BWW Interviews: Merritt David Janes Talks His Career, Playing Carl Hanratty, Touring, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN


Broadway Across America-Houston is about to fly CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, the thrilling tale of Frank Abagnale, Jr., into the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Merritt David Janes is starring as Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent that tirelessly pursued Frank Abagnale, Jr .He was wanted for posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, a Louisiana parish prosecutor, and check fraud, which was his primary crime. Merritt David Janes took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his career, playing Carl Hanratty, touring, and the show CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.

Me: When did you get involved with acting?

Merritt David Janes: I've always been, as my dad says, "a ham cooking in the oven." I got involved in acting, really, when I was a little kid. I loved doing theatre and everything. When I was in high school, I stayed with the musicals. When I was in college, I went off to study music at the University of Maine, and I still kept in touch with theatre and did plays in the summertime. Then, I went to the Circle in the Square Theatre after my time at University of Maine. I really devoted two years to theatre school. Then I got out and started to worry.

Me: When did you realize you wanted to act professionally?

Merritt David Janes: Well, I realized I had a passion for acting, performing, music, singing, and all of it. I always knew that's what I wanted to do. I know I won't always be acting in every job. I won't always be signing in every job. I won't always be dancing or playing an instrument in every job. But I knew I wanted to do any combination of those things. I won't always be traveling in every job, but I knew I wanted to do a combination of those things for my job since I was young. I was inspired by my mom. She is the concert master of the Vermont Philharmonic, and my grandfather. He is 88 years old, and he can still play the piano really well. They inspire me musically. My dad gave me a lot of the inspirations I need to develop a thick skin to get through all of it. And here we are.

Me: You're a graduate of Circle in the Square Theatre School. What was it like being a student there?

Merritt David Janes: Oh, I call it the Hogwarts School of Theatre. The reason I call it that is it's a mix of lots of different acting philosophies. You get a lot of [Sanford] Meisner, a lot of Stella Adler, [Constantin] Stanislavski. You know, you get a lot of Shakespeare too. It's everything. You're doing Shakespeare. You're doing Chekov. You're doing modern playwrights. You're doing everything! Everybody comes from a study of many different philosophies, and it's really helpful to get and learn from all of those philosophies. So, I really enjoyed my time there. It's helped me get all the jobs I've been able to get.

Me: How did you become involved with the first national tour of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN?

Merritt David Janes: Somebody told me, "I heard you're playing Carl Hanratty." I said, "Well, I didn't hear that. I didn't even audition for it, but I guess I better." So, I contacted the people at Clemmons who were doing casting and told them I was interested. They were very helpful in getting my information. I was currently working on SHREK at the time. It was a pretty tight squeeze. There was a very small window that I could be cast for the show, and they cast me. I was about to go off on a trip with SHREK. I was going to China and Malaysia. I was offered a second year over there. It just worked out that I was offered this role right before that trip, so I could kind of plan out everything and make it all work.

Me: You are playing Carl Hanratty, who relentlessly pursues Frank Abagnale, Jr. He is the villain of the show. What was like preparing for the role?

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

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