Jamal Douglas (MFA '15) on understudying Blair Underwood
Understudying Blair Underwood in Othello has been a wonderful gift. I have watched his career since I was a young kid and everyone in my family is a fan. I never thought when I chose to get classically trained for my graduate studies at USD/Old Globe, that we would cross paths.
Blair is such a joy to work with. He's interested in people and cares deeply about the work. This is apparent in how he connects with others offstage and on. He comes prepared, asks the right questions, and takes risks that livens the experience. The best part about observing him is witnessing Othello's character take deeper shape each day with Blair's investment in the spirit of this man.
It was great to work on a character that I will surely play in the future. The work throughout the last semester in our Shakespeare literature class and Acting Shakespeare, gave me the tools necessary for doing the work. The biggest challenge was sitting on the information for a month in a half, not being able to release it on a daily basis to try it on for size. Aside from that, you also have to put on another's interpretation of the role and find your true self within the choices another actor has made. The text work is a savior when it comes to this. If the text is clear, you can try many choices and soar.
It was terrifying, but with two rehearsals in the space, we had a successful, powerful understudy run and I am ready to go on if the opportunity presented itself. Preparation is key.