He left Saint Lucia for greener pastures when he was just nine years old. It was in his new home in London, England that he undertook formal training at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He has been a professional actor for more than thirty-seven years.
Although best known for his role as Geoffrey in the evergreen sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Joseph Marcell admits that theatre is his first love and “the foundation of acting.” He now serves on the board of the renowned
Globe Theatre in London, and has been on tour in the UK and Europe since May with the celebrated production of Shakespeare’s King Lear, in which he plays the lead role. Cast and crew arrived on Monday for an unprecedented three performances in St Lucia, much to the delight of theatre fans around the island.
On Tuesday, the STAR caught up with Marcell at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Spa, interrupting one of his favourite activities: walking barefoot on the beach. I first asked him how it felt to be in Saint Lucia, not for a vacation but for professional purposes. “It is an extraordinary feeling,” he said, “an honor, even. And to be quite frank, it makes me sort of nervous. But really it is the cherry on top the ice cream. There is no better feeling.”
Additionally: “There is no better adulation than the adulation of your own. So to be here among so many contemporaries and among the younger ones to show them that you can go out there into the world and make something of yourself, while demonstrating how amazing theatre can be, well that gives me great joy.”
Originally from Dennery, Marcell says he enjoys going into the countryside, trekking through the rainforest and savouring some great local food. He also enjoys the opportunity to share old stories and new ones with friends, in the process rekindling old memories. “But the most salient kind of experience of all is the fact that whenever I come to Saint Lucia I am a son of Saint Lucia and everybody treats me with pride. That’s exceptional,” he said.
Asked to comment on the physical changes in Saint Lucia, Marcell laughed: “You are talking to a man who turned sixty-six last week. But seriously, progress is what it is. Progress has its price and we live in a world where economic independence is the thing that changes the world. Good words are fine but actions change the world. And actions come from financial independence. So, no matter how the landscape changes it’s the sense of self that has to remain constant.”
He went on: “You have to find a way of making people understand that nothing of value comes from ease. It comes from blood, sweat and tears. As human beings, we have to make our own mistakes sometimes. We may be lucky enough to take note of other people’s mistakes and try to avoid them, but by and large we want to have that experience. The problem with the generation gap is that the young do not think that you (the old) know everything. They think that the only way they can overcome your ideas is to do it themselves, when in fact if they were clever enough to incorporate your ideas they would go further.”
Marcell believes governments must facilitate the growth of the creative sector so that citizens can become more rounded and stimulated. “It is incumbent upon all governments to support the arts. The arts are the lifeblood of the country. Yes, the hotels and industry are there but the people need to catch their breath, read, take in some theatre, and dance. The Arts is an industry that encourages and attracts artistes from all over the world, so it must not be treated worse than an illegitimate son. If so, it is a son four times removed. But if the government decides to bring that child back into the fold, then the nation will be richer for it.”
Asked whether he would appreciate the opportunity to work with Derek Walcott, Marcell said: “It would be the greatest honour. I would love to. The moment hasn’t arrived. Four years ago I directed Walcott’s Ti Jean at the University of California, but the one I would really love to do is Remembrance.” About the Nobel winner himself, Marcell said: “It would be the biggest honor to work with Derek Walcott, tapping into his insight, his knowledge and experience and to just be in his company!”
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company production of ‘King Lear’ starring Joseph Marcell and Rawiri Paratene continues today, Saturday, August 24 at the Gaiety on Rodney Bay with a children’s matinee at 12.30 p.m. and evening performance at 8.00p.m.