- Ethan Rains (left) Michael Federico and Lulu Ward star in Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes at Kitchen Dog Theater. Photo: Matt Mrozek
Guest blogger Lee Trull is Associate Artist with the Dallas Theater Center and a member of the Kitchen Dog Theater Company.
Ethan Rains made the trek from sunny L.A. to sunny Dallas to star in a play at our very own Kitchen Dog Theater: Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes by Yussef El Guindi. He plays the role of Ashraf, an Arab-American actor who finally lands a role in a Hollywood blockbuster. The hitch: it’s as the most stereotypically evil, fanatical Islamic terrorist ever. I asked Ethan about being back in Dallas, the similarities between this play and the real Hollywood, and what part race plays in the entertainment industry.
You lived in Dallas before moving to LA, right? What have you been working on in Hollywood? Was it a tough decision to come back to Dallas for this show?
I lived in Dallas for 14 years before making my way to L.A., pretty much a month after graduation. I have been very blessed to make a living through acting, although there has been times where I’m scrounging around to get by and have really understood the meaning of being efficient with my means. The latest project I worked on was playing the role of Dr. Leo Julian on General Hospital: Night Shift, a spin off of General Hospital which aired its second season on the Soapnet channel. Other credits include, Judging Amy, The Closer, The Unit, amongst a few others. With the industry being at a sort of stand still, it was a great opportunity to come back to Dallas to do Jihad Jones and The Kalashnikov Babes to keep the ball rolling. It hit home, and the timing was just right.
In the play, your character is a theater actor who is offered an opportunity for a film role he believes perpetuates racial stereotypes. On the other hand, the money is amazing. As a theater actor working in TV/film in L.A., does this ever happen for real?
All the time! I auditioned for a spot on a drama TV series a few years back that made me feel a bit out of place. I shared the same feelings and thoughts of my character in the show as I did at the time I read for the part. I was actually pretty outraged but didn’t really have much of a channel to express what was effecting me. I think almost every “known” race has seen its share of stereotypes, but I don’t have any complaints … its put food on the table and a roof over my head.
Yussef El Guindi, the playwright, came down to work on the show. What was that experience like?
I was very conscious of his presence when we were running the show. We were in the in-between stages of the process where we didn’t quite yet have our lines down, were running around with scripts and didn’t feel fully confidant in our choices. So, naturally, the conversations in my head went a bit like this: “Does he like me?” “I think he thinks I’m too young” “I bet he would have wanted me to make another choice … ahhhh!!!” For me, personally, there was this feeling of wanting some sort of validation that I was going in the right direction, which he eventually gave. He was very positive and very interesting.
You’ve worked at Kitchen Dog before while you were still at SMU. How do you view this experience in relation to the previous shows? Better? Worse? Bizarre?
I’ve always been a big fan of Kitchen Dog, the work they choose to do and their work ethic. It’s an amazing, hard working, tight-knit group of artists, very disciplined and just plain fun. The last two shows I did with Kitchen Dog I was attending SMU, so school was the priority. This show is priority now, so my level of commitment and collaboration is at a much different level.