in college I was going 150 miles an hour all four years…I never stopped. I was a full time Musical Theatre student, student ambassador, RA…everything. With Theatreworks, I was prepared to do all of it but it was the first time I actually made adequate, necessary time to do my vocal warm-ups to a full extent…and in that time I felt like my voice was stronger than ever. I remember on tour we were in San Fransisco and we were running forty-five minute late and I was driving the van and just lightly warming up my voice because I didn’t want to compromise my ritual. I think specifically with Curious George I learned the importance of friendships. I mean after all… there is a song in the show called, “Buddy like you.” In order to survive the city it is so important to have those point people, especially if you’re naturally independent…it’s important to have those people to meet up for coffee, watch a movie with, and just be. I did a production of The Wild Party back in Buffalo right after I graduated… my first show out of college. It was such a cool production in such an intimate space! It was such an ensemble piece. I felt so much confidence and I thought my four years at school are being put to good use. You have to be free and open and ready for anything at any time. That was something they taught us at school too, in our training. An aesthetic they always tried to instill in us was, be ready for anything. I felt I fully realized it when I did the show… it wasn’t for an academic reason…it was that I was doing it in real life.
AF: Walk us through your audition process for Curious George.
JB: I had gone in for their open call. So many people. I sang, “I chose right” from Baby and at the end of the month they called me in for immediate replacement for Fly Guy… I sang my song and Jason goes, “I’m so sorry, I forgot how tall you are so we won’t need to hear you do the sides, but we’d love to have you back for another role!” And I was like, “Okay yeah!” And then at the end of October they brought me in for Lightning Thief, did all the sides, and didn’t get called back for the fight call. And then I had just gotten off the train, turned the corner and got a call and they asked me to come in the next day for Man in the Yellow Hat for Curious George! I go back in for callback, and read the sides with Greg. We sat across from each other and literally stared into each other’s eyes and he’s chittering like a monkey in Curious George’s broken English. I sang a couple more songs…then reminded them I couldn’t go to the dance call because I had this temp job training. I get to the temp job and they’re showing me around the office, and after forty-five minutes we’re done after I had anticipated staying four hours! I told them I had a callback and they said I was good to go! So I’m running from the train, don’t have dance clothes with me, back to Chelsea Studios and make it just in time for the dance call. I do the thing…and by the end of the following week I got an email with the offer. At the time I was temping, auditioning and then bar managing at night. So I’m bar tending, had done all the inventory and was chatting with the ushers and other bar people and they asked if I’d heard anything and I opened my email right after that conversation and there was the offer! I nearly broke down! I was so excited. I just thought, “I get to leave this survival job… I get to travel.” Just the coolest moment! I knew that I needed to do it. No regrets.
AF: We’re both babysitters…what do you think of this as a survival job? What’s something you gain with this that you wouldn’t necessarily gain with another?
JB: I think with babysitting…not only can you make great connections in the business…but it also keeps you on your toes! When you take the time to remember how inspiring children can be and imaginative they can be, and how free they are…I have to remind myself of that because this is what we do…we play. And yeah they have temper tantrums from time to time and it’s not the easiest thing to work through when you’re tired or running from an audition… but it’s special. I think if you’re good with kids…you should do it.
AF: What are your words to live by?
JB: Patience is a virtue…as cliché as it is. But also…remember who you are and remember there is value in that. You can pull value from where you’ve been.
AF: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
JB: Ideally I see myself on Broadway in less than 10 years…I think and hope in the next five it’ll click for me. Tony nominee?! I want to do it all! TV, Film, straight theatre…I love it all. I’m all about it. Please, hire Jamie Boswell! I see it! The thing I’ve been told a lot is to be kind and be nice because it takes you a long way. I think that is true. I wouldn’t have a a lot of the relationships that I do in the business if I didn’t have a positive attitude. Of course if you have a crappy day…feel those feelings but don’t let it dictate your work, don’t let it dictate how you’re gonna move forward. There’s validity in feeling it all but positivity goes a long way.