"Getting to Know You" with actor SETH MERRILL who plays BERT in Mary Poppins!
WESTMINSTER, CA - A recent graduate of the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts where he majored in Musical Theatre and Minored in Dance, Seth Merrill can currently be seen performing at the Disneyland Resort, as well as stepping in time on the Rose Center Theater stage as Bert in Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins! Coming from a family of performers, Seth Merrill may best be known for his recent portrayal of Patsy in last year's farcical comedy Monty Python's Spamalot.
"I began performing in sixth grade with my school's show choir. Because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to join a local children's theater that my sister was a part of. It took me a while to really enjoy it (musical theater), but after that first year, I really began to love performing, and have continued to do so ever since," Seth recalls when asked about how he started performing.
Excerpts from our interview:
In your young career, has there been an accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I feel like my greatest accomplishment as an actor was getting hired at the Disneyland Resort. Working for Disney does not necessarily coincide directly with Musical Theater, but I use many of the skills I learned as an actor, everyday at work. I consider this to be my greatest accomplishment so far because I got hired at a young age. It was also my first experience getting paid to perform. To be able to do it for a company like Disney, I have learned so much from the wide variety of performers that I work with on a daily basis. In my time with Disney, I feel that I have already grown so much as a performer, dancer, and actor.
The audition process for Disney is pretty intense from what we hear. How do you prepare for auditions? Any good luck rituals or audition tips?
In order to prepare for an audition I pick out a song well in advance. I then watch as many videos and listen to the soundtrack from the show that I am auditioning for. I don’t necessarily have any pre-audition traditions that I stick to, but before most auditions, I’ll stretch and loosen up my body, do vocal exercises, and steam my voice to loosen up my vocal chords. My advice to any auditioning actor is to be unapologetically yourself while you’re auditioning. If they don’t like what you have to offer then it wasn’t meant to be. I try to remember that there will always be other opportunities.
Speaking of auditions, how do you handle when an audition does not go your way?
I pout and moan in self pity for about a day, and then I try to move on to the next thing without leaving all of those feelings behind. I also try to focus on the positives: being happy for the people that got what they wanted.
Being around so much talent at work, how important do find training to be when pursuing a life as a performer?
I think training is a very important part of being a performer. In order to be successful,
you need to have extensive training in dance, acting, and singing. As a performer I have been taking voice lessons for about 6 years, have taken classes for Musical Theater, and have taken have a variety of dance classes like tap, jazz, and modern for about 5 years.
What is the most frustrating part of being a performer?
The most frustrating thing about being a performer is that there are no guarantees. There is no guarantee that you will get the part that you want, there is no guarantee that the show will come together the way that you hope, and there is no guarantee that you will make enough money, or even any money at all while you are performing.
What motivates you as a performer?
What motivates me as a performer is knowing that I get to do something that brings me a lot of joy, and also brings everyone around you joy. This motivates me because I love to bring joy and humor into other people's lives, and that is what I try to do whenever I perform.
That's awesome. Is there a particular role you hope to play one day?
My dream role would be Orin Scrivello (The Dentist) in Little Shop of Horrors. Since I began musical theater I’ve wanted to play him. I love his song so much that I sing it for many of my auditions. His humor is what I feel like I could nail on stage. I feel like I would be able to play him super well just because we both have dark, funny humor.
Do you have a particular process in preparing for a role?
Normally to prepare for a role I like to watch how other people did it, pulling what I like about how other people's portrays and using that as inspiration for how I play the role. I like to try and get into the same mindset as the character that I am playing, and throughout the
rehearsals and shows try to live my life with the same type of attitude that the character I
am playing has.
Has there been a role you've played that stands out to you?
The most fun role that I feel I’ve played has been either Patsy in Spamalot, or Flotsam in The Little Mermaid. I really loved playing Patsy because I was given a lot of freedom to play him how I wanted too, and since it was a funny role within a farcical musical I was able to really make it everything that I wanted it to be. I also really enjoyed doing The Little Mermaid because I got to perform alongside my sister as Flotsam and Jetsam. Because of our strong connection, we were able to play well off of each other and make it an overall really fun experience.
On the flip side, has there been a role that you found to be difficult?
The hardest role that I have played would be Terry Connor in Sideshow because it was far outside of my comfort zone, and did not contain the same comedic elements that I was used to. I also feel like it was harder because it was a heavier, dramatic show that required a lot of emotions that I hadn’t had enough life experience for it to come naturally.
Do you have a favorite actor? Someone who's career you aspire to?
My favorite actor is definitely Harrison Ford. He was a huge inspiration for me growing up. He has played some of my favorite characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones. For much of my life, I have looked up to Harrison Ford behind the screen because exuded a confidence that I aspired to posses. Also, he advocates for environmental protection and human rights,
showing his real life leadership. He is my favorite actor because he is really what made me want to continue acting throughout my life.
Is there a fun fact about you that people wouldn’t be aware of?
My ultimate goal as a performer is to continue to work at Disneyland while I get my degree in college. Then, I want to be an actor/screenwriter in Hollywood until I retire.
Do you have any advice to other actors or aspiring performers?
Continue to try no matter how many obstacles you have to overcome, or how many rejections you face because the best opportunity could come at any time, and when you least expect it.
See Seth Merrill as Bert in the Rose Center Theater's production of
Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins!
Showing February 21 - March 8