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The talented Mr Walcott

Lisa King

The talented Mr Walcott

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Most Barbadians know him as just a comedy actor.
But John Walcott is also an art teacher, a major in the Cadet Corps, a black belt (karate) holder and an artist.
Most people would probably remember him as Tubby The Guard, or Foo Foo, the character he played in the Laff-It-Off stage show.
Even though he has made a name for himself in the arts, Walcott admits that he got into acting quite by accident.
Trying to avoid the principal after skipping a Spanish class at Ellerslie Secondary School, he ended up in a group rehearsal for a speech day play and was given a script.
“On the day [of the play] I forgot all of my lines,” he admitted. “People were prompting and I remember there was a line our English teacher would tell us when we behaved badly – Your behaviour is most exasperating. So I just said that line and everyone just started laughing.
“That kind of broke the ice, then the lines started flowing. That was my debut, by accident.”
Walcott would later be cast in Long Ago And Yesteryear, where he played seven characters. That opened up the doors to a career in acting. 
After that show, Tom Cross, the original director of Laff-It-Off and the principal of the Jamaica School of Drama, who was in audience, expressed an interest in working with Walcott.
Walcott was asked to join the cast of Laff-It-Off and stayed from 1985 until 2003.
He got to work with seasoned actors such as Tom Cross, Guy Goring, Tony Thompson and Wendell Smith, but as the new kid on the block Walcott had to work hard.
“When I first came nobody knew who I was. So I had to work extra hard because there were established actors in there. I would go into Queen’s Park Theatre and run my lines, walk around the stage and experiment because I wanted to make a mark,” Walcott said.
One problem for Walcott is that many people do not separate the actor from the characters he plays.
He recalled that once, while in a Cadet Corps parade in Bridgetown, a sno-cone vendor walked up to him and said: “Cheese on, Tubby The Guard!” Walcott tried to keep a straight face while the other Cadets were laughing.
Even at the supermarket people say: “Tubby, I didn’t know you does buy groceries!”
Walcott teaches art at the Garrison Secondary School, where he has been for the past two years. He started his teaching career at the Princess Margaret Secondary School in 1984 and there were stints at several schools before he took a six-year break in 2003.
Walcott formed a family business called Art And Stage Incorporated before he started work at the Garrison Secondary School.
“The second time around is more exciting,” he said of his return to teaching.  
In contrast to the funny roles he plays, Walcott is a very serious and disciplined man.