Originally published in the Gleaner, Tuesday, January 16, 2018.
Just as he set foot in the elevator, the fellow passenger’s eyes fixed on Akeem Mignott.
“Is this the actor?” The passenger asked.
Mignott responded with a wide smile, “Yes, the actor.”
Their conversation was short and polite, ending with the revelation that he was recognised from his work in the theatre production, Frank The Freak.
“That’s my day. It happens every day. Nuh day nuh pass,” Mignott told The Gleaner. “I have to be careful how I leave the house. I have to be presentable. If yuh hair nuh comb, draw di hat!”
The young actor’s popularity stems from consistent work in the theatre and film industry. “It’s a joy when I walk on the road and people say ‘actor’,” he confessed. More frequently, Mignott said that his stuttering character, Encruma, from the television series Shebada In Charge is the most recalled character by the general public.
“Anywhere I go in Jamaica, far and wide, my name is Encruma or STAMMA! Once I hear it, I just look round and bless-up the people dem.”
“I couldn’t care less about the fame. Fame is a plus but it’s not the core of my artistry. When people recognise you, it means they recognise your work, whether I’m Frank or Marlon [Real Friends],” he said.
Mignott went to Bridgeport High School, and it was there the theatre bug bit. After joining the drama club, he entered the Secondary Schools Drama Festival. From his performance there, he was selected to become part of the Jamaica Junior Theatre (JJT).
“I moved from that to being a thespian!” he exclaimed. During high school, Mignott landed a small role in the critically acclaimed Ghett’a Life. He also landed his first commercial and took part in his first theatrical production.
Mignott moved on to Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, where he studied for a bachelor’s in drama in education. “Four long and hard years, but very much worth it. I didn’t have a passion for teaching, but I had to be logical,” he said.
“You need income, and being a teacher you can get a consistent income. Theatre tends not to be as consistent as we want it to be. It’s the same for films, commercials, etc. Being an actor is my main passion, but from studying drama in education, I really developed that passion for teaching to see a child go from being shy and unexpressive to being wonderful with a presence and confidence is amazing. To this day, I still have to work alongside JJT,” Mignott told The Gleaner.
Currently, Mignott is a full-time drama teacher at Hillel Academy. Since early December, he spends his afternoons as director of the upcoming third revival of JJT’s Beauty and the Beast. This is before he heads to Centerstage to perform in Patrick Brown’s Right Girl, Wrong Address.
“When you love something, you don’t have room to be exhausted. I wake up and I know exactly what it’s I’m gonna do today. It’s all about scheduling and communicating your available time. If I have a little time slot to fit something in, ‘okay, I’ll do it’; I embrace opportunities. Sometimes we say maybe next time, but when will next time come? Why not do it when we’re young?”
Mignott said he gets roles with relative ease. “I’ve never had to audition for a lot of things. I get a call: ‘Hey, Akeem, I saw you in this … ‘”
After working with several local directors on films, television series and commercials, the young thespian has observed and appreciates the difference between the theatre stage and the television/film set.
“It’s two different things. One is big and dramatic, and the other is very intimate and softer. Having that versatility is amazing as an actor. I’m still learning, expanding, building, embracing. I dream to work with big directors internationally, because you can’t think locally.”
Based on his commercial experience, the demands of international directors differ from local ones. According to Mignott, the versatility in learning the ethics of a foreign production crew and knowing the ropes of the locals may improve an aspiring thespian’s marketability.
“I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s gonna be great. It’s international. I’m dreaming of it and it will be done. You have the Tony Awards abroad for theatre, the Golden Globes (film and television)that’s my dream as well. That’s why, when I have the time to do something, I seize the moment. If you do a lot of things, somebody might see you somewhere,” Mignott affirmed.