BWW Interview: Jeremy Jordan on Taking Risks, His Dream Collaboration, and Saving Twitter
After a day of work in Vancouver, off from filming Supergirl and preparing for his first concert of 2018 in Fort Lauderdale this Saturday evening, Jeremy Jordan still finds the time to spin his charming magic. Speaking to me before his performance at the Parker Playhouse, we discussed not his past roles on Broadway, nor his fan favorite character of Winn in the DC Universe, but more broadly of hope and creation. In an industry that can feel brutish and taxing almost every day of the year, Jordan remains a brilliant light of hope, positivity, and sincere passion.
BWW: You're one of the decades most respected leading men of theatre, you've originated quite a few roles, and you've come a long way since you first played The Mute in Fantasticks as a high-schooler; along this way you've learned a lot. What lesson do you most want to give to those young performers, under their high school or community theater spotlights, as they look ahead to the future?
Jeremy Jordan: The thing that I like to tell people the most is don't be afraid to take risks. We all have something really interesting and individual to contribute to whatever project we're in, or even in an audition situation. you know and unless you can really find the thing that makes you you, the things you can do that nobody else can, it becomes increasingly difficult to make any sort of impact.
For me, I think the thing that helped me find the most success - I tend to always think outside the box, always try to bring something interesting and different, and what you might not expect, to the room. Whether it's an audition or a performance or a rehearsal. I do think that sort of served me very well over the years. You don't wanna always do the expected thing. And you're not always gonna be right. It's not always gonna be the right choice. But it can be memorable choice. It shows people that you're capable of doing really interesting things and contributing and that sort of creative thing.
The best thing for me about theatre is the rehearsal process and creation. You lose a lot of that being in film and television and what I'm doing right now.
BWW: On that topic, I know you've been getting a ton of questions about your role in Supergirl. I'm not gonna make you answer the same questions with the same answers, but I do have one question: Which do you think are more rabid, Broadway fans or comic book fans, now that you have both?
JJ: Rabid? I don't want to describe any fans as rabid.
BWW: (laughs) In more of a loving way!
JJ: I will say that the comic book fans can be a bit more... Particular? Maybe because they've grown accustomed to things they love, and Broadway people are maybe a bit more... flexible? I think both fandoms have incredible attributes that far out-weigh any sort of (negatives). There are always some snakes in the aisle, always some people that will kinda burst your bubble.
BWW: At the end of the day, they aren't really fans if they want to take something down like that.
JJ: Oh, yeah. Well, I will say I think that Broadway fans are more... loving? Listen, there are incredible people that I've met on both ends and I just know Broadway better, so maybe that's why I'm biased. I get to meet a lot more of them because stage door and all that.
BWW: Personally, a big reason I've always respected you and your work ethic more than most Broadway stars, is your incredible sincerity and humble nature. You've faced hardships in your career, had obstacles, but you've never let emotion take over or done anything to damage anyone or any productions. This past year, we've seen a lot of controversies in the theatre world, with massive consequences to individuals and performers. In your opinion, is Twitter a tool of the people, or is it kind of a misguided missile at times? How can both sides act more like you when those Twitter fingers come out?
JJ: Oh man, I have lots of thoughts about Twitter and social media. It can be incredibly toxic, and it can also be incredibly empowering. Until the people that are popular and have the most influence in social media begin to do the latter (way more than the former, to be more empowering, more positive), then it's not gonna change for the better. Cause I feel like its gotten a lot worse.
I have sort of been on both sides of it occasionally and I realized that it's infinitely better to be on the side of positivity. You're gonna make a lot more people happy, a lot more people happy than not. You're going to have some great sort of positive experience come out of that, and I've never posted something negative and had anything good come of it.
BWW: I love how you've handled things in the past.
JJ: Thanks. I mean, it's a tough career. It's tough to be in the spotlight sometimes. We all make mistakes, we all may have a faux pas here and there that was unintentional. I do think it's important to understand social media and understand how people use it, however unhealthy it may be at times. It can be used for good and it can be used for evil, and a lot of people unwillingly use it for evil, too (which is kind of weird).
BWW: On a much lighter note, those lucky enough to be at this year's Elsie Fest got to hear that unbelievable Disney Medley. With Hunchback making its regional premiere in New York and Frozen coming, Broadway is looking really ripe for new Disney shows (and a couple rumored productions). Of any-
JJ: What's rumored?
BWW: Alan Menken mentioned Hercules is still in some stage of talks.
JJ: (laughs) I remember that.
BWW: Of any Disney character, or non-Disney character, that has yet to reach the Great White Way, which would you most want to step into?
JJ: (laughs and sighs) It's a tough question because I... more than anything I just love creating roles. I prefer to do something that maybe has less of a history? Attached to it? Only because you are creating from scratch, and there's this sort of 'The Sky's the Limit.' I've done it a couple times, even with Jack Kelly, and a couple other parts - there's a bit of a preconceived notion of what is supposed to be, and you have to battle that, and hopefully you win that battle and make your claim. For what you think it should be and how the character should act. And then it does become your own, but there, sometimes, sometimes it's nice to not have to fight that battle.
So, I love creating new characters, and I only ever played a real character once - That's not true, twice - but mainly with Bonnie & Clyde. I love the idea of playing real people and I love doing the research and finding out how they really were and what kind of cool thing you can bring to it that are not on the page. I'd love to play like a real character again.
BWW: An easier question might be - when I interview performers usually I get to ask the question of who they'd love to collaborate with. But YOU seem to have worked with the greatest writers, the best composers, the strongest performers in your career-
JJ: Not all of them!
BWW: (Laughs) Not all of them, but almost all of them! Of everybody you've gotten the opportunity to work alongside, who continues to astonish you? Who do you hope to continue collaborating with in the future?
JJ: That's a tough one, man. I'm a big fan of a lot of my friends. (pause) I feel kind of weird discriminating... You know who I really want to work with? And I'm being super serious and super honest. And I don't know if its ever going to happen but I would love to do a show with my wife (Ashley Spencer). I think that she is one of the most underrated performers on Broadway right now. I get to do auditions with her and tape her all the time and I see this incredible thing that she has to offer and I just want to be a part of that professional setting. I think it'd be so cool.
BWW: Would she ever do Last Five Years with you?
JJ: I don't know, maybe! It's gonna be hard to top what we already did. She was actually in the Last Five Years, she had a cameo in there. She was the blonde, in the scene at the end where he's in bed with a bunch of different girls. A silly little cameo. That's my answer!
BWW: And that's a great answer! You've given us flawed heroes in Jamie and Clyde, you've given us naïve optimism and excitement in Jack and Winn, and if your concerts over the past few years are any indication, you have loads more to give us. In 2018, what are you hoping to bring out and into the world?
JJ: Wow. You know, well here's the thing... I have this TV contract... (laughs) where I'm kind of doing Winn until I'm not. There's gonna be a lot more that, and hopefully they'll give me some fun stuff to do this season and next with that character, but aside from that, I've been working this past year and into this year creating an album. It's something I've been really passionate about doing for a long time and I haven't got the chance to actually - not to say I haven't had the chance, but I haven't had the courage to put myself out there in that way.
Last year, I made a demo with one of my good friends, of four songs that I've written, that people seem to love, and it's been received very well. I am in the process of finding the right producer, and hopefully getting this thing made and released so that everybody else can see it. It's all original stuff - it's not any Broadway stuff, it's kind of all pop rock stuff, singer-songwriter, it's all, legit sort of thing. And that's something I've always wanted to do, ever since I was a kid, and never really had the courage or the means to do it, and now I do, and it's all stuff that I've written or co-written. So I'm excited to share that!
BWW: I knew you said your resolution last year was to finish the album-
JJ: AHA! (laughs)
BWW: Is that your resolution again this year?
JJ: Here's the thing - everything is written! And that wasn't true last year. But it turns out, uhh, there's a lot more involved to creating an album that I had anticipated... and it's taking time. I honestly would have gotten it done a lot sooner if I wasn't in Vancouver ten months out of the year... It's a timing thing, you know... But that's what I'm most excited about. Hopefully I'll get to do some cool things, role-wise in my hiatus, or something, but... We'll see.
BWW: Well, here we go. The final question. I want to round back to those high schoolers performing in their communities, moving from their choir onto the stage for the first time, and finding that overwhelming sensation as the curtain rises. This world is tumultuous, the politics are raging, acceptance is dawning, and possibilities - seemingly limitless. Whether those kids are singers, actors, dancers, or the stage manager of a one act their friend wrote - when they're not sure how to make it through, what can they do to keep that fire burning? How should they persevere?
JJ: Well... First, when you're a kid and you're so - the world is kinda wide open to you. It's a little different because, anything is possible and I do really believe that should remain true. As you get a little bit older and understand yourself better, that's a big question that you sort of have to ask yourself. What do I feel kind of best about? What do I love? What excites me? What do people say that I'm good at? We have to be realistic and, at the same time, continue to sort of dream and imagine great things for ourselves. If you are having troubles and hardships, it's less about 'Do I keep going or do I quit?' It's 'How do I direct this in my own favor?' As soon as you can figure out that whatever you have to give is going to be valid, and its going to be great, then you can sort of figure out what that is going to be.
Some people really love theatre and maybe they just find that their chops aren't as good as they want them to be. Now, you can do something about that by going and taking classes and really doubling down on that. That still doesn't work, there are other avenues you can take towards that goal. And sometimes, its not, you know, what's out there for you. You have to find people that can be honest with you and you have to be honest with yourself. If you still believe at the end of the day that 'I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO DO THIS OR DO THAT', then, you do. Until we really learn to put all the sort of childish things aside - as you grow up, it's still the cool dream job. But you find out real quick that most of the job becomes about managing rejection. It's how comfortable you are with being rejected hundreds and hundreds of times and being rejected both for whatever your skills are or for other things that are beyond your control. How you deal with that is really essential.
What you can't do more than anything else, is reject yourself. That's what a lot of people fall into. That sort of, 'Well, you know, I have this dream, I have this exact idea of what things should be, and it's NOT working out, so I MUST not be good enough' or 'I MUST not be this or that'. Everybody has something incredible to offer, it's just a matter of finding out what that is and going for it. It might take you a long time! It won't happen right away for most people. And you know what? Aside from that? There are multiple things that I am absolutely, positive that everybody has to offer. Nobody just has to offer one thing. That would be kind of boring. That's the whole, you know, Aptitude Test mentality. That, what are you best suited to do? That's sort of bullshit to me.
I feel like, we can all do pretty incredible things and... we don't have to choose just one thing. So, maybe you still have a passion for acting and you haven't quite made it yet, or gotten the success you want. That doesn't mean you have to give it up! Just, explore other passions. There's nothing wrong with that.