Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet Arica Jackson. Arica is currently a Swing in Waitress on Broadway at The Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Before that, Ms. Jackson performed in the National tour of the show and most recently made her Broadway debut in Head Over Heels where she was the standby for the roles of Mopsa and Pamela. Her voice honestly knocks me out, and if you get the chance to see her perform, you are genuinely in for a wonderful treat! I was very excited to have the opportunity to interview her!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
I was 12 years old when I decided I wanted to be a performer. My choir teacher handed me a mic to sing this solo for “Voices That Care.” I heard myself for the first time, and I considered singing in front of people.
Where did you study? Are there any mentors that genuinely helped make you the performer you are today?
I studied at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. All of my Professors and classmates were my mentors at school. But Cameron Knight showed me how to take my work seriously, Gary Kline taught me to believe in the gift I already had, Catherine Moore helped me discover my body in space, and doing mask work in Kaf’s class gave spark to my imagination, and finally Barbara Mackenzie Wood pushed me to commit and be fearless in my acting.
Congratulations on joining the cast of Waitress on Broadway. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges of being a Swing?
Thank you! The biggest challenge of being a Swing is the preparation. As a Swing, I am required to know all the women ensemble tracks or the paths they have throughout the show. Because at any given moment, I could be thrown on stage. The preparation requires knowing their specific singing part and their specific blocking and choreography. Luckily, I have done most of the preparation for this show on the first national tour of Waitress. However, The tour had very small differences that make a huge difference in performing the show on Broadway. So marrying the two versions has been apart of my current preparation and that has been the biggest challenge.
You’ve had the chance to perform in some great shows. Do any of them stick out to you and are near and dear to your heart?
Shows that tend to have a political or social message tend to stick with me because I learn something about myself and the world around me. So shows like Head Over Heels where we’re singing and dancing for love, freedom, and identity will always stay with me. Waitress will always be special to me because we are talking about domestic abuse and how we deal with those issues. Ragtime stays with me because I got to truly express what is like being Black in America.
What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
I would tell a young performer to just be you. Don’t try to be anyone else. Your experience is valid and is meant to be shared on stage if you want that story to be told. I would also say welcome rejection and failure because that will teach you how to be successful.
For more information on Arica’s current show (Waitress), please visit – www.waitressthemusical.com and check out Arica (along with Head Over Heels Bonnie Milligan) performing Take Me or Leave Me from RENT for Broadway Sessions – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLUwQzV_1To