Eljae Roe is an actor and student at UNC Charlotte. This is his first production with Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. He was kind enough to sit down with us on July 11, 2022.
Where are you from?
My dad was in the military, which means there’s a lot of “froms.” I was born in San Diego. I was only there for a year, I don’t really remember, I was a baby. I was in Japan for six years – I’m not Japanese, but I do say that I’m from there even though I was not born there. I did fourth grade through ninth grade there.
Did you become interested in theatre at that time in your life?
I’m interested in acting – my interest would be in TV and film, but my passion is acting so theatre lines up with that. I wasn’t interested in theatre or acting really at all when I was in Japan. I came back here, to Denver, NC. My senior year was coming up and I’m on the basketball team. They have a senior night there, and they ask what your major’s gonna be, what do you plan on doing in the future. So I looked into acting, and I put that as my major that they were gonna announce to the crowd, like, “Eljae Roe, senior, acting.” The very next day, the theatre teacher heard about that and went to my math class the very next day. She takes me out, says that she hears about senior night. She takes me to her classroom, makes me sing “Happy Birthday”. I had never done any theatre stuff before, so I’m thinking, “I don’t know why I’m singing ‘Happy Birthday.’” In hindsight I know she was testing my vocal range. The very next day I am put into a cast list for Cinderella the musical. I didn’t audition for it at all! I’m in it. There’s gotta be a mistake here or something. There wasn’t a mistake. Basketball ended, and I was in track at the time. I was going from track practice immediately to rehearsals, back to track, and that doesn’t happen very often. I was kind of the one-of-one there for that. That’s how it started, and it escalated from there. I realized after doing the Cinderella musical, but I have always been interested in acting. I say i’m interested in TV and film because I would grow up watching it – Drake & Josh, Zoe 101, just different Nickelodeon cartoons. I still remember them to this day, it had such an impact on me. I didn’t realize that I wanted to act, but that experience hooked it all together. I was like, “Oh yeah, this is fun, this is pretty cool. I would like to have a show on Nickelodeon that other people remember when they’re older.”
Since you weren’t as interested in acting while you were in Japan, iIs there something you’ve carried on with you from that time period in your life?
I always like basketball growing up, even before Japan. After being in practices, playing ball and practices from 8-10, I just realized that I didn’t wanna do that. It’s cool, but all the extra stuff – I’m about to say rehearsals but it’s not rehearsal – I mean late-night practices and extra stuff that goes along with it, it’s not really an interest for me. I took that with me from Japan to high school, but kinda left it after I graduated.
When it comes to acting or being creative in general, who are your greatest influences?
The first person that comes to mind is Will Smith, because of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It was such an iconic show. I look at him, and he was the funny main character, and there weren’t a lot of black lead roles doing stuff like that. I was tuning into him, so he comes to mind for sure.
What are your favorite movies?
My favorite movie, number one, it hasn’t budged since I saw it, is Inception. I think it’s one-of-one. I don’t think anything touches it. The special effects still hold up to this day, and the premise is so unique and creative. On top of it they had a great cast.
How do you feel about Kasim?
So I read it, and I was like, “So, Kasim, he is the comic relief in the show.” Whenever he is on it’s gonna be something funny. I can definitely do that, I have done stuff similar to that. So Kasim intrigued me – he’s a 17-year-old kid, I feel like I can play youthful, exuberant, and he’s flirting with Akim the whole play, I can definitely do that as well.
Kasim flirts with everyone he talks to, right?
He does, he’s very into himself.
Do you feel a little distance between yourself and Kasim?
I do, actually. I feel like I’m not that way, Kasim is all about him. Even when he’s flirting with Akim and them it’s really about him at the end of the day. I’m not like that. I think we’re definitely different there. And I’m not in-your-face like Kasim is, so there’s a healthy distance. But I can definitely get into his character.
IF PRETTY HURTS UGLY MUST BE A MUHFUCKA runs July 27 – August 20 at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte. You can get tickets here.