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Back On Broadway: Jawan Jackson Talks Returning to AIN'T TOO PROUD, Working With New Cast Members & More

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Ain't Too Proud will return to the Imperial Theatre with a gala performance on Saturday, October 16.

BroadwayWorld's new interview series Back on Broadway is taking readers on the exciting journey of Broadway's return to the stage! Featuring interviews with cast and creative team members of Broadway's returning shows, Back on Broadway will highlight how members of Broadway shows are preparing for live performances, what they've learned from the last year and half, what is most exciting to them about Broadway's long-awaited return, and much more!

Next up in the series is Jawan Jackson, returning to his role as Melvin Franklin in Ain't Too Proud!

Ain't Too Proud


You have been with this role and this show since the beginning of its Broadway run, and even before its Broadway run, how does it feel now to be returning to Ain't Too Proud after the year and half that we've all had?

You know, it actually feels different. The energy in which I left, and coming back, it's completely different. I'm different in ways. I've grown, I've changed. And the way that our producers and creatives are approaching this revamp is very sensitive. They're very much invested in our well-being. They're very much invested in making sure that we start off in a place of healing first, so then we can feel safe enough to create. I'm excited to get back to work and be on stage and perform with my friends, who I haven't seen this whole pandemic. And then there's a little bit of nervousness in it, because we don't know how this is all going to pan out. But I'm hopeful because I've seen other shows safely opening back up. I'm very excited.

What was it actually like that first day back in the rehearsal space? How did it feel?

I had a lot of emotions. Like I said, our producers have been trying to heal us first. So, they offered yoga in the mornings before we start rehearsal. I think having that aspect, coming back and starting off with yoga, and cleansing... it's about building trust again, because we've been so disconnected from everyone. Now, it's time to reconnect. It was very emotional. Once we got through that process, we hopped back in it. It's fun, it's funny to see what we remember! We were like, "Oh, I did that?! Oh, you did that?" Our swings were in rehearsals two weeks prior to us, so, especially with the five guys, we've been like, "Can the swings show us how do it?" It's been very much like that. Championing our swings and our understudies to step up and collaborate with us this time, which we didn't get to experience before. But now that we're starting over, everybody's starting at zero and working their way back up.

What has it been like working with new members of the cast?

You know, this time around... before we shut down, they joined, and, with any show, one person leaves, they put another person in, alright, keep going. And so, we didn't have the chance to bond. So, this process, it gives us a full chance to get to know each other, get to find our blend, get to find our groove, get to build relationships with each other. One of the replacements is Nik Walker, we've been friends for over 10 years. And so, that made it a little easier, but I didn't know Matt [Manuel] coming into this space. So, during the pandemic I got to get to know him, to see who he is, how he moves and how he ticks and what his voice is like, and how ours fit together. We never disconnected, we've grown closer. Coming back is finding that brotherhood again, the authenticity of The Temptations, because we're truly living the story. The Temptations were ever-changing, ever-evolving, coming and going, but the root of it was brotherhood and family and love, so we've got back to that.

What are you most looking forward to with the return of Ain't Too Proud and the return of Broadway in general?

I'm just interested in getting back on stage and performing, honestly. I've been so thirsty and missing doing my art, and giving my art to a live theater audience, that's where I feel like I thrive best, is onstage. Having that moment, sharing a singular moment with audience members and being able to capture somebody's attention for two and a half hours, and they come and see what I have to offer... an even exchange of energies. So, I'm excited about the whole vibe of it all. And that people are back employed.

This show means so much to so many people, what would you like to say to audience members who have been looking forward to returning to Broadway to see Ain't Too Proud?

I'll say, get ready for some very new, exciting, fresh energy. With shows we have change, and with change people are not the same. We are coming in with a new David, a new Otis, I'm excited to introduce my brothers officially into the cast, and just know that though the people are different, the story's the same, you'll have a feel-good time like you'd always been having since before we shut down. Be ready and be open. Open your minds, open your hearts, open your bodies to receive all the joy that is going to come out of this show.

What have you learned from the past year and a half that you'll take with you going forward?

What I've learned is to take care of myself. Say yes to myself first. And when someone is on my mind, when someone is on my heart, to reach out, take the moment in. And also take the pressure off of myself as well - it's always like, "What are you doing next?" - and just being. And trusting the process and trusting the space that I'm in, that it will come to me, and I don't have to rush to it. That's what I've learned about myself. With the pandemic happening and everything being stripped away, my livelihood essentially, it showed me that I'll still be able to survive without it. Before, it was, your neck hurt, your foot hurt? Go to work because you could be replaced, you've got to do it. So, we, in the name of being a professional and wanting to be thirsty for it, we broke ourselves. Then when it was all stripped away and we had nothing, it was like, "Oh! I can actually take care of myself and it still be there and it's ok." It was fight or flight, "I've got to go." But, I'm not there anymore. If Broadway shuts down tomorrow, guess who will still be here? I will. I found out things about myself. I can go into music, I can go into writing, I can go into teaching. I got to do so many things during this pandemic that I wouldn't necessarily been able to do. So, that's important.


Ain't Too Proud will resume performances at the Imperial Theatre on Saturday, October 16th.

Leading the cast of Ain't Too Proud as The Temptations are Nik Walker as 'Otis Williams,' James Harkness as 'Paul Williams,' Jawan M. Jackson as 'Melvin Franklin,' Matt Manuel as 'David Ruffin,' and Jelani Remy as 'Eddie Kendricks.' The Broadway cast also features Esther Antoine, Saint Aubyn, E. Clayton Cornelious, J. Daughtry, Tiffany Francés, Taylor Symone Jackson, Jahi Kearse, Darius Jordan Lee, Jarvis B. Manning Jr., Morgan McGhee, Joshua Morgan, Aaron Patterson, Christian Thompson, Sir Brock Warren, Correy West, Drew Wildman Foster, Curtis Wiley, and Candice Marie Woods.

The musical, which opened on Broadway on Thursday, March 21, 2019 and was nominated for 12 Tony Awards including Best Musical, brings the incredible true story of the greatest R&B group of all time to the Broadway stage. With a Tony Award nominated book by Dominique Morisseau, Ain't Too Proud features an iconic score made up of The Temptations' legendary songs. Two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff directs, with Tony Award-winning choreography by Sergio Trujillo.


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