Jeremy Jordan: Stages and Storytelling
When Jeremy Jordan enters, guitar case in hand, greeting everyone in the room with a self-effacing shyness, the memories of his somewhat larger-than-life characters seem all of a sudden banished. The reality, behind the talent which has seen him move from Broadway to TV to film and back again, is quite simply a man who loves to tell stories.
And it's precisely the reason why, behind TV hits and theatre shows, he loves performing a more intimate kind of evening.
“I do the cabaret thing but it's little more personal and spontaneous,” he says. “I try to have fun with the audience as well. I sing a wide variety of numbers, from musical theatre to contemporary to stuff that I've written and some of the more old school numbers. I try to keep it varied and keep everyone excited.
“I'm always a big fan of an intimate concert over a larger venue because I like the idea of connecting with people. You remove the fourth wall and get to interact. That's what makes cabaret so exciting. They really get to know you. Big shows are fun, but for me, I feel like I can't tell the stories I want to tell and really connect to people the way I want to.”
On British shores, many fans were first introduced to this triple-threat US export via the hit TV series Smash. Focusing on the “beauty and heartbreak of Broadway”, it was a TV show which looked beyond the seduction of the footlights to some of the harder realities of a career on the stage – unemployment, unfairness and rampant nepotism to name just a few. Does Jeremy think that this was an important angle for a show about show business to take?
“Totally!” he exclaims. “I think showing the truth is one of the great things you can do with film and theatre. And we only got to glimpse a part of it, as it's really a very watered-down version of what goes on backstage. You have a lot of cooks in the kitchen with a show like that, and I kind of wish we could have gone a little further, as we really only touched the surface. It's great for fans who are lovers of theatre to see what goes on behind the scenes.”
Entering in the second and final season of the show, Jeremy played the role of Jimmy – a former drug addict who's dark past threatens to overwhelm his future. With his character suffering from a host of demons and mental health issues, does Jimmy think it was an important portrayal both for actors and young viewers to see?
“I think for that character, it's a very big departure for me and from what I personally am,” he muses. “It was an exploration of those other aspects of life and how I'd deal with them if I ever got into that zone. In terms of making it important and relevant in modern society I think you have to have those kinds of characters – dramatically they're very important. And I think the cautionary tale aspect is always a good dramatic device.
“I do feel that it's super important not to have everything super glitzy and glamorous. I'm also happy that Jimmy had a redemption towards the end, as when we meet him he's really just a nasty person. And super self-centered. I loved that he just didn't care. But after a while, you start to realise that you have to find something to root for in this character. Else, people are just going to cringe every time he comes onscreen. So I was glad that in working with Karen and Kyle and all these other people who have a much more positive spirit about them, he started to learn the true meaning of what it is to exist and not have the whole world be against you.”
With a Tony award nomination under his belt for playing Jack Kelly in the 2012 musical Newsies, and an evident devotion to the dramatic integrity of his roles, when did Jeremy first discover a gift for performing?
“I always knew that I could sing, but I was not a good actor at all. I was making faces and thought that was acting,” he laughs. “I could always sing for as long as I can remember. But I was super, super shy. My Mom made me audition for choir, so I got into that. Then one day in high school I got cast as a mute character in a show. What that did was it made me start to listen when I was onstage. I realised that I'd never done that before – I'd just made faces. And as soon as I discovered that, everything just clicked into place and I discovered the actor side of me.”
While Jeremy describes Newsies as the project which put him on the map and his proudest moment to date, the movie The Last 5 Years comes in at a close second. Playing opposite Anna Kendrick, Jeremy took the role of Jamie Wellerstein, a rising young writer whose literary career takes off as his wife's dreams of acting slowly crumble.
“I think the biggest challenge was taking something that was meant to be a solo, standing onstage by yourself with nobody else, no scenery or anything, and to put it into the real world. So we had to come up with really creative ways to do that. It was a great process for us because we all loved the show before the movie came along, and for us to get to create a completely different landscape for it was thrilling.”
And from film to TV, Jeremy currently features in CBS series Supergirl – a project which leaves the image of the theatre boy behind.
“Supergirl is Superman's cousin,” Jeremy explains of the series. “She has superpowers but she's afraid to use them. My character is Winn, her best friend and co-worker, who is secretly not-so-secretly in love with her and who she confides in. Escapades follow! We're going out to shoot the next season in around a month.”
With a career which has seen him move through so many mediums and search out fresh challenges, Jeremy's biggest so far has been exactly that – not falling into one category or becoming a victim of the dreaded type-casting. As [Erich Bergen] (link to interview) also stated, it is a stigma which those who graduated from a Broadway background sometimes have to shake off.
“A big challenge for a while was trying to have people look at me as more than the straight guy who can sing. But I got Supergirl, which is a comedy with no music at all, so that was a big hurdle for me. I think the biggest challenge now is to round out my career. I want to be able to do more theatre, but I also want to do films and TV as well. I'd love to be well-balanced. I've done more Broadway than anything else, but but's been almost 4 years so I'm very ready to go back to the stage.”