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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actors > Feature Interviews A to E > Will Chase

 

SMASH -- "Let's Be Bad" Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Will Chase as Michael Swift -- (Photo by: Patrick Harbron/NBC)

Will Chase

Is a Smash!

by Ronald Sklar

 
Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 14, 2012. 

The new hit show puts the versatile actor’s stage talents to the TV test.

On the smash NBC hit Smash, Broadway veteran Will Chase sinks his acting chops into not one, but two meaty roles. As Michael Swift, he is the love interest of Debra Messing’s main character, making for the required steam and sparks that fog up our TV screen. If that were not enough, he also plays the complex, legendary love interest of Marilyn Monroe (namely Joe DiMaggio) in the fictional Broadway musical that is the center of the story.

Quite an exciting challenge for the can-do actor, who has actually appeared on Broadway (in real life!) in such diverse fare as Rent, Miss Saigon and Billy Elliot.

His on-stage experience is key to the development of his two complex TV characters. He’s been given the tall task of a telling a televised tale of a Broadway musical, from two angles.

He says of his vast experience on The White Way, “It only feels like a job when you are on the way to the theater or on the way home. But actually standing on that stage, you pinch yourself. You can’t believe it. When you are walking down the street and your picture is out on the marquee, that’s when you go, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m on Broadway.’ For me, it certainly never gets old and never gets tiring.”

Of course the novelty never wears off, not when you have humble beginnings in Kentucky, where the Broadway stage is as far away as Mars.

“My cousin was in the musical Guys and Dolls in high school,” he says, “and in my mind, that was the best production of anything I have ever seen. But I was like eight at the time.”

Still, as he grew, so did his dream of pursuing a career in entertainment, with the usual detours.

“I grew up singing in the church,” he says. “I was studying to be a percussionist. I fell into [acting] in college. From the day I graduated, I moved to Chicago and started a musical theater career. It was a good fit, one of those things  that really fit in my life, and I was very passionate about it. Then I just started climbing the ladder, New York and national tours. It was a passion as opposed to something I was supposed to do.”

SMASH -- "Mr. DiMaggio" Episode 103 -- Pictured: (l-r) Megan Hilty as Ivy Lynn (as Marilyn Monroe), Will Chase as Michael Swift (as Joe DiMaggio) -- Photo by: Will Hart/NBC His role (within a role) of the troubled, protective, old-fashioned Joe DiMaggio, who is in love with a woman who happens to be an icon, gets a humane, understanding treatment from Chase.

“[The film] The Seven Year Itch shows that iconic picture of Marilyn with her skirt blowing up,” Chase says. “Joe was pissed off at that. He was that lovable baseball player, but he was also very jealous. It brought a lot of volatility, because every man on the planet wanted Marilyn. But when she died, for twenty years Joe sent roses to her grave. Every week for 20 years. It was one of those lovely traumatic relationships.”

He is also pleased to be working with Will & Grace’s Debra Messing, who is getting the rare chance to show television viewers what else she is made of.

 “I think people are going to be really surprised,” he says of his co-star. “They have not seen Debra like this. Here, she really gets to go deep. Because of our characters’ background together on the show, I don’t think people are going to recognize her, but I think they are going to like what she’s doing. She has a musical pedigree. She’s trained. This is a nice departure for her and I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.”

The series itself, which contains a show within a show, can have the effect of a house of mirrors on the actors.

Chase explains, “We record a song three of four weeks before we shoot the episode [in which the song is featured]. And for me, the challenge is trying to find the emotional content of the song when you are three episodes behind. So you have to use your imagination a little more than say any given night on Broadway when you perform a song live. With that said, the music really does speak to the Marilyn and Joe characters and the actual show within the show. They are also layered enough that they also follow the emotions of our characters, Michael and Julia. But you record way in advance, which is kind of weird and trippy.”

SMASH -- "The Workshop" Episode 107 -- Pictured: (l-r) Debra Messing as Julia Houston, Will Chase as Michael Swift -- (Photo by: Eric Liebowitz/NBC)Trippy? How trippy is this: his gig as John Lennon in the Broadway musical, Lennon. Although it opened and closed quickly in 2005, it was a career high for Chase.

“It was very trippy,” he agrees. “I couldn’t get over playing my musical icon, and then being part of a nine-member cast. It was pretty amazing. Yoko said to me, ‘John would have loved it.’ It made me so happy to hear that. It was a dream come true.”

Unlike Broadway musicals scores, it seems that The Beatles are Chase’s biggest influences, musical and otherwise.

“The Beatles probably affected every aspect of my artistry,” he says, “my acting, the way I listen to music, the way I read lyrics. I am a huge Beatles freak. I’m also a huge fan of the Canadian band Rush. The music made me pay more attention. I know naming The Beatles is an odd thing for an actor to say.”

He lists his acting influences as mostly the usual subjects, (Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Albert Finney, and Michael Caine), but his daily pre-performance mantra is strictly unorthodox.

He says, “As I’m getting older, I’m trying to be more selfless. I have a mantra which is a little expletive. I say, ‘fuck the audience! ‘And it’s not meant to be mean.’ It’s meant to invite these people onto this thing, because nothing like this will ever happen again. That night is never going to happen again. That’s my mantra. Fuck the audience! Take them home with you!”

With the huge success of Smash, Chase’s one-night stand with audiences may turn into a long-term relationship.

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT SMASH CO-STAR RAZA JAFFREY HAD TO SAY TO US!

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2012 Patrick Harbron. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.
#2 © 2012 Will Hart. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.
#3 © 2012 Eric Liebowitz. Courtesy of NBC. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 14, 2012.

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Copyright ©2012 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 14, 2012.