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Broadway Q&A: Josh Radnor of ‘Rise’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |


“When you do one thing, you start envisioning you could maybe do other things. I was a lead on Broadway. And then I thought, ‘Well, maybe I could be star in a TV show.’”

Josh Radnor wears many hats. The How I Met Your Mother star is not only an actor, he is also a writer, a director and a singer-songwriter. He played high school English teacher Lou Mazzuchelli opposite Rosie Perez in the NBC series Rise. He recently starred as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors with Megan Hilty at Kennedy Center. On Broadway, he has appeared in Disgraced and The Graduate. Radnor writes and performs with his band, Radnor and Lee, and is a passionate supporter of New York Stage and Film. For 34 years, the organization has helped develop artists and nurture new work for theater and film. Through their summer Powerhouse Theater program, writers, directors and actors workshop their productions at the Vassar campus without being reviewed. 

Josh Radnor recently appeared in 'Little Shop of Horrors' and NBC's 'Rise' (Photo: Monica Simoes)

Josh Radnor recently appeared in 'Little Shop of Horrors' and NBC's 'Rise' (Photo: Monica Simoes)

Do you remember when you knew you had to be an actor? 
Josh Radnor
: I think it was the second musical I did. I played the Emcee in Cabaret at my high school. People were kind of pulling me aside and saying, "You are giving something like a professional performance. You should consider doing this." But it felt so outside the realm of anything possible. And I was also terrified. How would I tell my parents that's what I wanted to do? It felt like a betrayal of the highest order.

What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?
Josh Radnor
: I remember a trip to New York when I was around 18 or 19. My family and I saw a couple Broadway shows, including She Loves Me and Laughter on the 23rd Floor, the Neil Simon play. I remember they were so comedically precise and hilarious. Afterward, I said to my parents, "I'm not as good as those people on that stage, but I'm going to be."

Would you like to be on Broadway again? 
Josh Radnor
: Yes. When the right thing comes along, I'm fully open to it. I mean it’s really like going to the actor gym. You have got to go every single day. It regulates your life in a pretty interesting way. You wake up and you think, okay, I’ve got to be at the theater at 7, 7:30 or whatever and this is what I have to do today. And your whole day kind of gets oriented around the performance. You have to conserve your energy and voice. It’s a bit like you’re a monk while doing it, because you have to take care of yourself. You can’t get sick. Also, there’s a purity to it, because you do the whole show every night. You’re your own editor. You have got to recreate it. I started in the theater, so it’s where, in some ways, I still feel most at home. 

You are a giant advocate and supporter of the organization New York Stage and Film. Why do you love it so much? 
Josh Radnor
: It's my favorite place in the world to make theater. New York Stage and Film is a safe place where you can really fail, you can take some big swings and they'll support you. You can figure out your play. The first time I was there, I was in between my sophomore and junior year of college, and was an apprentice. We did Macbeth, and I played the Scottish king, the title character, which was great. It was a pivotal moment in my life, it was a pivotal summer. I got to be around professional actors for the first time, and see how great they were, and the level that they were operating at. Some of the professional actors came and saw our plays. Some of them said, “You could really do this,” so it really gave me an enormous wind at my sails.

What is your life like when you are there? 
Josh Radnor
: I remember when they produced my play, Sacred Valley. I would wake up and think, “My only responsibility today is to work on this play. That is all I'm doing in the world.” There was something clarifying and freeing about just having that be what I was there to do. You rarely get a time that is so unencumbered and where they just clear it for you to go out there and figure out your play. Sometimes you just need that time.

Can you talk about your Broadway debut? 
Josh Radnor
: It was in The Graduate, opposite Kathleen Turner. When you do one thing, you start envisioning you could maybe do other things. I was a lead on Broadway. And then I thought, “Well, maybe I could be star in a TV show.”

***

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

 

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