INTERVIEW: Newsies and Black-ish Star Jacob Kemp

Jacob Kemp

Jacob Kemp

Jacob Kemp is having a full-circle moment: When he was a boy, his mother, a Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, native, sat him down to watch the movie Newsies.

“There were boys dancing, huge bunches of boys dancing, in an athletic way, through story and through action,” he recalled. “It kept me in dance class for a long time.”

Now, years later, the Yale graduate is about to open the tour of the Broadway adaptation of the musical film, and he’s inspiring others, including a 3-year-old boy who showed up to the show’s stage door during it’s technical try-out in New York.

“He was dressed up in costume,” Kemp recalls. The boy was, at first, scared of the hustle of other fans. That slowly faded once he was able to meet the cast. For Kemp, it was a profound moment.

“The power of seeing that as a company makes every second worth it,” he says. “What we are doing is moving people. We are using our talents to better the world and better the community, and that’s the greatest pleasure. We’re inspiring a new generation of actors and dancers and singers to say ‘I want to do that.'”

Now Kemp, along with a huge company, is taking Newsies on the road: The national tour begins at the Academy of Music and moves on to theaters around the country.

“I’m looking forward to Philadelphia,” he says. He has extended family that lives in the Philly burbs, and they’ve never seen him perform.

“They’re going to finally get to see me singing and dancing my butt off,” he jokes.

Kemp in "Black-ish."

Kemp in “Black-ish.”

But the Broadway musical isn’t the only project that keeps the talented triple-threat busy; he’s landed the recurring role as Kris on the much talked about ABC sitcom Black-ish.

“Creating something new is so thrilling for me,” he says. “It’s been such a learning experience and it’s taught me so much. How do we create a family that America wants to live with? We’re still learning every day on set.”

Performing in Newsies and Black-ish keeps Kemp on a hectic schedule, but he almost seems to appreciate the hustle-bustle, nomadic life.

“There’s something really powerful about living out of a suitcase for a year. At the end of the day, it isn’t your clothes or your apartment that makes you; it’s the relationships you have with others,” he says. “If you told me I’d be doing all of this a year ago, I’d laugh in your face,” he says. “I’m so filled with awe and joy. If it means I need to jump on a bunch of red-eye flights to do it all, I’m more than happy to do that.”

Newsies was an immense success on Broadway. The show, which recalls the true story of a group of young, somewhat desolate boys who overthrow a giant oppressive publication organization, has been hailed as being deeply inspirational. It plays the Academy of Music from October 28th through November 2nd; tickets and more information can be found here.