CUE & A: London's Miss Saigon Star Jon Jon Briones on Sammy Davis Jr., "Field of Dreams" and Two Decades as The Engineer

News   CUE & A: London's Miss Saigon Star Jon Jon Briones on Sammy Davis Jr., "Field of Dreams" and Two Decades as The Engineer Jon Jon Briones, who stars as The Engineer in the new West End production of Miss Saigon, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.
Jon Jon Briones
Jon Jon Briones

A native of the Philippines, Briones joined the London cast of Miss Saigon in 1989 and has subsequently played the role of the Engineer in Germany, a US tour, an Asian tour, back home in the Philippines and a recent UK tour.

Other stage work in Los Angeles, New York and around the globe includes the title character in The Romance of Magno Rubio, Vichear Lam in Sweet Karma, Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music, Enjolras in Les Miserables, Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Tateh in Ragtime, Lion in The Wiz, Laertes in Hamlet, Rapunzel’s Prince in Into the Woods, Slovitch in Fools, Man 1 in Closer Than Ever and Lukas in Peregrinasyon.

Briones has appeared on screen in "Las Vegas," "Sons of Anarchy," "Bones," "The Mentalist," "Monk," "Southland," "Miami Medical," "General Hospital," "Law & Order LA" and "Moonlight."

Full given name: Ernesto Cloma Briones

Where you were born/where you were raised: Born and raised in Quezon City, Philippines

Zodiac Sign: Leo

What your parents did/do for a living: My father worked for the government as a customs official, and my mother had a full-time job taking care of 5 children.

Siblings: Three sisters (two are older, the other is our youngest) and a younger brother.

Current audition song/monologue: A scene from The Romance of Magno Rubio. A play by Lonnie Carter about Filipino migrant workers in America during the Great Depression.

Special skills: I whistle really well.

Something you're REALLY bad at: When I was living in New York City many years ago I had to wait on tables like a lot of actors there, and I can honestly say I was the worst waiter I know.

First Broadway/West End show you ever saw: First West End show I've ever seen was Cats in 1989 after arriving from Manila, Philippines. It was Ruthie Henshall's last performance with the production as she was joining us in Miss Saigon.

If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be?: There are a few shows. Original productions of West Side Story, Dreamgirls and Ragtime to name a few.

Current or recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: I saw the Southwark Playhouse's production of Dogfight and fell in love with it. Unfortunately it's not showing anymore.

Some favorite modern musicals: The Last Five Years, Dogfight

Some favorite classic musicals: West Side Story. I saw the movie on TV when I was very young and it changed my life because I think it's what made me want to be a performer.

Broadway or screen stars of the past you would have most loved to perform with: Sammy Davis Jr.

The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Dame Judi Dench in A Little Night Music (1995) in the scene leading to "Send in the Clowns." Simply amazing.

MAC or PC?: We were a PC family, but we have been slowly changing over to Mac.

Most played song on your iPod: Michael Buble songs. I use his albums to warm up by singing along with him.

Most-visited websites: espn.com and Facebook

Favorite Tweeters: @MissSaigonUK

Last book you read: "Damn You Auto Correct 2"

Last good movie you saw: It's not the last movie I saw but I love the movie "Field of Dreams." It's considered a sports movie but I love it because of its message of realizing the value of something you love. There's a line by one of the characters after the game of baseball was taken away from him. He says, "I'd do this for nothing." As actors that's how we feel about this profession when we are starting out.

Some films you consider classics: "West Side Story," "Cinema Paradiso"

Performer you would drop everything to go see: Sammy Davis Jr. if he was still alive

Three favorite cities: Los Angeles, New York, London

Favorite sport/team/player: Chicago Bulls- Michael Jordan, New York Yankees- Derek Jeter

First CD/Tape/LP you owned: "Top Gun" soundtrack

First stage kiss: Doing a play called "Gaybirds"

Favorite liquid refreshment: Water... lots of it

Most challenging role you have ever played: Aside from The Engineer, I played the role of Vichear Lam in Sweet Karma, a play by Henry Ong. It was based on the life of the actor Haing S. Ngor who is the only Asian actor ever to win an Academy Award for acting. It was about his life escaping Cambodia, and his death.

After playing The Engineer for so many years all over the world, what keeps drawing you back to the role? How do find ways to keep the performance fresh and discover new things about him?: I love this show. Every time a production comes up it is different and I surprise myself by finding new things about the character.

What most stands out to you about this particular Miss Saigon experience?: It is darker, grittier and more desperate and relentless.

Most fulfilling or fun aspect about the project: Performing with such a young, talented and dedicated cast every night.

The best words to best describe the experience of the recent anniversary gala: Surreal. Emotionally overwhelming. Did this really happen?????

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: A number of years years ago I was playing The Engineer on the US tour. After Bangkok I came off stage and my company manager started talking to me about a concern we were having as a company. We went downstairs and kept the conversation going. Suddenly I realized I had to come back in after Kim's conversation with John, and I was late. They were actually holding for me. So embarrassing.

Worst costume ever: Crocodile

If you could trade roles/tracks with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be?: I think I'll stick to what I know best. What those guys do with their roles are so wonderful and hard to do.

Leading man role you've been dying to play: Sweeney Todd for sure

Something about you that surprises people: That I'm actually short in real life. That I don't have formal training in acting or voice. That I studied Electrical Engineering as a career. That I lived in a convent singing in their choir from the age of 9-14.

Something you are incredibly proud of: My children. Thank God they take after my wife.

Something you're embarrassed to admit: That my English is not as good as people think it is.

Three things you can't live without: My wife, my children and being on stage

"I'll never understand why…” … people say they don't like musicals!

Words of advice for aspiring performers: If you love it and can't live without it, then do it and show it in your work.

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