BWW Interviews: Will Chase Talks NASHVILLE, SMASH & Dream Broadway Role
Tony nominated Broadway star Will Chase will join his NASHVILLE cast mates Charles Esten, Clare Bowen, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio and Chris Carmack for the first-ever "Nashville" Concert Tour this May. The 'Smash' star joined the hit ABC series for its sophomore season, portraying Luke Wheeler, a world famous country music star who becomes romantically involved with his female country music counterpart, Rayna Jaymes, played by Connie Britton.
Today, Chase spoke exclusively with BWW about the upcoming concert appearances, his new-found interest in country music and what he would consider the perfect role to lure him back to the lights of Broadway!
You have this exciting concert coming up. Can you give us an idea what people can expect at the show?
They can expect some of the songs which they saw on this week's special episode, [ABC's 'Nashville: On the Record'], some Extra stuff, actually I have not seen a complete set list yet, but I'm hearing there might be some original tunes from some of the guys on the show who write, like Sam and Chris. I don't know that for sure, but I'm hearing that, so I'll be as surprised as anyone! And I will also be doing the Philly concert as well, so that will be fun.
Yes, I understand that show was recently added due to popular demand.
Yeah, we sold out really fast so they decided to do another show along the east coast. So I'm psyched.
Is it difficult to come into an already established series as a new character?
Yes and no. We knew it was going to be a fairly big role, I don't think we thought I was going to stick around for as long as I have, but that's the nature of television, particularly with these shows. You know it's not like one of these cable shows where they are only filming 13 episodes. The shows that are 22 episodes, they try to have a story arc for the entire season, but you know, things change, actors change, guest stars come and go, so that is sometimes difficult to do. I think this was originally supposed to be like a five or six episode thing and they obviously turned it into much more.
It's always interesting to work on set when you don't know anyone and everyone else has this camaraderie, but of all the sets I've ever been on, including Smash, Smash was great, but it was also one of those, I don't want to say we were all trying to prove something, but you know since all of us loved Broadway, and especially with [composers] Marc [Shaiman] and Scott [Wittman] there, it was kind of like, 'ok we have something to prove.' With Nashville, there is just this ease on the set. We have so much fun and I was accepted immediately. And making people laugh goes a long way, which I like to do, so I think Connie is literally keeping me around because I make her laugh. So life can be worse, right?
You play a new love interest for Connie's character Rayna, and I'm wondering if fans might have been a little upset with the introduction of your character because they were hoping she would get back together
with her former love, Deacon.
Well, it's kind of fun being 'that' guy, that cog in the wheel, and I'm also glad they made Luke a good guy. I know there are fans that want to believe that there must be motives for everything that he does, especially with Luke's relationship with Jeff Fordham, played by Oliver Hudson. But Connie did an interview just a few days ago where she was asked that question and she flat out said, 'no, Luke's a good guy who just happens to be in the middle of this love triangle.' So that was great. And you know if Rayna and Deacon did get back together, the show's over. (laughing) It's like as much as we want that to happen, that love and fire that they had, if it happens then goodbye Nashville. So I like that they made Luke a good guy and she likes him on his own terms and he's pretty good for her. It will be interesting to see what happens with them in the next few episodes and going forward, if there is a Season 3, and we think there will be.
Did the writers give you a backstory for the character when you first began?
Well, you know when you first join a show, the writers have ideas of who a character is. I think in pure scope, this guy is one of the biggest country stars in the world. And Luke also seems to be this charming happy-go-lucky guy, rides a tractor, has horses that sort of thing. And then the scripts start coming every week and you'll reach a scene and you're like, 'oh, that happened to me?' So you're finding things out about the character that didn''t exist three weeks ago. So that's always interesting and helps a lot as your character becomes more developed.
I got a little of a backstory at the beginning, you know, divorced with kids, but you can't get too specific in the writing at the beginning because you don't know where his story arc is going to go. In a recent episode, we met my son so we now know a little bit more about him. I think things like that were probably in an outline at some time, but then they were put on the shelf until they were needed later on. So it's always a treat to go to that table read and find out new things about yourself.
What about playing the guitar? Was that something you had to learn how to do for the show?
Well yes and no. Over the years I've had to learn to play. For example when Lennon was on Broadway, I learned my way around the guitar chords because originally we were all going to play the instruments without a band. We were going to be the band. But that fell by the wayside early on so I was like, 'oh, all that work for nothing!' Well not for nothing. So when they offered me the job on Nashville, they said, 'can you send us a video of you playing? Even if it's you in your living room playing the guitar.' And luckily, I knew how to play one country song and I sang it and sent it to them and they were like, 'oh this is great.' It's funny being on the show, obviously we're doing our own singing in the studio, we lip sync when we shoot, but they are real sticklers for us looking like we are playing and playing the right chords. And it's good that they are real sticklers for that. So I play guitar enough, let's put it that way! (laughing)
It's funny that your last two TV series, Smash and now Nashville have afforded you the opportunity to use your musical talents. Is that a total coincidence, or do you specifically look for that in a role?
Total coincidence. In fact I would say that I don't look for musical things. In the past year, I would say I've probably passed on some pilots that came my way that were musically oriented because I just didn't want to do another musical drama or because the material just didn't do anything for me. The thing I like about Nashville, it just happens to be about musicians and all the music is practical, meaning it's performed at a concert or during a rehearsal. It's not me and Rayna in The Kitchen going, (singing) 'I love you so much, I want you to be my girl.' So it's pure, pure, pure coincidence, especially since I play a country singer, it's not like people were going, 'hmm, yes, Will Chase, country star.' So yeah, all coincidence.
This is probabaly a difficult question to answer, but do you have a preference for TV versus theater?
No, it's not a difficult question. It might be odd for people to hear this, but honestly, you know when you're on stage, I don't think people realize how grueling eight shows a week is. And as far as jobs go, being a Broadway actor, it's hard. It's fun, but it's hard. And as I've gotten older and as I've been through hits and flops and everything else, TV over the last five or six years for me, has been great and I love the medium. And I'm like a TV junky, I love watching TV and I love being on the set. So for me right now, I would put television in that number one category, because I just love doing it. I love the schedule, I love having my weekends free, I love having the summer off so I can be with my kids, I
love having a day that lasts 16 hours, and then I'm off the next day. I kind of love that. And the other weird thing, and Christian Borle and I used to talk about this on Smash, we'd finish a scene and we'd be like, 'we don't have to do that scene ever again, we don't have to do it again tonight at eight o'clock, we're done with that scene forever and ever!' So I'm digging the TV right now.
I can certainly understand that. But ... on the other hand, I hope that doesn't mean we won't be seeing you soon on Broadway.
Oh my God, are you kidding?! You know, what I'd really love to do, I would love to do a limited run in something. The thing about Broadway is, you sign, and it's your job security, don't get me wrong, it's great to have a job, but you sign a year, or a year and a half of your life away. And that's why I only take jobs now in professional theater that I'm totally into, even if it winds up being a flop or whatever, I have to love it, because I know that potentially, I can be doing it for a year. I've loved all the television that I've done, I love the show that I'm in now and this cast and we really have a lot of fun. I'm actually surprised we get anything that can actually air because we mess around and have so much fun all the time.
You've done revivals on Broadway and originated new characters as well. When you return to Broadway, would you have a preference for one over the other?
Originating a character is always great fun and scary and all that stuff. What I'd love to do, and this is probably going to be another shock to people, I'd like to do a play on Broadway for three months. You know it would be great to just get on stage and talk and not sing and, I don't know if that means I'm getting lazy. (laughing)
No, not at all you've certainly paid your dues.
Yes, I've paid my dues but also, while I love to sing and you have to love to sing because again, doing it eight times a week, that's your life, it's the first thing you do when you get up in the morning, all your vocal stuff, so it would just be really nice to get up in the morning, talk, then go on stage and talk and then go home and talk. So yes, I would love to get back on stage and time permitting, I'll do it soon!
For more information on the Nashville Concert Tour click here!
About Will Chase:
Will Chase starred on Broadway in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, for which he was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Story of My Life, Billy Elliot: The Musical, High Fidelity, Lennon, The Full Monty, Aida, RENT and Miss Saigon.
His TV credits include the NBC musical drama Smash, as well as The Good Wife, It Could Be Worse, Necessary Roughness, Unforgettable, White Collar, Blue Bloods, Pan Am, Royal Pains, Rescue Me, and Law & Order.
About NASHVILLE: "
"Nashville" airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. on ABC and stars Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes, Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes, Eric Close as Teddy Conrad, Charles Esten as Deacon Claybourne, Clare Bowen as Scarlett O'Connor, Jonathan Jackson as Avery Barkley, Sam Palladio as Gunnar Scott, Chris Carmack as Will Lexington, Maisy Stella as Daphne Conrad and Lennon Stella as Maddie Conrad. Will Chase recurs as Luke Wheeler. Nashville" is executive-produced by Dee Johnson, R.J. Cutler, Callie Khouri and Steve Buchanan. The series is produced by Lionsgate, ABC Studios, and Opry Entertainment.
For more information about "Nashville" visit ABC.com/Nashville
'Nashville' photos: ABC/Mark Levin
'Mystery of Edwin Drood' photo: Joan Marcus
'Smash' photo courtesy of NBC