BWW Interviews: Carson Higgins Talks Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT
Green Day took Broadway by storm with their hit musical AMERICAN IDIOT, which is more-or-less a stage adaption of their record-breaking album by the same title and also features select music from 21st Century Breakdown, Green Day b-sides, and the song "When It's Time." The musical tells the story of three disillusioned young American men who look for meaning in modern American life. With only a week until the show hits Houston stages, I chatted with Cason Higgins, who plays the adventurous drug dealer St. Jimmy, about the rock musical.
BWW: How did you first get involved in theatre?
Carson Higgins: When I was in elementary school, my fourth grade teacher actually told my mom that I was too energetic for the classroom [Laughs] and that I needed some sort of outlet. She recommended to my mom this children's theatre group in my town, and she said, "Maybe you should put him in the play. He seems to like to entertain everyone during my class, so why don't you put him somewhere he can do it and it's allowed." [Laughs] That's honestly where it all started for me.
BWW: When did you know you wanted to perform professionally?
Carson Higgins: I can't think of an exact moment, really. It's been the only thing I've ever really wanted since I can remember wanting anything. I guess when I was around 10 years old, my grandma took me to see THE LION KING, the Broadway show, and I already knew all the songs and everything. But, when I saw it on stage I thought, "Oh! People do this for real on stage?" [Laughs] That's kind of where that started for me. It's when I saw THE LION KING.
BWW: How did you come to be involved with the National Tour of Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT?
Carson Higgins: I was on season 10 of American Idol. I got to about the top 50, and someone who I knew a little bit-they were like a family friend and a manager of actors-contacted me. He said, "Carson, I had no idea that you could sing. Why don't we meet up and talk?" So, I met up with this guy. I say "this guy," but he's someone I knew. He just started sending me out for stuff, and the first thing he sent me out for was the First National Tour of AMERICAN IDIOT. I went and auditioned and got to final callbacks. I'm from Los Angeles, and for the final callback, I had to fly to New York. It was very exciting, but I didn't get the part. I thought, "Oh well. It was cool just to get that far."
I went back to Los Angeles and was auditioning for things, and I did a couple of little things here and there. The office of AMERICAN IDIOT called me personally and just said, "Hey! You were in a small group of people that we really liked last time. You didn't quite get cast, be we really like you. Would you be willing to come back and try again?" I said, "Absolutely." So, I came back and did the whole process over again. Only this time I got the part.
BWW: How did you prepare for the character of St. Jimmy?
Carson Higgins: [Laughs] St. Jimmy is an interesting character to prepare for. [Laughs] I mean, if you were going to go full out in preparing for this guy, you might wind up dead because he's a lunatic. He's like a... God, how do you describe him? He's like part demon and part god of some kind. [Laughs] He's just a very rambunctious fellow. He also turns the lead character on to heroin, so if I were to start doing that I'd probably wind up in a big mess. So, for me, personally, I just kind of channeled my inner rock star and my inner lunatic and just tried to go out there and make my presence known the best I could.
BWW: What is your favorite aspect of AMERICAN IDIOT?
Carson Higgins: I think its originality is a big part of why myself and a lot of people like the show. It's definitely not your normal musical. I say "normal" loosely. Not many musicals are the same, but when you say, "I'm going to see a musical tonight," there's a connotation that you put on that. Maybe tap shoes and a lot of smiling, lovebirds, and stuff. [Laughs] This is a much more in-your-face, hard edged rock show that has a heart in the center of it. My favorite part is just how unlike any other show it is and how much it stands out in musical theatre as something very unique.
BWW: Awesome. I'm really looking forward to it. I've only heard the Original Broadway Cast album.
Carson Higgins: You'll like it, man. A lot of people come and dig it.
BWW: I've been waiting for it for years. I wanted to see it in New York, but I didn't get up there.
BWW: Yeah. And it's crazy too because he was in the role, and Melissa Etheridge was in the role, so you have kind of big shoes there too. [Laughs]
Carson Higgins: All of those guys put together, and Tony Vincent-the guy on the cast album-too. I mean, there's been quite a few pretty excellent St. Jimmy's out there. [Laughs] It's fun to kind of get to be one of those people, in a way.
BWW: Yeah. For sure.
Carson Higgins: Yeah.
BWW: Why do you think Houston audiences should be excited to see AMERICAN IDIOT?
Carson Higgins: I think if they've heard of the show at all or heard anything about it, then they kind of have an idea of what to expect. Maybe that it is something unexpected.
Then people who have never heard of Green Day and who just like going to the theatre, they are in for a surprise. It is very loud. It is very hyperactive, especially right at the top of the show. I mean, it starts with a bang [Pauses] literally. [Laughs] So, for some people, it can take your breath away. You're like, "Oh my God! This show is crazy! I don't even know what's happening." Then, you sort of settle into what's going on, you kind of get an ear for the music, you see these people on stage, and you think, "Ok. I have a better idea of what's going on with these guys."
I think that they should definitely be excited and expecting to see some killer Green Day songs. That's definitely going to be part of their evening. I like telling people when my grandma saw the show, I didn't think it was her cup of tea. I didn't think it was going to be something that she would really get or even like very much, but at the end of the show, she came up to all of us-me and the rest of the cast-and she just said, "You guys, the music was so beautiful. The harmonies! I had no idea they were going to be in there. The story was so powerful." I said, "Grandma! Way to go!" My hip grandma really dug the show. It's funny, you know.
Also, people will say "Green Day? I don't think I know any Green Day songs." At the end of the show they say, "I knew the words to four or five songs!" These songs are bigger than we think sometimes. For example, when "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" starts, everybody goes "Oh, this song. Ok." Or when "Holiday" starts everyone says, "Oh my God! I love this song!" It's cool. It's fun.
BWW: Are there any dream roles you'd like to play?
Carson Higgins: There's a few actually. You know BOOK OF MORMON by any chance?
Carson Higgins: Elder McKinley, who sings the big tap number "Turn It Off," that guy. I say that because I tend to like the characters that are not necessarily the lead character but are kind of the side character who can come on stage, get your eye, and steal your attention. I like being that guy [Laughs], which is why I like being St. Jimmy. I get to have all the fun, and I get to sing all the best s**t. [Laughs] It's fun. Also, God, I've never been in RENT, but I'd love to be Collins in RENT. That's usually played by a Black guy, but whatever. I'd love to play Collins.
BWW: I'm right there with you. I love that role. It's my favorite role in the show.
Carson Higgins: He gets to sing all the best stuff. "I'll Cover You (Reprise)" is like the best part of the show.
BWW: Right. That's so true.
Carson Higgins: That's me.
BWW: What advice do you offer to others hoping to make a career in performing?
Carson Higgins: The thing I found with myself and people I know that tend to be working, the one thing that is commonplace for all of us is giving up not being an option. If you go on a 1,000 auditions and they all say "No," just know that 1,001 is going to be the one where they say "Yes." Just have that in the back of your mind, trust your own talents, and trust the reasons why you want to do this. That will carry you into the next room, the next audition, and hopefully into your next job. Honestly, I say that you can take all the acting classes, singing lessons, and dance classes in the world, but if you don't believe in yourself, you run the risk of giving up. Just know that giving up is not an option, and you should be fine.
Gexa Energy's Broadway at the Hobby Center and Broadway Across America's presentation of Green Day's AMERICAN IDIOT plays the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts' Sarofim Hall, 800 Bagby Street, Houston, 77002 from March 21 - 23, 2014. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and more information please visit http://houston.broadway.com or call (800) 952-6560.
Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America.