Sunday, 14 April 2013

I AM LEGEND: Stage titan Oliver Samuels on his craft, mentoring youngsters, and why he isn't satisfied yet

SUIT YOURSELF: "I am always willing and happy to share and to guide."

Arguably, what has most endeared Jamaica's king of comedy Oliver Samuels (currently starring in Embassy Saga) to audiences everywhere is his knack for telling it like it is. "It is not a truly financially rewarding profession, but I love the theatre. I love what I do," the comedic legend animatedly tells hostess Karen Samuels on Sunday's edition of The Karen D Show. "I love to make people laugh." 

Whether talking about his coming-of-age years on a rural plantation ("We lived gregariously. It was a community of love") or the groundbreaking success of Oliver at Large ("It was an amazing experience; something that people never anticipated), the 64-year-old stage vet proved a sincere and sanguine guest. Below, some more excerpts from his interview: 

On serious roles vs. comedic performance: 
"There are no truly serious roles in comedy, but I have played the servant at the gate in Macbeth, which wasn't difficult at all. Serious roles, for me, are easier to play than being comedic. The problem in Jamaica is that nobody nuh take me serious. So no matter how mi act, and mi ah emote, and mi ah deliver serious, them ah laugh. And it transcends into my personal life also. If I say I'm serious, people buss outta laugh." 

On life imitating art: 
"In my life, I am a very simple person. Very, very simple. In theatre, the characters that you play sometimes have history that is similar to yours, and you can draw from your experience and put it to the character's experience. It's hardly ever the other way around, where you take from the character and apply it to your life... Sometimes the characters go through their own emotional roller-coaster that I don't even experience. So there are differences." 

On mentoring young Jamaicans: 
"Quite a number of years of my life were dedicated to that, going around the island and working in communities and community centres with young people. Now, if there are people that are interested in my craft and they need advice or need for us to discuss something about my experiences, I'm always willing to. Whenever the opportunities arise, I am always willing and happy to share and to guide."  

On the dearth of indigenous Jamaican programming: 
"Here we have a place called CPTC. I do not know if the government has any real direction for a place like CPTC. Television entities in Jamaica are going to tell that they don't have the money because in truth and in fact, it can be expensive to produce a local programme, but you cannot think about that... As a people we need to be proud of what we have."

On his legacy: 
"Coming from where I'm coming from to reach here, I don't think I am satisfied with my position and my station in life. So mi ah go take the next train, and mi ah go move up. I would love my contribution to be seen as promoting our culture and being a proud Jamaican... We are a fantastic set of people, and with all the bad things that are going on, we are still a wonderful set of people, and we are a force to be reckoned with universally."




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