This Sunday (Jan. 27), Tinashe, Vanessa Hudgens, Valentina, Jordan Fisher, Brandon Victor Dixon, Brennin Hunt, Kiersey Clemons, and Mario will be bringing the story of RENT to living rooms across the country, as Jonathan Larson’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical – which tackled issued such as sexuality, relationships, addiction, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the stories of eight individuals in New York City’s East Village – is getting the live televised treatment.
Ahead of the big event, Billboard chatted with three of the cast members to find out when they were each introduced to the musical, what their favorite RENT soundtrack songs are, how they feel about performing live and why they think that now is the right time to introduce the story to a new generation of viewers.
Tinashe, who will be taking on the role of Mimi Marquez, tells Billboard that she was introduced to RENT in middle school when she watched the 2005 film adaptation, which made her fall in love with the songs and the characters.
Hudgens, who will be portraying Maureen Johnson, says she discovered the show when she played Mimi during a summer production (directed by Neil Patrick Harris) at the Hollywood Bowl a decade ago. Valentina, meanwhile — who will be playing Angel Dumott Schunard — notes that her introduction to RENT was during freshman year of high school, where she performed the songs in her school’s choir.
Asked if they feel any added pressure with the performance being live, Tinashe replies that having a live audience there gives everyone in the cast extra energy, while Hudgens reveals that she had so much fun being a part of Grease Live, and that she is “stoked” to do it again.
Valentina, who rose to fame as a star on RuPaul’s Drag Race, points out that as a drag queen she is always performing live, so that doesn’t worry her. “What does worry me is being an actress, and trying to become an award-winning actress and winning an Emmy, that worries me,” the drag diva confesses. “Cause if we give it to them, we could be nominated!”
As for why the stars think that now it such an important time for the story of RENT to be retold, Tinashe notes that the musical is about accepting one another and being there for each other, through both highs and lows. “As a nation and as a world, we are going through so much that it’s important to remember to keep those family bonds really close,” she says.
“We need to be seen, and we need to be heard, and we need to be fearless,” says Valentina. “Here in America, it’s the land of the free, the land of the brave, and I believe that this story really reflects that… I really am grateful to this storyline to be seen by a broader audience, and I hope they enjoy it.”
You can watch the entire interview with Tinashe, Vanessa Hudgens, and Valentina above to hear much more, including what each of their favorite songs from RENT are. You can also watch a teaser for the live TV event below.