Sep 09

Interview with Brian Charles Johnson

My interest in musical theater began in a somewhat unlikely way. At the age of thirteen, I had a massive obsession with Green Day. So naturally, when American Idiot went to Broadway, I had to see it. I quickly fell in love with the musical, and also developed a passion for theater. Upon learning about my love for American Idiot, a friend suggested that I might like the musical Spring Awakening. Much like with “Idiot,” I fell in love with Spring Awakening, as its soundtrack became a fundamental favorite on my iPod. Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to interview actor Brian Charles Johnson, from the original casts of both of these shows. Needless to say, I geeked out pretty hard.

You’ve been in some pretty high-energy shows like Spring Awakening and American Idiot. What’s your favorite part of being in this type of show, as opposed to something more mellow?
American Idiot was definitely like being shot of a cannon every night, but Spring Awakening had some mellow-ish moments in there. My favorite part about both shows was getting to sing awesome rock music every day. Also, for whatever reason, these types of shows always tend to find incredibly amazing people. Both casts are like families to me, and I’d want it no other way.

Recently, you also seem to have done some film work (I was so thrilled to see you in Admission!). What, in your opinion, are the pros and cons of film versus stage?
[In film], you get to take more time with every scene by filming them separately. There’s chance for more exposure, especially if it’s a feature film. You get to watch playbacks of every take, so you can immediately adjust to make sure you get exactly the right look and feel that you want. The con would be that you have to wait about 10-12 months to see the finished product. You don’t get immediate gratification, like you would in front of a stage audience. Your performance is kind of in the hands of the editor, depending on how he cuts it up, what takes he uses, etc. All in all, I love doing both for different reasons.

American Idiot and Spring Awakening share a lot of common cast/crew members. What was your favorite part of working with this group of people on two totally different shows?
I touched on this a little bit in the first question, but obviously getting to work with similar people that you love and respect is always a great thing. I felt so comfortable from the get-go at American Idiot, because I already had such a great relationship with Michael Mayer, and our producers Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman. Also having John Gallagher Jr. and Gerard Canonico was amazing too, because they’re like brothers to me. The two shows aesthetically are very different, but I think there are very similar themes, and they’re both rock musicals, so it makes sense that a few of us from Spring Awakening trickled over into American Idiot.

Spring Awakening had a pretty intense message. How did the show speak to you?
Spring Awakening really helped me to realize my self worth. Thankfully I’ve always had a really supportive family, so I have always been pretty open with them (they’re all kind of like Melchior’s mom). Being in that show definitely started me on my path to becoming the man I am today. I owe a lot to that show.

If you could cast yourself as any character in any show currently on Broadway, what would it be?
Elder Cunningham from The Book of Mormon. Without a doubt.

What was the first Broadway show you ever saw?
The first musical I ever saw was Phantom of the Opera. My first Broadway show was Aida.

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