by Ed Feldman
See our update interview with Denis
Denis Jones has defied statistics and is a working, successful actor in an immensely popular show. Success is not taken for granted by Denis who considers it a "tremendous blessing" to get paid for what he loves to do. This New York University alum has enticed public perception with roles in Chicago, Little Me, Grease, Busker Alley and A Chorus Line, to name a few.
Most wouldn't argue that Denis has a definite allure. Certainly his appearances in Broadway Bares confirm that. His looks might be construed as a focus of that allure but really it is his overall stage presence. His initial appeal in The Full Monty as Keno (the stripper) may be obvious as he sheds his clothing, but he does a great job of letting this character be the real catalyst to a sort of evolution in the main character of Jerry, the homophobic father trying to earn money. His portrayal of Ethan (understudy) is gloriously witty and well done.
I recently met up with Denis backstage before a performance of The Full Monty.
Ed Feldman: Let's start with the basics. Where are you from originally? Anyone else in the family have the acting bug?
Denis Jones: I grew up in San Francisco. I studied and worked for the American Conservatory Theatre out there and did a fair amount of community theatre. I moved to New York in 1986 to attend NYU. I have one brother and he is a lead player with the Kennedy Center Orchestra. My parents aren't involved in the arts at all except being huge supporters. They always took us to see theatre and symphony and exposed us at an early age. They are supportive of our choice to make a career in the arts.
EF: What first got you interested in theater?
DJ: I think it was the early exposure to theater. It was what I wanted to do. I remember a lightbulb went on when I was in the third grade. My dad took me to see Singing in the Rain. I remember having that moment when seeing Gene Kelly and thinking that is what I want to do.
EF: How would you describe your passion about theater?
DJ: It has consumed me from my earliest memories. There was a need to perform. It has been my life and I can't imagine doing something else. I've been lucky to make a career out of it. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have had these opportunities.
EF: Were you always the center of attention as a kid?
DJ: Yes and no. I'm more comfortable on stage in some kind of play or production than I am dealing in the real world. I wasn't a shy kid but found my voice through performing.
EF: If I were to call your mother on the phone, what would she tell me about you as a kid?
DJ: Gosh, I don't know if there are any stories in particular. There are lots of memories of shows that I'd put on in the living room, magic shows in the back yard and puppet shows for the neighbors. We have lots of photos to back those stories up (laughing)
EF: Picture your best friend sitting here. How would he/she describe you?
DJ: (Pausing). I think I'm a good friend. I'm interested in their problems and am empathetic. I don't put a lot of expectations on the close relationships I have ... I hope I let people be who they are with the choices they make and the lifestyles they lead. I think that is a good friend. One who doesn't try to manipulate or force them to be something they aren't but rather celebrate who they are. I hope that is how my close friends would describe me.
EF: Is it hard to maintain a relationship in this business? I imagine it would be.
DJ: I don't know if it is more difficult than in other businesses. You have to accept in this business that there is a fair amount of time out of town. It can be a crazy schedule. I think that it would be difficult to have a relationship with someone who has a different schedule. Because of that, the major relationships I've had have been with people in the business. It is not only the schedule but there are psychological highs and lows that you go through and it is helpful to have someone who understands that from a personal standpoint.
EF: Speaking about how people affect you, who or what inspires you?
DJ: I've been so constantly inspired by the Broadway community. The first time I came to New York was when I was in the 5th grade and I saw On the Twentieth Century. The level of talent and professionalism was so impressive to me. It was so thrilling to see that. I'm so in awe of so many people that I've met in the years that I've worked in NY. Working with these talented people eight times a week, I can look at any direction and find inspiration.