As we revealed earlier today, John Cameron Mitchell will debut in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on January 21, returning to the role he created Off-Broadway 15 years ago and immortalized in the cult-hit 2001 film. I spoke to Mitchell about stepping back into the show he penned with Stephen Trask, reuniting with fans and the rock-and-roll influences that shaped everyone's favorite trans glam rocker.
Naveen Kumar: What made you decide to do go into the show?
John Cameron Mitchell: Well you know, come on! The production is sitting there and I’ve certainly been thinking about it. I didn’t want to open the show, because it was just way too much pressure and time, and I could barely imagine doing it as long as the superman called Neil Patrick Harris. So, this manageable run, at a time when box office usually dips in January and before my film starts shooting next year, it was sort of a perfect slot. Certainly, it’s been in my mind that’ I’d do once more before I collapse into old age. [Laughs]
NK: So, it’s something you’ve thought about since the planning stages?
JCM: Years ago when we were thinking about Broadway, I didn’t really want to do a full run and thought maybe I could share it with someone—as they did with Fela!, because it was just so much singing and dancing. We reduced it to seven performances a week—I think Andrew Rannells did one week of eight—but no Hedwig has ever done eight and lived to tell the tale, because it’s way too hard. So, it was the enormity of it that gave me pause.
To be honest, it’s a great excuse to get in shape! [Laughs]
NK: How do you think it will be different for you this time?
JCM: Physically it will be much harder. But, the show is about finding a wholeness, and after 15 years, moving into middle age—you think about wholeness in a different way. In some ways, you are more whole, in other ways you’re more realistic about romance. The myth of ‘The Origin of Love,’ of finding a way to complete yourself—the young version of that is, ‘One person is going to complete me forever and heal the primal rift.’
And then you become a little wiser, even at the end of Hedwig, she’s alone in one way but there’s a kind of wholeness implied, because she’s been through these experiences. She’s the sum of everyone she’s met. You understand that more when you’re older, for better or worse. And, hopefully you’ve made the right choices as to who those people are. Everyone makes mistakes, and they make loving mistakes, which is really the best you can do. You make decisions based on whether you love or hate yourself.
A lot of queer people grew up feeling inferior, hating themselves from a young age, and have to heal themselves. And queer people include straight people who didn’t fit in in terms of gender, trans people, anyone. Your butch mom: She’s queer too, even if she’s straight. So, that’s the Hedwig community and it’s been built up from nothing. Of course there are Rocky Horror fans and rock fans mixed in, but we’re really different.
The people who love Hedwig love it forever, so there’s a responsibility to doing this right and being honest on stage. I’m excited about reuniting with those people—the last 15 years of their lives will inform the show as much as the last 15 years of my own, which has been very peripatetic, exciting and tragic and full. It’s going to be wiser, it’s going to be frayed. It’s not going to be as nervous as when I was a kid. I’m actually nervous about it now—but that ‘s more about how strenuous it is and keeping it together vocally and physically. It’s exciting; I need a kick in the ass right now, and there’s no bigger kick in the ass than Hedwig.
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