Actor Mook J photographed at General Horseplay REDA WIGLE/Keys Weekly

Mook J is a man of many names and many talents. Named Clausell Johnson Jr., but christened “Mook” by his two older sisters, his face is recognizable from popular outposts like The Porch, Mary Ellen’s and General Horseplay. He also has made a name for himself, locally and beyond, as an actor and musician. A native of Mobile, Alabama, Mook favors the pace and pleasures of island life. 

“Key West is laid back; everything is easy-going here. You chill out in the daytime and at night you can get as wild as you want and then follow it up with another relaxing day. That’s living the dream,” he said. Mook’s own dreams and his definition of living them have changed over the years. “It’s the responsibility of an artist to evolve,” he said. 

For Mook, that evolution includes the transition from musician to actor. Mook began writing his own rhymes as a teenager, finding kinship in the work of the late great Tupac Shakur. “He had a story to tell that other people could relate to and I knew I had that story too.” The stories he told took him to stages throughout the South, opening for artists Slip ‘N Slide All Stars, Mr. Cheeks and Yellowman. Dissatisfied with the changing landscape of the music industry and the limited attention span of listeners, Mook moved toward a different kind of performing, telling the stories of others through his work as a stage and screen actor.  

His first acting role was as wrongfully convicted death row inmate Robert Hayes in the Red Barn Theatre’s production of ‘The Exonerated.” 

The play’s director, Carol MacCartee, became a teacher and mentor to Mook. 

“I’m a competitor. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to be very good at it,” he said. “She taught me how to act, how to channel characters.” He credits MacCartee and the characters he has played with deepening his sense of empathy. “These roles change your life. You learn how to feel and understand somebody else. It makes relating to people and accepting them so much easier.” 

Mook has gone on to perform in several theatrical productions at The Red Barn Theatre, The Studios of Key West, The Waterfront Playhouse and the Tennessee Williams Theatre. 

The constant demand for reinvention suits his sensibilities. “I love that with acting, you can always be somebody else.” 

His stage performances have led to film roles, most notably in the Mike Marrero-directed shorts “Fried Pickles” and “Buzzcut.” He recently played the part of a 19th Century soldier and yellow fever survivor in an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Legendary Locations,” filmed at Fort Jefferson. 

As for stage fright or nerves, a history of performing music to a live audience was more than adequate preparation for his acting roles. 

“When you’re performing music onstage, the crowd is at liberty to do what they want” he said. “There’s nothing more frightening than that.”

A night owl by nature, Mook finds inspiration in the pre-dawn hours. “It’s a sacred time. You aren’t going to be bothered by the phone ringing, and the energy is more powerful.” 

Though he no longer performs his songs live, Mook continued to record music in his home studio in New Town. The house also shelters Mook’s sneaker collection, which is prodigious enough to demand its own room. A generous collector, he gifted a brand-new pair of Jordans to a friendly hotel employee on a recent trip to Paris. “We’re still in contact,” he said. 

The trip to Paris was eye-opening for Mook, who filmed a music video during his days in the city. “It blew my mind, the architecture, the food, the people,” he said. He was warned about the dismissive attitude of Parisians toward tourists but didn’t experience it firsthand. “I guess it’s my swag. I identify with them. I’m fancy too – I like cheese, I’m into art,” said Mook with a laugh. He and his indomitable swag are set to return to the City of Lights this fall.

Viewing his creative career as a journey, Mook expresses gratitude for the myriad ways he has been able to express himself. “They say I’m a natural but I don’t believe it. I am blessed by it all. It all called to me.” 

Twenty Questions: 

Full Name? Nickname?  Clausell Johnson Jr./ Mook J/ MJ- Em Jay. My nickname has nicknames.

What is your astrological sign and do you embody it? Cancer. Yes, I’m very intuitive, loyal, emotional, generous and a great lover but don’t cross me. You’ll regret it.

Do you have a life credo or motto? “Love conquers all.”

What is your greatest fear?  I can’t say that I have a greatest fear. I’m the type of person that, when I fear something, I tend to go towards it rather than run away from it.

What’s on your bucket list?  Travel the whole world.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? A perfect balance of love, health and financial freedom. I feel with those three, you can accomplish anything and have the greatest experience in life.

What is it that you most dislike? Racism! It’s the stupidest thing ever, and it’s trending right now.

Which TV, movie or superhero character is your alter ego? Vision from the Avengers. He’s intelligent, loving, compassionate and very powerful. He can destroy you but doesn’t want to. He was made to try to save the world.

What would your last meal be and who would cook it? I don’t know. When I went to Paris they [email protected]*&!ed me up over there with food; nothing compares. 

Name 3 things you could not live without.  

1. Food

2. Water

3. Love

If invisible what would you do? I’m too fly to be invisible; you gotta see this! But if I could turn it on and off, I guess I’d show the world what I can do and get paid a lot of money for it.

On what occasion do you lie?  Generally, I’m not a lying person. I lie by omission, but if you ask me to tell you the truth you’ll get it. I always feel like why should I lie? Who are you to make me ashamed of my truth? I might lie to the police if I felt I needed to, but that’s about it.

Favorite guilty pleasure? Shopping! Definitely shopping. I love shopping for clothes and shoes. I own a huge Air Jordan collection and I have a closet full of fly clothes but I still shop every day. Gotta stay fly!

What is your most marked characteristic? Extreme loyalty. As a lover, friend or family member, if I’m with you, I’m all the way with you. There’s almost nothing that I wouldn’t do for the people I love.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, who or what would it be? I’d want to come back as a better version of myself. I think I’m a pretty cool dude now, but there’s always room for improvement.

Lunch with one famous person, whom would you choose? Michael Jordan or Tupac Shakur. Those are the only two people that I’ve ever really looked up to.

Finish these sentences…

My perfect day in Key West … is going to keep reinventing itself. There are always opportunities to create the perfect day, no matter where you are.

My autobiography would be titled … “Behind The Chalice” or “About That Life”!

I can never refuse … the opportunity to help someone in need. With so much hate and everybody turning against each other these days, I never want to miss out on an opportunity to show somebody that there are people out here that really care.

When I go, I will go … but for now just let me live and enjoy the show.

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