Interview with Jarrod Emick
I've been a fan of Jarrod Emick's talent since hearing him sing "Goodbye,
Old Girl," as Young Joe Hardy (Tony winner) in Damn Yankees. In 1996 he gave a brilliant performance in the TNT film "Andersonville". I later saw him on two FOX night time dramatic series, "L.A. Firefighters" and "Pacific Palisades". I was quite excited to see him in the Tony nominated revival The Rocky Horror Show.
Jarrod and I conducted this interview in the audience seats of Circle in the Square after his matinee performance of The Rocky Horror Show on the day before the Tony Awards.
John Garcia: Jarrod, [after Damn Yankees] you went on to do a FOX TV series and you also did the one with the firefighters.
Jarrod Emick: "L.A. Firefighters", yeah.
JG: Have you ever done film?
JE: Well, I did a made for TV movie for TNT in '94, called "Andersonville." It was kind of shot like a film would be shot. John Frankenheimer directed it. It was quite a project ... it was packed with talented people.
JG: I really did enjoy it. From previews to now, how much has [The Rocky Horror Show) changed?
JE: Completely, as I'm sure you would attest to. Absolutely, I think the show has definitely evolved. I mean when we started, obviously, the audience reaction - and still to this day it's like having another actor on stage who's never been to any rehearsals. You're feeling out the crowd and seeing what's going to happen. Today [was] a very quiet house, very reserved.
Friday and Saturday nights are the guarantees, are the givens, but then all of a sudden, a Tuesday night could come out of nowhere and bring the place down.
JG: How do you sustain eight performances a week?
JE: This happened very early on, like early 1900s where some producers said, "Remember when we did nine shows a week and all those actors died? We should probably just do eight." (laughs)
It's like the 39 lashes in Jesus Christ Superstar, because 40 would kill a man. I think nine would kill a person. I really don't think people are meant to do [this] eight times a week. Obviously for our guy playing Riff Raff and people who have to really sing, like in a lot of these shows, it's hard. A lot of shows that are being written today are like operas ... like Jekyll & Hyde, these scores are in the stratosphere, I don't do that anymore.
JG: So what do you do to sustain yourself?
JE: Well, I pop like a "G" at the beginning of "Damn it, Janet!" and then I don't have to sing above an "E" for the rest of the show. So, vocally it's not taxing. But as anyone will attest, it takes just as much energy to sing lower as it is to sing higher. But it's fun, it really just takes me in. There are obviously some nights where I'd like to to do it and some nights I would not like to do it so much. But you get out there and you see everybodyand you're like "Alright! Come on board! Hang on!".
JG: The whole brouhaha with Joan Jett, how has that affected the cast? It went from her not doing the original cast recording, to her constantly missing performances, then the brouhaha about her never signing her Equity contract. And now she hasn't returned, and yet a few weeks ago she was in Dallas ... in concert.
JE: That's what she loves to do and that's her thing. It was never about any of her concert dates. I think it really came down to, and always comes down to, a lack of communication. And we are bummed! Everybody in this cast ... I mean I love Joan. Joan is one of the most level headed, warm ... a trouper, she never missed, she was never out. She's been through it all - it was really unfortunate the way it went down. We are jazzed to have Ana [Gasteyer, from SNL] coming in. Everybody is excited, just bummed that it had to end this way [with Jett]. That's about it ... I don't want to be the spokesperson about the issue. But Jordan [Roth], our producer is a great guy, and a straightforward guy ... so whatever issues are between them are between them.
JG: What's it like during Tony time? You've got the Outer Critic's first, then the Drama Desks, and finally the Tonys. is there like a competition between all the shows? Let's face it, sadly enough, it's those nominations that are going to bring the audiences in ...
JE: Oh sure, sure, you're right on that. It's like a family, the entire Broadway community is like a family. Just like any big family, you go, "I'd kick the sh** out of that show if I had the chance". But if anybody else says anything ... As far as our show is concerned, we are all rallying behind Tom (Hewitt, who was nominated for Best Actor in a Musical), and our show. It really sounds cliche, but really the greatest thing was just being nominated. We got four of those ... Best Revival, Actor, Director, those are some heavy duty categories.
JG: Now that I've seen the show, I'm surprised that you, Alice Ripley, and Sebastian LaCause were not nominated. You all three should have been!
JE: I appreciate that ... Obviously everybody in our show thought we'd get nominated for this, this, this, and this. We've got a whole other cast of Rocky Horror underneath and they are the ones dancin' around and moving everything around and these guys are incredibly talented. But I don't really think anyone gave us much of a thought. I mean, it's Rocky Horror ... it's a show, but it's weird. It's a weird concept, but I think we made our concept work. Of course that is a credit to Chris Ashley, our director, who got a nod.
JG: What went through your mind when you were nominated for Damn Yankees, and then your name was announced!
JE: The whole Damn Yankees experience for me was ... I was just so happy to be there in the first place! I really didn't think about any of those things. If I could wish an experience on anybody, especially an actor, maleor female, it would be that experience. I had no goals, I merely had a desire to be a part of this. I'm a big fan of all the Hirschfeld drawings. I was like, "Geez, that would be great to get Al Hirschfeld to do a caricature of me. I was really flattered by my Hirschfeld, and I bought the original ... (laughs) And when that happened, the nomination was really like ... okay!
JG: It was a wonderful revival. What's in the future for you? How long will you stay with Rocky?
JE: Well, I'm going to take a
break, Luke [Perry] is going to come in ...
He's a great guy and completely won the whole cast over.
JG: Will you take a vacation, or will you go do a shoot or something?
JE: Actually, I'm going to do some recording. I'm going to record some country music. I've totally turned "Once in Awhile" (Emick's solo in act two) into a complete country ballad. I'm surprised they haven't cut it!
JG: So do you plan to do [more] film or TV?
JE: You know, it's great work if you can get it. There's a lot of things happening. Obviously everybody wants in on the good stuff. You gotta be out there, work begets work.
JG: A lot of us are in theatre and in Equity shows it seems that in order to get cast, it's not your talent that counts, but about theatre politics and who you know. Is it the same thing here [on Broadway]?
JE: Sure, but the best theatre comes from within. I mean I went back to my alma mater where I did summer theatre in college, called the Black Coast Playhouse, in the middle of Custer State Park in South Dakota, a little 300 seat house. Really small budget, the director is getting paid like $500.00 for a month's worth of work. I went back there and did Bus Stop. I had the best time ... it was so much better than I ever thought it was ever going to be. It's not about the money. It's all about everybody doing their job ...
I've done 200 shows of Brad, so I can live without doing a night or two of Brad. When I was in college doing summer theatre, I would do nine shows a year, nine different shows a year. But I was doing what I wanted to do, for nothing; meanwhile I was living on macaroni and cheese.
JG: By the way, I really like the way you walk in the pumps. I mean you work that runway!
JE: That's another thing that changed in the show. At first, I was all clumsy, because I didn't know how to walk in those heels. So I've turned it around now where, in that part of the show, Frank is controlling me so thatI can walk in them. Because it takes more energy to be awkward in those things than just to walk in them. I mean, I'm a reasonably athletic guy and now it's like wearing a really tall pair of Tony Lama's, you just have to get used to it. It completely changes how you stand and how you walk. Now it's crazy, I just don't even think about it when I put them on.
JG: Jarrod, I really do appreciate you taking the time for this interview. I know my readers also appreciate it too.
JE: Thank you so much!
After the interview, I walked away with the feeling that I had just met one of the most professional and caring actors working today. Emick was very kind, he is very dedicated to his craft, and he is also an extremely funny man.
Thanks to Amy Wyatt, Lon Barrera, and Rick Starkweather for their help. And thanks to Jarrod Emick for taking the time from his hectic schedule to allow me to conduct this interview.