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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Short Life Lessons From Gregory Jbara

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Gregory Jbara is an award-winning television, film, and stage actor, and singer with a career spanning over 30 years. He originated the role of “Jackie Elliot” (known as “Dad”) in the Broadway production of Billy Elliot the Musical. This portrayal has earned him the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical during the 2008-2009 Broadway awards season. Jbara is known to star in prominent TV roles such as Dan O’Keefe in the Fox/WB sitcom Grounded for Life (2002–05) and as NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Garrett Moore on the CBS drama Blue Bloods (2010–present).

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in a town that was zoned around, and named after a shopping mall. Make of that what you will. Am the second oldest of four children deeply loved and supported by our parents. Attended a public school system that was amazingly well funded and ridiculously supportive of the arts. As an 8-year-old altar boy in the Catholic Church, I developed the invaluable skill of standing up in front of large groups of people and cold-reading multisyllabic biblical names. Played baseball from T-ball all the way to 14-year city All-Stars as well as junior high JV baseball and basketball. In ninth grade broke my thumb during a preseason bull-in-the-ring drill with the junior high football team. Auditioned for the fall play with a plaster cast on my throwing hand and never looked back. My best childhood friend is still in my life today and a wildly successful human being in his own right.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Pain is the greatest educator. I am gratefully happy. Would not change a thing. I do regret hurting or disappointing some people along the way.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

It’s okay to step on toes to get what you want.

You don’t need training, anybody can be an actor.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

Well, let’s just say mistakes don’t define you. You can always turn your life around.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Listening to my wife and sons.

What is your morning routine?

Right now during Covid, it’s very different than pre-Covid. My primary employment is playing the role of “DCPI Garrett Moore” on the CBS police drama BLUE BLOODS. I used to commute from Los Angeles to New York, shoot two episodes over 5 to 10 days then fly home for two weeks. That cycle would repeat 11 times over eight months to shoot a 22 episode season.

My former NY residence, the wonderfully posh EDITION Hotel in Madison Square Park is now shuttered, due to Covid. I now have an apartment five minutes walk from the soundstages in Greenpoint Brooklyn. I no longer commute. I have stayed in New York for the duration of this entire season (Oct. 2020 to April 2021).

I did get to go home to Los Angeles for three weeks over the holidays to be with my family. The risk of exposure on a commercial airliner and the travel quarantine requirements both in California and New York make commuting untenable and unwise. I rarely work more than four out of the eight-week days it takes to shoot an episode. Nasal swab Covid testing is required every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday whether I work or not.

On any given workday I will wake up two hours prior to my call time…lately the alarm has been set for 7 am. Immediately make my way to the kitchen, pop a probiotic, and down a pint of water. 45 minutes for shave, shower, and “ablutions”. Devour my nutritionist approved breakfast of two organic ghee fried “sunny side up” pasture-raised eggs on Mestermacher pumpernickel/rye toast topped with fresh dill, microgreens, black raw sesame seeds, avocado, salt, and pepper. All the while sipping an organic iced coffee watching CBS This Morning on the laptop. Gulp half a dozen supplements with a pint of fulvic-humic water before brushing my teeth and running out the door.

In ten minutes I am seated in the hair stylist’s chair having successfully navigated the two-block walk, covid temperature check, and daily COVID survey with security and dropping my personal belongings in the dressing room 30 ft down the hall. After 20 minutes of setting my hair, I move across the room to the make-up artist’s chair. 20 minutes later a production assistant comes and walks me through and out of the Reagan family house set on stage 4 into stage 8 where we have the complete set interior of the NYPD Headquarters, 1 Police Plaza.

The writer, director, and cast meet in the space on the set where the first scene of the day is to be filmed. We read through the scene until we all agree on the version of the script to be filmed. Then the actors “put it on its feet” to determine if and where to move that best serves the scene.

After all, in rehearsal agree on the choices, the scene is presented one more time for all of the various department heads to watch. This is called a “Marking Rehearsal” due to the camera assistants following the actors around marking the floor with colored-coded tape every time an actor stops moving. These tape marks are later used by the stand-ins as guideposts on where to stand, walk and sit. Then the actors get into the wardrobe while the crew and stand-ins (“2nd Team”) light the set and rehearse any and all camera moves.

The “1st Team” of actors return after the lighting and camera crew are ready (typically 30 to 45 minutes) and we begin filming.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Hiring a nutritionist on my 57th birthday and losing 85 pounds.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I write everything down. Whether events in the calendar (with ample alert notifications) or lists of things needing to be done. Allows me to relax during the day and shut my brain off at night.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

I have never really been a “reader”. Certainly not in my childhood, unless MAD Magazine qualifies. My family owned the requisite multi-volume 1970’s adult and children’s editions of Encyclopedia Britannica along with a massive three-volume Webster dictionary when I was growing up in Westland, Michigan. That’s where I learned about so many things… from a cut-away illustration of the myriad levels of train and subway tracks woven below Grand Central Station to the anatomy of the human body deconstructed in clear gel overlays. I learned much about my early appreciation for the female form in those sterile medical pages.

Ultimately moving on to the lingerie section of Sears catalog. As an adult, I read so much for work that I never developed the habit for relaxation. However, I AM a fan of large color coffee table books with simple photo captions. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins…the only book I ever read in its entirety…because the woman I was in love with at the time told me to. Don’t remember much about it other than the title. Was the central character a Centaur? Yeah, not my cuppa. Am still valued friends with the woman who commended it to me way back in 1980. That’s saying something…right?

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“If you wouldn’t walk down main street in broad daylight holding her hand, don’t sleep with her.” – D. Murphy (Fellow summer camp staff member – 1980’s)

“You don’t just represent yourself, you also represent your family name” – Dad

“Remember to always be yourself” – B. Ebeling (Junior high drama teacher, upon graduation into high school)

“Of course you can!” – Every person who has influenced me.



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