Rick Yaeger: Hey, everyone. It’s Rick Yaeger here with One Question Interviews, the show where I ask famous people curious questions. I don’t say this often enough, but I am so lucky to get to talk to the people I interview on this show. Today’s guest is no exception. It is my honor to welcome to One Question Interviews, Mr. Steve Kazee.
Steve Kazee: Although I do have to make one amendment there. You said that this is a show where you talk to famous people. I’m like Broadway famous. We are going to like…
Rick: I have found through doing this show that everybody’s famous in their own way.
Steve: True. That’s actually very true. I agree with you on that.
Rick: Broadway famous is pretty famous.
Steve: It’s pretty good. I’m not complaining. I just want to make that one caveat. [laughs] That’s all. I’m no Greg Grunberg, you know?
Rick: Few of us are.
Rick: Grunny, our mutual friend, and he is actually…I haven’t announced this, but he’s the executive producer of One Question Interviews now.
Steve: There you go.
Rick: Thank you for being so great to come on the show today.
Steve: It’s my pleasure.
Rick: It’s a pretty special introduction in that. I usually run through a list of credits. I would’ve said like, “Drop Dead Diva,” “Elementary,” ‘CSI” and “CIS.” Those kind of things. You’re the first interview I’ve done with somebody who’s probably best known for Broadway. You’re best known for playing the “Guy.”
Steve: The Guy.
Rick: In Once opposite the Girl, who’s now probably better known as being the mother. [laughs]
Steve: Exactly. I think she finally does have a name now. I heard they released that name of the character. But it was funny. She went from being the girl to the mother.
Rick: I have to admit, I haven’t seen the play because I don’t get out enough. Even if I’d seen it, I would’ve seen it in Vancouver. I don’t think it’s played here.
Steve: I don’t think it’s played there. I know it’s in Toronto and it’s doing a West-Coast swing soon, but I’m not sure if Vancouver is on the list of cities or not.
Rick: Even if I’d seen it, it wouldn’t be you, or probably…
Steve: Sure, it would not have been me.
Steve: …unless you saw it in New York a couple of years ago.
Rick: I have seen the movie and I loved the movie. It’s such a great story. I don’t want to give away too much. It’s not a “Sixth Sense” kind of ending, but it’s a good movie. It’s not a typical narrative that the love stories tend to be.
Steve: It’s a very unconventional, modern take on love and relationships.
Rick: You’re not still doing it, are you?
Steve: No, the process itself actually started about three years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We did a workshop for five weeks, where we sort of fleshed it out and figured out what we had on our hands and learned the music.
We did maybe eight performances, private performances, for money people and producers and different theaters in New York that wanted to get involved. Then we ended up taking it to New York, we did it off Broadway for about six months.
We opened on Broadway in March 2012. It’s been playing for two years on Broadway. It’s in London, there’s an Australian company opening, there’s a Korean company, a national tour. I think that’s it.
It started in a church basement in Cambridge Massachusetts with 15, 16 people working on it and then it became this juggernaut that it has now become. It just takes on a life of its own.
Rick: That’s just beautiful and it started on the heels of the movie or did they…
Steve: Well, kind of. I first read someone bought the rights to it in 2008, right after the movie won an Academy Award for best song. Someone bought the rights to it to make it into a stage production. I remember thinking at the time that it sounded like the worst idea of all time.
Rick: And you got to star in it.
Steve: Yeah. There are many roads between those two worlds. For me, I thought it was a bad thing to try to translate. Having seen the movie and anyone who has seen the movie, it’s very soft and it’s a very quiet film. It doesn’t really scream Broadway musical.
Then it was another three years before I heard anything at all about it. I was actually living in Los Angeles. I was doing some television out here. I was doing CSI, I did “Numbers,” “Medium” and a couple different shows. I was on the guest star junket. I booked a series regular on a CMT sitcom, which was short lived. We ran for one season.
It was in the midst of that that they called and asked if I wanted to take part in this workshop. I, again, thought it was a terrible idea, that I was absolutely the wrong person to play that part. I decided to ultimately go and do it and the rest, so they say, is history I think.
Steve: To do the back stage thing?
Steve: I feel like that was before the Tonys. That thing was so much fun. I love my fans because I was always a fan. I used to go see theater and wait at the stage door and meet actors. Seeing the original company of “Rent” is what pushed me to want to be an actor. I’m always a fan. Anytime I get the opportunity to sort of connect with fans in that way and let them be a part of my life for a little while, I jumped on it.
I thought it was a great idea just to see what it’s actually like backstage before the show, what our days are like, and that run up to the Tonys, where you’re having to get up at 5:00 in the morning to go do the “Today Show” and sing, and then have two shows that afternoon.
It’s a hectic life, and a lot of people don’t realize how busy it can be, so it’s nice to let everybody in for a while.
Rick: You mentioned after the Tony nominations were announced that you talked to a few people and asked them what they were doing when the nominations were announced, and I think every one of them was sleeping.
Steve: I was asleep, for sure.
Rick: Why is it so surprising that people that live that hectic of lifestyle could be sleeping…
Steve: Are sleeping at 8:00 in the morning?
Steve: Also for me, I just didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to get excited and get up, and watch television, and have it turned out that I didn’t get nominated. [laughs] That’s a double whammy. A, you’re losing sleep, and B, you don’t get nominated.
I had my phone on, and I knew as soon as it started going off at around, I think it was 8:35, because my category is one of the first categories they announced that morning. My phone just started going crazy, and I was like, “Well, that’s got to be good news.” So I got up, and then it was just a whirlwind for the next month and a half.
Rick: Has it ended? [laughs]
Steve: Yeah, barely, but there’s still days where I just see it on the shelf or whatever, and I’m immediately transported back to that time. When you’re in it, you don’t really get a chance to appreciate it.
The Tony nominations that just came out a couple of days ago, a couple of weeks ago when this airs, I thought about all those people, because there’s just no way to really, truly appreciate it. There’s so much happening. It’s only months after it’s all said and done that you kind of go like, “Oh, my God, that was a really special time.”
That was my first time ever being nominated, so it’d be nice now to be lucky enough to get nominated again someday. It’s like playing quarterback in the NFL. You get a few games, and then it all slows down a little bit. It might be nice to hopefully, if I’m lucky enough, have that experience again and see if I can try to appreciate it a little more going through.
Rick: Another thing you did, I haven’t investigated it too much, but the Saturday intermission pictures were another something.
Steve: The Saturday intermission pictures were actually started by some friends of mine. A guy, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, who at the time he was in “Newsies” and a guy named Max Von Essen, who’s been a dear friend of mine. He was in “Evita” at the time.
They actually approached me and asked me if I would get involved with this thing that they were starting to do, which was encouraging all the theaters on Broadway to take Saturday intermission show…You’re Saturday afternoon intermission, take a picture and show what a two-show day is like on Broadway.
Immediately when you get a bunch of creative and talented people doing that, they immediately…The bar kept getting raised higher and higher. Each week, it became like a chore. I feel like I just peaked really early. I had one that I was on the toilet, but only pretending to be on the toilet.
It caused a huge uproar, and people were offended. Then they put it on…I was on NBC’s Morning Show, and they flashed it up on the screen. I was like, “OK, I’m going to take a break from the Saturday intermission pics. It’s still going strong two years later.
It’s just a really wonderful way, again, for fans to connect with the real world of Broadway, and see what’s actually happening backstage.
Rick: I’m with you there. I’m going to get to the question. As you know, the show is called, One Question Interviews. I have almost a thousand different questions ranging from the profane to the profound. I’ve grabbed a handful here. I will choose one at random, and you’ll answer it seriously or in a funny voice, if you like. Maybe, musically if you’ve got your guitar handy.
Steve: I don’t have it handy, but no pressure.
Rick: I’m just going to riffle…I’ll just do it this way. I’ll just riffle down the side, and you’ll tell me to stop anywhere.
Rick: Do you want the top or the bottom?
Steve: I’m going to go with the top. I’m so nervous.
Rick: I’m nervous, too. “To get by in this crazy world, what are three things you should never forget?”
Steve: Where you came from, who you love, and that you are a very small piece of a very big piece of machinery.
Steve: We all have a purpose. Where you’re from…
Rick: Where you’re from, what does that mean to you?
Steve: I grew up very poor and lived in a trailer for most of my life, not that trailers can’t be wonderful. Mine was not particularly wonderful. [laughs]
I grew up part of the underprivileged America, and my parents worked hard for everything that we got, but unfortunately it was never enough. We struggled and fought and struggled and fought for my entire life, and it wasn’t until I got out on my own and got into college and started making a way for my own self in the world that I started to be able to feel more comfortable in that…In a financial sense, in a personal sense.
Because poverty does a lot to your psyche and keeps you held down for a lot of years. Once I had finally escaped it and started making a life for myself, I was able to become the person that I’ve always wanted to be, but I always remember exactly where I came from, because if you lose sight of that then you lose sight of everything and you just become this person without an identity.
It’s like, think of a house. It’s your basement level. It’s your foundation. It’s the thing that everything else is drilled into.
I know the value of a dollar, I know the value of a community, of a small town community, and I don’t ever want to forget that. It’s easy sometimes when you walk a red carpet and people are handing you trophies and the flashbulbs are going off, to think that you’re bigger or better than someone. It’s just never the case. You’re just as equal as everybody else around you.
Rick: That’s going to help you connect to those people that are in that position that you were in.
Steve: For sure, yeah. That’s the other thing I try to never lose sight of, is that. Is that, the people who I said, the people that you love. The people that I have loved in my life have had a profound impact on me, and that’s not just to say family or friends but also lovers and relationships that I’ve had.
Someone once told me, “Never disregard a lover.” I think that’s a very true statement. Everyone that I’ve ever gone out with, I’ve learned something from. Mostly, profoundly learned things from, and my family, I learned from watching them and those people that I love. My friends, I learn from that shared love relationship.
I just think it’s important to always remember who you have loved and who has loved you, because there’s really no place for negativity in your life. If you find people in your life who are contributing more negativity than they are positivity, they have to go. It’s like a cancer. You have to cut it out. It just has to be gone.
It took me a lot of years to learn that. I was a people pleaser for a lot of years, and then I realized, “Oh, great. I can’t please everybody,” and so now I just need to figure out who around me makes me happy as then might keep those people around and do my part to continuously make all those people happy.
Because it’s a two-way street. You can’t just sit back and hope that everybody’s going to be nice and lovely to you and not give anything back. It’s a cliché thing, but whatever you put out there, I think you get back in double. I always just try to remember that we’re all part of this same…Which leads me to my third thing…
Rick: Number three, yes.
Steve: We’re all part of this same big machine. When I was sitting in Palm Springs and you can see tons of stars out there, I was next to a pool and I was looking up at the stars at night. Each one of those bright flickering objects that we look up in the sky at night is like our Sun. Around those suns are rocks spinning and spinning and spinning.
Who knows if there’s life out there, I can’t say, but no one can tell me there’s not, so we just don’t know.
That’s just what we can see, and that’s one tiny little sliver of the night sky. If you are lucky enough to see a place where there’s a sliver of the Milky Way that you can see, that’s great, but that’s just one little piece of the Milky Way. You can’t even see the other six, seven, eight arms of the Milky Way flailing out there.
Then, that’s one galaxy in trillions. I said this the other night and it sounded profound to me, maybe it is, maybe it’s not, but we technically don’t matter in this universe. We’re so small and insignificant that you could make the argument that we don’t really matter.
However, everything is so perfectly planned to within an inch of its life that life exists, that we have to matter. Just by not mattering, we actually matter.
Steve: It’s like this weird conundrum, that of course we don’t matter, but that’s the whole point, is that we completely matter. Our non-essential quality is what makes us essential.
Rick: Yeah, and we are such a small part of such a big thing that you would think that means that…
Steve: There has to be a point.
Rick: …That we’re insignificant compared to the big thing, but if you take enough of us out, the big thing just collapses.
Steve: Exactly. Those were the three things that I’ve got to keep sight of at all times.
Rick: Excellent answer. I would categorize that under the profound rather than profane.
Rick: Steve, thank you so much for coming on the show and everyone check out Steve Kazee. If you want to keep track of what he’s up to, follow him on Twitter, he is @SteveKazee. It’ll be down there so you can see it real nice. You’re not verified on Twitter.
Steve: I’m not and I’ve got 20,000 followers, I see people with 2,000 that get verified, but now I’m actually like, it’s kind of a status symbol that I’m not verified.
Rick: I hope I don’t destroy that status symbol because I’m going to verify you by hitting you right now. There’s going to be a logo that’s about to hit you in the face. Also, check out stevekazee.com. That’s your website. You know what’s easier? If you just go to onequestioninterviews.com, I’ll post a transcript of this interview along with links to all the cool stuff we’ve talked about.
It might take a little while, because transcripts take a long time to write, but I’ll do it. I’ll do that for you. OK?
Rick: That’s it. This is Rick Yaeger from One Question Interviews, thank you so much for watching and subscribe to the show in the iTunes podcast directory so don’t miss out on any other episodes. Sounds good to me, bye everybody.