Garfield Wilson – Aspire To Inspire
Words + Interview By Tyrone Davis
Garfield Wilson is an artist and actor originally from Surrey, England. During our interview, he and I discussed Apple TV+’s “SCHMIGADOON” and musicals as a whole, Nickelodeon’s “The Astronauts”, systematic racism, why having someone special in one’s life is awesome, The Jackson 5/Michael Jackson and more. “SCHMIGADOON” just aired not too long ago and although I haven’t seen it yet, the trailer it looks amazing. I really enjoyed Mr. Wilson’s conversation overall and it most definitely made me interested in his art. One of his main goals is to inspire others and I can personally vouch for him in that those goals are being met with myself being one of the inspired.
Tell us about the Apple TV+ comedy series, “SCHMIGADOON” and your role as Henry.
SCHMIGADOON is a love story about a couple going through a rough patch, so they decide to go on a couples retreat. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they get lost and end up in the town SCHMIGADOON. The town is locked in the Golden age musicals of the 1940’s – 1950’s. The town of SCHMIGADOON ultimately changes them, and in turn they change the town. I play the role of Henry who is basically the one who delivers ice in the town. Everyone in the town dreams of being something more than what they are and Henry is certainly more than an ice delivery man.
When I think of musicals, majority of them are the films I grew up watching as a child. Some of them are among my favorite films of all time and I still watch those films today. At the same time, I completely understand why musicals are appealing to children but the love for those types of films (the new ones geared toward adults) didn’t necessarily grow with me into adulthood, if that makes sense. What are your thoughts on that and the whole musical genre as a whole?
I feel the same way, I loved musicals when I was a kid. I think that it is extremely difficult to create a compelling musical today that appeals to the young and the old. Storytelling is definitely needed as the driving force, combined with wonderful characters, music and performances. It should be an authentic and grounded journey. Even if at times it’s with a wink and a nod.
What are your “Top 5” favorite musicals of all time?
In no particular order: Jesus Christ Superstar, DreamGirls, The Wiz, Grease, La La Land and Hamilton.
How much does acting in this type of project differ from regular acting roles?
Honestly the process is the same, the only difference is that sometimes you’re singing and dancing. The emotions and the journey are just as visceral performing in a musical as with a non musical acting gig.
Being that a musical requires singing, dancing and things of that nature, how does the overall process work, especially for those who may not be as musically inclined? For example, what if a person is a really good actor, but their singing isn’t all that great. How is that problem solved? Do they still get the gig?
There is a lot more prep/rehearsals involved for a musical. Especially if there are dance numbers involved. When I performed in the musical DreamGirls at The Stanley Theatre here in Vancouver, BC I can honestly say I’ve never been as tired in my life as I was in those 3 months! Regarding the issue of not being able to sing or dance very well and that being a requirement? I think that you can overcome those obstacles if you are musical (can carry a tune) and have rhythm but have never performed in a musical before. All of that being said, there are artists that have dedicated their lives and trained in the art of song and dance. I would hope that those artists get the first look/opportunities to land those roles.
What kind of knowledge can you obtain from an acting coach that isn’t what the average person would think? What specifically has your acting coach taught you that has been most beneficial in your career?
There are so many technical aspects that I wasn’t aware of before I started training with Deb Podowski. I had talent but I needed to hone my craft in terms of script analysis, deconstructing my own barriers and really exploring a character’s journey/backstory and how that motivates, and dictates your evolution as that character. But I think the most important lesson I learned from Deb was the importance of listening, and figuring out how I’m trying to affect and ultimately take care of my scene partner. So that it becomes less about me as a performer and more about digging as deep as humanly possible to discover the truth in what we’re doing in the scene, play, movie or series. However you get to the truth, that’s the goal, and to have absolute trust with your fellow actors and in turn they have trust in you… That is the goal and that is when you find “the juice” or “magic”!
No matter how many times people active in the entertainment business mention how hard it is and how much they had to sacrifice or anything along those lines, the general public still believes the opposite, especially in the days of social media. Why do you think that is and tell us a story that occurred during your journey that someone with that mindset should hear.
When you see amazing performances on the big screen, small screen, or the stage it is compelling because they are reflecting and representing real emotion and conveying what we experience or witness in our lives. For me, it’s literally like being a fly on the wall. Those performances seem effortless and easy to do because what they’re doing seems so familiar. We can be deeply moved by a performance because it reflects how we feel, or they are exactly like someone in our lives, or it inspires. The truth is that what we see seems so effortless, or the moments that affect us so deeply are achieved through some of the greatest artists (actors) known (and unknown) in history.
It goes back to what I said earlier about “listening”. I’ve seen actors in class (myself included) and on set be so absorbed with what they’re saying that they cease to really listen, it doesn’t matter how their fellow actor says their line or changes their mannerism, they remain unaffected because they’re not listening. When we’re locked into a great conversation with our friends, loved ones or family we don’t care how we sound or what we look like because we’re intensely listening to what the other person is saying and that motivates our reply. Acting is no different, it is all about the conversation.
You’ve appeared in quite a few projects in various genres. Which roles stand out to you the most and why?
The projects that stand out the most to me are the ones that have been the most collaborative. Those projects have also given me the opportunity to work with incredible actors and directors that I’ve admired greatly throughout my career or have grown to love and admire because of the experience I’ve had with them on that production. Basically it’s a gift to work with incredibly talented people who are also very kind and giving.
In no particular order:
– Ivy & Bean
– Peter Pan & Wendy
– The Astronauts
– Come to Daddy
– Love You To Death
A few years back, we interviewed Keith L. Williams when the film, “Good Boys” was released. What was it like working with him on Nickelodeon’s, “The Astronauts”?
Well because I played his dad with the other actors who were parents and Keith L. Williams and the other kid actors were lost in space, we never got to work together on set. But we did get to hang out briefly when we would do table reads, and all I can say is that Keith is an absolute superstar who is unbelievably talented! He’s also an incredibly kind young man who I’m sure will have a very long and diverse career.
If you could travel to space, would you? Also, what do you think about the cosmos overall?
I’ve always been a Star Trek fan but I’m extremely close with my family. I would hate to be away from my fiancé and kids for too long.
What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic that you weren’t aware of prior?
I always knew this but it was glaringly clear that nothing in this life is promised, especially the things that we casually take for granted.
I interviewed TJ Jackson (son of Tito) the year before the pandemic and it is one of my favorite interviews to date. What role did the Jackson’s play in your life and/or career?
When I was 5yrs old my father brought home a Jackson 5 album called, Maybe Tomorrow. That album had a massive impact on me, and I obsessively followed everything they did (especially Michael Jackson) from then onwards. It’s the reason why I wanted to sing, dance and be a performer.
Speaking of the Jackson family (and musicals), a friend of mine recently told me he had never seen Michael Jackson’s, “Moonwalker”. I’m an 80’s baby, he has me by over 10 years and we are both from originally Indianapolis. Being a fan, please tell me you have, lol.
Haha, I literally wore out my VHS tape of Michael Jackson’s Thriller when it came out! Everything stopped at my house when The Jackson’s variety show came on television when I was I think 13 years old. Yeah, I’ve definitely seen Moonwalker, lol.
The world has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years alone and we are now being overloaded with information, options, etc. How do you feel about the output of content for entertainment purposes these days? Do you think fans can really appreciate works they consume so rapidly?
I think the changes we’ve seen over the years and the immediate access we have to entertainment has been incredible. I think that it also has its drawbacks because everything is so immediate. I remember having to wait in line to get tickets to see the new blockbuster movie like Star Wars or seeing a concert. Those days were golden but they weren’t perfect, so I think we always have to strive for the right balance because today we’ve been able to discover so many amazing artists because of technology that might not have been discovered years ago.
We have more access to each other than ever before but somehow, a lot of us still don’t get each other. What is the biggest misconception Americans have about Canadians and visa versa?
I honestly think in part that depends on the algorithms on your news sources/social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. So all of that supports the rhetoric and narrative of those misconceptions.
Systemic Racism……..How do we eradicate it? Is it even possible?
I think it is possible to eradicate Systemic Racism. Race is a social construct; it doesn’t exist and white supremacy is false, full stop. But the racist ideas that have instructed and guided racist policies are deeply rooted in the origins of North America (USA & Canada). Political leaders, corporations, etc. need to be held to account and policies have to be put into law to create a society of real equality. It’s going to take a while to accomplish this task, I pray it happens in my lifetime.
With all of the gender wars going on today, name 3 great things about having a significant other that makes your day-to-day better.
1. She’s my muse
2. With her I feel that I’m living the best version of myself everyday
3. See number 1 & 2.
The COVID-19 has caused quite a bit of havoc and many people are making it a point to stay and/or get healthy. What is your relationship with fitness and what kind of advice could you give one wanting to live a long and healthy life?
I’ve been very lucky to have worked in the fitness industry (I own and operate Forward Fitness Inc.) for the past 16 years. It’s given me the gift of knowledge regarding health and wellness, and simply put you can live a long and relatively happy life if you are active and have healthy nutrition. There are many ways to get there and everyone responds to exercise and food differently, but the general rule of thumb is to eat right and have an active lifestyle… It works!
Tell us one thing about yourself that most don’t know.
I’m afraid of heights.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
This year has been extremely exciting! At the end of September I wrapped 3 months filming the Netflix movie series IVY & BEAN which will be released next year. So proud of the work we did on that project! Earlier this year I spent 4 months filming a big budget feature film. Very excited about that project, stay tuned for more details!
Lastly, when your journey in this world is over, how would you like to be remembered?
A man who loved his lady, children and family with his entire soul and hoped to inspire with art, laughter and grace.
Follow Garfield Wilson on Instagram @garfieldawilson.
Photo Credit: J Benson Photography