The Woman Unafraid of Doing Something New

Dr Pearl Jarrett, 61 is a multi award-winning woman who doesn’t allow age, lack of experience or the challenges of life to stop her from doing new things. Married for 34 years to Errord, and mother of three, Pearl runs a charity to support the vulnerable in Jamaica and Sierra Leone, and took supplies there herself. Aged 50+, she enrolled in an acting school and since leaving has been booked to work on adverts, TV programmes and films. Just recently, she set up the Gospel School for the Performing Arts (GSPA) to train gospel artists to act. She spoke to Keep The Faith about her life, her faith, and her plans for the future.

KEEP THE FAITH (KTF): If anyone follows you on social media, it’s easy to conclude you’re a woman of action, always trying something new, or doing things others only dream about. Where does this desire to live life to the full come from?

PEARL JARRETT (PJ): Some years ago, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. This was a pivotal moment in my life, and I decided that if the Lord would spare my life and give me a second chance, I would really make my life count. When I came out of hospital, after reconstructive plastic surgery, I made up my mind that I was going to live my life as if I had nothing to lose. When you stare death in the face, it really gives you a different perspective, and I realised I had spent way too much time talking myself out of things, and decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore.

KTF: Do you get frightened whenever you step out and embark on projects where you have absolutely no experience?

PJ: I absolutely get scared, but I believe in that phrase, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. I discovered that everything I ever wanted was on the other side of fear, and if I could just push past the fear element, I would be fine. I also discovered that God shows us a picture of us doing things and He waits to see what we’ll do with that information. One day I realised God was just pulling the curtain back quickly, giving me a glimpse of what was possible in my future. He was expecting me to make it a reality. People say if you can see it, you can have it, but many of us have seen it, but we just don’t believe it.

KTF: You are a woman who has overcome many challenges, including cancer and supporting your son in 2014 when he suffered with blood cancer. How did your faith in God help you through those difficult times?

PJ: God was – and still is – absolutely everything. When Kierran got diagnosed, I really had to take stock of my Christian life and ask myself some tough questions. Is this something that I actually believe in, or just something I say and do on Sundays? There was NO middle ground. I asked three people I trust, who I believe hear from God: “Is God taking my son?” and they all came back and said “NO!” At that point, I knew that the devil was trying to kill my son. I made up my mind it was time to roll up my sleeves and engage in spiritual warfare, and I told the enemy “NO! You can’t have my son!”

KTF: One action you have been greatly admired for is going to acting school in your 50s. What inspired you to do so, and how did you find the experience?

PJ: I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I was very good at it when I was at school, but my parents told me to get a ‘proper job’. Acting was on my bucket list when I came out of hospital. Within two weeks of making a decision, I was at an audition for drama school. My audition was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever done in my life! I remember the man throwing his pencil down and just shouting “Stop!” I gathered my things, ran out the door, and cried all the way home. Two weeks later, I got an email saying I had got into drama school! When I got there, it was soooooo intimidating, as everyone was the age of my children. One day I thought to myself, the world is made up of lots of different types of people, so somebody is going to want to cast a Black mother for something, and that could be me. It’s a good job I stayed, because my very first job was the face of NatWest. That one job repaid my four years of drama school fees and I still had change left over.

KTF: What kind of roles have you enjoyed since leaving acting school?

PJ: The NatWest commercial was huge. My face was on TV, cinema, billboards, trains, buses, newspapers… It got to the point where people were stopping me in the street. Since then, I’ve done numerous commercials, plus TV, theatre and movies, including Aladdin with Will Smith. They’ve flown me internationally, filming in Romania, Belize and Canada. One of the most exciting jobs I’ve done was a movie for the Hallmark Channel, Caribbean Summer, where they flew me to Belize to film on the beach for three weeks, and a couple of months ago I filmed Silent Witness.

KTF: You recently embarked on another new project and launched a drama school for gospel artists. Can you share the reasons for this?

PJ: This is the realisation of a vision I’ve had for over 25 years. I remember sitting in Disneyland in California with my husband and two small children, watching a live production of The Lion King. I turned and said to Errord: “We could do this.” He said: “We could do what?” I said: “Think of all the gospel singers we know, all they need is the acting training.” Then life happened and we fast-forward 25 years. I decided it was time to birth that vision I saw when I was at Disney World, so I started the Gospel School for the Performing Arts (GSPA).

KTF: What has been the response of gospel artists and those involved in Christian drama to the GSPA?

PJ: The response has been amazing. More than I had envisaged. A lot of older people have come forward. I think they were just inspired by me, seeing me doing this at my age, but now younger people are starting to join. What is lovely is that it’s not just actors, but it’s also playwrights, directors, producers, etc. I’ve decided to not just have a drama school, but to build a Gospel Music Theatre industry, where everybody can come and use their gifts within the performing arts, to take the Gospel to the world and reach people who may never set foot in a church.

KTF: What kinds of projects/productions should we look out for from the GSPA in the near future?

PJ: We have two big milestones this year. One is to finish the basic training and get students to the point where we can have a Launch Performance, in front of specially invited gospel music guests, along with musical theatre industry professionals, to showcase what they have been learning. The second big milestone after that is the Christmas Production. We want to use all gifts, so if anyone is reading this and you think you could contribute, please get in touch.

KTF: Finally, you are a woman who is always up to something. What other new thing should we expect from you this year?

PJ: I have been approached to start a new TV channel, as if I haven’t got enough to do! The reason why I am considering it, is because it will be an amazing outlet for my actors, so they wouldn’t just have to be trained solely for theatre, but they could progress into TV and into movies. For that reason, it’s definitely a possibility, so look out for that.


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