BWW Interview: Brennin Hunt Finds Freedom as the New Leading Man of PRETTY WOMAN
This past January, Broadway audiences found a new hero to root for, when they curled up on their couches and tuned in to FOX's Rent: Live. Brennin Hunt made his theatrical debut in the television special as the struggling musician Roger, and this summer he's moving on from the small screen to the big stage as the new star of Pretty Woman.
In addition to Rent: Live!, Hunt recently wrapped the indie feature Walking With Herb set for premiere 2020, and previously guest starred in ABC's "Nashville" and "X Factor." Following his music debut in 2016, Brennin was listed in Rolling Stones' "10 Artists You Need To Know" and since then has toured across North America opening for known acts like America.
Hunt and his co-star Jillian Mueller, who joined the Broadway company at the same time, will be the last additions to the cast, as the show enters its final weeks at the Nederlander Theatre, where it closes on August 18. Below, he checks in with BroadwayWorld to tell us all about his new gig, what advice he got from Andy Karl, and so much more!
You just made your Broadway debut! How does it feel?
At least for the first two scenes, just felt like I was in a dream world. It didn't seem real. It was the first theatre I had ever seen a musical in which was Rent back in 2006, and to be on the same stage and then to look up in the balcony where I sat, it kind of blew my mind for a second. It took me a second to settle in to the character... took a couple of scenes and I started settling in. It's just amazing. It doesn't seem real.
I'd expect you've gotten lots of "break a leg" jokes?
Oh yeah, it's become the thing now. Some people say we're not going to say "break a leg" anymore, it's gonna be "break a foot."
Was it comforting knowing you were going in the same time as Jillian [Mueller]?
I was very excited to know we were going to be debuting at the same time because I knew we would be in the rehearsal space working together. Working on that chemistry in the room before we even moved to the stage, I was really excited about that. It was more comforting knowing you're working with who you're going to work with, especially with it being my first time on Broadway. Not to say I wouldn't have loved to do it with Samantha [Barks]. It'd just be strange because she's been doing with Andy [Karl] for a new year and just to throw a new guy in there. I'm learning all of the Broadway lingo and all that fun stuff, it's been amazing.
I'm sure it's like a well-oiled machine at the Nederlander...
They are so professional. They welcomed me with open arms. The second day I got in the city, Orfeh and Andy Karl took me out to lunch and from there on out he and I would text back and forth. I would ask him questions about the character and what he did in certain things and he would give me advice. They were just the sweetest... the most humble and kind people. I think the scenario for me coming into Broadway that couldn't have worked out better to work under him and to trail him and watch him. It eased all the tension and worries I had. Aside from the two of them, the entire company is that way- the producers, director, everyone involved. It's really the same kind of family sense I got when I did Rent: Live with that company of people. I've yet to run into an asshole. I'm enjoying it!
I find that theatre people are generally pretty down to earth...
Yeah and I've heard everyone is very supportive of each other and it's just a tight-knit, small community and I'm learning that. I mean Billy Porter just started following me on Instagram and I was like "Holy shit!" And Kristin Chenoweth followed me like three weeks ago and I'm like "fellow Okie, guess we gotta stick together!"
Has any of that advice that Andy gave you about the character or about the show really stuck with you?
Oh absolutely. There's one scene in particular. He repeatedly says he's afraid of heights and I'm just like why, trying to do a backstory, why is Edward afraid of heights? Andy had a good point, he said "I chose to think that my mother committed suicide because of the relationship between her and his father." I kind of use that in mine as well. And I use my broken foot from Rent as well. The thought of going down two flights of steps and breaking my foot... I'm a little afraid of heights now. [Laughs]
How do you describe your version of Edward?
I might be a little closer to Richard Gere's approach than Andy's approach and maybe that's just because theatre isn't my background and I come more from the TV and film land? One of the challenges for me coming into theatre was to project more and be bigger in the performance. I think I'm kind of between Richard and what Andy is. A lot of the advice he gave me too was just to be charming and smile because he said for the first month he was doing it, he was trying to settle in and trying to figure out how he'd get the audience to want her to be with him at the end of the play. That was big advice he gave me coming in. I may do it a little too much because that's my personality- I smile a lot! My wife even told me, she said, "In act one, maybe be a little bit more swag and serious and have your arch come in," and I was like alright baby. So I tried that last night and she said, "You took my notes well!"
Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
It changes. I think my favorite moment even watching the show is the opera. It's beautifully choreographed, the set, everything about that, it's just a beautiful moment. And the song itself... when I first started learning the music, it just reminded me the big smash hit "Heaven," by Bryan Adams. It has that kind of flavor to it. In the way it merges with the opera section and Allison [Blackwell] belting out those high notes beautifully. I love the arrangement of that. So that's probably my favorite.
You're in New York now, obviously. Are you enjoying your time in the city?
The last eight, nine months have been insanity for my wife and two boys. We lived in Nashville for 12 years. I was singer-songwriter there for a long time, wrote songs for a living. Slowly but surely booking little acting things here and there and when I booked Rent, we were going to move to LA and dive head first into the acting realm. I was literally eight hours away from signing a lease in Studio City when I got the call to come to Manhattan to read for Jerry Mitchell to take over this role. So I'm glad I didn't sign that lease!
Basically in the interim we went to Oklahoma City and stayed there for a few months while I was learning the script until we came here. Here we are, we love the city. We've always loved it visiting and we've never lived here, but I'm falling in love with it. It's very hot, but Oklahoma is hot and humid so I'm used to it.
Have you gotten to see any other shows while you've been here?
Will Chase got me a ticket to see him in Kiss Me, Kate before it closed and that was incredible. He was phenomenal and everybody was amazing in it. Then we saw Burn This- big fan of Adam Driver so that was great and we're going to see Frankie and Johnny tonight! Then we gotta take the kids to Frozen and Aladdin at some point.
Your career has already been such a journey. Did you ever expect your life would take you here?
I've always had a love for musical theatre and a lot of my favorite childhood movies that I grew up on are transition from theatre to film. All classic stuff ,even like Mary Poppins. I never thought Broadway would be my path. I've told people this before, but when we bought our house in Nashville in 2008, I wrote on a piece of paper I will become a very successful entertainer and I taped it in the upper left corner of my mirror. Twelve years went by in Nashville and I never had any success. I moved there and thought I was going to be the next Lenny Kravitz... that didn't happen. I fell into country music, but going back to saying successful entertainer, I didn't say singer, I didn't say songwriter, I always knew I wanted to something in the acting medium, whether it was TV, film or theatre. It just so happened all those things panned out and here I am on Broadway.
It's really just crazy that I made my debut in the same theatre I saw my first musical in back in 2006. Then I got to play Roger in my favorite musical. Will Chase and I did scenes together in Nashville, he played Roger in Rent... it's just weird how these things intertwined in my journey.
You're officially a Broadway star now... do you have any other Broadway dream roles?
I'm already working on my own musical! I've been writing one. My agent is really pushing me, setting me up with some bookwriters and we're just trying to figure that all out. I have this song that I wrote with one of my cowriters, Emily West. It's very theatrical and she's more of a Bette Midler meets Celine Dion meets Patsy Cline all in one, so she's got this very theatrical way about her songs. So I'm working on that! Lots of things in the works and I'm going to take whatever comes. If it's a pilot in LA or whatever musical here, I'm going to enjoy it and jump on it. I'm honestly addicted to the stage. I always have been. So doing these performances night after night... it's like a drug. I'm excited to see what Broadway has in store for me and the next thing in theatre.