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Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places

East West Players has resumed LIVE performances with Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins (already opened)

Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places

East West Players has resumed LIVE performances with Stephen Sondheim's Assassins (already opened). East West Players' producing artistic director Snehal Desai directs the cast which includes Trance Thompson, Gedde Watanabe, Adam Kaokept, Joan Almedilla, Max Torrez, Christopher Chen, George Xavier, Astoncia Bhagat, Arvin Lee, Aric Martin, Kym Miller, Andrea Somera, Jalen Lum, Michael Cavinder and Maya Nahree McGowan. I had the chance to toss a few questions to Gedde, this enduring, steadily working actor, about his long relationship with East West and his various other acting gigs.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Gedde!

Assassins was originally scheduled to run March of 2020 when everything got shut down. Had the cast and creative team of Assassins gotten together during the pandemic to rehearse, commiserate, swap baking tips?

No not really, except the older cast members Zoomed during the two years. Chris Chen, Joan Almedilla and I. We talked about everything under the sun.

When did you start in-person rehearsals for this year's Assassins?

January 18th.

Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places Will all or most of the cast and creatives of the 2020 production be back for this opening in-person production of East West Players' 56th season?

Yes! We have everyone except one person. The new cast member is wonderful! We were very lucky in that department.

Has Snehal tweaked any of his original direction?

Yes, I think tweaking is the right word. Especially now that the political landscape has changed these past two years.

Who is the Assassins cast and creatives have you worked with before?

I have not worked with anyone of the cast members. Although Chris and Joan, I have known them for some time.

Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places You play assassin Charles Guiteau. Was there a lot of material on him that you could research in prepping for this role?

Yes, there are a few books that you can get some information and a feel for who he was. One book that I found was Candice Millard's "Destiny Republic." I felt from the accounts I read, he would have been the type of person that would have been part of the January 6th Insurrection.

If you were to submit Charles Guiteau on an online dating site, what qualities of his would you include?

I think he would have lied and made his profile as the perfect family man.

What character flaws would you definitely omit?

All of them...

Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places What cosmic forces first brought you together with East West Players?

I guess being tired of Hollywood business and finding roles that had meaning. And ultimately a sense of community amongst my fellow API and people of color artists.

Since you've done a number of productions at East West (including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, La Cage aux Folles), do you still have to audition? Or does Snehal or whomever directing just give you a call and offer you a role?

I usually ask for an audition only because I need to find out for myself if I can do something that will resonate in the character they are asking for me to do.

You got one of your first acting gigs at the ripe young age of six when you were cast in Weber State University's production of King & I where your mom made costumes. Did you ever consider pursuing another other career besides performing?

Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places My parents did. I did not.

Your parents' reaction to you announcing you wanted to become an actor must not have been as shocking to them as to most other traditional Asian parents, right?

Well, let's just say I was on my own from that day forward.

You were born Gary Watanabe. What led you to change your professional first name to Gedde?

My Japanese grandfather could not say Gary... He kept saying Gedde. So be it...

I managed to nab a scholarship for a summer session at The American Conservatory Theatre. When did you go there?

1973.

What's the one thing you learn from A.C.T. you try to adhere to in all your gigs?

There were so many places I had received learning. I can't specify one thing, but I am so grateful for the classes I did take and the teachers throughout the years.

How would you describe your act on the streets of San Francisco?

Interview: ASSASSINS' Gedde Watanabe Killing It At East West & All Other Places A maze of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell songs, singing with my guitar on Fisherman's Warf, Chinatown and Union square.

What did you learn to make for dinner with the bok choy Chinatown merchants threw at you?

It made a good stir fry for dinner.

What do you remember of your very first performance on a Broadway stage debuting in Pacific Overtures?

Standing backstage nervous, and waiting for my que and then tumbling onto the stage... My first line "Tell him what I see!" may have been shouted too loud.

In the nineties, you studied acting at Theater Theater in Hollywood. What changes have you seen in Los Angeles theatre over the past thirty years?

More theaters seemed to have popped up. But now during the pandemic I am not sure how many of them have survived...

You have a striving career in voice-overs (including The Simpsons, Scooby Doo, Mulan). How did you first break into that lucrative business?

I truly don't know how to answer that question other than Luck!

What is in the near future for Gedde Watanabe?

I am at that age where I will play older characters and hopefully will get a chance to play some interesting ones. The landscape is changing for actors of color... We will see.

Thank you again, Gedde! I look forward to seeing you kill it in Assassins.

For tickets to the LIVE performances of Assassins through March 20, 2022; log onto www.eastwestplayers.org



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