‘Rent’ Cast Opens Up About Pressure to Deliver for Fox’s Live Musical

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Jordan Fisher, Vanessa Hudgens, Brandon Victor Dixon & the remainder of Fox’s dwell musical solid speak finest scenes, largest challenges & favourite songs from the Tony-winning Broadway musical.

Before Hamilton, there was Rent: a Broadway musical set in a altering political time starring a various group of younger those that characterize a real cross-section of America's demographics. The musical, which opened in 1996, impressed one of the vital passionate fanbases ever. So-called Rentheads have been stans earlier than "Stan" (and even the Internet) — and the group is stronger than ever immediately.

That's why the solid of Fox's dwell manufacturing — airing Jan. 27 at eight p.m. — is aware of there are lots of people on the market they don’t wish to disappoint.

The musical, set in New York's East Village within the '90s, follows a bunch of twentysomething ravenous artists who’re battling id, sexuality, dependancy and HIV/AIDS. It's not precisely a lighthearted Christmas story, although the present does open on Christmas Eve.

While it won’t be fairly as family-friendly as a few of Fox's earlier dwell musical (Emmy-winning Grease), Rent's impression is tough to overstate. (Poll anybody who sang in a highschool choir previously 20 years — there's roughly a 100 p.c probability they've sung "Seasons of Love" or "Finale B" at a live performance or commencement.)

To put together for Sunday's manufacturing, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Rent Live stars Vanessa Hudgens, Jordan Fisher, Brandon Victor Dixon, Valentina and extra concerning the largest challenges they're going through, their very own historical past with the musical and their favourite songs from the Tony-winning Broadway smash. 

MARK COHEN (Jordan Fisher)

Who he’s: An aspiring filmmaker and the narrator of the story whose girlfriend, Maureen, leaves him for a lady.

Original solid: Played on Broadway and within the subsequent film by Anthony Rapp.

Fisher's take: When the Disney veteran was 10 years outdated, he advised an appearing mentor that he needed to play the primary Mark Cohen of colour on Broadway. Now, 14 years later, the Alabama native and up to date Dancing With the Stars winner's dream is coming true. "The essence of Mark for me is, because the narrator of the story, to permit America [and] anyone that’s watching the present to go on this journey with him by way of his eyes, by way of the lens of his digital camera, and to see what he actually offers with," the actor advised THR. Mark's the outsider of the group — he was born into privilege, and he's not battling a illness or dependancy or his sexuality — and Fisher's model of the character is "a bit of extra tortured" than others. "My Mark is a little more of a caretaker than we’ve seen previously, someone that’s actually the glue that simply tries his finest to carry all people collectively," he stated. That need stems from "his innate craving for a group and sense of household."

Favorite Mark track: " 'La Vie Boheme' is quite a lot of enjoyable. It’s a really ensemble-driven piece. But 'Halloween' is one which’s all the time been a favourite of mine."

ROGER DAVIS (Brennin Hunt)

Who he’s: Mark's roommate, an HIV-positive rock musician and former addict who falls for Mimi.

Original solid: Played on Broadway and within the film by Adam Pascal.

Hunt's take: The Nashville musician and his highschool buddies used to poke enjoyable at their Rent-obsessed good friend, however when the good friend took Hunt to see the present a number of years later — his first Broadway musical — he fell in love. "After the present I used to be hooked. I used to be like, man, I get it. I completely get what you're obsessive about this," he advised THR. While Hunt has little or no appearing expertise — he booked his first position in 2015 — Rent just isn’t his first time on TV. The musician competed on the primary season of Fox's The X Factor, the place he was edited as one of many season's villains. "My debut on that present was in gradual movement strolling outdoors of key enviornment with the track 'I'm Sexy and I Know It.' And I'm like, 'Oh my God.' They took all of my interviews out of context," he stated. "Whatever. It is what it’s. You know what? I obtained a publishing deal after that although. It was my first publishing deal. I don't remorse doing the present. I'll most likely by no means do one other actuality present once more, however , by no means say by no means." As for Roger, Hunt is channeling a few of his favourite rock stars for the position. "I'm an enormous fan of the grunge period, so a bit of little bit of [Chris] Cornell, a bit of little bit of [Eddie] Vedder, a bit of little bit of Cobain, however I've additionally all the time been a fan of the present, so I like what Adam Pascal did. I like what Will Chase did. I'm taking items of issues that I actually love what they did after which my entire little spin on it."

Favorite Roger track: " 'Light My Candle.' The music [reminds] me of Michael Jackson's 'The Way You Make Me Feel,' simply the vibe of it, and dealing with Tinashe on that’s unimaginable. She's an incredible performer, singer and sweetheart of a human being. We have nice chemistry collectively and it's quite a lot of enjoyable. Roger's so critical for a lot of the musical and it's the one second the place I get to be mild and enjoyable and playful together with her."

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MAUREEN (Vanessa Hudgens)

Who she is: Mark's manic pixie dream woman ex, an outspoken efficiency artist who falls in love with the buttoned-up Joanne.

Original solid: Played on Broadway and within the film by Idina Menzel.

Hudgens' take: The actress is not any stranger to dwell TV musicals, rising as one of many brightest stars of Fox's Grease Live. She obtained her begin in Disney's High School Musical franchise, and advised THR that she desires to do one musical a yr for the remainder of her profession. "I'm the happiest after I'm doing musicals," she stated. While she performed Mimi within the 2010 Hollywood Bowl manufacturing of Rent, this time round, as Maureen, working with Fisher has been a spotlight of her expertise. "I really feel like we each have such a love for musical theater and a love for Rent even earlier than we got here to it, [and] it actually simply interprets," she stated. "Also the truth that we’ve got a relationship already and Maureen and Mark have had a relationship previously — all of it goes hand in hand. It all works completely." She additionally sees different similarities between herself and the bigger than life character. "It's been a lot enjoyable discovering Maureen inside myself as a result of she is loud and she or he loves being the focal point, and I’m a performer. I like having all eyes on me. She expresses herself in a method that’s distinctive to her personal, and she or he's an artist, and I really feel like that's what I aspire to be like as effectively."

Favorite Maureen track: " 'Over the Moon' is such a beast of a quantity. I’ve nobody else to depend on, nobody else to feed me something. It's simply actually me, me and me."

MIMI (Tinashe)

Who she is: An HIV-positive stripper and heroin addict who falls in love with Roger.

Original solid: Played on Broadway by Daphne Rubin-Vega, and within the film by Rosario Dawson.

Tinashe's take: The pop star and up to date Dancing With the Stars competitor is not any stranger to dwell efficiency, however dwell musical theater isn't essentially in her wheelhouse. While the singer has a number of appearing credit to her title (most notably a recurring position on Two and a Half Men in 2007), that doesn't imply she doesn't wish to be ready ought to one thing go mistaken on Sunday evening. "I’m hoping that my different solid members will simply have my again if I do drop a line or one thing," she advised THR. "That’s what we do in rehearsals — we simply maintain it flowing. We all are so conversant in all people else’s traces that we simply form of fill within the gaps." The singer, whose debut album and single hit the Billboard charts in 2014, dyed her hair darkish and started working with appearing coaches as soon as she obtained the position. Combined together with her pop star expertise, she stated she is hoping to embody a robust however nonetheless emotional Mimi. "Mimi has these nice efficiency moments the place she is feeling fearless and attractive and, like, 'I’m lady, hear me roar,' which is [me] after I do my stage exhibits. That’s quite a lot of the vibe — similar to, 'Ah, I’m highly effective and sizzling and in your face,' and that aggressive efficiency vitality is one thing that I deliver to the character of Mimi. But it’s additionally been enjoyable as a result of she does have these nuances of emotion and different sides of her and to have the ability to have that juxtaposition I feel is what makes it further particular." While she's nonetheless engaged on music, she undoubtedly desires to proceed appearing sooner or later. In the meantime, she's simply channeling Rubin-Vega and Dawson whereas discovering her personal interpretation of the character. "Obviously quite a lot of nice Mimis have come earlier than me, so I feel I’m simply attempting to get into that essence and likewise simply dwell my finest, like, '90s grunge stripper life."

Favorite Mimi track: "People maintain pondering [I'm most looking forward to] 'Out Tonight,' which is enjoyable, however I feel my favourite track to carry out is 'Without You.' It’s one. It’s only a lovely and particular second."

JOANNE (Kiersey Clemons)

Who she is: A Harvard-educated lawyer who falls in love with free spirit Maureen.

Original solid: Played on Broadway by Fredi Walker, and within the film by Tracie Thoms.

Clemons' take: The indie darling (Dope, Hearts Beat Loud) advised THR that among the best components about her solid members' various backgrounds — Broadway, TV, movie, music, drag — is that all of them excel at completely different expertise. "When everyone seems to be stronger in all of those completely different areas, whether or not it's being on stage or being in entrance of the digital camera, singing or dancing, we're in a position to lean in to one another and assist one another with the stuff that possibly you're not so snug with. I'm getting snug with all these items in my ears, like my mic, after which to listen to every thing. I do not know what's occurring. I'm like, 'We don’t do that with indie motion pictures. What is occurring?'" She's additionally a fan of the truth that stage director Michael Greif has been in a position to broaden his imaginative and prescient past what he'd usually get to do with out cameras. "There are so many issues that Michael needed to do this he couldn't on the stage that he will get to do now as a result of it has a cinematic ingredient, and I'm so excited that I get to be a part of residing out these goals for him. You know, we get to now like actually go there with, say, 'Over the Moon' and 'La Vie Boheme' and so many angles." Clemons' Joanne pays tribute to the ladies who performed the position earlier than her. "I'm channeling the OGs, , Tracie Thoms and Fredi Walker, simply attempting to infuse the 2. They each performed Joanne in several methods and the best way that they love Maureen, it's good to attempt to stability out the 2. And then after all simply add a bit of Kiersey aptitude — no matter which means. I don't know! We're going to seek out out."

Favorite Joanne track: "There's all the time with issues like this these few bits and numbers the place I do know the Rentheads are like, 'Do not eff this up for me,' and 'Take Me or Leave Me' appears like a kind of. But I'm not frightened as a result of Vanessa is an incredible counterpart and it's so juicy. It's going to be nice."

TOM COLLINS (Brandon Victor Dixon)

Who he’s: Mark and Roger's outdated roommate, an NYU professor residing with AIDS who falls in love with Angel.

Original solid: Played on Broadway and within the film by Jesse L. Martin.

Dixon's take: The Broadway vet, who was nominated for an Emmy for his efficiency as Judas in NBC's dwell Jesus Christ Superstar, was provided the position of Benny in one in every of Rent's nationwide excursions, however he didn't need the position. He needed to play Collins — and he did, years later, within the 2011 off-Broadway revival of the musical. So he's obtained loads of expertise with the fabric, and is aware of the challenges of the present intimately. "I all the time inform those that Rent is the best unfinished musical, proper? So the problem with this present is that you simply actually solely get one shot to inform all these folks: an viewers that’s conversant in this present one thing new that they haven’t thought of shortly, and likewise an entire new viewers to this present which have heard a lot about it, and now you will have a bar to measure as much as," he stated. "We must work by way of this extremely advanced, layered, lovely however dense materials to ensure all people understands what we’re saying." He continued, "It’s very simple to start out singing these songs, however that’s not the purpose. The level is to speak the feelings and the characters and the wrestle that they’re going by way of, these classes of empathy, these classes of affection. I feel that’s the important thing to the matrix that we’re working to determine right here: How can we actually guarantee that all people will get this pressing message that this younger man, Jonathan Larson, was attempting to speak to us?" Another problem: the truth that that is being carried out for an viewers of thousands and thousands, somewhat than a number of hundred in a theater. "It’s onerous to inform Rent on this scale, as a result of it’s such an intimate present," Dixon defined. "I feel possibly Jesus Christ Superstar lent itself to extra grander themes in a sure respect, however I feel it’s a worthy problem. If you’re going to create, these are the sorts of stuff you wish to endeavor to deliver to folks. It’s fantastic work. It’s sincere work, and I feel it’s work that may be an excessive amount of worth to the individuals who can see it and obtain it proper now."

Favorite Collins track: "It’s most likely the reprise, however I’ve an excessive amount of enjoyable with 'Santa Fe' as effectively. There are parts of every of them that I like. [The lyrics of] 'Santa Fe' … maintain flipping from his concept of let’s open up a restaurant in Santa Fe to we’ll open up a restaurant in Santa Fe. … One of the issues I like about our manufacturing is that we’re working very onerous to guarantee that folks perceive the urgency of the time and simply the dearth of something to carry on to. You didn't know what was going to occur the subsequent day to you or anyone round you."

ANGEL (Valentina)

Who she is: A drag queen with AIDS who falls in love with Collins.

Original solid: Played on Broadway and within the film by Wilson Jermaine Heredia.

Valentina's take: The RuPaul's Drag Race star (who’s at the moment competing on the present's fourth All Starsedition) is aware of that is the position of a lifetime — and that loads of musical theater veterans needed to play Angel within the dwell manufacturing. But whereas Valentina has no main appearing expertise, she's beloved Rent since singing "Seasons of Love" in highschool choir and is up for the problem. "I'm taking over singing, dancing, appearing, fast adjustments, drag, no drag," she tells THR. "I'm not someone that has studied numerous improv and methods on study a script and all of the ins and outs of being in movie or a TV present or been a bunch of performs. I've accomplished a bit of bit, however it's actually not what I do. I do drag." Valentina's Angel is impressed by one of many real-life drag queen's closest mates, however he doesn't know but — Valentina plans to inform him when he involves set to look at a gown rehearsal. Until then, she has on-screen love Dixon to stroll her by way of the appearing course of. "He's there ensuring that we're all the time related and ensuring that I'm okay and all the time giving me his skilled recommendation — as a result of he's an incredible singer — on what might assist me and letting me all the time know that I'm doing an amazing job. I simply actually related and am actually grateful to having the ability to work with him."

Favorite Angel track: " 'I'll Cover You,' as a result of she will pay tribute to Dixon for his recommendation and assist. "He helps coach me by way of my moments of feeling overwhelmed with a lot newness, and after we sing 'I'll Cover You,' it's a very candy, tender second the place I get to thank him."

BENJAMIN COFFIN III (Mario)

Who he’s: Mark and Roger's outdated roommate who married right into a rich household — and is now his outdated mates' landlord, and calls for the yr's value of again lease they owe.

Original solid: Played on Broadway and within the film by Taye Diggs.

Mario's take: The R&B singer, who was 16 when he had his first hit single ("Just a Friend" in 2002), was conversant in Rent's most well-known songs, however didn't truly see the present till he was solid as Benny. "Of course I used to be moved by it," he advised THR. "Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, , seeing poverty-stricken areas, witnessing quite a lot of my members of the family that suffer from substance abuse, after which at 15, 16 touring the world touring and seeing the completely different perspective however then coming again to my metropolis and realizing like there's quite a lot of issues I might change about this entire scenario. I can relate to that in Benny." He additionally perceive's the character's need to scrub up the neighborhood the place he used to dwell — and nonetheless feels related to — and to assist his mates. "The stability of the ego and compassion — I feel he's balancing that all through the entire present," he stated. "He's like, 'okay, am I going to lock the padlocks? Yeah, I'm gonna lock the padlocks. Am I gonna throw them out? No, truly I'm not gonna throw them out, I'm going to go and put the furnishings again in.' He's difficult his morals." The singer is a Dancing With the Stars vet like Tinashe and Fisher (he competed again in 2008), and has acted a bit (Step Up, Freedom Writers, and a recurring position on Empire). In order to get into character, he created his personal again story for Benny. "I've made him from the Bay Area," he defined. "I made him from San Francisco as a result of it's not removed from different business-minded folks however he's not fully homeless or fully coming from poverty, however he's additionally not from the suburbs."

Favorite Benny track: "I like 'You'll See.' That's the primary time you actually see Benny in his Benny mode."

Rent airs Sunday, Jan. 27 at eight p.m. on Fox.

This article initially appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.