(Photo courtesy of AndyKarl.com)
The Tony Nominated Actor recently seen as the lead in the Broadway Musical 'Rocky' was kind enough to answer some questions for the Pickwyck and a story for the Rollins College newspaper 'The Sandspur'.
What is your go to audition song?
- "Many new musicals I audition for will send me a song that is from the show or ask me to sing in the 'style of the show' so it's rare that I have a "go to" audition song because it's constantly changing, But now I have an incredible song that I actually got to originate in 'Rocky' called "Fight From The Heart" by Ahrens and Flaherty."
What was your worst audition?
- "I always walk away from an audition thinking I could have done way better. It's the Virgo in me.But one that sticks with me was when I auditioned for a hilarious role in Honeymoon In Vegas. I actually killed the first audition. The director and casting director were on the floor laughing at everything I was doing. I was so excited for the call-back. I went back in a few weeks pumped and prepared for the room full of producers and creatives including JASON ROBERT BROWN. I sang and did all my lines the same hilarious way but now everyone looked at me without cracking a smile. Then the casting director asked which of the two songs from the show would I like to sing when JASON ROBERT BROWN chimed in and said, "Lets just sing a section from one and get this over with."I was mortified; "get this over with" is the last thing you want to hear, but that's the stuff that makes the entertainment biz humbling and your backbone tough."
What musical or part would you like to gender bend?
- "Hmm. Interesting question. The only thing that comes to mind is Mary Bond Davis in Jelly's Last Jam. The way she sang in that show connected with me. I suppose there's a strong black woman somewhere inside me (figuratively speaking)."
What musical would you like to see turned into a film and star in?
- "ROCKY. THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (Baz Luhrmann would direct the hell out of that). WICKED."
What is your weakness/something you would like to improve on, personally and professionally?
- "Nervousness. Conquering fear and nervousness is my goal."
How do you deal with costars you dislike?
- "Don't talk to them. Don't deal with them. All disagreements and harsh feelings are left at the stage door."
What are some of the strongest female costars you have worked with and why?
- "My wife, Orfeh, is a beam of light that makes an audience stop and listen when she sings. Jessie Mueller has a way of making an audience fall in love with her instantly. Margo Seibert is an incredibly deep actor who loves to expose the heart of a character. Chita Rivera and Allison Janey just have a presence and star quality that are irresistible."
How has theater changed since you first started your career? Overall, fundamentally or by their content.
- "Many things have changed. The spectacle is much bigger every year. Video screens are a huge part of telling the story now. The boxing ring in 'Rocky' was an incredibly interactive and diverse piece of scenery. As far as content, Musicals, I think, have become much more self aware. The funniest things can be a stab at a particular type of musical genre within a show (The Judy Garland torch song moment in the Producers is hilarious!)."
What is your earliest memory of theater or your first favorite musical?
- "In elementary school I was cast In my first role as a lion in "The Wackadoo Zoo". Aside from my first memory being highly embarrassed by the costume my mother spent hours making I remember specifically the kid named Sean who was the lead. He was the most charming kid in school and he handled the role of the "Singing Dancing Zoo Keeper" beautifully. He had the respect of everyone from the lions on stage to the parents in the audience. My first absolute favorite musical was 'Jesus Christ Superstar', I watched a video of it almost daily as a kid."
How do you prepare yourself for your roles? What has been your most vigorous role to date?
- "My preparation is different for every role but I usually find the voice and physical mannerisms the character would live with and then try to speak the truth through the text. It's also great to make sure you know the objective of every scene and the overall objective of the character (what he/she wants and what he/she is willing to do or not do to get it.)The most vigorous preparation so far was Rocky. I spent months training physically for the role. Taking all the bumps and bruises and sore muscles was actually very helpful because it was necessary to feel like a beaten boxer who still had to get up and fight with everything he had. I prepared the low-drawl speech while talking to my dog on walks. The movie was so ingrained in my mind that finding Rocky's objective was clear but doing it in a way that spoke clear to me as an actor was a beautiful exploration with the help of direction and fellow actors."
How do you balance theater and home life? How are they alike or different?
- "Being married to a fellow actor is helpful in the"understanding what your going through" department. Home life is many times a moment to relax and not get caught up in performing. But sometimes 8 shows a week plus press events plus more auditions plus rehearsals plus plus plus makes it hard to be on schedules that seem normal. It has its challenges but I guess that's what makes it interesting."
What is the best advice you have received and what wisdom would you like to impart to future performers?
- "Advice comes from everywhere as an actor. Opinions and critiques and bias, good and bad, are thrown at you from friends and family, teachers, associates with many different intentions. I think the best advice has to be whatever gave me the notion to become an actor and love it enough to keep doing it with passion. That advice was early on and gave me the drive to find out what advice in the future I would take to make me better at what I am doing. In the case of advice from me I would have to say "never stop challenging yourself and never stop learning". It's easy to try and do one thing but it's far more exciting to try and learn new things. Luckily as actors we get that benefit with new roles. I became a "boxer" for a time. I've learned many different skills and mentalities through my career and I love that."
If you could write a musical or play, what would it be about?
- "I spent a few years as a student at the Lehman-Engle Musical Theatre writing course as a composer and lyricist. I penned a few musicals and I hope to someday get one produced. I believe musicals need some sort of grand theme or otherworldly magic. Love is a big idea, faith is good and super-hero powers are awesome. I happened to write a musical about a 400 year old witch doctor that reincarnated itself on the neck of an innocent woman who was falling in love with a con-artist psychic. It's an age old story."
What is the best book/movie you have ever read/watched?
- "I just saw Gone Girl with Ben Affleck. It scared the crap outta me as a man in a woman's world. Great film. My all time favorite movie is The Three Amigos. I'm sorry to say I don't read many books. Last one I read was about the 400 year old witch doctor growing in the woman's neck. "
What is your favorite role that you have played so far?
- "Rocky, followed by Tommy Devito in Jersey Boys. Great roles."
What do you believe is your greatest achievement to date?
- "Making it as an actor in New York City."
Reflect on a past or current costar who has given you invaluable acting advice.
- "I was having trouble in '9 to 5 the Musical' finding the urgency of my role that was not clearly written. The role didn't exist in the movie and was basically the love interest for Allison Janey. I told her how lost I felt and she expressed to me that I should create the perfect end result for what my character wanted and make it my mission with every short line I had to have that perfect world come true.I've used that advice with everything since. What's the perfect end result, and try to make that happen."
In the musical Rocky, the tagline was "Love Wins". What do you feel are the most important social messages that theater can convey to a modern audience?
- "I actually thought about this the other day. About what musicals made an impact on life. I guess Hair spoke for a generation and then Rent really made an impact with my generation. I'm sure there are many musicals that will claim their impact but when it comes to speaking for a current, relevant, political and social impact Those two are huge. Musicals can transform your emotions and mind when they strike deep into what matters about our Human journey. The mission to find love and joy with life is what musicals should always try to accomplish. I mean that in the least sappy way possible.