Area actor, filmmaker to appear at festival

Jamal Farrar.jpg

Jamal Farrar


Staff Writer

Sunday, July 21, 2019

A 1998 Tarboro High School graduate will be performing this month in front of thousands of attendees at this year’s National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem.

“Performing at the festival is an extreme honor,” said Jamal Farrar, a modern-day Renaissance man who acts in movies and plays and has taken to writing and directing.

The festival draws around 60,000 attendees each year, attracting some of the most talented screenwriters and playwrights in the nation. More than 40 celebrity guests are set to take part.

Farrar said he hopes friends from Princeville and Tarboro are able to attend the show and experience the festival. A limited number of tickets still are on sale.

“I’m very proud to say I came from Edgecombe County,” Farrar said. “My mother and father are still there.”

Originally from Yonkers, N.Y., Farrar moved with his family at a young age to Edgecombe County. He had one grandmother in Tarboro and the other in Princeville.

“Entertainment is in my blood,” Farrar said.

Farrar got his first big break when a local radio station asked him to play the leading man in a local play. They needed someone as tall as the lead actress and Farrar fit the bill at 6-feet, 3-inches tall. The play was titled “Butterfly Wings” and Farrar’s career took flight afterward.

Farrar has appeared in about a dozen movies, commercials and music videos. He has starred in more than 15 stage productions, including versions of “A Raisin in the Sun” and “The Color Purple.”

A student of the stage and screen, Farrar said he tries to learn something new every day.

“I’ve been studying the art form,” Farrar said. “I’m taking classes and learning different techniques like method acting.”

Farrar lists Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington as acting inspirations.

At the festival, Farrar will be featured in the gospel music play “Pooled,” about the legend of the Pool of Bethesda, which heals the first person in the water after its surface is stirred by an angel.

Plays are challenging and rewarding, Farrar said.

“In a play, if you get it wrong there is no second take, you have to keep going,” Farrar said. “You have to learn to improvise, to find a creative way to help a fellow actor remember his lines without letting the audience know.”

Being live also allows for instant feedback from the crowd.

“I love playing the villain because you can hear the audience reaction,” Farrar said.

Farrar has starred in several short films. He makes his writing and directing debut in “Forgotten,” about the local Seven Bridges Road slayings. The movie will be screened at a film festival later this year.

Like so many others, Farrar had forgotten about the women who were murdered around Rocky Mount a decade ago. Then one day at a barbershop, Farrar picked up an old copy of “GQ” and read the story “The Lost Girls of Rocky Mount.”

Farrar said he was floored by the story, felt guilty for forgetting and determined to do something to help folks remember the missing and murdered women.

“It wouldn’t leave me,” said Farrar, who has a daytime job in federal law enforcement.

Farrar said he would ask people about the killings and so many people had pushed it out of their minds.

“I don’t want people to forget again,” Farrar said.

The film is described as a drama about a small town torn apart by a string of unsolved murders that may all be related.

Part two of the series has been written and filming soon will begin. Of course, Farrar does not have the resources of a Hollywood studio and production can be slow rolling at times.

“I use what I have,” Farrar said. “I have to scout locations and line up actors.”

The effort is worth it, he said.

“In part two, I dive into the family perspective,” Farrar said. “These are real people. As the father of three, I can’t imagine something like this happening to my daughter and not knowing for sure what happened.”