Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

October 9, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 11:55 pm

Actors on playing Mr Rochester…Part Three

James Barbour:

The following quotes are from Horwitz, Simi. “Forget Orson Welles in “Jane Eyre”.(James Barbour discusseshis role of Rochester in Jane Eyre musical)(Interview).” Back Stage 42.2(Jan 12, 2001): 19. General Reference Center Gold. Thomson Gale. GraduateSch of Lib & Sci/ Simmons Coll. 09 October 2005. Thanks to Kristin for her free research 🙂

“Some critics think I’m the worst thing to hit the stage. Others see me as the epitome of Rochester. Part of the problem in building this character is that if you go back to the novel [‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte], you only see him through Jane’s eyes.

“The big challenge, however, is that viewers are expecting a performance like one of the many Rochesters who have appeared in the movies. Audiences usually envision Orson Welles [who played the part in 1944]–a 250-pound55-year-old, who is a gruff, dark, tortured soul.

“For starters, I am not that much older than the actress who plays Jane[Maria Schaffel]. I’m 35. More important, I try to bring humor and irony toRochester. If he is all that stoic, and has no sense of lightness, why would Jane fall in love with him? He is not a wall of stone. His biting wit is a form of self-protection. In some ways, he is not unlike the Beast in ‘Beautyand the Beast’ or Billy in ‘Carousel,’ two characters I’ve played.”

[He] describes Rochester as “a rebel who doesn’t care what others think about him. Yet, he is a highly moral figure. He feels very confined and breaks away in order to feel alive,” Barbour asserts. “Rochester is constantly running away–he has no home–and he has a true sense of responsibility.”

The problem he faces on a nightly basis in”Jane Eyre,” [is] departing from his natural vocal register. “I have a wide vocal range, but I am a bass. This role was written for a tenor, although some of the sections were lowered for me. Still, in the second act, I have four songs [representing a multi-octave stretch] sung practically back toback.”

Still, Barbour defines himself as an actor who sings as opposed to a singer who acts and he comes to each role with the actor’s sensibility. That is not to say his strategy for each part is the same. “When I played the Beast[“Beauty and The Beast”], I approached the character physically–what he moved like, what he looked like. With Rochester, I took a more intellectual tack–his history, his ideals. Then I moved on to what he was about physically–the way he stood and sat. Of course, the period influenced those things as well.”

In preparation for the role, Barbour boned up on the era, reading a host of books on Victorian women, aristocracy, social mores, and values. “Victorians of Rochester’s class were always aware of what they looked like and the impression they were making. That would be true of Rochester as well. But because he is a rebel in our view, he would deliberately break some of those conventions.”


Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone!



  1. Orson Welles? I certainly don’t envision him! And whoa, was he really 55? He looked pretty good for his age. The last compliment he’ll get from me. 😀

    Awww, I just want to hug Jamesy!

    Comment by ThisbeCiel — October 10, 2005 @ 1:00 am |Reply

  2. I’ll have to look into that. I really can’t confirm nor deny anything Mr.B says. 😉 I haven’t been able to find any quotes from Scott, Welles, or Clive yet. (I’d love to hear what Clive had to say! ‘He’s a jolly nice chap. A little a-scared of Jane, though. She’s a big girl, and quite a boxer.’ 😀

    Well, you’re tall enough to, I think 😉

    Comment by Brontëana — October 10, 2005 @ 1:48 pm |Reply

  3. ROFL! Maybe there are no quotes from Clive cause he was scared to talk about Bruce!Jane. She could pop out at anytime you know. 😀

    Comment by ThisbeCiel — October 11, 2005 @ 12:08 pm |Reply

  4. It looks like Jane Eyre of the 1930s was violent like that. In the play I’m reading she acts out for Mr Rochester how she punched Mr Brocklehurst in the chest!!!

    Comment by Brontëana — October 11, 2005 @ 8:15 pm |Reply

  5. found it! LOL

    My James radar is in good working order!! LOL

    I’d love to hug James too but I’m a lot smaller than Thisbeciel! In fact I’m more Jane size *giggle*

    Comment by Rochester's Little Elf — February 19, 2006 @ 12:47 pm |Reply

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