Rent: An Interview with Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia
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Rent: An Interview with Jesse L. Martin and Wilson Jermaine Heredia, continued
By Wilson Morales
DO YOU ENJOY THE TIME OFF THE SHOW?
Martin: I love the time off. I mean it does afford me the opportunity to do other things. Of course, you have to fit them in that three-month window. But I'd be really naïve to say I'm going to leave the show and run off to have a movie career, because the truth of the matter is Denzel's still looking for a great script to do, and who am I to think that I can just drop all the work that I've been so graciously given to pursue a film career. I'm an actor. I want to work on stage, I want to work in television. Of course, I want to do film, so I'm keeping the jobs I have.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU ARE NOT WORKING?
Martin: I sleep. I don't get a whole lot of chances to sleep, and I've been lucky. I have a beautiful apartment and I like to sit in it (laughs).
CAN YOU COMPARE DOING THE SHOW AND THE FILM?
Martin: Sure. When we were doing Rent, it was such a Zeitgeist. We were so wrapped up in what the show had become. We weren't even really aware of how it was affecting people, other than what we were hearing in the theatre every night. We were literally concentrating on just working. A lot of it was pressure-filled. People were expecting the show to literally blow the roof off the theatre, and you know, we did, but it came with a lot of pressure. By the time we got to filming the movie, I relaxed a whole lot, and I was able to work with my cast mates and work with this character from a very, very relaxed place. As an actor, that's a great place to start.
DO EITHER OF YOU MISS THE THEATRE?
Martin: Of course. I miss it every single day. I wish that my life allowed me to be on stage every single day, but it doesn't. I'm on a sound stage every single day.
Heredia: There's no substitute for performing on stage. That live experience ... there's nothing like it.
HOW WAS IT SHOOTING THE SUBWAY SCENE WHERE THE BOTH OF YOU ARE PHYSICALLY USING YOUR BODIES AND SINGING?
Heredia: You have no idea.
Martin: (to H) You did Today For You for about three days.
Heredia: It took three days to film.
Martin: And Santa Fe was about the same
Heredia: Three days as well.
Martin: He had amazing feet trouble after that, and I had amazing hand problems after that ... swinging on those bars in the subway, it was hard but it was a whole lot of, fun, one of those things where your adrenaline goes haywire, and you don't even realize you're hurting yourself since it's all said and done ...
Heredia: Then you can't move.
THIS MOVIE WILL BE THE WORST NIGHTMARE FROM SOME AUDIENCES. WILL MIDDLE AMERICA BE READY TO SEE TWO MEN HOLDING HANDS?
Martin: You know, if they're not ready, they'll have to get ready because the truth of the matter is ... it's a reality and not only that, if it's really hard for you to swallow, we're singing a beautiful song to sort of lull you into it. You just have to accept it. I mean ... I don't know what else to say. It's unfathomable to me that people even would have a problem with it.
Heredia: I think it's easy to forget of color on screen. Actually I forgot myself. Really. I was watching it ... oh, that's me. I'm so beautiful. Who dat?
WHAT IF PAT ROBERTSON STARTS CONDEMNING YOU?
Martin: That's just plain crazy, I'm sorry. Nobody in this world is in a position to condemn anybody. You know what I mean? Life is way too short for that.
Heredia: He's going to do it anyway ... regardless. So let him. It's his nature.
JESSE, DID JERRY ORBACH GIVE YOU ANY ADVICE ABOUT THE BUSINESS BEING THAT THE BOTH OF YOU CAME FROM THE THEATER WORLD?
Martin: "Stay out of my light!" - No, that was a joke he used to say all the time. The truth of the matter is it wasn't that he gave me advice. It was more that I was able to watch him on a daily basis, and how he operated. First of all, he was one of the most generous actors ever. We used to have guest stars come on set who were very nervous because they were working with an icon. They'd see me ... oh, I can handle him. But they'd see Jerry and automatically get very, very nervous, and with a quick whisper and a wink and a hand on the shoulder, Jerry could calm down the most nervous actor and get them to a place where they can actually do the work that they came there to do. He was pretty amazing ... not to mention, the most gracious person. We'd be in the middle of a scene, really long day, raining, cold . . . guy would drive through the middle of the scene ... oh my god, Jerry Orbach from Law And Order ... and he would stop, take a picture, sign an autograph. And would say ... wow, that's amazing. He would say ... it's way easier to sign an autograph and take the picture than explain why you wouldn't do it. Great lesson.
HOW ABOUT YOU WILSON, ANYONE GIVE YOU GREAT ADVICE?
Heredia: It may be a cliché, but it would have to say Michael Greif and Jonathan Larson. They definitely inspired me and through example allowed me to learn what this business was about, and also I really have to say ... Jesse, seriously. He really helps me up my game and never let me drop the ball.
Martin: Same here.
Heredia: I learned so much working with this man ... giving much more in the film as well. Again, it was a much more relaxed environment this time around, so we were definitely allowed to work out the subtleties of the scenes and characters and it wasn't like Jesse and I had to sit and really discuss it ... (i.e.) what is my motivation here?
Heredia: It was very immediate, the rapport, and the synergy that we had. I couldn't have asked for a better person to work with.
Martin: He's an Angel in real life too.
DO YOU ALL KEEP IN TOUCH?
Martin: We've kept in touch. We've kept in touch with all the cast members to this day. We've always been a family, so we keep an eye on each other, take care of each other.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO WEREN'T CAST, DAPHNE RUBIN-VEGA AND FREDI WILSON?
Martin: Of course, it was devastating. They were devastated by the choice, but there was seemingly there was nothing we could do. I actually felt, when I was cast in the film, and I found out there were two that weren't, I felt I needed to call them and sort of get their blessing, so to speak. Which I did, and I did get their blessing. But it wasn't an easy phone call to make.
WHY DOES THE SHOW HAVE SUCH RESONANCE?
Heredia: I think it's because it's about timeless universal themes encompassing real people. These people in the film were all Jonathan's friends. He wrote about his life, he wrote about his friends, his environment. Some of these things happened, and I think people identify with ... if you don't identify with the drag queen you'll identify with Collins' character, if not with Collins's character, you'll identify with Roger. If not Roger, Mimi. There's something in this film for everyone.
Martin: That's true. There are so many emotional portals to go through. I mean if you're not really feeling the AIDS story line, then you can go with the lost love story line or you can go with the disenfranchised artist story line or the poverty-can't-pay-my rent story line. There's something in there for everybody. We've all been through these issues and ... who hasn't been in love in their life. Who hasn't been upset because they hadn't cherished the person that they love before they left you?
Martin: Well, I'm going to solve some more crimes and ...
HOW'S YOUR NEW PARTNER?
Martin: It's great. Dennis Farina is a very, very classy actor. He's a real hoot and he brings 23 years of police experience. He was on the Chicago Police Force, and there are so many times when I can turn to him and say ... would we investigate this way, and what would be the next step? I don't really do. And he will say ... well what we really do is slap the guy. But of course you can't do that on TV, so you come up with the politically correct answer (laughs).
WOULD YOU DO RENT AGAIN?
Martin: We could, sure. We were asked that question yesterday and they asked that if we had to go to the Nederlander Theatre tonight and be put on stage in our roles, would we be able to do it. Basically, after I got over my nervousness about doing it, I'm pretty sure could.
Heredia: We'd be on. Just as long as it's with most of the original cast, if not all of the cast. It's just easier that way. We just know each other so well. It would have to be very unique conditions.
Martin: Definitely do that. That might be in the works.
Heredia: We're definitely doing a benefit.
Martin: The live version is a really difficult show to do. I mean it's three hours of full-force singing and moving. So it's exhilarating, like an incredible workout, but the truth of the matter is by the end of the show, you're almost dead tired. In doing the film we had plenty of time to relax and pull ourselves together but in the same way; it was a whole lot of fun because we were so relaxed, we had such a great time doing the film.
Heredia: It would take me a lot of protein shakes to maintain my weight.
CAN YOU TALK RECORDING THE SOUNDTRACK?
Martin: Initially when we were doing the Broadway recording, we were literally in the middle of the Zeitgeist of Rent and we were very tired. Doing the show every day really puts a strain on your voice, and we were basically thrown into the studio, and we had to throw the album down and ... People loved that album, they really do, but the truth of the matter is we were upset by it because we felt we could give more, that we should have gotten the chance to give more. We were really, really tired when we recorded the Broadway album. The film recording again, really, really relaxed, and we had plenty of time to do exactly what we wanted to do as far as the vocals. And you're so keenly aware of the fact that whatever you do in these vocal sessions, you're going to have to repeat on film. So you start making all these choices so you have choices when you get to filming. H. And it was dynamic singing. You just have to think of the movement behind the vocals, but it took a month so we were given a whole lot more time. For the Broadway recording vocally we had three days, and we were still doing the show in the evening.
DID YOU LIKE THE OPENING SCENE WITH ALL OF YOU SINGING?
Martin: We did that in the middle. We were in a really, really beautiful theatre, and weren't even sure how Chris was going to use that footage, but we were so glad to stand in a theatre and do your basic homage to what we had done at the Nederlander Theatre every night and NY Theatre Workshop. I thought it was a great idea.
RENT OPENS ON NOVEMBER 23, 2005
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