Sunday, 29 August 2010

Artist Spotlight: The new JERRY BENZWICK gets candid – and tells why he now wants it all

NO LIMITS: "I am back in that place, and I am enjoying myself," shares Benzwick.

After years of just doing enough to get by, actor Jerry Benzwick is ready to flip the script and bring it like never before – and his lead role in the drama revival Against His Will, which is already courting award buzz, might be the perfect vehicle to launch his rebirth. TALLAWAH talks to the actor about how he’s finally throwing himself into his work, gelling with co-stars and working with kids.

Everyone is talking about your appearance in Against His Will, in which you deliver an intense, emotional performance as ‘rape’ victim Danny Bryan. While gearing up for the part, did you have any doubts about whether you could pull it off?

No. In fact, I was excited to play the role because I knew it would provide a nice challenge. [Director] Douglas Prout also helped to draw me out because he told me that he didn’t want the usual thing from me; he wanted the real deal. And I think the motivation paid off.

In the play, your character accuses his female boss of sexual assault, and is largely ridiculed by society when the story makes headlines. What would be your advice to a man who finds himself in such a situation in real life?

Get counselling. And that [advice] is based on work that I have done at Ward 21 at the University Hospital. Those kinds of situations shouldn’t be taken lightly because they can be very traumatic, not just for a man but for women also.

You’ve shared stage time opposite actress Sakina before. What was the chemistry like this time around?

It was even better. The chemistry kicked in from day one. The vibe in the camp on a whole is good. We have gelled and it feels good. And I am glad that the product is good too. I am enjoying working with the people I am working with now – more than ever.

Despite appearing in numerous award-winning productions, you have largely been under the radar in local theatre for years. Do you believe you are underrated among your peers?

No, I don’t feel underrated. I just feel that I have not allowed myself to excel because I made myself too comfortable with where I was. It’s been like that all my life. But now that I’ve started [anew] I can’t stop. The industry is also a funny place, but I’ve learned that people will appreciate you for the good work that you do.

Indeed. So, career-wise, how do you plan to top this outing in Against His Will?

Well, the next thing I want to do is get into directing and producing. I’m really, really putting my brain into it. I’m reading about it. I also want to stop short-changing myself with roles. I’m finally beginning to feel like I did in drama school. I’m back in that place, and I am enjoying myself.

Random question: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what essentials would help you survive?

If there are no coconuts, then I would need some water, fruits and a nice girl (Laughs).

Any hobbies or secret obsessions?

Hobbies: I play rugby. I love that. Secret obsession? I can’t tell you that at all. But I like children. I like working with kids. Two times a year, I direct drama productions up at Hillel Academy. It’s great working with them.

Speaking of youngsters, when you were a teen what did the future seem like?

I had no clue; I never had a vision of what my future would be. Early on I wanted to be a pilot, but I soon realised that I didn’t have the aptitude for it. It was in my 20s that acting finally found me. But that’s a long story that would take over an hour (Laughs).

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