BWW Interviews: AMERICAN IDIOT Touring Actor Jared Nepute Talks about the Role of Johnny
Jared Nepute plays the role of Johnny in the tour of AMERICAN IDIOT. He has learned a lot while playing the role and it has helped him as he makes plans for his future.
How did you first get interested in being in theater?
Oh, going way back. I got into in music at a young age. I was playing piano at 5 at the request of my mom. She is my biggest motivator. She heard me sing one day and thought I had a good voice so she told me I should do choir at school. It just snowballed from there. I started doing talent shows at school. Then I started doing honors choir and I started performing in the plays. Before I knew it, it was a huge part of my life and I was still undecided what I wanted to do career wise until probably junior year of high school. I was doing SINGING IN THE RAIN. I learned how to tap dance for it. I just fell in love with it and decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I did a summer program at NYU and got accepted just by doing the summer program. I didn't have to audition. It all really fell into place on its own which is so funny looking back on it.
What are some of the best roles you have played in the past?
That's a great question. I was Gabe in NEXT TO NORMAL. That was definitely up there. I played Anthony in SWEENEY TODD. That was awesome because that was at NYU and I was singing behind a 30 piece orchestra so it had the magnitude of the sound that you really want when you're doing a show like SWEENEY TODD. Also, I loved playing Matthew in ALTER BOYZ. That's a guilty pleasure for sure.
Tell us a little more about AMERICAN IDIOT.
It's 3 best friends, Will, Tunny and Johnny, who's my character, and they are living in post 9/11 suburbia. They are representing this disenfranchised youth who feel like they were promised this American dream and it's just not working out for them. Johnny gets this great idea for the 3 of them to move to New York City to get away from this kind of lie that they see. The problem is Will finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant so he stays behind in suburbia and then Tunny doesn't see himself in the city so he joins the war in Iraq. Johnny ends up living in New York City on his own. That's where he finds Whatshername who is the woman that he falls in love with and together they spiral into this dangerous cycle of drug addiction. The story is about these 3 men and how they find themselves over the course of the show and the different choices that they make and how it affects them and their relationships at the end of the show.
Were you a Green Day fan before you got the part?
What are some of the things you have learned by performing in AMERICAN IDIOT?
Really (laughs) too many things to even say. It's been incredible just the caliber of professionals that I've been working with as far as on the creative team even the cast members. Everyone is so good at what they do and it's incredible to have that kind of direction. When you surround yourself with high caliber people, it makes you elevate your game in a sense. I've learned so many things that it's hard to even narrow it down one specific thing.
How did you get the role of Johnny in AMERICAN IDIOT?
I started auditioning for the role in New York in May (2013) and I had something like 7 callbacks all the way from May 'til August until I officially got the role. They put me through the hoops and you have to sing, play guitar, dance, do some of the monologue. I just kept coming back and more and more people were in the room for every callback and more of the creative team saw me and put their opinions in and helped me get the role.
Did you play guitar before you got the role?
I actually started playing guitar 2 years ago. I just taught myself because luckily I had piano under my belt so that made it easier than someone who hadn't had any sort of instrument background. I've been playing for 2 years now, self-taught. I'm so glad I did.
What are some of the hardest things about playing Johnny?
The hardest part would be trying to find the line between...he says in the show, "I'm the son of rage and love." The rage aspect is supposed to represent his abusive father and the love aspect is supposed to represent his mother. I feel like it's very easy for an actor to go to an angrier side just because anger is something that's more easily accessible as an action to play. So for me it was trying to find that balance of yes I have something; I'm an angsty 20 something that felt like he's been dealt a bad life. But at the same time, there's a certain relief and release about saying all these things that I've never been able to communicate ever until right now until this moment and so there's this certain joy and love that comes out of a group of 20 actors saying this same message to the audience. It's finding that fine line between this angst and euphoria of being able to communicate this message.
Was it hard to be able to be on the scaffolding and have it tilted over while you were on it dancing and singing?
I trust them with my entire life which as you see it is on the line there. The first time was a little frightening but after that...I know I'm in really really good hands. There are so many parts in the show where it looks like I could get hurt or something really bad could happen but everything has been broKen Down step by step so that we're always in control of the situation. I never feel scared or anything like that, which is great.
Have there ever been any mishaps during a performance?
When we were doing tech rehearsals in Las Vegas, I actually received 3 stitches because I was doing a quick change and it's at the very end of the show when I come out in that fur jacket and the party hat. I was going too fast and I told the crew guy to open the door so I didn't miss my cue. His foot stopped the door from opening fully and I was running on to make it. So I smack my eyebrow right into the corner of the door. It just started bleeding all over the place. I had to go to the ER and get my 3 stiches. That was one moment in the show where we didn't take it slow and figure it out step by step, how to open a door. I didn't even think I was bleeding but all of a sudden people looked at me and they're like, "Stop, stop. Everyone hold" and I feel my head and it's just dripping, dripping.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years and in 10 years?
Obviously, Broadway is the goal so that is definitely in my 5 to 10 year plan. I live in New York and I'm gonna stick with that, keep auditioning and I feel so fortunate because this role really can keep elevating my career. It's such a notable role and people know exactly who I am and will know I was on the tour. It's really a big deal for me especially.
Do you have any dream roles you would like to play?
I want to play the lead in ONCE. That's probably my dream right now. It's something I think I can play in 5 years.
If you had not gotten into theater what would you have done?
Something still in the arts. I'm a music person. I would probably get into something like film score composing just because I have that piano background. It's a weird fallback I guess but it's in the same industry.
Have you written a lot of music yourself? And have you recorded any of it?
Yeah, I have. On piano and guitar. I've done some singer songwriter kind of things too. I've recorded some of it. I haven't released it to the public yet because I'm still a little not sure if I like it but I'm going to get more into that while we're on tour because we have some time to do some other things.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about getting into musical theatre?
My advice would be to go for it. Really study hard and work hard to better yourself and to make yourself a better performer. Take the classes and take the lessons. When you go to that place of a hard work ethic, kinda decide is this what I can myself doing every day for the rest of my life. It's all about persistence and not giving in and just going for it and always being emotionally available too which is hard to for some people to always put yourself out there like that. There's always the fear of rejection. I've been rejected probably 5 times more than I've gotten the roles. It's something you have to get used to and you have to develop a thick skin but if you have all those qualities then absolutely. It's a very fulfilling life.
AMERICAN IDIOT plays at Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas from January 14-19, 2014. Tickets can be purchased by going to Texas Performing Arts website.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jeremy Daniel