I had the opportunity to interview an up-and-coming Mississauga Actor, Jamar Adams – Thompson! It was an insightful conversation. Hear what this young inspiring artist had to say about his experience in theatre, the Mississauga arts scene, and more!
What is your theatre background?
A: So…theatre for me started, technically back when I was in elementary school. So I was actually part of school musicals and stuff like that. Like everybody had to be a part of it, kind of thing. Umm, but I started there. And then I kind of realized that it was something that I really wanted to […] pursue a little bit further. But I was still on the fence. So, I did the drama program in high school, which was a lot of fun. I made sure I was in those shows. I took drama all four years. […] By the time I got to senior year I was very like, yeah this is something I want to do. I want to like…maybe do a career out of this. So I decided to go study at University of Windsor, where I just graduated and got my BFA in acting from.
What inspired you to be an artist?
A: I think like…for me it really started from cartoons and like, movies. I really loved seeing characters that were funny but also could portray really intense moments of life. And so I just kept like grasping scenes, and grasping moments like that. And then it was, honestly people like Denzel, uh Will Smith, like – and Leonardo DiCaprio especially. Especially watching like older movies that he was in with like, my mom and my family. So I’d be seeing them on screen and being like, these guys are kind of cool, what is this thing that they do – I don’t know what it is, but they’re story telling. And you know, my brother and I would always hang out and create stories and we’d watch a bunch of shows together. And like…eventually my mom was like, “This is called acting, they’re actors, you can get paid to do this.” And I was like, oh! That’s, that’s actually awesome. You just get to play around and have fun and you get paid for that! And they seemed so famous and well known, and they take this seriously. So, it started from that basically, for me.
How has growing up in Mississauga shaped you as an artist?
A: A tremendous amount! Canada in general – the first thing people think about with Canada is like, multiculturalism right? That word got thrown around more than anything when I was growing up, especially in school. And it really showed, the people that I would meet and become friends with in school, through school events, through sports, through the shows that we would see and do – But, hanging out at the library, every kid hung out at the central library. And so I’d meet a lot of kids at the computer lab and we’d be playing games together. Some kids, they looked like me but some of them looked so different […] and so that would come to shape my overall view of art. That like, there’s several different cultures, who, have a different kind of performance art, a different kind of visual art, umm, vocal art – like the whole thing is just, is just different all around the world. Mississauga has a huge art scene as well too, and a lot of culture festivals.
What are your thoughts on the art scene in Mississauga? This can be theatre, visual art, photography – I am curious to know your thoughts on what Mississauga has to offer.
A: The first thing I learned, because it’s near where my mom would work too – The Living Arts Centre! I feel like, if you’re going to hear about Mississauga and the important city buildings, you’re going to hear about that place. They have a little bit of a musical scene, but a humungous visual art scene. It’s right there in the Living Arts Centre.
The Riverwood Conservancy is probably my favourite place in the whole city. And outside of it, sometimes they do Shakepseare in the park. They do live theatre there from time to time. If the weather’s good, or if we weren’t in a pandemic – they were doing a lot of that. In the actual building they have like, kind of like camps – I should say classes really. So kids and adults, um, all ages – but you can work on your visual art, and be it like, plaster, or painting.
Three Ordinary Men was the winner of the 2020 Hamilton Fringe Festival’s new play contest, and I know this play involves civil rights workers in their final days. What exactly is this play about? Who is your character?
A: So basically these three boys – two of them white, one black – they were civil rights activists who participated in the counsel of federated organizations of congress. Their whole thing at the start was trying to find a way to see if they could get black folks in Mississippi to be able to register to vote.
So basically they were traveling outside of Mississippi, and they had an altercation with the police – a speeding violation. So that lead to them getting arrested and they were held in jail and – I’ll try not to spoil a whole grand amount of detail…but that lead to their abduction, and eventual murder, sadly. So, you’ll most likely hear them referred to as the Freedom Summer Murders. But, yeah, Steven Elliott Jackson is a phenomenal playwright. And he decided to talk about that story, which is awesome, and write about it.
It is set to premiere June 24, 2021, on the 56th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Murders. What is that about?
A: Because [the men in the play] were in a group called Freedom Summer, and that summer was just hot for advocating for more rights and for more equality. It was just a big summer for that. Basically, that’s what it was inspired from. And those three men were very much a part of that, and in that group for Freedom Summer. And then, they call it Freedom Summer Murders, because those advocates got killed that summer. So that’s basically what it is.
How have you been navigating theatre lately? As an artist and as a viewer of theatre. Specifically within the past 7 months during the time of COVID-19.
A: So I had the fortunate privilege of taking […] an Indigenous Literature Course. I didn’t get to finish it though because my schedule got crazy – but the prof was amazing! As much as it was a halt and it was hard at first – like the pandemic I mean – it got me out of like, what my own path was, for our people and what I want to do in theatre as well. It helped me look at everyone else, just a little bit more. And that was just a domino effect, and I was like, “let me broaden my horizons here. Let me branch out about this.”
There’s a lot of Chinese theatre that I didn’t know anything about, quite literally anything really. So I’m like, “let me look into this more. Let me like, go back to Bunraku theatre,” – like the Japanese styles of theatre, that I liked in my theatre history classes but didn’t really pay enough attention to. There’s a lot of BIPOC, powerful, stories that need to be told. And this pandemic has given me the opportunity to look into that more.
What is something that you wish more people knew about you as an artist?
A: I’ll always pitch that I’m a total nerd slash geek, slash a total otaku for Anime and Manga and stuff like that too. But, I have a huge fascination and love for languages. So one that I am trying to learn right now is Japanese. But also, I love musicals. And I actually really enjoy singing.
Just to be clear, do you like performing musicals or do you like watching musicals?
A: Both! Um, and like, more in a sense of, I started to dive into more slam poetry, rap, and more vocal stuff in the things that I write, as well as the things that I like to perform in to now.
Do you have anyone who inspires you in your career? In your life, in general?
A: Strictly career wise, I’ll just say people like Jamie fox, Chadwick Boseman – those two more than anything. I’ll always be a fan of Will and Denzel because I watched them first. But like, Viola Davis, you know what I mean; Chris Evans; I love a lot of people who worked on Avengers because they played real heroes, but they also carry a lot of those qualities in themselves. But, real people who inspire me, if I can really think about it – BBFA.
For those who don’t know that group it’s Black BFA. It’s Black Students who – you know, for the most part a lot of us graduated by now – who attended the University of Windsor and their acting program. It’s a good little group of us right now that mainly keep in contact, and we try to reach out from time to time to either alumni or people who are still at school. For this core group, I’m talking the, Alicia Plummer; The Emerjade Simms; I’m talking the Durae Recently DORA Nominated McFarlane; I’m talking about JD Leslie. Aside from the fact that they are successful and they are getting more successful, but it’s the why? It’s the perseverance, it’s the resilience. And when I look at BBFA, I see that. And to know that, these people are living proof that they are not the stereotypes. And they’re just good people in general. They’re just walking good examples.
Do you have anything you’d like to plug? What’s next?
A: Look out for Mythic Trips Entertainment. It’s a production company, and we just did [the film] Flee The Light. And so, that is lovely horror, that is going to be hopefully done by January, February,[…] and they’re going to have that pitched to festivals so keep an eye out for it. I play Sid, I’m the love interest to one of the principles. It’s freaky and it’s fun, and it’s very real. Keep a look out for that whenever that gets posted. Up next is Cahoots: Three Ordinary Men, Directed by Tanisha Taitt, and written by Steven Elliott Jackson. Coming next spring.
Would you like to follow Jamar on social media? His Instagram is @jamaremery. Definitely give him a follow to keep up to date with his artist career!