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BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESS

BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESSEarlier this year, Drew Gehling departed his Broadway home at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a Roman adventure... in San Francisco.

Back in March, the original star of Waitress hung up his stethoscope to originate a new role- in the Broadway-bound new musical, Roman Holiday. Now he's back at the Brooks, and this time, opposite Betsy Wolfe as Jenna.

Read below as Gehling catches up with BroadwayWorld on all things Pomatter!

You've had an opportunity to step away from this role for a little bit, and now revisit it. I would imagine would be like dream scenario...

It's funny how that ends up working. Normally you start working on a Broadway show and you're pretty much locked into that trajectory for a pretty long period of time. That can be difficult, because you're literally doing the same thing every day. Me being away for a while and then coming back and seeing the cast is like, "Wow, you've literally done this every day while I've been gone!"

Did you get a chance to see Chris [Diamantopoulos] or Sara [Bareilles]?

Yeah, I did! I talked to Sara about it and she was like, "Give me a couple of shows before you come." So I had started rehearsals for Roman Holiday and then I came back and I got a seat. It was really emotionally for me to watch it for the first time, one- having never seen it. And two- being an architect of it originally, to see how it worked so well in other hands was amazing. I'm such a huge fan of Chris D. as well, so it just ended up being a really special thing to get to see.

With all of this new energy in the cast it's like seeing a totally different, fresh show.

It really is! We've been able to re-examine a lot of things and make it fit and work for the new energy that comes in. It makes it so much fun. Also a lot of my scenes are with Jenna. So when I come back, Betsy was finding her place with me and it was like finding a whole new show. This showed that the show itself is able to sustain varied energies and varied, fantastic actresses.

BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESS
Drew with Jessie Mueller

What do you think the biggest difference is in your Pomatter now versus the character you played opposite Jessie [Mueller]?

I think that there's a difference in what ultimately drives him and Jenna together. With different actors in the mix, it changes the dynamic between the characters, and frankly, the chemistry. Where as Jessie's Jenna and my Pomatter were essentially two lost souls who were only lonely islands of their own, Betsy's Jenna is much more gregarious and one that puts up a front of everything being ok, but underneath is not ok. I think you're seeing these two people connecting differently, which is really interesting. It's like someone who sees through the front, as opposed to someone who gravitates someone who needs help.

What do you enjoy most about Betsy's interpretation?

She's willing to play, which I appreciate so greatly. Especially in a long run, that there's somebody that does a really good job of listening and being present and in the moment of the show... that is hard to find in any actor. When you do find it, it's such a treat.

Are you sick of pie yet? Because I feel like you eat a lot of pie...

Oh my god. [Laughs] It's so funny, because we drove past Junior's the other day and I asked if anyone wanted cheesecake right now, and Betsy was like, "You have a sweet tooth!" And I was like, "I didn't... until I did this show." I don't know if it's the show or if it's the fact that everyone seems to think that when you're in a show like this they should send you sweet treats and candy and cake. I wasn't someone that ate those things or took part regularly and now I can't get away from it!

BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESS

BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESS

Do you eat the same kind of pie every night?

Ok, truth bomb here: I don't actually eat pie! We were in previews and I went to the dentist, and he was like, "What are you doing? What is going on in your mouth?" I've had one cavity my entire life. And I'm like, "Well, I am pretty much swishing and gargling cake frosting every night..." because we were using actual Pillsbury cake frosting. So he was like, "Yeah, you gotta stop doing that. That's really terrible." So now, I eat this mix of sugar-free whipped cream and cake frosting.

Then I have a sugar-free muffin at the end of act one, and what they're really great about doing there is that they vary up my flavors. So I never know when I open that box what I'm going to get. It's a surprise every time! Our excellent props guys are doing me a really solid favor of shopping around and making sure I have a varied result. I'm sure Betsy can tell by my face when I open that thing up and I'm like "Awwww, it's cranberry. Not my favorite..." As opposed to, "Oh, it's the chocolate chip kind! Oh, blueberry vanilla! My favorite!" I have built in snack time, sometimes twice a day.

BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESSYou took a little Waitress hiatus to do Roman Holiday earlier this year. Did you enjoy that experience?

I would say doing a new show definitely ages you a decade. [Laughs] Just because you spend several months firing on all cylinders, solving problems, and staying up all hours of the night, living and breathing and sleeping the show. It's all you think about, especially when you're out of town.

But I wouldn't do this as a job if that wasn't something that I love. Working on a new show is wonderful. It was a wonderful cast and a wonderful team and we loved San Francisco. And it was just great to be able to work on something new, which is something I hadn't gotten to do in a while. I do a lot of readings and workshops, and when those things come to fruition, it really is a great chance to get to do that.

I really hope we get to see it on Broadway!

We'll see how that pans out. I think they're, like everybody else, waiting on a theater. In the meantime, it's just cool to be a part of the continued process of a new show. Like more readings, more workshops, stuff you can do to know what your show is before you show up.

And in the meantime, you've got this pretty awesome gig at Waitress!

The great thing about being one of the original cast members is that several of us get to be these anchors as to what the original attempt was. We can try to help shepherd our new actors through the process of what the heart and soul of the piece is. Because a lot of times, from the actor standpoint, that's going to be a different mantra that the audience experiences. And you can go and see it and feel like you're having a certain experience, but the reason you're having that experience is that the actors and the writers that created this show have a different intention.

The audience can have this raucous good time at this musical because it's like a giant bait and switch. You think you're going to come and have this handy-dandy good fun time about pie and giggles and laughter, and in fact, you're watching someone that you really care about go through something that's really difficult, and what seems like the right choice for her to make, is not necessarily the best choice. You just come to love and pull for every single character in the show and being a part of actors finding the sense of simplicity and openness that is so critical and crucial to the success of the show is such a treat. It's so rewarding for all of us.

BWW Interview: Back for Seconds - Drew Gehling is Opening Up About His Return to WAITRESS

Gehling's Broadway credits include: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Jersey Boys. Off-Broadway: A Minister's Wife, Lincoln Center; Billy & Ray, Vineyard Theatre; I Believe, Lincoln Center; Anne of Green Gables(Gilbert Blythe), Lortel. Regional: Roman Holiday (San Francisco) TV/Film: "Succession" (HBO), "Elementary", "30 Rock," "Smash," "The Daily Show".

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