Selena Whitaker-Paquiet
Actor
EVENT: She's in Home, by Samm-Art Williams, at Theater Schmeater.

How many characters are you playing? "Let's see... I'd have to think about that... there's a little girl, a little boy... I'd say six characters, six or seven."

Do you have fun playing men? "My favorite characters are the men. One of my favorite men I play is a jailer. I love him."

Why? "He's mean and crass and Southern and everything I'm not--it's just really fun. I get to dig into everything I think about a Southern jailer. Unfortunately, a lot of it is based on stereotypical characters I've seen in movies and TV, not real-life experiences."

Like In the Heat of the Night? "Yes, exactly."

How is it playing a white character? "I really like him. There's a whole physicality to this character, a voice--and it's not an opportunity I would otherwise have, so it's a lot of fun. Cool Hand Luke is another movie with a Southern white jailer that came to mind, and I thought a lot about Klan people."

Did you find the racial difference led you to make certain choices? Physically, vocally? "I didn't think immediately of race, because another movie that came to mind was A Soldier's Story, which has a sergeant who's very much of this type, the 'white black' who sees those of his own race as inferior to himself and treats them as such. So when I first started thinking about the character, I was thinking more about the feeling of superiority and the hate. Later, the people watching us rehearse asked me if my character was white, and I said, 'You know, I think he is.' But he developed more out of hate, disgust, and superiority due to social and economic differences. Race entered later."

I understand the play crosses several decades-- "Actually, the story covers just an 18- to 20-year period, total."

Oh good--the press release made it almost sound like some kind of Forrest Gump thing. "Oh, no, it's not epic at all."

Did you chew chewing tobacco in preparation for the jailer part? "No. I do pretend to do that in the show, but I didn't actually do that."

Isn't that shoddy research? "I don't think so."

There's only so far you'll go. "I just didn't think it was necessary."

Support The Stranger

Sponsored
Washington Ensemble Theatre presents amber, a sensory installation set in the disco era
In this 30-minute multimedia experience, lights & sounds guide groups as they explore a series of immersive spaces.