Many of you have probably seen James Whalen onstage before playing some pretty dramatic roles. Recently he appeared in Ghosts at Everyman Theatre and The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, Race, The Argument and The History of Invulnerability at Theater J. James is currently back at Theater J but this time he’s playing strictly for laughs as the effeminate showtune loving Geoffrey in The Sisters Rosensweig.
James has performed in many productions in and around the area and the country. Select credits include Dracula at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Two Bit Taj-Mahal at Theatre for the First Amendment, Colossal and Da at Olney Theatre Center, Technicolor Life and Boeing Boeing at Rep Stage and NSFW at Round House Theatre. He has also performed in Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center and in many productions at Everyman Theatre. Film and TV credits include appearances on VEEP, Raltat, Money Matters and A Beautiful Mind. When not performing, James can be found whipping people into shape physically and mentally as a personal trainer.
I have seen James in many productions and no two performances are alike. That’s the trait of a great performer indeed. The Sisters Rosensweig plays through this Sunday at Theater J. Grab your “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” and check out the truly versatile James Whalen and an exceptional cast of performers in the perfect remedy for the winter doldrums.
What was your first professional job as an actor and how did you get interested in performing?
My first professional job was a background player for made-for-TV George Washington miniseries when I was probably 19 years old. It starred Barry Bostwick, Patty Duke Astin, and Jaclyn Smith. I was first interested in performing whenever I was bored in the classroom which started when I was in 1st grade.
Can you please tell us everything we need to know about The Sisters Rosensweig and something about your character as well?
Everything? Jeez! Why would you come to see it? Ok. That’s everything you need to know! Come and see it! The characters are interesting, colorful, and on their journeys just like we all are in our own lives, except they say funnier things on a regular basis than many of us do. My character, Geoffrey, is very whimsical and a bit of an escape artist. We all like to sometimes circumvent the tougher things in life, and Geoffrey is no different. But I think he is warm and engaging and a fun person to spend an evening with.
Wendy Wasserstein passed away at a relatively young age. You have to wonder what else she would have written if she were still living. Why do you think people are still producing her plays and how do they speak to today’s audiences?
Here is an ironic answer. There is a certain nostalgia that we can relate to. Even when younger people see it today, they have seen characters like this before and they understand them, and that helps to overcome any references that may feel a bit dated on the page. And then, of course, there are the kinds of issues that are timeless. Family, culture, the desire to belong, the desire to have purpose, etc., that are never dated.
When not performing, you are a personal trainer. How do you juggle both careers and do the two sometimes overlap?
I juggle them with little sleep! I have learned to take naps, and luckily I can sleep anywhere and at anytime. Professionally, I have been a guest expert on a reality TV show, and I played a Physical Therapist (Jerry) in Colossal last year and that job is a close cousin to personal training. But other that I find that the kind of observational tools needed to examine character or directly applicable to training, and coaching people in athletic endeavor.
What are your next few performing projects?
I will be playing Freddie in After the War with Mosaic Theatre Company, and then nothing else is yet on the horizon. Hear that casting people??