HIS SMASH AWAKENING
There will always be new legions of talent putting on their best face for auditions, offering their most current headshot, presenting what they have to offer. Whether the response is “Next!” or “Where can we reach you?” The routine of securing a paying job on Broadway is a feat in itself. You never know where the next audition is going to take you.“ “I’m just a Broadway Baby, walking off my tired feet, pounding 42nd Street to be in a show.”
26-year-old Andy Mientus knows this and has already been singled out for starring and supporting roles, presenting his talents as “Hanschen” in the national tour of Spring Awakening and in his off-Broadway debut as “Stokes” in the theatre production of Carrie.
What happened next is truly a textbook case of “life imitating art.” He was back to being a struggling artist and working on a book for a new musical called Hit List and like they say, “you just never know where the next audition is going to take you.”
Mientus is now plying his wares in front of the camera on the second season of NBC’s musical within a Broadway musical, the hit television series called SMASH.
It was announced last June in Playbill that you had landed a regular spot on the second season of SMASH. Please tell me about auditioning and discovering you were cast in the show.
Sure, I just got the appointment like any other audition. It was a couple of scenes to learn and go read in front of a camera. It was at the casting office that I go to a lot. I was excited about it because of the kind of show, but I didn’t really think “Oh, this will be the one,” you know? I go on auditions like that all the time. I would get far in the process but hadn’t landed anything major in television yet. I just learned my lines and planned to do my best.
Afterward, I got a call from my manager that I had a callback for it, which was really exciting. The callback went really well. They told me I was going to have a “chemistry” read with an actor they were thinking of for the role of “Jimmy,” who was going to be my best friend and writing partner. That’s when I started to go “Oh my gosh… this is really happening!”
You had to have been psyched, definitely.
After that, they had one more proper screen test, which they shared with all the “powers that be.” I was going to Los Angeles because I was planning to move there, actually. So I was like, “I’m gonna go now and then I’ll come right back or come back later to finish my move.” When I got on the plane, I didn’t know whether or not I’d gotten the job. When I got the call from the runner of the show, Josh Shafran, he let me know that he hadn’t even told my representatives yet but he told me first; I had the part.
My representative found out, of course and then it got announced the next day somehow. Prematurely I thought, as friends and family were calling me and saying “Oh gosh, why didn’t you tell me?” I had just found out and I was freaking out. It was a big whirlwind of that news and there wasn’t really time to process it on my own, before it went out to the world. It was really wonderful and I really felt loved by all the people who supported me over the years. It hasn’t really stopped yet… people have been really great.
Yeah, that’s quite something… for you to be flying and then when you land, to find out.
Yeah, I was in baggage claim when I got the call.
After watching the two-episode premiere of the second season, I didn’t zero in on the fact that your character was gay. Did I miss some subtle dialogue or something?
You know, people keep asking about the “gay” thing. It’s funny, I’ve done a couple of interviews now about him. Everyone is like “Kyle is gay and Jimmy [Jeremy Jordan] is straight. What’s that like?” What’s great about this character, is that while he is gay and that’s a part of him that he is really comfortable and really in love with, that’s just one part of him. It’s not the defining character trait about him at all. There’s going to be no storyline this year about Kyle getting discriminated against for being gay or having to come out to somebody in some painful way or the “usual” gay storyline. He’s a gay, confident kid. I think that’s really refreshing on a network television show, where we have moved past the gay thing being something that we really need to “hammer” on the head.
I agree completely.
Yeah, there are little winks in the first episode about Kyle joking with Karen about Jimmy being his boyfriend, maybe. That’s the only inkling where they really get into that. You’ll see him being lucky in love this year and he gets a boyfriend at some point, without giving too much away. You will see him being gay on the show but it’s never in a negative way, it’s really light.
One major difference between live theatre and television is the intimacy of the camera. What has it been like acting on location or on set?
I really thought going in to this, that there was going to be a major learning curve and I was really going to freak out about how my performance was translating. It’s a whole new vocabulary in terms of learning your way around the set and the window of it all was a little overwhelming. But, everyone is super supportive on set in a non-condescending way and really helpful teaching me the ropes as quickly as possible.
In terms of all the acting, it really is the same for me. I like to not get too bogged down in any “method” of acting; as soon as the acting is aware of itself… it’s not real. I just try to live in that person. I have been really enjoying the opportunity that the camera affords, but it’s a little scary that it’s permanent and so close. I think of it as a challenge and something that I need to figure out.
Your character Kyle seems to be the voice of reason for the character of Jimmy, as his friend and in Jimmy’s blossoming relationship with Karen played by Katherine McPhee. It seems like you are the level-headed one so far.
Yeah, absolutely. Jeremy [Jordan] and I talk a lot about how Kyle and Jimmy’s relationship is so symbiotic, because Kyle is the voice of reason and sort of his “Jiminy Cricket” in a way. You’ll see more of this as the season progresses. Not only does Kyle keep Jimmy on track, in terms of their writing and career but he keeps him on track in other ways too, more personal ways. Meanwhile, Kyle really needs Jimmy for his artistic genius, Kyle will be going through a lot of self-doubt as to his contribution to the musical. Jimmy’s music is so celebrated so quickly, it takes Kyle a little longer to find his place. It’s really Jimmy’s talent that gets them off the ground and then Kyle’s knowhow and reason to sustain it. They really need each other to make a show happen. One can’t exist without the other.
What are some of the characteristics of Kyle that match you or are similar?
I have a lot in common with Kyle. He is the book writer for this musical and I actually have been working on a musical of my own. I’ve been working on it with some friends and this band called Teen Commandments for the past couple of years. We’re writing a musical called Manhattan Kids and this has been my passion project way before I got cast in this role. Also as an actor over the last couple of years, I’ve made an effort to get into the “new musical theatre” writing scene of workshops, readings and concerts downtown, of writers and material—to be around that world and be involved with those new projects. I’ve made a lot of friends with these guys who are doing this right now. So, I feel really glad to be representing them on national television and bring awareness to what they are doing.
Now, I understand you have a great voice—any chance of you singing it on SMASH?
I can reveal that I do sing on the show, thankfully, but I don’t play a singer. Kyle’s not a performer at all, but they found a device to have me sing a couple of times. But you’ll notice in the show, the original songs [by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman] only come when people are performing, whenever they are doing a number from one of the shows within the show. Anytime people are singing in a dream sequence or something… that’s always a pop cover. They’ve basically been really consistent with that device. So, I think it’s doubtful that I’ll be singing one of those great original songs, sadly.
I’m still glad you get to sing. Thank you, Andy.
Great. Thanks so much.
The Ladies of SMASH
One aspect of SMASH that is spot-on, is the realistic rendering of the process of putting together a new show and presenting beautifully the personalities in the mix. I dropped some cast names and Andy Mientus shared his first thoughts on each performer:
“She is a sage, I would say. She is the most wonderful, warm bundle of experience and calm. She’s like, the calm in the storm with Zen positive energy around set. I still idolize her, you know? I really feel like you’re in the room with a legend.”
“The class clown. People don’t really know this about her, but she’s super goofy. She’s the one who keeps us laughing really late at night on set.”
“Focused. She’s so devoted to the show and wonderful to work with, she loves the ‘work’ of it.”
“I think she’s a total star. Her big number in the second half of the premiere is some of the best television I’ve ever seen.”