Broadway's Jeremy Jordan on Challenging New 'American Son' Role: 'It's Humbling to See the Other Side of Things'

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When the curtain rises on the brand new Broadway play American Son, the viewers is offered with a nervous, pacing mom performed by Kerry Washington, wakeful in the course of the night time and questioning the place her solely youngster is.

As the story proceeds, American Son evolves right into a touch upon each race relations and legislation enforcement, and mirrors the center wrenching tales of the likes of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. Along the way in which, Washington’s character meets a naive younger cop performed by Jeremy Jordan, in a job that sees the 2 grappling with deep emotion and wounds each private and communal.

For Jordan, who’s maybe most identified starring within the CW collection Supergirl, the play has been a rising expertise each personally and professionally. Here, Jordan talks with Billboard about his path to American Son, what he hopes audiences takes away from its layered story and what he’s realized from performing it night time after night time: “It’s humbling to be a part of one thing that lets you develop and makes you understand that all of us have a protracted method to go.”

This is a really heavy present. It’s a punch within the intestine and a slap within the face.

It’s a slap within the face to some individuals, in a great way although. Like, get up. This is what lots of people are experiencing.

Shows like this are what the theater is for, proper?

I believe so. It’s undoubtedly what theater is for at this time. I imply, there have been moments in theater when a play feels historic and monumental. The second I learn this, I felt that that is a kind of performs that defines our era and the place we're proper now. It felt prefer it was too necessary to cross up.

When I noticed it, the viewers was shaken afterwards -- and in the course of the curtain name, most of the actors had tears of their eyes. I’m questioning how being within the present has been impacting you personally?

Well, I personally am a little bit luckier than among the different characters. I do have a few intense moments, although. For me, it’s extra what doing it each night time and speaking to individuals afterwards has carried out for me as a human being. I’ve all the time felt like I’ve been fairly progressive and open, however you discover little issues in the way you cope with your on a regular basis life -- particularly as a straight white male.

It’s humbling to see the opposite facet of issues. It makes you consider how different persons are dwelling their lives and having to cope with sure issues that I’m not even totally conscious of as a result of I've this innate privilege on this nation that different individuals aren’t gifted with. It’s opened my eyes to a variety of issues that I believed I knew, however I believe that I’m nonetheless studying. It’s humbling to be a part of one thing that teaches you daily and lets you develop, and makes you understand that all of us have a protracted method to go. To be part of that's actually cool.

How did American Son first come in your radar?

I got here again from Vancouver after wrapping up my third season of Supergirl on the CW. My agent referred to as me and stated that he was going to ship me a script, and the producers have been eager about casting me. I learn it and was fortunate sufficient to get the half with out having to undergo a complete, loopy audition course of. The second I learn it I knew I wished to be part of it. I used to be laying in mattress and noticed the script and opened it to only flick thru. A hour and a half later, I’m nonetheless studying it and unable to breathe.

Did you will have a desk learn? How did that first one go?

We did about 14 desk reads. The very first thing we did was sit round and skim the play, and tried to gauge one another’s energies. By the tip of it, I believe all of us felt we have been on the identical web page immediately. Of course we had a variety of work to do, however all of us obtained actually enthusiastic about it.

Our director stated one thing that basically struck a chord with my that first day. He stated, "This piece is about belief. We are right here to belief each other and if any of us lose that, this play particularly falls aside." I believed that was cool and poignant, as a result of in this sort of dog-eat-dog world, it’s each man for himself. I discover it’s like that a variety of the time within the leisure trade as nicely. You’re doing what’s greatest for you, however the course of right here was serving the play and the story you’re telling.

It’s additionally been an fascinating course of, as a result of I got here from three years on a tv present, the place you’re thrown a script the final minute and attempt to make it work as greatest as attainable. Here, I’m lucky to have one thing well-written and highly effective, in addition to an excellent firm of actors the place I've to rise to my biggest potential each night time to attempt to do it justice.

How did you put together to embody your character?

This position didn’t require a variety of analysis as a result of I do know this man and guys like this. I solely did a little bit of analysis on cops; my character is so inexperienced and type of a beginner that I didn’t need to get too deep into it. It’s actually nearly observing life round you. For this course of -- simply strolling round New York City, there's one thing to see daily, and take a look at it by way of the lens of the play. It lets you see the world in a special gentle. I’ll go and watch individuals or cops for a couple of minutes and see how they react to sure issues. But it’s a really pure, very natural script and the characters are very well-drawn. It’s very actual.

How do you grapple together with your character, who isn’t precisely portrayed because the hero of this play, and somebody who's fairly naive?

He’s completely different than me in fact, however there are similarities too -- and people are the issues which are startling to comprehend at occasions. You attempt to grasp the center and goodness of your character, or what they might understand to be good. He’s attempting to be useful, and doing his job so he can feed his household. He’s the type of man who does every thing for his spouse and children. At the identical time, he’s been very simply influenced by the world round him in South Florida [where the story takes place] and the police division there.

It’s been a battle by way of how I grapple with him. When we first began doing the present, I attempted to know him and was okay with him. But once we began performances, and I used to be getting individuals’s reactions to him, I used to be like, "Oh yeah, I forgot about all of this." I used to be attempting to be actual and play it truthfully and never fear about that form of factor. It’s exhausting to exit on stage and be the type of individual somebody seems at like that. It’s one factor to play an outright unhealthy man who murders individuals, however to play a standard man and for him to be as unlikable as he might be on this present... It’s scary. It feels very actual and really related to actual life and folks generally have a tough time drawing a distinction between a personality and actor.

One of my favourite moments is in the course of the curtain name. I stroll out and seize Kerry’s hand and we give one another a smile and a little bit squeeze. Lots of people have instructed me that simply that little second reminds them that, "Oh yeah, they’re cool." It’s been an odd form of consolation.

As you stated, the viewers might be very audible, gasping many occasions in the course of the course of occasions within the present. What do you hope for individuals to remove from it once they go away the theater?

The play is 90 minutes -- no intermission -- and the viewers has to take a seat there throughout some awkward, extremely tough discussions that we regularly, as human beings, stroll away from. Because of that, we develop these partitions and protection mechanisms. Until we will actually begin to speak to one another about how we actually really feel about and everyone is okay with actually having the ability to talk, it’s going to be a tough world. So we simply need individuals to speak, be sincere, open and truthful.