Monday, 20 April 2015

Interview: Broadway’s Jeremy Jordan, star of The Last Five Years movie

Jeremy Jordan stars as Jamie alongside Anna Kendrick as Cathy in the film adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years.

The movie is currently being exclusively shown at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square. Adapted and directed by Richard LaGravenese, The Last Five Years will be released in the UK on VOD on 1st May and DVD on 4th May 2015.

Described as a “touching story of heartbreak and passion”, The Last Five Years follows the highs and lows of a five year relationship. The musical premiered in Chicago in 2001 and was produced off-Broadway the following year.

Jeremy received a Tony nomination for originating the role of Jack Kelly in Newsies on Broadway. His Broadway credits also include originating the role of Clyde Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde and alternating the role of Tony in West Side Story. He also appeared in Rock of Ages. In addition to famously starring as Jimmy Collins in Smash, Jeremy’s screen credits include: Supergirl, Law & Order, Elementary, Submissions Only and Joyful Noise.

I recently spoke to Jeremy about why The Last Five Years stands apart from other musical movies, what he learnt from Anna Kendrick and how it feels to look back at his time in Newsies…

How did you react when you first heard about the possibility of starring in The Last Five Years on screen? 
I was thrilled! I mean, I’m one of those crazy people that knew every word of the album ten years ago. When I first heard it was coming to the screen Anna (Kendrick) was already attached, so I was like ‘If she’s attached they’re gonna get some A-lister guy to play Jamie’. But I guess they couldn’t find that, so my agent called me and said “They’re still looking for Jamie and have asked you to come and audition” and immediately in my brain I was like ‘I have to get this! This is my role and if I don’t get this then life is not worth living’ [laughs]. I was very ambitious about it, but I had loved the piece for a long time, as have many fans of musical theatre. They put me through the wringer, I think I had three or four auditions.

Anna Kendrick & Jeremy in The Last Five Years

We’ve been seeing more musical movies recently, but The Last Five Years couldn’t be more different to the likes of Les Mis and Into The Woods. What do you think people can expect? It’s quite refreshing!
Well I think it feels very funny. Also when people think of musicals they think of big, splashy production numbers, but what I think is so amazing about this musical, and what people have always been drawn to, is the realistic element. These lyrics are emotional and heartfelt and these characters are incredibly relatable. I think everybody who sees the movie or play, or even just hears the soundtrack, finds moments where Jason (Robert Brown) our composer has pinpointed certain emotions musically in a way that I don’t anybody has been able to do before. There are lots of small details, he pinpoints things which kind of aren’t spoken out loud a lot in musicals. 

What song particularly stands out and speaks to you on a personal level? 
I’ve known this piece for years and years and years and what always stuck out for me the most were the last two songs 'If I Didn't Believe in You' and 'Nobody Needs to Know'. I think that 'Nobody Needs to Know' specifically sort of like speaks to that demon within all of us, especially men – that fear of ‘I could find myself in this position’ and how easy it is to step out on a relationship with someone else and how fragile you become and how it affects you. When you hear about a guy cheating on someone he’s always the bad guy and it’s always his fault; in this song it doesn’t justify it, but you see the struggle and that’s something you don’t often get to experience. 

What about 'If I Didn't Believe in You'?
'If I Didn't Believe in You' is a song which I can relate to with past relationships – you know in the way you have to be the rock for somebody, but they’re so unstable and just can’t get past all the crap and you’re just trying to snap them out of it. You just want them to feel like they matter and like they belong, but no matter what you say they’re never going to believe that. That song pinpoints that. These are all incredibly human things which happen every day in relationships around the world. I think when people write musicals they tend to write about grander ideas, but Jason paints very specific pictures with these characters and I think that’s what makes them so incredibly relatable. 

Both you and Anna come from very different backgrounds. What was she like to work with? I guess you must have learnt a lot from each other.
You’re exactly right, I think there was a lot we could learn from each other. We did the whole thing live which was very scary for her, but I think it was necessary for the show. You can’t get fully three dimension characters in a recording studio when you’re doing a sung through show – you can’t lip sync your emotions later on, you have to really be in the moment when you’re shooting. In terms of Anna and I working together, I mean I can’t speak for her, but I certainly learnt a lot from her about acting for the screen. She’s incredibly smart and she has a great calmness about her when she’s onscreen that I think is mesmerising and effortless. It was very strange for me at the beginning because it feels as if you’re doing nothing and then and I see it on film and I can see everything – it was a really cool lesson for me.

How do you find watching yourself back onscreen?
Well I’ve done a lot of TV and film – I say a lot, I mean a little bit – and I still [laughs] have a hard time watching myself. For me I don’t recognise myself, that’s my problem. I have this view of what I look like and that’s not what I see on the screen [laughs]. I’ll be watching something and I’ll turn to my wife and be like, “What is that face I’m making, is that what I look like?” and she says, “Yes, that’s what you look like in everyday life” [laughs]. It becomes a strange physical obsession with yourself – I don’t get it! There’s a little bit of paranoia and insecurity. So it is hard, but with this movie there are more moments when I’m watching it that make me go, ‘Yep, that’s exactly what I wanted to portray’ and I’m very happy about that. This is the first time that’s happened on a consistent basis. 

Kara Lindsay & Jeremy in Newsies / Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Every theatre performer dreams of making their mark by creating a big role which is exactly what you did with Jack Kelly in Newsies on Broadway. How does it feel to look back at that whole experience now?
I mean it’s weird because we did it all a few years ago and now I’m remembering all these little details. It’s the most proud that I’ve ever been of any work I’ve done, and I think that’s due to the fact it’s a very collaborative process, like this was too. Richard (LaGravenese, director) really wanted our input to bring ourselves to our characters and any idea we had we could pop it up. I’m very proud of it!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Last Five Years is currently being exclusively shown at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square and will be released in the UK on VOD on 1st May and DVD on 4th May 2015.

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