UMass Boston

Film Actor Keith Mascoll ’06 Takes Center Stage in Beacon Spotlight

05/11/2020| Vanessa Chatterley

Keith Mascoll had always been into telling stories. His family is originally from Barbados of the West Indies where storytelling is enmeshed in their culture. Whether he was dancing like his father, talking like his grandmother, or doing impersonations of his neighbor, Mascoll was mesmerized as a child by the idea of “becoming somebody else.” It wasn’t until his family took him to see a black production of the musical Mama, I Wanna Sing! in New York that Mascoll realized he could turn that concept into a career.

Left: Keith Mascoll on stage against a colorful background at his one-man show

“ There’s so much more that I want to do. I’m still just as hungry as when I was at UMass. ”

Since graduating from UMass Boston with his degree in Theater Arts, Mascoll has found indisputable success in film and theater projects. His credits include appearances in Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2, The Polka King, Hamlet, Dutchman, The Colored Museum, and Intimate Apparel, as well as the lead role in the 2017 independent film Confused by Love. He also starred in commercial campaigns for Dunkin’, Harvard Pilgrim, and the Massachusetts State Lottery.

Mascoll has set his sights on different creative outlets, co-founding The Front Porch Arts Collective, a black theater company whose mission is to promote inclusion and challenge the biased narrative of race. He’s also expanded his storytelling to a podcast with his wife, fellow UMass Boston alumna Roxann Mascoll '01 MS, called “Living a Triggered Life.” In 2017, he launched Triggered Life, a one-man show that explores Mascoll’s past with sexual trauma and reconciling with his own identity while overcoming his past.

In this Beacon Spotlight, Mascoll discusses how he transferred schools and switched majors to pursue his path in acting, what he’s been up to since graduating, and where he has his sights set next.

Did you always plan to pursue acting as a career?
I started out at UMass Amherst on a soccer scholarship. My dad was kind of traditional and I was a political science major at first. And it actually didn’t work out. My scholarship didn’t work out either. I came back and regrouped and ended up at UMass Boston. I played soccer, but I wasn’t feeling like myself. It was like, “I don’t know why I’m not doing what I want to do.” I wanted to breathe again. I felt like I was holding my breath, and I switched my major to theater, and it was best of the moves I’ve ever done.

So after you switched your major to theater arts, that was a pivotal moment for you where you realized you were on the right path?
Right, but the thing about the path is, it’s still scary. You know there’s potential in yourself, but in some ways, it’s scary to know that you can succeed. It was such a great experience for me.

After you graduated from UMass Boston, what was your first step?
Some of those UMass Boston connections were helpful because some of my classmates would say “Hey, I’m doing a show,” or “I’m directing. You want to come and be in shows?” And that was helpful. You’re trying to build your resume, go to places where you’re seen. Then you decide what lane you’re going to be in. I was more in the theater realm when I came out, but there was an opportunity to jump over to film. Now I probably do more on-camera work.

That’s really cool! And then you expanded to other film projects?
I did some shorts, and I worked on Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2, standing in and doubling for Chris Rock. Certain times in that movie, it’s not necessarily him: It’s me. I learned so much from being on the set and standing in and doubling for over 100 days. I learned so much about that side of the work. It was like a master class working alongside the great crew and director and then Adam Sandler and those guys. They really took care of us, and I’m really appreciative of that.

Was there any wisdom you gained from your 100 days on set?
The first thing is humility. And your reputation and integrity are everything. So how you conduct yourself is important. How you treat other people is important. And be yourself: that was the main thing I was struck by, especially with Adam [Sandler]. Adam was himself in a pair of basketball shorts and a T-shirt. He never walked past anyone without saying hello. It was really professional. Everyone did their job.

You played the lead in the independent film Confused by Love. What was that like?
We shot it in six days, which is insane for a full feature. It was an incredible experience to be able to work on something like that. We had the festivals, and I went to France. It was a part of the Pan African Film Festival, and that was amazing to have my art take me to France. And then it ended up on Amazon Prime. It’s been unbelievable.

You’ve been busy creating and involving yourself with different projects, launching a podcast and a one-man show. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Triggered Life is an incredible project for me to work on. It’s talking about my journey as a survivor of sexual abuse. Then you have a character who’s a composite of interviews that people have disclosed to me. And it’s important for me to talk about as a man of color. It’s important to talk about mental health. I’m hopeful that we can encourage more men to talk about what happened and give resources for people to help them heal. We can use art to be able to do that; I think that’s pretty special.

It sounds like you’ve found considerable success in your industry and the different projects you’ve pursued. Have you ever encountered any roadblocks?
For a while, I did walk away and didn’t do as much because I needed to deal with my trauma. I needed to deal with what had happened to me as a survivor of abuse. I had been working broken in a lot of ways. I had done some good work, but I wasn’t as healthy as I needed to be, so that was a journey to have to put things down for a while and work on myself. That was a huge obstacle. A lot of times, there’s self-doubt as well. I think also, getting used to the rejection. Or working with things that don’t work out.

Do you have any advice for our readers who are trying to get into the industry?
I would say that “Create your own.” As you’re auditioning, write. Help your other friends on different projects, and don’t limit what you can do. Sometimes in our minds, we put limits on what’s possible. We have to continue to expand our minds and dream about what we can do with our art. Try to be as versatile as we can.

How do you define your success?
People always say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I still feel like I’m on that journey, but success is different for different people. I’ve had some success with my career. I feel like there’s more for me to do, but if I can pay my bills, pay my mortgage, and keep my spouse happy — that’s how I look at things. Can I sustain myself as an artist? It’s incredibly difficult to do, but it’s continuous. It ebbs and flows. When you work and then you don’t work. It’s 80% “No” and 20% “Yes.” That’s reality of this field. I really take it all in stride. There’s so much more that I want to do. I’m still just as hungry as when I was at UMass.