Jake Burbage: Child Actor Returns to His New Jersey Roots

With a few acting gigs and an agent before middle school, Jake Burbage’s accomplishments surpassed those of many average ten-year-olds. While growing up in Delran, N.J., Burbage aspired to be like actor Harrison Ford. “I idolized Harrison Ford,” said Burbage. “That prompted me to say ‘hey this is [something] I could do’… so I asked my parents.”

When he was around five years old, he acquired an agent in Cherry Hill, N.J. and began his career by appearing in commercials, including Mr. Potato Head, Kix cereal, Bell Atlantic Mobile (now Verizon Wireless) and First Union Bank (now Wells Fargo). Increased exposure drove Burbage to switch to a New York agent.

At six years old he auditioned for the voice of Boots, for what would become an immensely popular children’s show, “Dora the Explorer.” Originally denied the role, Burbage was asked a year later to audition for the role of Benny. He was living a child actor’s dream by working in Nickelodeon Studios in California after being given the part. “That was cloud nine for me,” said Burbage.

Not long after, Burbage landed the part of Henry Finnerty on the comedy television show “Grounded for Life.” Burbage kept this role for four seasons and left to attend middle school to avoid falling behind. Despite the break from professional acting, he still performed in high school plays.

After taking a few years off after graduating high school, Burbage, 22, is now a sophomore English major here at the College. He participates in Musical Theatre and All College Theatre, where he played Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” from October 1-4.

“Theater is more fun in a challenging way,” said Burbage, who loves Shakespeare and is particularly fond of the antiheroes. “I love villains. Villains are the best.” If Burbage had to pick the ultimate role it would be Guy from the critically acclaimed Broadway show “Once.”

Burbage wants to continue acting after graduation even though he is pursuing an English degree. “I would love to make a career out of acting not necessarily to be famous,” said Burbage. “If I could make a living that [way]… that would be ideal. If not, I’d like to teach.” If acting does not pan out as well as it did for him in his former years, he wants to teach English, particularly literature and creative writing, while doing some community theater on the side.

Burbage never aspired to be an actor for the monetary reward or recognition. He was instead driven by an unwavering passion for acting. “To me it’s so far away from the benefits… [like] money or fame. I do it for fun and because it makes me happy. If I could continue [acting] that would be the best situation.”