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Jordan Fisher

Steven Levenson Chats with Jordan Fisher about Returning to Broadway

Jordan Fisher is a multifaceted recording artist, actor, and dancer, who made his Broadway debut in Hamilton and went on to play Mark in Fox’s Rent: Live and win season 25 of Dancing With the Stars. On January 28, Fisher joins the Broadway company of Dear Evan Hansen in the title role. He sat down for Broadway Direct with Dear Evan Hansen’s Tony Award–winning book writer, Steven Levenson, ahead of his Broadway return.


STEVEN LEVENSON: My first question for you is, what’s the thing that you’re most looking forward to in performing this role?

JORDAN FISHER: Oh, my god. I mean, meat! Meat, man. This is a 16-course meal, you know? Obviously, the music’s incredible; Benj [Pasek] and Justin [Paul] are just, you know, they’re phenomenal, poured their hearts and their souls into it. And, of course, the book itself is just incredible, a story that everybody can relate to in some way. I think the most exciting thing for me is that there is something for everybody in Evan. Evan gives everybody a little something to hold on to. You don’t have to be going through some big mental or emotional battle with yourself to find you in Evan. There are very key moments in the show that I’m such a fan of and that I’m excited to explore.

Are there individual things, or one thing in general, that you are afraid of or nervous about?

Um.

You can say no!

It’s a good question. No, I mean it’s a great question. There definitely are. It’s a behemoth of a show, behemoth of a role. I think for me personally, and knowing my process as an actor, there are certain moments … In “Words Fail,” for example, you know there’s so much that’s wrapped up in the last 20 minutes of the show that pours out, and obviously there’s a lot of resolve there. And I think that being so caught up, being so emotionally, I guess, involved, invested in certain conversations that are had between characters in the show, or songs that are being sung by certain characters in the show, where there are some double entendres to me. To me, “If I Could Tell Her” is not just a song about Zoe but also a song about Zoe’s mom, and wishing that she actually really truly listened to him in the principal’s office. There are certain things like that that, again, as an actor, it pains me. It pains me. There’s so much material to play with.

I love that. So, your personal style is very different from Evan’s, mostly in the fact that you have a personal style. What are you doing physically to transform into this character?

Yeah! It’s an interesting process, and I would love for you to ask me this question again in, like, five weeks. I think that is a natural thing that will happen as I get to know Evan, as I spend more time with the script, and spend all of my waking hours with him — he will make himself very present. Physicality is something that does happen naturally if you allow it, as you get to know the character that you play. There’s something about putting on a costume that obviously makes everything real. The first time I put the costume on [at the press photo shoot], there was something that happened to the way I was standing and the way I was sitting that just naturally happened. I’m excited to allow that to take its own shape. I like to allow things to just happen in the way that they’re supposed to, so we’ll see! We’ll see what physicality there is. I think that ultimately for Evan, somebody who deals with, you know, whatever it is as an audience member you feel like he’s dealing with, because it’s never really diagnosed or made clear, I think that his physicality is really whatever can bring him any source of comfort. If it’s tugging at his shirt, playing with his fingers, or if it’s pulling at his pants, whatever it is, whatever suspicions there are, that will eventually take care of itself.

Yeah. I mean, it’s something. I know you were in Hamilton [as John Laurens and Philip Hamilton], and something [director] Tommy Kail I heard say the other day about that show, which I think is true certainly of Dear Evan Hansen as well, he doesn’t like to use the term replaced. Like, no one’s “replacing” anybody in Hamilton. Because each performance is completely singular if you’re doing it right. It should never feel like, you know, “Here’s the next person doing the same thing as the last person.”

Oh, 100 percent. And Anthony [Ramos] had an unbelievable take on John Laurens that was very specific to Anthony, where my take on him was much more fluid, but at that time was far more normal in that day and age, in terms of just fashion and sexuality and speech, and stigmas hadn’t really been determined in American culture yet. That’s the fun of Broadway, right? Like, that’s the fun in going to see a show multiple times, you know, seeing what an actor’s take on a role is.

Absolutely. You move between a lot of different worlds, either, obviously, film and television, and gaming. The gaming part is super interesting to me because it’s so foreign to me — it’s something I don’t know that much about. Does that feel like a completely different world than all of these other things? Like, is that its own universe? Or does it feel connected?

It is a completely different world. I am completely and entirely just Jordan in that space. The streaming space, and that constant creation space, where streaming and gaming are concerned, even if it’s like hosting a sports tournament or something along those lines, it’s a completely different world full of people who are just being them. And working on something that they love and connecting with people at their human level. That means the world to me. I’m able to create and curate an environment on Twitch [a livestreaming platform for gamers] where people can come and sit in my stream and talk and be a part of my community, talk to me, and watch me play a game at a high level that they love to play as well, maybe learn something new and get tips, and also talk about life. There’s no other space in my world of producing or writing or acting or singing or working on Broadway where there’s that. Gaming is that. Gaming is that connective tissue and entertainment that brings humanity to entertainment and entertainment to humanity. And my goal in the gaming space, as a more traditional “actor” or whatever coming Broadway, film, TV, music, is being able to bring that culture, fashion, art to gaming in a real way and bring gaming to all of that as well, bringing gaming to that space. So, there’s a lot of really fun stuff that we’ll be able to chat about in the next couple of months, where entertainment is concerned and gaming and entertainment are concerned. And then again, you know, I am your atypical “weeb.” I don’t look like somebody who just gorges on anime, and manga, and video games, but it’s very much my lifeblood. I don’t act like somebody who, in terms of the stigma, would be somebody who, again, gorges and feasts on all of the nerdy stuff. But the negativity in the terms weeb, and nerd, and gamer is evaporating before our eyes, and I get to help. I get to help in eradicating all of the stigmas and stereotypes. Which, in terms of social culture and social dynamics, some of my most revelatory, life-changing, human, man-becoming, conversation moments have happened, you know, with my buddies off-stream over a headset playing Call of Duty at 2 a.m. It’s such a beautiful and such a healthy thing, and I’m proud to help represent gamers and the gaming community.

When you were growing up, were you into musicals?

Yeah. When I was 10, I had a crush on a girl who asked me to join the drama club, so that was it, I was in. She asked me to join the drama club, so I walked into drama club and I didn’t know that I could sing. I was a gymnast, but I didn’t know that I could sing, I didn’t know that I could dance, I didn’t know I had a knack for acting. But I loved film, and I loved TV, and I loved moving my body. Everything changed. I had an amazing music teacher, a great drama teacher, and they gave me an opportunity to use those wings that I didn’t know I wanted to.

What musicals were you in? Do you remember any?

My first musical was Schoolhouse Rock Jr. I sang “Conjunction Junction,” and then went into my first regional theater show, like community theater, regional theater, and then professional theater. And I joined Red Mountain Theatre Company, which is a professional theater conservatory and company in Birmingham, where, funnily enough, there are a ton of Broadway and national tour homies of mine who all came from the same theatre conservatory in Birmingham. It’s amazing. It’s this beautiful gem in southeast, where people flock to see shows and get training. Yeah, so Schoolhouse Rock, and Annie, I’ve played like every male role in that show.

What was a production that really meant something to you? Like, for me I always think about Rent, which you obviously know very well. That was the one that unlocked “Oh, I want to do that.” Was there a show like that for you? Or shows?

Once on This Island. Yeah. My theater company did a production of Once on This Island. I was not part of it, I wasn’t old enough to be in it, but I saw the show, like, six times. Stephen Flaherty is one of my favorite composers and I loved Seussical, loved Ragtime, loved Anastasia, it was my favorite animated movie of all time, and “We Dance” happened. And it just — that was the piece of theater that made me go “Oh, I really want to do that. I really want to do that.” Actually, as a matter of fact, and this hasn’t changed, Michael Arden is a buddy of mine, and we’ve had many conversations about this: I really want to play Erzulie one day, I want to play the god of love, the goddess of love. I think that would be sick. To have a male approach to a character that is all about love and affection and tenderness and selflessness. I’ve always thought that could be really cool. I loved the revival; Hailey Kilgore is a good buddy of mine as well, and Lea Salonga, these are all homies and I was thrilled to see them do what they did with that show. It was so beautiful and it actually makes me very sad that it’s no longer on Broadway. Yeah, Once on This Island, that’s my favorite musical of all time.

And speaking of Rent, you worked with Evan director Michael Greif on Rent: Live! Can you tell me a little bit about that experience, working with him then? Obviously I’m assuming it was a good experience since you’re coming back for more.

Yeah, it was a beautiful experience. I mean, that was my dream role. If you ask anybody in my life, my dream role was to be Mark in Rent. I wanted it more than anything. I wanted that more than every role ever. There’s something about Mark that could be very two-dimensional that I really wanted to make three-dimensional and give him some issues of his own. Because he was such a fish out water, what made him a part of that friend group? You know, what were his vices? These were things that had not really been explored that I wanted to explore that Michael let me explore. And that was so special. That was the beginning of the rest of the history of our friendship, which I guess is me being like “Hey, Michael, I have this wacky idea,” and him saying “Well, I look forward to you exploring and playing with it and we will have a conversation about it later.” Especially for a show like this, where so much really has to do with an actor going on a personal journey, you know, I’m thrilled to be working with Michael and the rest of the amazing associate directors, you know, building my thing. That ultimately will shift the wind a little bit, because whoever’s playing Evan that night, whenever you see the show there’s a different kind of tone to the show. Albeit they’re all gonna be beautiful, they’re all gonna be beautiful takes because it’s such a human role. Love Michael, love the experience of Rent, loved everybody who was a part of it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. In a heartbeat.

Yeah! Well, your performance was really incredible.

Thanks, I appreciate that.

Awesome. Well, I have a few other random questions, like: How many times have you seen Dear Evan Hansen? Do you know?

Um … Ben [Platt] and Michael [Lee Brown], Taylor Trensch, Andrew Barth Feldman. Four times.

Wow! You’ve seen most of the guys.

Yeah, pretty much! Yeah, so Ben, first I saw Ben. I was with Vanessa Hudgens, actually, and we were catching up and we had a bite to eat before we went to see the show. And we hadn’t seen it, and she had to console me. I was, like, dry heaving during intermission. I was so just moved by it. I had this whole write-up actually that I did that I posted on Twitter — funny enough that was January 29, 2017, making my debut …

Oh, my god.

Three years later.

That’s incredible.

There are some superfans of the show who educated me on that. Who went back on my Twitter and figured out when I first saw the show. Yeah, so I’ve seen it four times at this point.

And if you could play any character other than Evan, who would it be?

Hmm. I mean, Heidi’s pretty good. I mean, probably Heidi. I think probably Heidi. Yeah, I mean how could you not? What an intense and complicated arc, you know?

Indeed. Well, I think that’s it! Thank you so much for taking to the time to chat, and we’re so thrilled to have you join the Dear Evan Hansen family. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the rehearsal room. Break a leg!

This conversation has been edited for length.

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