Interview with Tony nominee Adam Pascal
Tony nominee Adam Pascal is currently starring as The Bard, William Shakespeare, in the Broadway production of Something Rotten! until its final performance at the St. James Theatre on January 1st, 2017. He will also play the role in the musical's first National Tour, beginning January 10th in Schenectady, NY.
Adam picked up a Tony nomination in 1996 for originating the role of Roger Davis in RENT on Broadway and went on to reprise the role in the 2005 film adaptation. Other Broadway credits include Aida, Disaster!, Memphis, Cabaret and Chicago. His other screen appearances include School of Rock, SLC Punk!and, most recently, Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2.
Adam spared some time to talk to us about whether it really is hard to be The Bard on Broadway:
Thomas Hayden Millward: When you join an already established cast like Something Rotten!, is there any kind of special way they welcome you into the fold?
Adam Pascal: Usually you meet everybody sporadically. It’s been my experience that there hasn’t been a collective gathering of people to greet a new cast member, although when you do your put-in, I suppose that’s when you meet everybody for the first time. You just meet people in the hallways and they are really friendly and welcoming. With this cast, it’s obvious when you see the show that the cast is having such a good time because the show is so much fun. They all have a lot of affection towards one another backstage. I’ve replaced on a couple of shows – Memphis and Cabaret – and it’s always the same type of experience. Everyone has been very kind, generous, helpful and welcoming.
THM: And when you enter a show that already has a closing date as opposed to an open-ended run, does that change your mindset at all as an actor?
AP: Well, in a way it takes a little bit of the pressure off. I would hate to go into a show and then they announce that it’s closing! (Laughs) That wouldn’t look good for me! So, I do kind of appreciate the fact that there is already an endgame and that I’m there to close it and then there’s the tour. It’s really me being in previews for the tour.
THM: Getting to do your previews on Broadway itself can’t be a bad thing, I’m sure! Had you seen any of the previous Bards like Christian Borle or Will Chase perform and how did you make this role your own?
AP: I saw Will and I also saw Eric Sciotto, who was the understudy between Will and myself. They were great and I got some great ideas from watching them. But having replaced a few times, I never have a problem with making these roles my own. It’s instinctively natural to me to just do my own thing. I wouldn’t even know how to copy somebody else’s performance. It doesn’t even occur to me. Especially with Will Chase, for example, his performance is so uniquely him and it comes from his personality. With good actors, their performances come from what they uniquely bring to it. It comes from who they are. I feel like that’s what I do. It comes from who I am. In something like Cabaret, where Alan Cumming was such a template for that part [of the Master of Ceremonies], you can’t help but do some of what he did because it was so uniquely created by him. But the challenge on top of that and the fun part is to make it your own. I would say that every part I’ve replaced in is somewhat like that as well – there is a template there and then you layer on your own personality.
THM: You have had comic elements to some of your past Broadway roles like Chicago, Cabaret and Memphis, but your latest two roles – Disaster! and Something Rotten! – have been pure comedy roles. In this respect, what would you say were the biggest challenges?
AP: The biggest challenge, in all honesty, is trusting that I can be funny (laughs). You hope that you’re funny and people tell you you’re funny. But the challenge is trusting your own instinct and say: “OK. Let me just do what I do and hopefully, it will work!” So far I’ve been lucky and successful in that regard. For me, the challenge is being able to trust myself.
THM: I’ve always thought that in Hollywood, for example, they never seem to reward the deserving comedy actors, when it comes to the Oscars and such. Yet, I always imagine that it is more difficult to make and audience laugh than is to make them cry.
AP: I agree 100%! I think that comedic roles, when they are done well, are the most brilliant performances out there because, like you say, it really is harder to make people laugh. I’m honoured that I have the opportunity to take on roles that are comedic and that I’m allowed to express that part of my personality on stage.
THM: So we can safely say that indeed “It is Hard to be The Bard,” if we may, Adam. Now, who would you say is your Rockstar-Bard figure in today’s world?
AP: Hmmmm… That’s a good question. It probably was, is and always will be Paul McCartney.
THM: And long may he continue to be so. Now, in summary, could you tell us what an audience could expect from a visit to Something Rotten!, now that you are rocking the part of Will Shakespeare?
AP: Well, this show is extremely clever! The music is wonderfully written. The lyrics are extremely clever. The performances are rich, heartfelt and funny. It’s an incredibly good time and it’s actually one of the few shows for every member of the family. An entire family can come and laugh at all the jokes.