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Broadway Q&A: Jeremy Jordan of ‘American Son’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

The ‘Supergirl’ star and Broadway musical vet branches out in the new play ‘American Son’

In American Son, Jeremy Jordan plays Officer Paul Larkin, a well-meaning rookie cop. The action takes place in a Miami police station, just after 4 a.m., as Kendra (Kerry Washington) is desperately trying to locate her 18-year-old son, Jamal. He hasn’t come home, and isn’t answering her calls or texts. Although Officer Larkin is trying to do his best, he often says the wrong things. The tension mounts even higher when Jamal’s father Scott (Stephen Pasquale), who is separated from Kendra, arrives. This gripping play by Christopher Demos-Brown is directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Fences) and has a dream production team that includes Kerry Washington, Jada Pinkett Smith, Shonda Rhimes, Gabrielle Union-Wade and Dwayne Wade. Jordan is a Tony and Grammy-nominated veteran of Broadway musicals including Newsies, Bonnie and Clyde and West Side Story. On television and film, he starred in Smash and The Last Five Years. For the past three years, he played Winn Schott in the TV series Supergirl. American Son marks Jordan’s Broadway debut in a play

Jeremy Jordan currently stars alongside Kerry Washington in ‘American Son’ (Photo: Nathan Johnson)

Jeremy Jordan currently stars alongside Kerry Washington in ‘American Son’ (Photo: Nathan Johnson)

You have been on Supergirl for several years, and it has been a while since you have acted on Broadway. What brought you back?
Jeremy Jordan
: I have always loved the stage. It’s my first passion, my first home. And I wanted to get back there as soon as possible. This play came to me right after I got back from working on the TV show for three years. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to do something really different, to expand my horizons and what other people might think of me. I wanted to challenge myself.

What do you like about working with Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale in American Son?
: Kerry is really incredible. I love her. She is one the kindest, most down-to-earth human beings that I have ever met. She pretty much has no flaws in my book. She’s just lovely, and has a great energy. Steve is, like, kind of my idol at this point. He is an incredible actor and great singer who does it all and stays very humble about it. Both of them have a great work ethic. I love working with those guys. The whole cast (which also includes Eugene Lee) is great.

Do you remember one of the first times you were on stage?
: I was on stage a lot as a little kid here and there. My grandma was part of the community theater. When I was around 4 or 5, I played a little rat in a production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. That is the first thing I remember playing.

The bug really bit me when I was a junior in high school doing a production of The Fantasticks. I played the mute character, even though I was a singer. The experience taught me how to listen. After being super showy and “me, me, me” on stage, it put my focus on other people. I discovered that if I learned how to listen, I could escape into these characters a little bit more.

Was there a time when you realized that you had a special talent for singing?
Jordan: I’ve always felt like I could sing, since I was a little kid. But I think it’s’ something that was built over time and happened very slowly over years and years and years. 

When I was in The Fantasticks, one of the guys in the show was older. Being from a small town, I had no idea how decent or good or bad I was. He was from New York and said “you have something that most other people don’t.” I thought, “Really?” He believed in me, and sent me on my way. 

What do you love to do when you are not working? 
: I like to hang out with friends and family and watch TV and movies. I play video games. I read, work out, go to the gym. It’s pretty normal, boring stuff. 

In what show did you make your Broadway debut?
: Rock of Ages. I had just done a regional production of Big River at Goodspeed. It was right after the holidays. I had an agent, but was still going to auditions on my own. I went to an open call for Rock of Ages, and got called back for the swing (or understudy) because I wasn’t really right for any of the parts in particular. But it turns out I was good enough to play all the parts.

How exciting was that call?
: It was very exciting. But each call is exciting like that. It doesn’t get any less exciting every time you get a new offer.

What inspired you to do American Son?
: I read the play in one long breath. I put it down and thought to myself, “I can’t not be a part of this.” It felt important, monumental and something that needed to be told. It had been a long time since I felt like I was a part of something like that. So, I jumped at the opportunity. It also seemed like a different kind of character for me, and a new challenge to get under my belt.

How are you able to make Officer Paul Larkin so human, even as he’s saying the wrong things?
: He doesn’t necessarily feel that he is wrong. He just doesn’t quite see the full picture. In the play, I feel like I’m doing the right thing, and want to be helpful, but I don’t exactly know how to navigate in a compassionate way. When Kendra says, “Do you have a black son?” he says “Well no, I don’t have a black son, but I have two daughters that I love and care about and would do anything for.” He doesn’t quite understand that her perspective is so different from his.

I believe that he is really trying to do his best, be as helpful as possible and serve the job that he set out to do. I wouldn’t say this is a positive quality of his, but his naiveté is fun to play. He is not quite on top of things. If he had a little bit more of a sense of humor, things wouldn’t go quite over his head as easily as they do.

What do you love about playing your Supergirl character, Winn Schott?
: He is sort of fun, goofy, fun-loving and lovable. In the past, I played a lot of darker, broodier characters. It was nice to play someone a little bit lighter. It always put me in a good mood when I was playing him, which was always nice.

Is there something you miss about doing Supergirl?
: For the most part, the people. I made some great friends on the show. And I miss the character a little bit. I spent three years with Winn. But I’m going back to do a few guest starring things. I don’t really have to say goodbye to him yet.

When the curtain comes down, how do you come back to you? 
: I don’t have a lot of trouble doing that. Every once in a while I’ll get stuck in something. But for the most part, I try to maintain a very strong tether to my reality. Over the years, I have developed the muscle to snap myself back. I think it has to do with working on TV and film, where you have to turn it on and off really quickly. I don’t think there is anything I do in particular. I try to remember that I’m having a good time and doing what I love.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in January 2019.

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