…Learn as much as you can. My main focus has always been acting and singing. I took a few dance classes here and there but never pushed myself to get better. I also never learned to play an instrument. These two deficiencies in my artistic arsenal have kept me from work I otherwise could’ve had a shot at. So don’t limit yourself by only knowing how to do one or two things.
As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Oliver Jones.
Patrick Oliver Jones was born in Birmingham, Alabama and has been performing for more than 25 years as an actor and singer, starting out with performances at Walt Disney World. He eventually moved to the stages of New York City appearing in National Tours and Off-Broadway World Premieres. This baritone was an original cast member of First Wives Club in Chicago as well as performing in two National Tours of The Adams Family and Evita and on-screen he has co-starred on Blue Bloods as well as Law & Order: Criminal Intent. With all his successes, there have been far more failures that led him to his newest podcast venture. WHY I’LL NEVER MAKE IT is an innovative podcast that explores the reasons why actors and creative professionals don’t succeed while delving into what it really means to “make it” in this industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama to a single mother and had loving grandparents that were heavily involved in my childhood. My mother worked in a hospital and on weekends when she worked, I would stay with them. Church life was also very integral in my upbringing and was a part of both schooling and personal life. While I missed not having a father or siblings growing up, my mother gave everything she could to keep me healthy and active, whether it was sports or Boy Scouts or performing.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Though I had done the school and church plays along with choirs and musicals, it was more of a hobby or extracurricular activity. It wasn’t until college and my first summer stock job that I thought about performing for a living. I continued with my studies in Mass Communication, but upon graduation began a 7-month contract at a regional theater in Tennessee and never looked back.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
2011 was a pivotal year in my career. I booked my first and second co-starring roles in primetime television and was cast in my first Broadway national tour. There’s a particular benchmark for every New York actor, and that is landing a spot in the LAW & ORDER franchise. Well, that second show I booked was L&O: Criminal Intent, so I’d finally made it and reached this milestone. I was playing a defense attorney and it was just me, the woman playing my client, and Vincent D’Onofrio in a scene together. I may have had only one line in the scene but was absolutely stoked. We went through different angles of course in that interrogation room, and so I was often moving my chair around to accommodate various shots or the actual camera itself.
However, eventually, I was being placed further and further away from the other two until I was finally in the corner of the room, a good 4–5 feet away from the table where they sat. So, when the episode came out, my voice-over line was all that remained of my presence in the scene. At one point there was a profile shot of the actress playing my client, and I’m a blurry figure in the background. I’ve not booked a primetime TV show since.
This is a funny business sometimes, and you often don’t know how good you’re doing or how you stack up against others. This was a clear reminder of the fleeting nature of being an actor and how so much of our career is out of our hands. We can’t take anything personally and just have to begin again each day and keep going. Also, I may still be waiting for my next broadcast TV booking, but in the meantime, I’m still cashing those L&O residual checks. 🙂
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I work with The Tonight Show. I’m basically on-call and stand-in for Jimmy Fallon when needed by going through the various skits, games, monologues, etc. It’s essentially a tech rehearsal of certain elements of the show before taping it in front of a live audience. I must admit my first time sitting at the desk or standing at the mono mark was rather exciting and a bit surreal. But the crew and production team have been so welcoming and put me at ease to give them everything they need during those rehearsals.
I also continue to produce and host Why I’ll Never Make It, one of Feedspot’s Top 20 Theater Podcasts of 2021. It features lighthearted but revealing interviews with various creatives in the performing arts. We discuss the ups and downs of their career and highlight the challenges and setbacks they’ve overcome. My goal is to explore the realities of this business, what it really means to “make it” and how that definition is different from one artist to another.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
One of my favorite experiences was getting to do the musical GREASE in Orlando, Florida. It’s starred Joey Fatone with special guests Alfonso Ribeiro and the late Jeff Conaway. I played the part of Roger, the mooner, and couldn’t have had more fun with the scene work and musical numbers. The amount of talent on stage made both rehearsals and performances a joy to be a part of.
Joey was both a leader in the cast as well as the life of the party. When he invited the cast over to his home, it was an interesting and amazing look at how the other half lives. But it was never pretentious or unwelcoming. Joey made each of us feel at home and was the perfect host. I’ve kept in touch with him since that 2003 production and even been invited to a few other parties. And I returned the favor by inviting him on the podcast to be the season one finale guest. He was surprisingly honest and forthright about the highs of being a part of *NSYNC and some of his own struggles during that time and since. His experiences are fascinating and full of insights we can all learn from.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I grew up as an only child of a single mother. And even though my family structure has changed over the years, that childhood experience still sticks with me. The need to belong and be accepted, to know I’m not alone. These are driving forces in my life and also how I wish to treat others. It shows up in the work I do and the characters I choose to audition for. It’s the big message behind my podcast and that sense of understanding I want fellow artists to feel from the conversations I have. The arts, and theater, in particular, have been such a huge part of my life and provided an emotional, artistic, and figurative home for me that I want to open its doors to others so that they feel welcomed in as well.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
That welcoming spirit is a main focus of mine, but I also want to give back and show others what’s possible through theater. One of my favorite organizations is Only Make Believe, a nonprofit brings interactive theater into children’s hospitals and care facilities. The actors and staff of the company have such a huge heart and drive when it comes to bringing these kids out of the reality of their medical and physical situation into a wonderful world of joy and imagination. I’ve even brought some of them onto my podcast to share their message and mission with my listeners as well. Although I have not been an actor in OMB productions, I have worked in the office and gone on site to see the smiles and exhilaration of the kids they reach each and every week. I can’t think of a better use of theater than that.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I alluded to the first one previously, don’t take this business personally. Whether it’s feedback and critique in an acting class or in the audition room, we can’t take the words of others so personally that it affects our drive or our performance. It’s important for us actors to realize our place in any production. Yes we are essential to any show’s success, but there are so many other factors and production elements that have nothing to do with us that directors and producers are focused on.
Number two, keep going to class. I’m actually just now starting a summer intensive program, and it’s the first time since college that I’m really getting back to the basics of acting fundamentals. I have felt so disconnected from my craft for a while and had I’ve been taking classes more regularly I am sure my auditions and performances would’ve been more grounded and real as well as just easier to perform.
Number three, prepare for the roles you want not just the roles you have. For most of my career, I have only prepared for the next audition or my next show. But I’ve learned that the really great actors, the best of us, are doing prep work before they submit for auditions before they even know what shows or roles are available. Work on new music, learn the characters of shows you hope to audition for one day, look at the actors whose careers you would like to emulate and use them as a template for your own study and direction.
Number four, know your worth. Yes, when we all start out it’s important to be open to any role or any production willing to hire you. I myself have done shows that didn’t pay well but were artistically and personally fulfilling. But ultimately, we have to not give away our artistry or skills to the lowest bidder. It’s a matter of standing up for the abilities and talent we have and making sure others recognize that in financial and artistic ways.
Number five, learn as much as you can. My main focus has always been acting and singing. I took a few dance classes here and there but never pushed myself to get better. I also never learned to play an instrument. These two deficiencies in my artistic arsenal have kept me from work I otherwise could’ve had a shot at. So don’t limit yourself by only knowing how to do one or two things.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m a huge proponent of listening to and understanding others regardless of agreement. In these increasingly polarized times, people often don’t even want to hear another idea or viewpoint other than their own. Too many people isolate themselves from the vast experiences and beliefs of others. They are cutting off a chance to not only share their lives and causes with others but also the opportunity to learn something they may have never thought of before. As actors, we have to portray a wide spectrum of characters and motivations. So not only will this openness to others help us in our personal lives and connections but it will also give us a depth of understanding for the roles we will be asked to play.
We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
Odicci Alexander. The past couple of months I’ve watched how this relatively unknown softball pitcher from James Madison University has taken the softball world by storm and become an inspiration to so many, myself included. She led her team to the Women’s College World Series and beat the number one ranked team in the country in their first game. Her story of growing up with her grandparents and throwing pitches at a cement wall is an amazing example of persistence and drive. She is a true athletic role model and someone I’d love to meet and learn from.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram, I’m @pojnyc and the podcast is @winmipodcast. You can also learn more at pojones.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!