BWW Interview: He Can't Be Stopped! Josh Segarra Opens Up About ON YOUR FEET!, TRAINWRECK and Life Before Broadway
Even if you have not yet made it to the Marquis Theatre, chances are that you have still seen Josh Segarra in action this year. Television fans might know him as lovable goofball Bill Cepeda from USA's Sirens or as Justin Voight from NBC's Chicago P.D. Or maybe you caught him starring alongside comedy It-Girl Amy Schumer in her Golden Globe-nominated mega-hit, Trainwreck. Now he's busy making this Broadway season spicer, starring as Emilio Estefan in the hit new musical On Your Feet!.
This is far from Josh's first go at New York theater (he has previously starred in such shows as LYSISTRATA JONES and DOGFIGHT), but it's certainly his first major role in the Broadway spotlight. He just checked in with BroadwayWorld about what's been going on at the Marquis since opening night, how he is handling the extra leading man pressure, and why his 2015 was truly epic.
Check out the full interview below!
How has it been going since opening night?
It's been amazing. It really has, honestly. The process has been amazing because the time that I've been a part of it it's so many people of the same background and culture coming together to do something. In our case it's a bunch of Latino folk on stage getting to do something that comes out of our bones: getting to do something that speaks so honestly and true to who we are and how we've been raised. For us, now that we're a month out from opening, it's nice because the whirlwind has slowed down quite a bit; the moving and shaking has calmed down. Everyone's breathing a little bit now as opposed to starting the show holding our breath and hoping people like us. Our cast feels very proud to be on that stage. Everyone feels very honored to be on that stage.
So it has all finally sunk in.
Not only did you guys go to the White House, but you guys OPENED the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. You must have been losing your mind...
I felt like a 13-year-old boy. I got to go to school here. I went to NYU, so I came here in 2004. There are a few things for the New York actor that you hope to one day cross off the bucket list. One of them was I got to do an episode of Blue Bloods which was really fun. The coolest part was that my first day of shooting was somewhere in the Village. I remember walking on set with a 7:30pm call time and having that feeling of when I was in college and hoping I was going to do this one day. I walked by these giant lights, trailers, PA's with headphones on, and all of the sudden here I am. I walk up to set, and they're like, "Josh, here you go." It's such a cool feeling.
Another one of those is the parade. I've seen it live a couple of times. I sat in the bleachers one year. It was an honor, and I don't want to sound too cliché. Getting there at 4:30 in the morning and seeing our cast... some had been there before and many of them it was their Broadway debut, let alone their first time doing the parade. We were all a bunch of little kids out there running around and talking to drum lines, cheerleaders from Wisconsin, and band mates from Idaho. It was such a fun experience.
And it must be pretty cool for your friends and family being able to see you do that.
Oh, yeah. They were geeking out. And honestly, that's what makes it all worth it. I'm a person and an actor that's constantly unsatisfied. I'm always reaching for something higher. So to be honest, the White House was an honor, but all it made me want to do was keep working hard in my life so I can go back as, like, a dinner guest. [Laughs] The parade was such a beautiful experience and so fun. But for me, what made it worthwhile was my mom got to show it to her friends at work, and my dad got to be up drinking his coffee... He watches the parade every year, so for him to see his son clowning around up there, I know it made him proud. They've been behind me since the very beginning, so when things get tough... I'm a lucky kid. I get to have my parents there to back me up. Now that all of this is doing okay, I feel like I'm finally paying it back to my folks a little bit. I feel like my mom has finally settled down...well no, she hasn't settled down. She's still crazy. She's posting everything she sees about me and has Google alerts. She's like, "Baby, did you know this blog they said this?" And I'm like, "No Mom, I did not read what that blog said. Please don't tell me. Please don't post it." It means the world that they're so excited. Absolutely.
And I'm sure another highlight of your year was starring in Trainwreck. What was that whole experience like for you- working with Amy [Schumer]?
In my top five favorite movies is a movie called Heavy Weights. I was a chunkier kid and dreamed of going to fat camp with go-karts and stuff. That was written by Judd Apatow. He's been on my mind ever since. I'm getting older and now Judd is like the king of comedy. I get to go in for this movie, and the audition went well. Then I get to set, and I had just wrapped Sirens. Sirens I got to be funny and laugh a lot. On set, all of the sudden I see Amy Schumer, who is the queen of comedy right now. The first scene that we shoot which isn't in the final cut but is in the director's cut, is me in a blue shirt and keeping her from leaving the house after. That's the scene where I basically get to score. It's her trying to get away and me trying to stop her. It's like 7:30 in the morning; I just met Amy and Judd. I'm standing with 35 people on this lawn. Judd's way of working is we're going to do the scene as written and then we're going to improv. You're just going to crack jokes, let's see what you've got. I was terrified because I was like if I bomb now they're going to be so mad they cast me in this movie. So Amy is cracking her jokes and I just started going and cracking stuff. It was awesome getting her to break and laugh, and Judd was laughing. Right away, my nerves were settled, and we're all cracking jokes, and it was great.
In that scene, Amy comes up to me and is like "you know the scene tonight?" And I'm like yeah the one where we come home from the bar. She's like I have an idea. I think you should take your pants down, and I'm just going to talk about your family jewels. I was like okay. And she was like "Is that okay with you?" And I was like yeah whatever. So we're doing this scene and it's me and Amy in this room with a speaker in the bottom corner with Judd and Amy rattling off the best family jewel jokes I've ever heard in my life: just one after the other. I was standing there just cracking up. It's funny because when you see that close up of my tush, it's just me standing there laughing my head off. Amy was awesome just to watch her handle the scenario. She wrote it and watching her work with Judd and proven herself. It was very cool to watch her. I felt like when we were shooting she was just about to explode and look at her now with her nominations and all of it. It was a very cool moment in my life, I'll tell you that.
I know you've worked a lot before now, but this year has been more of a turning point for you in achieving that leading man status. What has that been like for you?
Oh, man. It's been a learning curve. I'll be honest with you; it's been something that I've waited for for so long. Jerry Seinfeld has a joke about marriage and getting engaged. He talks about it being growth and you can't prepare for growth. I've kind of applied it [to the show]. I'm sitting here in a show with people I've admired and respected for years: Andrea Burns, who I've loved for years, and Eliseo Roman, the piragua guy from In the Heights! I've been trying to sing that for seven years now!
Yeah, my part is the "leading man," but to me, I still feel like a rook! I feel like I'm there watching the best. I think I saw In the Heights 19 times because for me, that's when I first saw myself onstage in a musical. I love musicals and I grew up with them, but the first time I thought I could really do this was when I saw In the Heights. It was the first time. You're right though. Even Sirens was a show where I was the sprinkles. The three guys, the three EMTs were the cake. I got to come in, do my thing, crack some jokes and get some laughs, but the pressure wasn't on me. When it comes to this process, here I am now and I like to take the pressure from my cast. I like to shoulder that load for everybody. I want show up everyday. I want to do my best everyday; I'm a perfectionist when it comes to being on that stage. I want to protect Ana and protect myself. I want to lift her up; I want to lift up everyone around me.
I've been bopping around and doing good work, but now I get to show the world. For a long time I wasn't Latin enough to be Latin and wasn't white enough to be white. But that's who I am! I'm a light skinned Latin kid with blue eyes. I was raised in a Puerto Rican house in central Florida by two parents who moved here with not much. They gave me and my brother and sister a great and blessed life. That longwinded answer is to say here I am and I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to show the world and theater community I am proud of who I am and what I've gotten to do so far. It's only the beginning.
You mentioned you're from Florida originally and you were an athlete growing up. When did you know that this was where you wanted to end up?
On the soccer field, I was a goalie. When you're a goalie, you have a lot of time on your hands. I would sing songs in the goal: sometimes under my breath. I would sing pop songs and a little bit of NSYNC. I guess it started there. I sang in church too. I would always be in the Christmas plays, but I never wanted to be Jesus because Jesus was boring. I wanted to be the devil or the demon: the interesting part. When I got to middle school, I had a buddy who was doing the musical Wizard of Oz. I know it sounds crazy, but I had never seen or heard of Wizard of Oz because in my house I used to watch other things. He was going to do it at his little community theater so I popped over there and that was really it. It's history.
Did I know I could do it for life? No. That was never in my realm of belief. My folks were behind me 1000% but they didn't know what doing theater was. They didn't know what headshots were. They didn't know what auditioning was. They were just like, "Yeah, baby, whatever you want to do." They said that my whole life. They drove me around. They got me shin guards. They got me basketball shoes. I get to high school and I was trying out for the basketball team and got down to the final tryout and they had just announced they were going to be auditioning for the Sound of Music. I remember going home and telling my mom I think I've got to audition for this musical they're doing because I saw the movie at school and I think it's pretty cool. Of course Mom and Pop were right behind it. My teacher changed my life. She taught us her mantra; We're not doing high school theater, we're doing theater in a high school. It stuck with me. She taught us to set our sites big: to dream.
The end of high school, [my friends] were really big into looking at colleges whereas I was just going to go to Florida State. I was going to get full tuition, it was instate with a good theater program. He was just like, I know we're going to go to Florida State and have a really cool college experience, but I think you need to go to New York. Go to NYU. It was just like that. He was like, It's a tough place but I think you can hang. That night we put together a college resume and looked up the essays and wrote them. I got recommendations within that week. We all got into school, but they decided to go elsewhere, and I went to NYU. And here we are. It's a testament to the people I have surrounding me. My folks telling me it's okay people aren't going to make fun of you. You don't have to be on the basketball team, go do the musical. It'll all be good in the end.
Segarra was last seen starring as "Billy Cepeda" in the comedy series "Sirens" on USA. On stage, he starred as "Boland" in Second Stage Theater's Dogfight, and as "Mick" in the Off-Broadway and Broadway runs of the critically-acclaimed Lysistrata Jones. Other TV: "Chicago PD," "Homeland," "The Following," "Blue Bloods," PBS' "The Electric Company." Film: The Music Never Stopped, The Ministers, The Narrows, and Judd Apatow's Trainwreck. Graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.