EF - What attracts you to a role, Brian?

BdJ - I'd be lying if I said I did this role because it was heroic and it was great music. That is not true at all. I think there is a small percentage of people who get the chance to choose what roles they would like to do. What attracts people to a role is getting a call from the agent saying you got an appointment.

EF - You have a lot of previous theatrical experience. You were in Les Mis, Blood Brothers as well as other shows. Tell me about your most demanding role?

BdJ - The most demanding role I had was doing a show called Public Enemy at The Irish Arts Center. It was demanding because it was set in Belfast, Ireland. I had to play a Northern Irish kid. It was challenging but I felt I was able to achieve it. It was demanding because it wasn't me rolling out of bed. It was a whole different culture, a different mindset, a whole different way of life. Public Enemy took place in Belfast in the early eighties during what is called "The Troubles" because sectarian violence was at one of its peaks. I played Davey Boyd, a Protestant bartender, best friend to Tommy Black who becomes somewhat of a local celebrity due to his uncanny James Cagney impersonations at pub talent nights. Davey is the voice of reason to Tommy's wild hair streak. In fact, as Tommy gets more and more involved in the Cagney persona, he loses his sanity. Consequently, he becomes embroiled in some very dangerous, and due to Dave's unwavering friendship, ultimately a fatal situation. Davey gets gunned down by local thugs as he is making an impassioned speech, trying to convince Tommy to wake up and get help. A thrill was the "death speech"; literal last words as the character lies in a pool of his own blood.

EF - Sounds like you really had to immerse yourself in the role.

BdJ - Yeah, immersion in the role, immersion in the research. Hopefully, an attachment to the people and to the actual text you are working on.

EF - It reminds me of a story that I read where Glenn Close said she was haunted by the character of Norma Desmond from Sunset even after she left the show.

BdJ - I have not seen Sunset but there are some characters you are more predisposed to immersing yourself because of the mental state of mind the character might have. Norma Desmond seems to be a character that has a lot of stuff happening so as an actor if you can key into it, it might be harder to let go if it.

EF - How did the role in Titanic come up?

BdJ - I was called in by Jeanine Tesori. She is a composer. In fact, she is composer of this years award winning Violet at Playwright's Horizons (I will be recording the album of Violet in two weeks with the original cast. I was included since I did both of the workshops.) Jeanine was the musical director of the Titanic workshop. She was the one that recommended me for the audition of the workshop. That is basically how it started. I got the workshop and worked on that for 6 weeks.

EF - Did you ever think to yourself how in the world are they going to musicalize a legendary disaster?

BdJ - It's perfect stuff especially for a great opera. It is so high drama. The situation is so extremely dramatic that it would lend itself to that. So the idea of doing it as a musical didn't surprise me though I can definitely understand why people might snicker a bit. Usually after the snickering is gone, people see that it makes sense.

EF - What were your expectations once you learned the story and script? Did you have any reservations?

BdJ - Having done the workshop, I was privy to the show and how it was set up. I think a lot of my excitement and confidence in the show came from the people who were working on it like Rich Jones(director). Working with him was unbelievable. Working with Peter Stone and Maury Yetson and seeing them come to work every day with their changes was great. These guys are great at what they do. They are serious about making this work and they are totally dedicated to it. That mostly was the thing that made me realize this was gong to be an amazing experience.

EF - Tell about the constant changes going on in terms of the script and story. What was the process like?

BdJ - The process of changing the script wasn't hard. That's what we do. We're actors, writers, and directors and paid to make a show work. That work was expected. What was hard was going through the process of being reported on and people talking about these changes in ways that didn't represent the actual events. Consequently, the person reading the paper was being filled with falsehoods be it regarding a particular person in the past, or particular number , or a person's reaction to a number being cut. That was all ridiculous. What was interesting to me was witnessing these things that became bigger than itself. There's a lot of people out there who have a big curiosity about this. It makes me really excited because, hopefully, looking back at what we did satisfied that curiosity in a way that made all the nay-sayers kind of shut up.

EF - Let me quote something I read in an article - "The excitement of being in a major musical followed by the disappointment of cuts. The excitement of starting previews followed by unusual technical difficulties and negative word of mouth. The thrill of opening night followed by the devastation of mostly adverse reviews" - How did you and the cast cope?

BdJ - Those are things out of everyone's control. I don't think that the fact material was cut takes away any excitement about being in a Broadway show. I don't think that being in previews and having technical difficulty takes a way the fact that you are still previewing a show. I don't think adverse reviews, if you read them, have any effect on your psyche. It is a fact that bad reviews is not going to prevent an actor from walking into a theater and say they can't do a show. I know I'm being a bit defensive. If the press reports that things aren't going well, they want to see the actors or the creative staff say God, it is so hard to do and pity us because we're working so hard. That is the kind of perception that is put out there. In fact, we are just doing our jobs. We are trying to make a theater piece work. Everyone is going to have their opinion. Changing a line here or cutting a number there is the way it works. It is a credit to this company and a credit to the director to put our heads down and make it work. We made it work.

EF - So, there was never any morale issue with the cast?

BdJ - We got stronger and stronger. There were a few moments definitely. It is a question of whether or not you are going to let it affect you. Maury Yetson gave the most eloquent and passionate speech about why we do theater. He gave us this speech the day after reviews came out. It pulled everyone right up. It was like a slap in the face. We have an amazing thing we are doing and if we believe in it that's all that counts. There has to be a genuine love and passion for what you do. You have to see the big picture and not worry and get concerned with what critics say. I'm not saying critics aren't necessary. You just can't let it hinder your zeal and confidence in the progress of the show. If it happens, it's no ones fault but the company's.

EF - Let's talk Rosie. It is no secret she loved the show. Did Rosie help Titanic?

BdJ - Oh yeah, she definitely helped the show. She helped us tremendously. Do I think it was intentionally meant to bolster us? No. She's a person who happens to be a talk show host. She happens to like our show which helped us a lot. That is definitely true. I don't think anyone could disagree with that.

EF - They say the Tony's succeeded this year because of her. In fact, she has been called the Ambassador of Broadway.

BdJ - Ambassador of Broadway - That's great. She reaches a lot of people and if she can further enhance the awareness of theater and make people think of coming to NY to see a play or musical, that is fantastic. There was a woman and her daughter at Titanic. She said Rosie told us to come and see it. She said it was great. Rosie has a great impact on people. These people came because of her.

EF - That's OK though. Everyone has their own opinions and can think for themselves. If she tells tons of people to see a show, they may see it but they don't have to like it. So she is using word of mouth to get people to see it. That's great. Many people have seen it and really enjoy it.

BdJ - Good point.

EF - We've heard about the critics and Rosie, what about the audiences reaction to the show?

BdJ - The very first night was difficult because it stopped a number of times. The show wasn't ready. You could sense people wanted to be patient and they were to a point but after a while, it was frustrating. People who were at that first preview experienced a show that wasn't ready to go. There was always a strong desire for the show to be awesome and I think through previews it took us a little bit of time to figure out what the formula was and to make that happen. The audience was always on our side. We found a rhythm for the show and discovered what the show was meant to be. This process galvanized the union between us and the audience.

EF - Let's talk Tony's. Now for those that weren't there, let me explain what happened during commercial. It was right before the Titanic cast was to sing and you and a few others were on stage getting ready to go. There you are jumping up and down, obviously very excited and then, still during commercial, you took a bow which got great audience response. What was going on?

BdJ - [Laughing] Well, we had won four Tony's by that point and we were ready to do our number at Radio City Music Hall on the Tony Awards. We were the last show to go on. So saying that the adrenaline was pumping is an understatement. We were all really excited, really happy and just beside ourselves. That was one amazing element. At that point, I'm sure we all wanted to win the fifth award but it probably didn't matter. We had plenty enough. So, then the weirdest thing is going out there on the stage and it was so quiet. It was the end of the night. People were quieting down before the commercial was ending. It was bizarre being out there and having the opportunity to be preset on stage. Suddenly this guy screamed out my name which made me take a bow. I didn't know it at the time but it was a friend of mine who screamed my name just to be the lunatic that he is. How could you pass up the opportunity not to bow in front of 6,000 people at Radio City Music Hall!. That was fun.

Sail onward...

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