St. John's Confidential File
MSJ: As a young man growing up, what did name or image of “
JM: Thank you for asking, Michael. But neither name nor the image of
MSJ: Was “film” always your first interest or were you more affected by the theater as an actor of color?
JM: I don't really think I was that affected. Of course, like most kids, I was kinda taken with Westerns and playing Cowboy's 'n Indians. Later on I think I had a certain fascination with war movies. But in reality people like me didn't get to see that many films because we didn't have any money, and the few Saturdays we (as blacks) did get to the theater we weren't allowed to sit anywhere other than the balcony.
MSJ: Who were some of the mainstream actors who genuinely affected how you approached a role in film or theater?
JM: After eventually finding my way into the business (mostly by accident -- or better yet, being in the right place at the right time, the downside was -- and is -- resorting back to that first failure: struggling to learn lines. I believe it planted the seeds of ruination. It was my first experience being on a set and I didn't have the slightest idea what I was doing or what I gotten myself into. As an example, when I got the job in I Crossed the Color Line it never entered my mind that there was this thing called a script or "pages" they unceremoniously handed to you -- and worse, that you were supposed to read the script or "pages" and "remember" what you were to be saying and doing. The process was called acting, and while acting you was supposed to create some sort of natural movement. You certainly weren't supposed to freeze up and look into the camera while creating this natural movement. Understandably, it was a terrible experience, ranking right up there with someone trying to teach somebody from the Stone Age how to walk and chew gum at the same time.
MSJ: When your career began to take off, what kind of creative decisions were you forced to make?
MSJ: After so many years as a working actor, what did you learn about yourself as an artist – were surprised or amused?
JM: It's still a good laugh -- calling what I did "art." Calling what 99.9% of the people do on screen borders on criminality. Turn on your TV; watch the silver screen, see who the media spends time ballyhooing, is that art?
JM: I had always hoped to be guided by the notion I wouldn't forget the old days -- hometown and the roads and people that led thereto. To be an entertainer, I suppose is a good thing, it is thought you've brought a little sunshine into someone life; you've let them share in the bits and pieces of something you've seen, done, or heard. Maybe it's all fluff, I don't know; still it is a temporary thing -- here; there; gone, leaving only logic to tell us the world is round for a reason. Now, then, you perhaps ask which is better to be the writer or the actor? I say there is no contest. To act is to interpret; to write is to create. I remember reading about Marlon Brando demanding more changes be made to a script he was working on. Responding after a time or two, the writer came down to the set and said to the noted actor: "Marlon, where were you when the pages were blank?" Again I say: "To act is to interpret, to write is to create."
JM: I see a mirror. I see a face reflected in that mirror. As to how it makes me feel? Can't answer. I'm still in shock.
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