Patrick brings us another spectacular episode of Theater People. This week’s guest is Robin de Jesus, a movie and theater actor whom you may have seen in the 2003 movie Camp (which also starred Anna Kendrick) or remember from his amazing portrayal of Sonny in In the Heights.
He started his Broadway career as an understudy/replacement in Rent, and went on to star as Sonny in the 2008 Broadway production of In the Heights and as Jacob in La Cage aux Folles receiving Tony nominations for both roles. He can be seen in the New York Music Theater Festival’s production of Mother Jones and the Children’s Crusade.
I don’t want to spoil why Mother Jones and the Children’s Crusade is so special because no one can tell the story as well as he can, and it is an amazing story! The show is about Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a turn of the century crusader working to end child labor.
His experience with Camp, the audition process, and what the movie meant for him is a great story and worth the listen! It is a great movie and worth the watch! I also love the way that Patrick brings in his own theatre camp experiences and takes the audience’s connection with the story one step further.
After quitting his job at Bubba Gump’s, and on a recommendation from his friend, he got a reading for In the Heights after the producers and creative team had seen Camp. He was supposed to go to college a month later, but when his loans didn’t go through and a few months later the same producers from In the Heights were doing Rent and cast him in the show. And while he was in Rent, they workshopped In the Heights.
Directors, especially those who had seen Camp, would only consider him for gay roles. As an actor he wanted to play a larger multitude of roles and be seen as more than one dimensional/avoid typcasting, something that is hard for young actors to achieve. As a result, he turned down a lot of roles, and has made a name for himself that is known for more versatile roles. The take away from his experiences is that you can be in control of your own career; which parts you choose and your work ethic are the only things you can control, so control them well because so many things are not in your power.
He shares an in-depth look at his experience with In the Heights which began in 2005. It begins with the experience of building a show and the changes the script goes through to Karen Olivo almost punching a guy out to defend Robin at a restaurant. It is a must listen (and you won’t want to miss the laughing attack that it sends Patrick into).
Robin goes on to discuss the Tony nomination that sent him to therapy, and The Secret and vision boards that helped get the show to Broadway. He finally had everything he wanted, but it was overwhelming and there was a lot of pressure that he put on himself. He needed to figure out why he was unhappy and work on it in therapy to find his happiness which he was able to do.
He also gives a detailed account of his experience with La Cage aux Folles. He had quit In the Heights without having another job. It is a wonderful story about being cast, being at a place in his life where he could turn down a Broadway show, working with Kelsey Grammar, being nominated for a Tony award.
The show ends with him talking about how Caroline, or Change impacted his life. He saw the show in previews and it hit home and you must listen to him discuss how Tonya Pinkins’ role in the show changed his life and led him to understand what kind of theater he wanted to do!