Award-winning actor Bill Jenkins has appeared in a variety of roles on numerous Dallas-Forth Worth stages. He's also a Ramones fan who's kissed Zsa Zsa Gabor; has a penchant for driving fast; and tells a very sweet story about how he met his wife, actress Linda Leonard.
These life experiences (and those had during his former lives — you'll want to read on) have given Jenkins a deep well to draw from when he's onstage. In WingSpan Theatre Company's production of Samuel Beckett's Happy Days, Jenkins plays the reticent counterpart to Stephanie Dunnam's Winnie, a chatty woman who spends the play more than half buried in a mound of dirt.
Jenkins recently took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Bill Jenkins
Role in Happy Days: Willie
Previous work in the DFW area: WaterTower, Echo, Theatre Three, African American Rep, Uptown, Dallas Theater Center, Dallas Children’s Theatre, Circle, Kitchen Dog, Lyric Stage, Casa Mañana, Granbury Opera House, Stage West, Theatre Britain, Granny’s Dinner Theater
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Where you currently reside: East of White Rock Lake in Dallas
First theater role: Elyot in Private Lives (college); Marlowe in She Stoops to Conquer at Theatre Three (professional)
First stage show you ever saw: Rapunzel (children’s theater). Gave me a "thing" for girls with long hair.
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: College review "Bill Jenkins became Elyot" (from Private Lives at Centre College of Kentucky)
Most challenging role you’ve played: Dysart in Equus (grad school) or Peter in Forty Carats opposite Zsa Zsa Gabor. The latter was my first Actors Equity role at Granny’s Dinner Theater. Only seven days of rehearsal — kissed Zsa Zsa 25 times and lived to tell about it!
Special skills: Sailing, driving fast
Something you’re REALLY bad at: My theater nickname is “Hell on Props” because I'm really clumsy.
Current pop culture obsession: The musical group Cage the Elephant
Last book you read: Jane Roberts' The Education of Oversoul Seven
Favorite movie(s): Bell, Book and Candle; Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty; My Favorite Year; Avatar
Favorite musician(s): Joe Walsh, Mott the Hoople, Little Feat, The Ramones, Soul Coughing, Cake
Favorite song: "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh or "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" by The Ramones
Dream role: Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird (played it — I am a descendant of four generations of Alabama lawyers and judges) and Henry opposite my wife, Linda Leonard, as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter
Favorite play(s): I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick, Eastern Standard (Theatre Three’s Patrons’ Favorite Award), Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg and The Dead Presidents’ Club by Larry L. King (Critics Forum Award for Richard Nixon)
Favorite musical(s): The Sound of Music (where I met my wife playing Von Trapp opposite her Maria) and My Favorite Year (Critics Forum Award for Alan Swann)
Favorite actors/actresses: Peter O’Toole, Michael Caine, Mark Wahlberg, Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn, Katherine Heigl
Favorite food: Custom Ital-chos at Terilli’s with a full-bodied, oaky red wine
Must-see TV show(s): The Good Wife, Grimm, Blacklist
Something most people don’t know about you: I was supposedly good friends with Thomas Jefferson, killed in the Civil War as a Union soldier, and was a show biz lawyer in LA during the '30s and '40s — all in former lifetimes.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: Paris and London with my wife
Pre-show warm-up: Mentally aligning myself with the character/prayer
Favorite part about your current role: Very little memorization
Most challenging part about your current role: Due to above, character analysis was virtually cryptic.
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: I fell three stories from the catwalk and broke my back onstage at WaterTower Theatre during the last 35 bars of the musical Working playing Mike the narrator, because I was too macho to worry about having a safety back-up system for a stunt I was doing.
Career you’d have if you weren’t a performer: Sound designer
Favorite post-show spot: At home with my dogs and my wife (when she’s out of her show) licking our wounds or toasting our success
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: People tend to drive a little fast.
Most memorable theater moment: Preaching on Easter Sunday as Jerry in Theatre Three’s God’s Man in Texas
WingSpan Theatre Company's Happy Days plays at the Bath House Cultural Center October 10-26.