He bared everything as Dave Bukatinsky in “The Full Monty”; he was Dennis Dupree in the rerun of “Rock of Ages”; and he was equally memorable as Mr. Stephens and Reverend Bliss in “Carrie The Musical.”
Last year, he was a stodgy, Republican-type, ultra-conservative pastor in the Repertory Philippines production of “Leading Ladies.” He was also in “Jekyll and Hyde,” on top of doing multiple roles in “Piaf.”
Last week, at the close of the two-week run of Atlantis Productions’ “The Addams Family” at Meralco Theater, actor Jamie Wilson said he has by now spent close to 34 years in the theater. Quite a feat—but the more immediate satisfaction came from the raves generated by his latest role.
“It’s funny how people who watched ‘The Addams Family’ told me that I was so completely Uncle Fester that they didn’t see any evidence of Jamie on the stage,” he pointed out. “Uncle Fester is the one closest to home. When you strip away all my layers, you will have a slightly scary-looking guy who wants to talk about love and relationships, who enjoys the happiness that love brings, and who wears his heart out on his sleeve. This is the side of me that very few people know. Because I don’t often show him off in public. But at the end of the day, I’m really that sappy fool singing love songs to the moon, unafraid of laughing at my own foolishness.”
Wilson literally grew up onstage, with the good fortune of having been mentored by the best in the industry, chiefly by the late Zeneida Amador of Rep.
“My first lead role was in Rep’s ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ at age 14,” he recalled. “I had a ton of lines to memorize. But I remember it so clearly, being both excited and terrified with each show.”
He had, in fact, started out much earlier, at age 12, when he played The Pirate Boy in Rep’s “Pirates of Penzance.”
He recounted: “To be 12 years old and gallivanting around with a pirate crew, winning damsels and jumping off a pirate ship to the music of Gilbert and Sullivan—honestly there was nothing better in the world!”
In the beginning, Wilson was more known as the son of actor-politician Johnny Wilson and the brother of Monique Wilson, who alternated as the first Kim in “Miss Saigon” with Lea Salonga. Meanwhile his mom, Terry Wilson, worked in Rep’s marketing office, and later on helped Monique strike out on her own with the trailblazing New Voice Company.
He and his sisters were all in theater at one point. They would go through the same routine every day—getting home late from rehearsals and then getting up early for school.
It was great growing up in a household full of actors, he said. “It gave us a very strong common bond that would supersede any petty arguments we might have had with each other, because the show must go on. You can say that because of theater, we were all united.
“Growing up with a famous actor for a father was great; you got treated well and doors opened for you quite easily,” he added. “But I remember realizing the pressure of having to be as good as him very early on. I rebelled against that pressure in my own way. But at the end of the day, my dad eventually realized that although I was his only son, I was growing up as my own person. I think he’d be very proud of how I eventually turned out!”
Wilson’s first adult lead role came when he was in his 20s, as Eddie in the three-act David Rabe warhorse “Hurlyburly,” staged by Actor’s Actors Inc.
“That role taught me so much in terms of really analyzing my script, building my character, and maintaining my character by being on stage pretty much for the whole play. I also had kissing scenes. So that was a thrill as well,” he said.
His first musical lead role, meanwhile, was as the Emcee in New Voice Company’s “Cabaret.”
A true working actor, Wilson does not mind sliding into the ensemble despite his formidable resume.
“The ensemble does the most work in any show,” he said. “They have the hardest dance numbers, the hardest harmonies, and oftentimes they do not even enjoy the privilege of having their own name in the show. But you are allowed more creativity in building your character, simply because your character is not written in as much detail, and so you have considerably more freedom than the lead roles in any show.”
If not the ensemble, then he’s often given the choice featured part, such as his much-praised Dave in Atlantis’ “The Full Monty.” Before that, he played a variety of secondary characters in “Piaf,” during the run of which his mom expired after a long illness.
“Losing her early this year, right before we opened ‘Piaf,’ was the hardest and most heart-wrenching experience I’ve ever had to go through,” he said. “But I think she would be proud of the man I am today; taking her advice, I am still doing what I love to do, and it has never been more fun.”
Wilson is now in the thick of another upcoming production, Rep’s “Wait Until Dark,” which opens in January next year.
What has he learned from his three decades in theater that he can pass on to his younger colleagues?
“Just do it, get the best training you can, and keep auditioning, keep learning from the people around you, and most importantly, respect and cherish your craft and the work you do,” said Wilson.
“This isn’t all fun and games, and it doesn’t pay very much, but the rewards are enormous. It’s not about being famous or getting rich. It’s about getting the opportunity to tell a story, to discover truth and beauty and grace and honesty, and to work your ass off getting it right, and share it with the world.”