BdJ - It was like a Robert Altman film. You're back there and you're seeing Mary Tyler Moore in the wings ready to go out. You see Susan Sarandon going into the room where all the "stars" were. There's Isabella Stephenson walking back and forth looking for her purse. You see all these monumental people in the business.
So, Whoopi goes out and reads the nominees. Luckily they let us stay backstage because being at the end of the night there was no one else to usher in so they didn't have to coral us out. It was a good fortune to stay there.
We were all kind of huddled around the monitor. It was so strange to be looking at the monitor and then look to the right and see Whoopi on stage. It is kind of surreal. She announced that we won and it was like the Yankees pouring out of the dugout after winning the World Series. We all just leapt to our feet and screamed.
EF - What a night to remember! Describe the first show after the Tony's.
BdJ - One big difference was that one of our cast members had left. Andy Taylor was gone and Sean McCourt took over. I remember him saying what a way to start a job. It was a great show because the audience was aware of the show winning the Tony. There was a great celebratory energy that night.
EF - What was the audiences reaction throughout the show?
BdJ - There was no big difference. I remember when the overture started, it got applause. That usually doesn't happen. There was a sense from the audience that they were happy we won and supportive in that way.
EF - Tell us about Frederick Barrett?
BdJ - The character or the real man?
EF - Good point, character.
BdJ - The character is different than the real person in that the real Frederick Barrett lives. The character of Frederick Barrett is from Nottingham England. He grew up working in the coal mines. He loved this girl but can't bring himself to propose at the dock before he leaves.
EF - Is that comparable to events for the real Frederick Barrett?
BdJ - Well, there is no indication that he had a girlfriend that he left. He definitely was able to get out of his life as a coal miner and to do what his dream was which was to work on the ships. He wanted to be able to breath the air and see the sky, be on the sea and go to a different element. He wanted to get out from underneath the earth and be on top of the water.
There is definitely an irony of the geography that the job dictates in that he works below at the bottom of the ship and I guess that is never going to change. There is just an acceptance of that. We worked really hard not to create a character that was angry at his position in his life. We wanted there to be an appreciation for what they did for a living.
EF - What parallels were there between the real Frederick Barrett and the character portrayed in the show?
BdJ - Facts that remain true in the play about Fred include: a. He was leading fireman in boiler room #6. b. He was, in fact, heating a tin of soup on the boiler when the iceberg struck. A bit of trivia is that is why I have the soup bowl and spoon at the beginning of Barrett's Song and again at the end of the act. c. He did manage to get up to the boat deck. In reality, however, he was from Southampton, not Nottingham. He survived on boat #13. He managed to escape the boiler room, witnessing one of the assistant engineers as he drowned. And most heroically, I find, he was on a ship back home working in the boiler room soon after the disaster.
EF - How did you research the role?
BdJ - I read D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers and pulled many images of life in the Nottingham coal region. I went to Nottingham and spent the day there walking around getting a sense of the place. I spent about three hours talking to a man in a pub in Nottingham just to hear his accent. He was a local. That was extremely helpful. I read a lot of books about Titanic. I wanted to spend more time researching what my idea of the character would have been before he got on the ship. For everyone that got on the ship it was a new experience. It definitely helps to know what happened in terms of the ship sinking because that is the obvious crux of the situation. I really wanted to be very secure and comfortable with who the person was getting on the ship.
EF - How would you compare and contrast yourself to Frederick?
BdJ - We're similar in that we have a really good idea of what we want to do with our lives. He was very secure in being a stoker and in being able to fulfill his dream of being that. I probably don't have as much of the courage that he did. I don't know. When you are pushed to your limits, I guess you don't know what you are capable of. He is probably a very strong willed person. I imagine him to probably be a man of few words. He took solace and strength in his work. He took great pride in that. We're similar in that as well. He was a leader.
EF - How do you get into character?
BdJ - You do your research. You do the things that are asked of you in terms of the text and songs. You try to imagine what the character is and create the character with your physical ability. Most of the time you hit it. Sometimes you don't but if you are truthful to what you want to express or communicate than hopefully you'll be in character.
EF - Even though it is an ensemble cast, you have been singled out often. In fact, you won the Friends of New York Award (FANY Award) which is dubbed the People's Choice Award for Broadway. You got outstanding supporting actor in a musical opposite people like Sam Harris and Chuck Cooper. What was your reaction to winning this award?
BdJ - I was co-winner with Joel Grey which I thought was just great because he's so great. To be mentioned in the same sentence as him was amazing. I was sorry he wasn't there. It would have been an amazing experience to be standing on the podium being recognized as somebody worthy enough to be standing there with Joel Grey. It was exciting. It was very exciting. I was thrilled to receive an honor like that. It was great.
EF - You share the dressing room with other actors. Any interesting stories to tell?
BdJ - I share a dressing room with Larry Keith, Don Stephenson, David Costible, and Martin Moran. No interesting anecdotes other than Marty, David, and I carrying Sarah Jessica Parker's old couch from Mattress seven blocks to our dressing room. I guess that's when you know you're a star - when they deliver it to you!
EF - Many say that people in the theater business are required to spend all their time at their jobs. Do you find yourself with ample time to have personal freedom, fun time?
BdJ - The great thing about this job is that this is the first time I haven't been an understudy so I don't have to go to rehearsal weekly. That gives me a little bit more time to go to auditions and do other things I want to do whether that is writing songs, participating in sports, playing golf.
EF - How long are you in the show for?
BdJ - One year. Until March of 1998.
EF - What are your future plans?
BdJ - Taking a nap between shows.
I also hope for these kinds of opportunities where the project, the show, and the people you work with are of the highest caliber. A chance to be in that is what I would like to continue to do. Hopefully, all the experiences onward will be like this. Who knows? That would be heaven if it were.
EF - So many people really enjoyed your performance in the show. Many thought you should have been nominated for a Tony. There is a lot of praise and well wishes for you out there. Any messages to your fans?
BdJ - Well, my first message is I had no idea I had any fans. Thank you for your support.
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