The Playbill Collector (TPC): How did you get your start in theater?
Jemma Jane (JJ): My dad is a singer so growing up my sister and I were always performing; dance mostly to begin with until I found this magical thing where you got to sing and dance and act all at the same time! After finding music theatre I was hooked and studied back home in Australia until I auditioned for and got accepted into AMDA.
TPC: Did you go to school for theater?
JJ: In Australia I studied voice and acting and dance but not together, I was accepted into AMDA, (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in New York City for 2014 and moved to The States to study. I graduated June of this year (2015) and was so very fortunate to book Bullets before graduating and so was able to go almost straight into rehearsals after graduation.
TPC: You are currently in the, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, First National Tour. Tell us about your role.
JJ: I play Olive Neal, girlfriend of mobster boss Nick Valenti and wannabe-star of the stage. I adore Olive because she is fierce, resilient, determined, street-smart and independent. Olive is a girl who knows exactly what she wants and knows how to get it; she came from nothing and has worked and manipulated the world into getting her to where she is; living in a paid-for apartment with everything she asks for and on the way to Broadway.
Olive’s tragic flaw, perhaps, is her inability to see that other people have their own wants and needs and that they don’t necessarily align with her’s. She is somewhat childish in that way; she sees only what she wants and that she must get it; she’s insanely determined. This makes Olive such a joy to play; the stakes are always so high for her and she fights for her objective with everything that she has.
TPC: What is your favorite scene of the show?
JJ: I have so many favorite moments to play in this show it’s so hard to pick! I certainly love to play the Hot Dog scene; this scene really does have Olive ‘peacocking’ to her fullest; she truly believes that her number is so incredible that David and Marx will be blown away by her talent and perhaps even recast her in the lead role.
Another of my favorite scenes is the first rehearsal scene; I get a lot of time to simply be in Olive’s mind during this time and listen and react; it’s fun to watch the world through her eyes and just sit in the moment.
TPC: What’s your pre-show ritual?
JJ: I like to get to the theatre super early; people sometimes think I’m crazy for this but for me it’s important to have enough time to enjoy the process of getting ready. Of course I do a physical and a vocal warmup; with any role this is importantly but I find it especially so for a very heightened and physical comedy role like Olive as both my voice and body is being essentially thrown around for two and a half hours. Once I’m warm I like to take time to do my hair and makeup without having to rush it; I usually listen to music while I do this and enjoy the time to really relax before the show. Once half hour is called I like to be ready to go and once I’m in that tiger costume I’m itching to get onstage! There are a few little pre-curtain rituals that occur onstage behind the curtain to get us all excited and together as a cast; I think this helps us to be grateful for each show too! Right before my entrance I like to take a second to re-ground myself and drop the breath before I head onstage.
TPC: If you could share the stage with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
JJ: There are so many incredible performers that I have immense respect for and would love to share a stage with; If I ever get the opportunity I’d be honored to work with people like Alan Cumming and Annaleigh Ashford; performers that I find to be so honest and open in their work and who inspire me as an audience member. Equally so I feel that there are so many unknown performers who have incredible skill and I try to take something from everybody that I work with. I also hope to share the stage with my sister, Charlie Jhaye, at some point who is also a performer and currently on tour; we know each other so well that we play off each other with a chemistry that’s so much fun!