Jeremy Jordan cops to being a musical theater nerd — in fact, the 32-year-old admits that if he hadn’t been the star of 2012 Broadway hit Newsies, he’d probably be among the diehard fans of the Disney musical about dancing newsboys (based on the equally beloved 1992 Disney movie directed by Kenny Ortega).
The role of Jack Kelly, the charismatic leader of the young strikers, was a Tony-nominated breakthrough for Jordan that not only fast-tracked him to stardom, but gave him a rabid fan base. “I find it strange,” he says, noting that he only played the role for six months and, in fact, millions more have seen him in TV’s Smash and Supergirl since then.
Jordan’s original Broadway fans have a chance to see him as Kelly once again: He is reprising his role for a filmed staging of the musical, and he chatted with Billboard before it airs in selected theaters on February 16, 18 and 22.
How was it to come back to Jack Kelly four years after you left him?
It was cool. I never thought I’d be able to play it again. At first, you’re like—“oh, man, what am I doing? This is harder than I remember it!”— but then it snaps back into place. It was a blast.
What did you learn in those intervening four years that may have deepened Jack Kelly?
I did a lot of film stuff… I got married [to actress Ashley Spencer]. Life has kind of taught me some things. But at the same time I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’m any more of a grown up than I was back then [laughs].
You’re good at playing flawed heroes, like Jamie in the film of The Last Five Years, and Clyde Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde on Broadway.
That’s what attracts you to any part. You’re constantly going to rediscover elements and find new lights and energies within that sort of trope. It’s funny: Winn [on Supergirl] is the most like me of any character I’ve ever played. He’s a little more excitable, a little more fanboy-ish than I am. But he’s kind of giving me a chance to explore the comedic side of performance, which I’ve not had a lot of opportunities to do.
There are musical episodes planned in the Flash /Supergirl crossover. Are you going to sing in them?
Yeah. I mean the musical elements are going to be on Flash. It’ll be fun.
Your co-star Melissa Benoist came out of Glee just at the time you were coming out of Smash. It’s almost like there’s a musical rep company forming on TV.
There’s getting to be. I don’t think there’s a club or anything. If there is, I don’t think I’m invited [laughs]. We share war stories. It’s a tough thing to do right and to do well. It can invite a lot harsh criticism — people who love musicals hold it very close to their heart, and when you’re trying to put something together that you love, that you want to protect, sometime it doesn’t match what other people hold close and dear. And it can present issues. That’s sort of my experience with the television world. I don’t think that the world is there quite yet where it’s going to be fully accepting of that kind of genre, but it’s getting there.
You write your own music as well. What does it sound like right now?
[Laughs] It changes, depending on when I wrote the song. When I first started writing, I was very cynical and very jaded. But as I grew up and found love, it’s grown much more optimistic and hopeful. Lately, I’ve written more happy. When I was single and sad because so and so didn’t like me, or I wasn’t feeling successful, a lot of stuff came out in negative tone and vibe. It was kind of a purge, a way to get it out. Life isn’t perfect, but things are a whole lot of better.