Jack Devnarain | Award-winning South African Actor, MC, Speaker, Voice-Over artist
What I loved most about this interview with Jack was the realness and the depth of his answers to my questions. At first I was a bit taken aback, but when I dug a bit deeper into just how he came to be the star performer that he is, my surprise was very quickly appeased. Listen to this – this is certainly one of the most inspiring paths into the vocation of acting that I have ever heard of. Firstly Jack studied Drama while completing his Law degree at the University of KZN, Durban. Wow! Who does that?! Then he joined the Police Force after completing his Law studies and spent 9 years on the beat!! Whilst working as a cop he continued to take acting jobs when he could and in 2002 his dual career as an actor took off. It went so well that he then decided to leave the force and joined the cast of South Africa’s much loved daily soap Isidingo. Since then, Jack Devnarain has become one of South Africa’s most popular and successful film characters, both on the small screen and in international movies. I hope you devour the pearls of wisdom that Jack shares with us in his interview below:
I Am Driven By | Discontent. I know I can be a better actor as I age – and ageing is an inevitable process I embrace. I know the performance industry has to evolve urgently if we are to align with international regulatory practices. Both these areas that are deeply personal to me. As an actor I am intent on self-improvement, and as an industry leader it’s critical that I help to prepare the performance sector for young actors who need to earn a fair living from the exploitation of their work. My personal journey as an actor correlates to my work as an industry champion. I am driven to succeed on both levels.
I think my ‘MAGIC’ comes from | Understanding magic is the journey of a lifetime. I have no doubt we all come from that place of magic and it’s always ready to guide and inspire us. I believe my magic comes from living in a state of child-like wonder as I explore creative inspiration. It’s a state of freedom, laughter and stillness. When people sense your magic, it awakens the magic within them
Principles I Live By | I have built a career based on reliability, discipline, integrity and strong communication skills. These principles are the very foundation of my personal and professional life. I believe in people; and that regardless of where we exist on the scale of success, we all share basic human values that include respect and kindness. Principles and values are meaningless unless they are lived. It’s important to me that I demonstrate these values in everything I do, particularly when involved in projects, so that people around me always have a sense of certainty that I am ready to deliver my contribution to the success of the whole. In many ways, the values I describe are also foundational to being a successful leader.
Dealing With Doubt | Negative attitudes are like a whirlpool, and the faster it flows the deeper it gets. So if you buy into fear, frustration or self-doubt, it will take you into a place that becomes increasingly difficult to escape. I remember stepping onto the set of Isidingo for my very first week of shooting in October 2002. I was fresh out of the Police Service and I was suddenly surrounded by some of the most celebrated performers in South African TV history. I was walking along the same corridors as Michelle Botes, Keke Semoko, Tumisho Masha, Robert Whitehead and so many others! My portfolio of work had acres of empty space compared to those illustrious actors, and I suddenly felt a very cold spotlight shining on me, exposing my every cringing weakness as an actor. That was doubt with a capital D. How do I compare with these giants of the industry? But I reminded myself to honour the journey that brought me this far. I reminded myself of my studies in drama, my parents’ pride on landing the role of Rajesh, my nine years as an active street cop with a string of arrests and convictions. I knew fear. Real mortal fear. The kind you learn from years of shootouts, car chases, rioting mobs and armed robberies. And there I found the perspective I needed. I backed myself, and I have never questioned myself as a professional since.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I have a long checklist that includes sleep, exercise, diet, reading up on current affairs and many others. The problem is that I can never really ensure I can tick those boxes in a day or a week. As a freelance actor I am often completely absorbed by projects until they are finished and this often means sacrificing ‘peak performance’ until I have put in the work to secure another payday. Working intensively from project to project with 18hr days often means enduring the lifestyle imbalance until the job is done. It’s a hard reality of the creative industry that if you are a jobbing actor getting regular sleep, meals and exercise, chances are you’re not in work.
Balancing High performance with Happiness and Contentment | Nelson Mandela once said ‘After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb’. I find this is true as an actor and as an industry leader. The higher you climb the more you see, and the more you see, the more you realise the challenges ahead. So no matter my achievements, my vantage point always shows me reasons to keep going. As an actor, there are always scenes I know I can improve on. As Chairman of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA), there are huge battles still to come that must confront the injustices of our industry. The day I am truly content and happy is the day I know I have abandoned my journey of self-discovery.
What’s one deeply honest thing that most people don’t know about you| I have a strong sense of spiritualism that is my late father’s legacy. As a child, my father taught me the lessons he learnt at ashrams, learning from his spiritual teachers. I was incredulous at first of course, but as I grew into the understanding of morality and the karmic scales, all his guidance grew in relevance and wisdom. For me, his passing six years ago was not a cue for grieving. I knew he was on a path of re-discovery and I felt reassured that his life story was unfolding in another chapter.