“I take great pride in the fact that as a profane clergyman in the theater—I think of the theater as a profane church, a place of worship—we honor the human condition, with all of its warts.”~ James Newcomb
Today’s guest started in the theatre at a very young age, felt adrift and wasn’t exactly sure what he’d do as a young man, and ended up working for years at some of the best theatres in the country.
I actually connected with him via past guest Tony Amendola, who recommended Jamie for the workshops we’ve been doing. When I saw Jamie’s resume, I just thought it was such a no-brainer to involve him. He has the kind of career that I know me as a younger actor would really want, and even now it’d be nice to have played certain roles he’s done at some major theatres out there.
In 2021, The Goodman released a filmed version of Measure for Measure, with Jamie as the Duke. Now I knew from his resume that he was accomplished, but from the first scene, I was just like, oh this guy is REALLY good. Just blown away at what he could do. And for those of you who have been lucky to see him either onstage or in some of the workshops we’ve been doing, including just playing the King of France in King Lear, you know what an amazing actor he is.
With the career he’s had, I’m very honored to bring him onto the podcast. We had quite the marathon talk, which now seems to be the norm around here, and we dive into a lot of nooks and crannies of his life. It’s a great chat! I’m glad he and I did finally cross paths, and he’s become a good friend.
About the guest
Jamie Newcomb has performed in over 60 Shakespeare plays and 75 other productions. He worked for 14 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is a founding company member of Shakespeare & Company, and was an inaugural company member of The Denver Center Theatre, where he remained for 7 seasons.
Other theaters include: Utah Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Goodman, The Old Globe, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Portland Center Stage, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Syracuse Stage, Geva Theatre, B.A.M. The Public Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, and North Coast Repertory.
He received a Denver Critics Award for Orphans at the Denver Center Theatre Company, a Drama Log Award for his performance of Touchstone in As You Like It at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and The Oxford Society Award for Artistic Excellence for his performance in the title role of Richard III at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Jamie played the lead role of Eddie in the cult horror classic Lone Wolf and appeared in the first installment of the PBS series On Stage In America playing Davis Hodge in San Diego Repertory Theater’s production of Honky.
He was also the resident fight director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has directed fights for over 50 productions throughout the country, while also teaching Stage Combat for the UC San Diego Graduate training program for 18 years. He studied theatre on a two year scholarship to Colorado Women’s College, and took acting classes with Michael Howard in New York.
Please enjoy my chat with James Newcomb!
Total Running Time: 2:08:48
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James Newcomb around the web
- What auditions for film and TV were like when he was starting out
- The disastrous meeting he had with an agent
- The irony of being authentic for on-camera work
- Marilyn Monroe screwing up her line in All About Eve and why she was a star
- Jamie’s early influences of actors onscreen
- Growing up in Denver with his mom acting and directing
- Having a sense of theatricality as a kid being a fireman, soldier, and doctor
- Being known for his edge, playing characters like Thersites and Puck
- Doing community theatre with his mom directing in Denver
- How his two sisters remained active in the arts through their careers
- Feeling adrift after his parent’s divorce and working as a maid at a hotel
- The social unrest he saw in high school and the racism that was part of his family
- How being an actor is a form of social justice
- How Jamie got himself back on track and having his epiphany
- Doing children’s theatre and the early days of Shakespeare & Company
- Slapping the recent Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss in combat class
- Juggling, kids shows, and theatre in mining towns before Denver Center Theatre
- The advice he gave to Courtney Vance that he wonders why he didn’t take himself
- How he got involved with stage choreography and learning to direct it
- His foundational training around generic choreography vs. character-driven
- What inspired him watching the Henry V production with Kevin Kline
- What he learned from other actors at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- How he followed the work from theatre to theatre
- Leaving Denver to go to New York with representation
- What he learned form a lack of auditions in New York and turning down work
- Having the lead role in a film financed by the mob’s money-laundering
- Realizing the studio executives were more interested in his long hair
- Knocking around LA before eventually ending up in Ashland
- How Jamie handles rejection from shows, being open to the next thing
- What appeals to Jamie about the theatre and what it can take to be a “star”
- The one time he worked professionally as an actor with his mom directing
- The rarity of actors being able to work in theatre and have a TV career
- What Jamie was working on when the pandemic hit and how he weathered it
- The next phase of his career and diverse casting, even if he doesn’t work
- A quote from Hamlet that can encapsulate your work as an actor
Selected People and Items Mentioned
- Denver Center Theatre
- Oregon Shakespeare Festival
- Catherine Coulson
- Ursula Meyer, his wife
- Celeste Holm
- Valerie Perrine
- All About Eve
- Peter O’Toole
- Bev Newcomb-Madden, his mother and prolific director
- Mark Cuddy, director
- Tina Packer, founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare and Company
- B.H. Barry, fight director and choreographer
- Kristin Linklater, voice teacher
- Josie Abide, Berkshire Theatre Festival
- Richard Schechner, director and professor
- Courtney Vance
- Jim Parsons
- Helen Bonfils, heiress, actress, producer, newspaper executive, and philanthropist
- Libby Appel, artistic director emerita at OSF
- J. Steven White, fight choreographer
- William Hobbs, fight choreographer, Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet
- Anthony Heald
- Ian Holm
- Henry V with Kenneth Branagh
- Lone Wolf, Jamie’s film
- Kyle MacLachlan
- The Old Globe
- Utah Shakespeare Festival
Jamie in one of his earliest shows! He’s in the front row, left corner—and Jamie’s sister Claudia is in the back row, second from left.