BGB Actor Portrait: JAKE MCLEAN
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOU THAT NOBODY ELSE KNOWS, THAT HELPS YOU AS AN ACTOR.
I was trying to think of something really special and important that no one would know, but the truth is I’m a pretty open book. However there is one thing, and it’s somewhat embarrassing. Before every shoot or audition I listen to Murray Gold’s theme song “I am the Doctor” from Doctor Who. Every. Time. Regardless of whether I’m auditioning for Hamlet or The Middle. It gets me pumped up (because I’m a huge nerd) and it also reminds me of the silly nature of what I do. When things get serious it’s a good reminder that I’m not going in to perform brain surgery. It’s play. And I need to have a sense of humor about this whole thing for sanity’s sake.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NOT BEING A TALL MAN AND LOOKING SO YOUNG?
I’ve always struggled with that combination. It’s a blessing and a curse. Most of the professional jobs I’ve worked have been playing high school students. It’s gotten me my SAG card and it’s given me incredible working experiences with talented pros. At the same time most of the parts I’m drawn to are older, with a more of a developed worldview. And yet I’ve auditioned for incredibly complicated young men. But it’s hard because they’ll then usually hire actual teens for these roles. And while that happens, I’m not being seen the way most twenty-five year old men are; I’m not regarded with the same gravitas. So those older parts go to others.
There have been a ton of great actors at my height who have made monumental careers, so I’m just trying to stay committed to the idea of deepening my specific voice as an artist, and allowing the time to grow into that. Easier said than done.
IF YOU COULD PLAY ANY KIND OF ROLE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? AND WHAT KIND OF ROLE DO YOU DREAM ABOUT PLAYING IN 20 YEARS?
I’ve always wanted to play Amadeus. There’s something about playing someone with a mind like that, and with such freedom of expression and impulse, that is so appealing. I love working on anything Shakespeare because when you speak the words of his characters, you are speaking the words of a genius. You get to live in those thoughts, to soar to those heights, and embody those grandiose ideas. In twenty years I’d love to get a crack at Richard III. So much to dig your teeth into; I couldn’t imagine a more exciting part for an actor to play.
YOU’RE A HERDER. A RESPONSIBLE GUY. A ORGANIZER. A GOOD GUY. WHAT’S THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT? WHERE’S THE DEVIL IN YOU?
The other side of that is a fierce selfishness. Loneliness. Sadness. I’m driven to succeed, and the way I define success is to be at the absolute peak of my skill as an artist. I think Stan the Man Stanislavski said that it takes something like 15 years working as an artist every single day to become a master. That takes incredible dedication and sacrifice. I’ve had to sacrifice so much time with friends and family over the years. I feel like I have to say no so often. People get mad or disappointed and you can’t get back the time you take, but there’s a ruthless part of me that is okay with that. I’m hungry to see what else is out there, to dive into the minds of characters that are ugly and damaged and have nonconformist agendas. I’ve always had a confrontational streak and I’m very attracted to antagonistic characters, characters that take up space. I guess that means there’s some of that in me.
HOW HAS YOUR ACTING CHANGED IN THE LAST THREE YEARS AND WHAT’S THAT BEEN ABOUT? THAT JOURNEY?
I’ve really had to learn the virtues of patience. When I was younger I was so driven to succeed right away. I would work day and night, but I craved immediate gratification. The highs were so high and the lows unbearably low. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized more and more that it really is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t have to do it all at once in a scene or in a shoot. Certainly, we have to show up, and when they say action, it’s time to do the work. But the more I slow down in my acting, the more I find stillness, the confidence in patience, then the more I feel like what I’m doing is being seen. This part is exciting for sure. But man, do I have trouble slowing down (like most of my generation).
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT YOU’RE SUCH A GOOD ACTOR AND DON’T WORK AS MUCH AS YOU’D LIKE? WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING? WHERE DO YOU GET THE JUICE EVERYDAY? OR DO YOU?
Thank you for saying so. I think I might give a different answer on any given day. Some days auditioning is effortless and I could face any struggle and conquer it. Other days it feels like the air has gone out of my lungs and my heart is a lead brick.
Certainly my family and friend’s unrelenting support is always inspiring and drives me to keep at it. I don’t always have the juice though and sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. That’s the simple truth on those days. But no matter the mood, I just keep doing it because there is a drive that is deeper than the whims of everyday emotion. I hate to sound cliché or vague, but I love this thing so much and it’s like Billy Shakes once wrote, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, oh no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” That comes from my favorite sonnet and it’s how I feel about acting. The drive is always there even when I’m not performing every day, even when I hate it and the light is far off, because that drive comes from somewhere deep inside, somewhere where success and failure have no place.
IF YOU HAD TO TAKE A HUGE RISK, RIGHT NOW IN YOUR LIFE, CAREER, ETC. WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I’d put something on tape every day. I’d work for no other purpose than to work everyday. That repetition scares me, so I know it’s something I should start soon. I will start soon.