About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
November 2005
Rent: An Interview with Rosario Dawson and Adam Pascal

Rent: An Interview with Rosario Dawson and Adam Pascal

By Wilson Morales

After so many talks and promises, the day has finally come when the Tony award winning musical, RENT, is coming to the big screen. When the show first was introduced as an off-Broadway show and then made its debut on Broadway, it was only a matter of time when Jonathan Larson’s show would be seen by many people outside of New York. Pretty much the core ensemble of the original cast is back with the exception of Daphne Rubin-Vega and Fredi Walker. Replacing Rubin-Vega as Mimi is one of Hollywood hottest stars, Rosario Dawson. Adam Pascal, who was cast in the original production, is back playing the part of Roger. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Pascal speaks about reliving his character once again while Dawson talks about her dreams coming true to sing and dance on screen.

What gave you the chutzpah to go ahead and give this a try?

Rosario Dawson: What gave me the chutzpah? I have a lot of incredible family members who kind of take on everything with the same kind of attitude that made me go running with the bulls in Pamplona. It was probably one of the dumbest things I've ever done. It was like, "All right, I'll try it."I don't usually get scared about something until I try it and realize, "Oh, that was really scary." So that was kind of how I approached this, but I was actually really nervous when I went into the audition. It's one thing to go against some other actors for this part, but I was going against actors who originated these parts; people who have been nominated and had gotten Tonys for it; people who know it inside and out and who knew Jonathan Larson as well and had totally the inside track. And I had never done it before, but I was really excited because I knew I could do it even if I was delusional. I easily could have been delusional.

When did you know you could do it?

RD: I just knew I could. I just knew I could. I love singing and I love dancing. I bought my first song when I was six. I've always been really flexible. It's really the only thing I ever wanted to do. I was discovered into acting. It wasn't something I wanted to do, but singing and dancing has always been my dream, my fantasy. Some kids want to be a ballerina, or a princess, but I've always wanted to sing and dance.

What took you so long to do it?

RD: Because I got into acting and I fell in love with acting and that became my thing and I didn't grow up seeing a lot of theater. I didn't see the original production of "Rent" for that reason. I didn't have the money to go see it. It wasn't something that I got into. The only musicals I ever saw were on film. I really loved them, but it was sort of like that dream thing where I could never imagine myself actually doing that. I saw my uncle doing "West Side Story" and that's what got me excited about the idea of doing something like that. When I saw the movie, it was the first time I imagine I could never do something like that. It really is a dream come true.

Who was the uncle in "West Side Story"?

RD: My Uncle Gustavo. It's actually really funny. He was one of the Sharks and he died and my brother was 4 and I think I was 9 when I saw it and when he died, my brother jumped up and went nuts, in a good way. That was one of the things where I could see with music and with dancing and using your full body in that way and how you could really emotionally get people; even my little brother was 4 and maybe he wasn't following the story that well, but you really get caught up in it. At recess, I remember singing all the Ariel songs from "The Little Mermaid". I've always loved stories and song together. It's been so important to me, but that's because it's so personal. I never thought that would be something I would do.

Did this character resonate with you?

RD: Absolutely. I grew up in a spot in the lower East Side and my mom is so much of what Mimi could have been or was. She was a young woman and she was struggling and she moved into a building with no heat or water or electricity and thought that was a better opportunity for her even thought her family thought that was crazy because she was an idealist and it helped to think that this is what she can do with her life; even if it was a struggle, she knew she could build it from her own hands. She wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel but she was trying to make a life for her that she felt comfortable in and could rest at night. We moved into a spot with no running water or electricity so she became a plumber so she could put the sewage lines in. My dad did construction and when we first moved in, there was this huge gaping hole in the floor and a firewood door with a chain; we had an extension cord that went across the courtyard for the one refrigerator we had for the entire building and that's how we lived for awhile until they build the place around us. She was the only person who had kids doing that and for her and my dad, that was better than living in the railroad apartment with the slumlord down the block. So, it was an interesting way to grow up, but doing something like "Rent" and discovering it when I did, a few years after it had come out, gave me the articulation to look back in my life and be really proud of what it taught me and where it puts me now; so I have the gratitude, especially after playing Mimi, whom I'm so encourage by and so inspired by vitality and her chutzpah and also knowing that she is doom and so needy for love and attention and for all the things that I'm not starving for. I have all of that and so grateful for it. She was 19 and I'm 26. I'm doing all right. I'm feeling no day but today; not from the idea of being HIV positive and I'm a heroin addict. I'm so grateful for what I have in my life and the opportunities I have and I see that every morning and I'm grateful for that. I love Mimi, but I'm also glad that I'm not Mimi.

Adam, was it easy to invite into the family considering she was one of the new people joining the core ensemble?

Adam Pascal: For the most part, all of us who were in the film have not done the show for at least 8 years; so it wasn't like we were welcoming someone new into this family that has been on stage for so many years together. It had been a long time since any of us had been involved in this project; so it was certainly long enough to accept someone new and it wasn't an issue whatsoever. Rosario (Dawson) and Tracie (Thoms) were the best possible people for these roles and I'm thankful and I think the audience will be thankful that they are in this movie. All of us, as soon as we got together and met, our chemistries clicked. We were all so excited to be a part of this project.

Do you miss Daphne?

AP: Of course. Daphne was a huge integral part of the original production and it was unfortunate that she couldn't be a part of the film. That's not the way the stars lined up. This is the way they lined up.

How does it feel to come back to the role?

AP: To return to it was great because I had had such a long break from it. The material was ingrained in me it was always there but it was also very fresh; and also the fact that the medium was different, that made a completely new experience. What was so wonderful was that those of us who are coming at this project from a predominant theater background and those of us from a predominant film background, the marriage of the two worked so well that this new family that was formed; those of us from the original cast and Rosario, Tracie, and Chris, again, it was all about the perfect alchemy. The chemistry of all of us together was, I felt, the same chemistry that I did off-Broadway between the cast, Michael Greif and Jonathan Larson. We had that same chemistry making this movie. Everybody was on the same page. Everybody had the same vision of this film and the same way that I put all my faith in Michael Greif when I was doing it on stage, I did the same with Chris Columbus and I was not let down.

What is it about this piece that leads you to keep finding that alchemy, as you have in the workshops, on Broadway and with the film?

AP: I mentioned something about the stars lining up. Look, there have been lots of casts all over the world and that chemistry isn't always there. The show isn't always so good, but I think the original Broadway cast, this original off-Broadway cast and this movie (cast), it needed to be right, and for whatever reason " Jonathan is watching us" it was right. If you believe in that kind of thing, he brought us all together because now this is on film, this is forever. The legacy could have been it was a Broadway show that's still running, but the movie sucked. Look at Phantom. Phantom is still running. I loved it. But the movie was terrible. We didn't want to have that same issue with this. There was so much riding on it.

Page 1 | Page 2


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy