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  • Writer's pictureJeff Thomakos

5 Questions with John DeMerell

How did you get started in acting?


John DeMerell

I began performing at a very early age. I used to sing along with 45" records (Google it, youngins) and watch myself in the mirror and lip sync to the recordings. At 3 years old, I got up on stage in Frankenmuth and started to sing. I wouldn't leave and they had to take me off kicking and screaming! My family swears by this! I began performing routines in public at 5 years old and lip synced, sang, or told jokes, in the Elementary Talent Show, every year. In 4th grade I played Prince Charming in Snow White then nothing until High School where I joined the Choir and then was promoted to the Show Choir. My Junior year, I performed Rocky in DAMN YANKEES, which I would eventually perform two more times, Professionally. I went to College and Majored in Theatre Performance and took all the singing and dancing classes I could.

 

Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography
Merrick demonstrate his Weapon of the Future.

You’ve been acting quite a while. What challenges and advantages do you find in the Metro Detroit acting scene?


Advantages: 1. Familial ties: Most of my close friends and siblings live here. 2. Reputation: Because I have been acting a while, sometimes I am asked to be part of a project without auditioning. 3. Fun colleagues: I have worked with so many actors that sometimes doing a show with them is like a Reunion! I have been guilty of taking a role just so I could work with a friend, more than once!

 


Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography
Merrick toasts to his divorce

Merrick is a pivotal character in "The Curious Case of the Watson Intelligence," embodying both historical significance and fictional intrigue. How do you approach researching and understanding Merrick to inform your portrayal?


Since Frank Merrick the Inventor ("Victorian Merrick") was presented in a Melodramatic Style, there was no need to approach the role as being Historically correct. I could not find any audio recordings of him, so I wanted to give the idea of an accent by not strictly adhering to a regional dialect. This lead to experimentation with pushing the boundaries of the accent for comic effect. Modern Merrick was my own creation based on dialogue and how it sounded out loud. Also, I tried to choose different body mannerisms for "Modern Merrick" and "Victorian Merrick", such as sitting, hand gestures, facial ticks, posture, and walking around. More than anything, I had to convince myself as the actor that his craziness makes perfect sense to him!

 

Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography
Victorian Merrick reveals his latest sinister invention.

The modern Merrick undergoes significant emotional growth and transformation throughout the play. How do you navigate portraying his journey from an angry divorcee to a more emotionally engaged character, while maintaining consistency and authenticity?

The script tells us Merrick has had about 10 plus months to deal with the break up. I believe he has been focusing on himself, building a shed, etc. He basically states he went through Hell, but with any type of broken relationship cycle their needs to be the drive to move on. He had to divorce himself from the hope of getting back together with her and live his own life again and then she called him...

 

Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography
Eliza and Merrick toast to the future.

This production involves a wide range of styles from melodrama to modern realism to existentialism. How do you navigate these styles while still maintaining a feeling of truth to your performance?


Luckily, I had a great director who helped me! With any role you have to commit to the truth of that character 100%. It doesn't matter what the style or circumstance is, it is REAL for them! If not, you are doing a disservice to the playwright, the role and the audience.


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