INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR JACQUELINE GUILLÉN
Education Dramaturg Ted Sod spoke with Jacqueline Guillén about her work on 72 Miles to Go...
Ted Sod: Where were you born and educated? Did you have any teachers who had a profound influence on you as an artist? Jacqueline Guillén: I was born and raised in Matamoros, Tamaulipas Mexico, which is a border town to Brownsville, Texas. Though I’m a dual citizen, I lived in Mexico for most of my upbringing. We had to wake up at five in the morning to cross the border and to make sure we weren’t stuck in customs for too long. My mom, who worked for the school district, loved being early to work, so we would finish sleeping in the car in an empty parking lot before anyone else showed up.
After my parents separated, we moved to Brownsville, Texas with my grandmother to make our lives a bit easier. That’s probably the only reason I discovered theatre. I was a big band nerd, and that was my life all through middle school. When high school came around, I was accidentally put in a theatre class. I was furious because this meant I had another thing keeping me from becoming the greatest flute player to ever live. But I got hooked on acting from the beginning. My high school theatre teacher changed the rehearsal schedule to fit my schedule: I’d go to band practice from 4:00 to 6:00 and theatre rehearsal from 6:30 to whatever time we stopped. I’ve never quit anything in my life, and my theatre teacher knew I couldn’t quit band based on that principle, and I am eternally grateful. I am not sure I would’ve discovered my endless love for the craft of acting had my theatre teacher not made it so accessible.
There is no way I can finish this answer without mentioning Jeremy Torres, who changed me as an artist while I was at Texas State University. He passed away a few years back, but I am not sure I’d be the artist I am today without him.
TS: Why did you choose to do the play 72 Miles to Go… and the role of Eva? What do you find most challenging/exciting about this role? JG: I read an early draft of this play a few years back. I followed this play for a long time, and when I found out that Roundabout was staging it this season, I went a little crazy. I did the Equity Principals Audition; I harassed my manager to submit me, and I contacted Hilary Bettis, the playwright. I even planned a trip around the auditions and callbacks just in case I did get seen, and I didn’t even have an appointment yet.
I don’t often get to tell stories about where I’m from. There aren’t that many stories out there about the border. I am so excited to explore everything that comes with the role of Eva. This is a girl who has to grow up quickly and be a mother/caregiver figure to her entire family. She immediately puts everything on hold to make sure her family is taken care of. We see Eva go from a young adult at 17 or 18 years old to being 25. The changes happening at those ages are so subtle, so that will be challenging. There’s a lot of “could’ves” and “would’ves” for her, everything comes at a cost, and all of that plays a part in who Eva grows up to be.
TS: Please give us some insight into your process as an actor? What kind of preparation or research did you have to do in order to play this role? JG: When it comes to preparation, I am all over the place. “Organized
14 ROUNDABOUT THEATRE COMPANY Jacqueline Guillén
chaos” is what I call it. It changes based on the project or character. I always focus on what the playwright is giving me. I focus on the behavior of my character and justify everything they say and everything they do. I write a lot. Meditate a lot. One thing that is consistent with my process is the amount of questions I ask. I go to sleep thinking about the text, individual moments and relationships, and I often wake up in the middle of the night with an “a-ha” moment. My brain doesn’t stop even after a show is done.
TS: What do you think the play is about? How is this character of Eva relevant to you? Will you share some of your initial thoughts about who Eva is with us? JG: I think this play is about sacrifice. Everyone in this journey has to give up a part of themselves to survive. After my parents’ divorce, I became the second-in-command for both my parents. I helped my mom with my younger brother, who was three years old at the time. With my dad, I became the “little woman” of the house. I relate to Eva a lot. Eva is resilient, she is tough as nails, she is loving, ambitious, and an overachiever.
TS: Will you talk about your current understanding of the relationship between Eva and her mother, father, and siblings. JG: I’m not sure how to answer this question at this point in the process, but I’m excited about what the dynamic of the cast will unravel. The one thing I do know is that there is so much love in this family. They would do anything and everything for one another, and I think this affects their relationships on a personal level.
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