BWW Interview: Tyrone Huntley Talks HOMOS, OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA

BWW Interview: Tyrone Huntley Talks HOMOS, OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA
Tyrone Huntley

If Tyrone Huntley could sum up the last few years, it would be just one word: "Crazy!". From working with wonderful teams of creatives such as Sonia Friedman, to playing Judas in Regent's Park Open Air Theatre's acclaimed Jesus Christ Superstar, "the possibilities are endless" for this young actor.

This summer, Tyrone is set to feature in Homos, or Everyone in America, the European premiere of this play. Catching up during rehearsals, he shared his excitement for taking on this role, thoughts on the last few years, and what advice he would give to others on a similar trajectory.

What was your first experience of theatre?

I remember the first West End show I saw, which was Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre. And it had Jane Krakowski and Ewan McGregor. And it's up there as one of the great musicals, for me.

It was so big: lights, sparkles, amazing costumes. And I remember sitting there just being like, "Maybe I want to do that..."

So what was it exactly that made you want to follow that initial thought?

Growing up, I did school clubs and musicals. But I was never dedicated to pursuing acting as an actual career; it was just a hobby and I enjoyed it and I made a few friends doing it.

It wasn't until I was 16 and I did my Drama GCSE and A-level, and it was my teacher who encouraged me to apply for drama school. It wasn't something that I thought I'd be interested in. But I auditioned and I got in and I was so overwhelmed by how happy I was about that.

So I had to weigh up my options at that point: it was go to drama school and be an actor, or go and study something more rigorous (law was my top choice). But I thought, "You know what? If there's any time to do this, it's now". So I just went for it and my passion grew from there.

BWW Interview: Tyrone Huntley Talks HOMOS, OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA
Tyrone Huntley and Harry McEntire
in Homos, or Everyone in America

And obviously since then, that passion and talent has continued to grow. In the last few years, you've received the Evening Standard Award for Emerging Talent, and have been in productions like Angry and of course Jesus Christ Superstar. How would you describe that journey and trajectory?

Crazy!

So I did my three years at drama school; it was a lot of hard work, physically exhausting and mentally exhausting. And you're told every day that the chances are it's not going to happen, or it's not going to happen the way you want it to.

And then when I graduated, I got my first job pretty much immediately: touring with Sister Act, which was incredible. And then from there, it's just snowballed completely.

What's great is I've met so many incredible people on the way. Creative teams that I've worked with multiple times who like working with me and I like working with them. Producers like Sonia Friedman, for example - she gave me my first West End job and then she also gave me my job in Dreamgirls.

So it's about meeting people and making a good impression, and then hopefully they'll take a chance on you. It's just happened so crazily and not the way I thought it would at all. My career has gone in so many different directions, and it just makes me feel like the possibilities are endless.

One of those directions was as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Did you ever see yourself in that role?

You know what? Doing things like Dreamgirls and Memphis, those were majority black casts that I looked right or I sounded right for, traditionally. But in the last few years, I've played roles that weren't necessarily my castability.

I was completely surprised to get Judas. You know, I'm 5'6" and a lot of people tell me that when they see me on stage, they think I look about 12 years old! So to be cast as the lead antagonist in a rock musical, when my experience has been playing teenagers in soul and R&B musicals, that was just a massive surprise.

And again, that came about through building relationships. I worked at Regent's Park before Jesus Christ Superstar on Porgy and Bess. It was pretty much an all-black cast, and I was in the ensemble and I worked with Timothy Sheader for the first time. And we got on really well and it's been one of my favourite jobs. So when it came round to Jesus Christ Superstar, I think the relationship I had with him put me in good stead when he cast me as Judas. Because he'd worked with me and trusted me.

BWW Interview: Tyrone Huntley Talks HOMOS, OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA
Tyrone Huntley in
Homos, or Everyone in America

And it's just been announced that you're going to be in 21 Chump Street in September.

Yes, so exciting!

I thought you'd escaped the teenage type-casting!

It's so funny! But I've had this conversation with my friends recently. "You know, I think I have to play an 18 year old at least once a year!"

But it's really exciting to do 21 Chump Street. Lin-Manuel Miranda is obviously a genius, and it's actually being produced and directed by one of my close friends, Lizzy Connolly, who is also an incredible actress.

It's a short run with just three nights, and it's a 15-minute musical. So it's going to be intense, trying to make something so small epic. But as I said, Lin's a genius so I'm sure it will be.

Before that though, you're featuring in Homos, or Everyone in America. This is the European premiere, but how familiar were you with the play?

To be honest, I hadn't heard of it before. I got sent the script and as soon as I read it, I was like, "I want to be in this play, and I want to play this part".

It's just so incredibly written: the format is written in such a real, honest conversational style. It echoes real life and the themes in it are so important. It got me on the first read for sure.

BWW Interview: Tyrone Huntley Talks HOMOS, OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA
Tyrone Huntley, Josh Seymour
and Harry McEntire in
Homos, or Everyone in America

Can you tell us a bit about the context of the show?

It takes place between 2006 to 2011, and jumps back and forth through time. It centres around a gay couple, who are referred to as the Academic and the Writer. And it chronicles their journey from their first date to when they eventually part ways.

So you experience the ups and downs with them. There are some really intimate moments in the relationship. What's really clever about it is you drop into these really high-intensity moments, and the audience have to sort of work out where (or when) you are.

You mentioned you were drawn to the role of the Academic. Can you tell us why that was?

I think I can relate to a lot of the elements of the character.

He is very down to earth and academically minded. I like to think of myself as quite an intelligent person, who uses reasoning and facts to make decisions. And I think he's the same. He always uses reasoning to get through life.

And in that relationship, the Writer is the opposite and is quite impulsive. So you know, sometimes opposites attract and then sometimes they can turn into a complete showdown. So those insights make for a really interesting dynamic.

How do you think the show's themes will resonate with audiences today?

I think it's really important, because it's focusing on this gay couple and the things that they have to go through. These are things that are quite specific to gay couples and relationships, and society's view and the way that they are portrayed and treated by society.

But also, there are things that are universal: moving in together, when it's the right time, and marriage. So while the title is Homos, or Everyone in America, yes this play is about gay people, but it could also be about everyone.

BWW Interview: Tyrone Huntley Talks HOMOS, OR EVERYONE IN AMERICA
Harry McEntire, Chi-San Howard
Tyrone Huntley and Dan Krikler
in Homos, or Everyone in America

What can you share from the rehearsal room so far?

As I mentioned, the play sort of darts around back and forth in time across a period of five years. So to begin with, we had to really try and work out the exact timeline - mapping out the play and putting the scenes in the order that they would come in in life.

So that allowed us to get a feel for the development of the characters in real time, as opposed to when it's darting around.

Once we had that, we went back and put it into the order it features in the play. And once we get to those scenes in the play, we'll know the emotional place that we're in.

Finally, what can audiences expect from Homos, or Everyone in America?

The audience are invited to experience this intense relationship between two people, and how external certain factors like societal views and the changing of laws and the changing of Presidents and additional people in the relationship like friends, how all of that can inform how a relationship can change and develop over the course of time.

It'll be really interesting for audiences to drop in on random moments (in terms of time), but really specific in moments of their relationship. So how they get from Point A to Point B, over the course of five years.

So the audience are really in the thick of the action; they can't get away from it, it's all in their face. Whether it's passionate arguing or passionate love, they're there for it.

Homos, or Everyone in America at Finborough Theatre until 1 September

Photo credit: Alex Brenner

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