James J. Johnson - Actor

James J. Johnson

James J. Johnson

SymplyEbony: What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?

JamesJohnson: My biggest accomplishment is actually BEING an actor, I think. It was such a dream for so long, and being from a small, remote town in Virginia, dreams like that seem even further away. As far as accomplishments in acting, I don't think it's happened yet. I feel like every time I'm allowed to perform, it's an accomplishment. I take none of it for granted.

SymplyEbony: I can’t ask about accomplishments without touching on disappointments.

JamesJohnson: The disappointments can be seemingly incessant. Actors and freelance artists who are in a constant hustle for the next job have to face so much rejection, it is overwhelming at times. This marks 21 years I've been acting professionally, and up until 2014, I worked regularly in professional theatre productions. Then suddenly it all stopped. I'd audition and nothing came about. The last four years have been a cycle of getting over myself.   

SymplyEbony:  How do you bounce back from those disappointments? From where do you pull the strength?

JamesJohnson: My parents laid the foundation of faith. My wife allows me the space to feel and heal, and I have the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I'm aware that despite any relative downturns, I have an upturn on the way. Sometimes I wish it'd hurry up.

SymplyEbony : When will you know you’ve come full circle? Do you feel you have?

JamesJohnson: I have definitely come full little circles. There's a big circle that may only happen at death. When I die, I'll let you know.  As far as the little circles, those are when I have a chance to meet or work with someone I've admired. Or, for instance, this past summer at the National Black Theatre Festival, having a chance to perform a staged reading with the Negro Ensemble Co. Do you know their alumni list???!!! 

SymplyEbony: I like that. Little circles. It’s a cool way of looking at things. May I borrow it?

JamesJohnson: (chuckles) For a small fee. 

SymplyEbony: What are you looking forward to in the future?

JamesJohnson: Now that I've started writing again, I look forward to hopefully having a piece produced fully one day. I look forward to writing something that I can perform, whether it's a one-man play or multi-actor play. I look forward to the surprises -- the good ones! This is a highly unpredictable business that can feel downright abusive at times, but when it is good, it is REEEAL good.

I also hope to write something that reaches someone one day, in whatever capacity. I have seen plays that have moved me or that I've connected to for reasons that I cannot articulate. I'd love to write one of those for somebody.

SymplyEbony: What impact do you want to leave on others in the business.

JamesJohnson: I just want to be there for others the way that many have been there for me. The DC Theatre community has a reputation for being supportive, and I just want to make sure I'm adding to that reputation.

Shout-out to Galvanize which several of us started around 2005 as a means to keep Black theatre artists connected and supported in the DC area.

SymplyEbony: James, thank you so much for SymplyConversating with me today! 

JamesJohnson: Thank YOU for this! Keep doing what you're doing! 

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