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BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad

Antaeus Theatre Company launches their second season of their popular podcasts THE ZIP CODE PLAYS: LOS ANGELES May 20, 2021

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad

Antaeus Theatre Company launches their second season of their popular podcasts THE ZIP CODE PLAYS: LOS ANGELES May 20, 2021. Each play, set in six different L.A. zip codes, features acclaimed Antaeus actors enacting scripts written by members of the Antaeus Playwright Lab. Two-time Audiofile Award-winner Ramón de Ocampo reprises his role of series host, with Jeff Gardner and Ellen Mandel returning in their respective roles as audio producer/sound designer/foley artist and music composer.

Ramon found some time between juggling his many gigs with caring for his new baby girl to answer a few of my queries.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ramon!

You are once again the host of ZIP CODE PLAYS, now its second season. Has this time been much easier with all the logistics of setting up your own space at home to record?

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad I don't think it's a secret or anything, but I don't have to set up a space in my home the way the performers in the plays do. Because of all the audiobook and voice work I already do, I have a pro audio studio in my home already, so I just pop in my booth. What was easier this time is we'd been through it before, so the producers, engineer, and I had a shorthand for working. The really fascinating stuff in pre-production and recording really has to do with how Antaeus' brilliant playwrights adapted their writing to accommodate the audio format - something I'm obviously very passionate about. Also, how the actors, most of whom don't have any background in audio, were able to set up makeshift recording studios (using a safe package of equipment hand delivered to their doorsteps), and record a full audio play from their homes. It's a case of an old medium (audio) being revived by new technology. I love it. I'm hoping to do a post season special episode - maybe a round table with the playwrights about the process.

What responses have you heard from season one of ZIP CODE PLAYS?

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad I've heard thousands and thousands of people have listened, subscribed and become fans of the plays. From all over the world! It's an amazing thing to think about how far storytelling reaches, and what parts of the world seek out this format. Also the fact that the data is tracked and available is mind boggling to me. We're used to having a hundred people show up for a performance for a few weeks... thousands show up to hear these plays.

Was it a no-brainer to reprise your role as host?

Yes. Absolutely. I'm so proud to be a member of the company and so proud to sort of be their ambassador into the audio realm.

You're an ensemble member of the Antaeus Theatre Company. What initially brought you to Antaeus? As audience? Open call audition?

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad I was recommended to them by the brilliant director Chay Yew for the play PERA PALAS many years ago. It's the same play that brought current artistic director Bill Brochtrup to the company as well. I had been living in New York, making a living in the theater - and film/TV/commercials/and audio also - but New York is a theater town and I loved being a paid pro in it. When I moved to L.A., I was afraid (like many New York transplants) I wouldn't find that same level of commitment to craft and storytelling. Man, was I wrong. I feel like my tribe found me. There's an enormous thriving theater scene in L.A., and I love that it's a part of me (or I'm a part of it).

How does auditioning for an Antaeus production work? First dibs to members, then an open call?

Like in any theater there are always auditions, there are some offers, and there's always a lot of room to discover something brand new. Not just in terms of new talent - but sometimes in new challenges and possibilities for seasoned members. Whether that's being cast against BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad type (or gender), or an enormous acting challenge beyond that. My last production with the company, MEASURE FOR MEASURE, which closed prematurely because of COVID, had me playing two enormous Shakespeare leads at the same time (Angelo and Claudio), which I had no idea I could do.

As a working actor, you must love being in a theatre company that double casts its productions, right?

While there are certainly pros and cons to single and double casting, when you are working BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad and busy, it is incredibly helpful to have a double whom you trust deeply with the storytelling of the play when work pops up. Antaeus doubles (we call them partners) are very close - we learn from each other and integrate ideas we see only by watching our partners from the outside. The idea, when it's fully realized, is to have two thoroughbreds pushing each other to be better. It is also one of the only ways to be able to cast thoroughbred actors in the harsh economic reality that is small equity theater in Los Angeles.

Glad to hear you're currently working. What project have you been shooting?

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad I just wrapped a recurring role on a TV show I'm not allowed to tell you about (ha, ha), and I was just a guest star on 911 - got to work with Angela Bassett. It was a fantastic experience.

What safety precautions did you have to go through?

Well, there were a lot - and I'm sure a lot more outside of my perception. For example: We had to go through testing three days before the start of work, as well as every other day you're on set. There are cordoned off areas for the actors where makeup and hair can come to them, but no one else can, and actors are separated into little cubicles with their own air filters. If there are a lot of people in the scene, the production will occasionally fog the whole place - which is like generating fog that weighs down virus particles. Masks are on everywhere except when you're on camera, and you even rehearse scenes entirely masked. They say "actors remove your masks" just before sound check and action. Bizarrely I have no idea what any of my directors for the past three TV shows, or any of the crew actually look like, because of the masks.

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad You've been the voice of the Diary of A Wimpy Kid series for nearly a decade. How did you first land this lucrative gig?

I think it's been more than a decade - for me at least; the characters in the book have barely aged. It was a straight offer from the head of Recorded Books Inc (Claudia Howard) many, many years ago. We had been working together, and she thought this one fit me. She also liked that I could do some improvising within the book (as parts of every book is illustrated, and it was my job to bring those illustrations to life.) We had no idea it would ever be the phenomenon it is.

What instigated you to go into voiceover work?

I think it's a common goal with actors hoping to make a career out of their work. You cannot be an actor who is not a star (maybe even them) these days without diversifying your skill set and branching out into everything that acting is. Whether that's motion capture, videogames, or audiobooks, the goal is to put together a living as a performer. I feel so lucky that I'm able to.

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad Tell us about the night you won a 2003 OBIE for your performance in THE ROMANCE OF MAGNO RUBIO at Ma-Yi in New York.

It was a surreal night. We had no idea that when you get invited to the OBIES (at least at the time), you're winning one. It was like an initiation into a fellowship of prestigious and stupendously talented people. I was with my cast and the producers- dear friends and family, and we were surrounded by outrageously skilled people. Geoffrey Wright received an OBIE right before us, and I handed my little digital camera to award-winning playwright Jose Rivera (!) who was sitting next to me when we were called. HE took the pictures of us onstage. Really an incredible night and a surreal moment.

You've performed in theatres all over the United States. Other than Antaeus, what's your favorite venue to perform?

What I wouldn't give to play the park in New York again. I did TAMING OF THE SHREW there BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad many years ago with Allison Janney (pre-West Wing, for both of us), Jay O. Sanders, Max Wright, and Mario Cantone. It's everything you think Shakespeare in the Park is supposed to feel like. Communal, beautiful, appreciated, and fun as hell.

What has been your favorite theatrical role?

Many years ago, Mark Lamos cast me in an incredible, Cuba-inspired, all-male TAMING OF THE SHREW, as KATE at Yale Rep. That changed me. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Challenging, deeply artistically fulfilling, life affirming.

What leading character would you love to tackle when you reach the appropriate age?

I still haven't done my Hamlet. I think I still have that in me. Also, Philip the bastard from KING JOHN... and when I'm old enough - Cyrano. I can never escape my inner romantic.

What factors influenced you to become a member of Charitable Living?

When we functioned and I was invited in, what I found was a family of artists (successful in BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad their fields) who were passionate about doing good things for their community, and were willing to give up their precious time and resources to better the world... sometimes with our art, but often with just our sweat and our connection to each other. That's a place where you can grow.

What's in the post-pandemic future for Ramón de Ocampo?

Well, I just wrapped a great role on a big TV show (which I'd plug if I were allowed), my slate of VO work and audiobooks is booked out for months, and auditions have started to pick up in the world... But the biggest thing is: I'm a new father. I can't wait to spend time in the post-pandemic future showing my daughter the world of people without face masks, and figuring out this whole "dad" business.

BWW Interview: Actor Ramón de Ocampo On His Many Roles, Including Hosting ZIP CODE & Being a New Dad Thank you again, Ramon! I look forward to hearing your second season of THE ZIP CODE PLAYS: LOS ANGELES.

To hear THE ZIP CODE PLAYS: LOS ANGELES for free beginning May 20, 2021; log onto www.Antaeus.org, or wherever you get your podcasts.

THE ZIP CODE PLAYS: LOS ANGELES includes:


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