When she starred opposite her now husband Eric Anderson in a Sacramento production of the intimate musical, the lyrics “I want to be your wife/ I want to bear your child,” from The Last Five Years’ wedding song “The Next Ten Minutes” rang particularly true for Jessica Rush.
Ten years later, Rush is Anderson’s wife. They have an adorable 18-month-old daughter, Elliot (the star of Anderson’s Instagram) and they are more in love than ever. Though they met on the unsuccessful L.A. tryout of the offbeat musical Pilgrim, t took a Jason Robert Brown romance and a margarita-filled summer to bring this groovy couple together. They tell us why talent is sexy and what it’s like to be a Broadway parent.
There was an episode of Friends where Joey explains that if actors have chemistry on stage then there’s nothing happening between them offstage and vice versa. Do you feel that same way? Was it hard for you to have chemistry in The Last Five Years since you were falling in love offstage?
Eric Anderson: No. I think the opposite. Chemistry is chemistry, and if it’s deep in your real life then it’s inevitable on stage. I’ve known actors that have not cared for the people that they’ve been working with, but still had to manufacture that chemistry on stage. Sometimes you have to, but if you like the people you’re working with, and certainly if you love the people you’re working with, then I think it’s deeper and easier.
What drew you to each other on and off stage?
Jessica Rush: He walked in the first day of rehearsal for Pilgrim and he was late. Which now that I know him, he’s not really late.
EA: Unless it’s an Equity meeting.
JR: Right! He was late to the Equity meeting. He strolled in with his sunglasses on, carrying a coffee and an apple. He was wearing these denim sailor jeans and a denim shirt.
EA: A lot of denim.
JR: But I was intrigued. Everyone knew him. In L.A. he was quite the big fish, and everyone was talking about him before he got there. Right from the beginning I would say, “You’re just too cool for school.” He was just so interesting to me. I had never met anybody like him, and I wanted to know more. At our table read that first day we would laugh at the same things, and we sort of connected across the table. We shared the same sense of humor. Then I saw him as an actor, and talent is a big turn on. I saw him in [Pilgrim] and of course I saw him do The Last Five Years and I’d seen clips of him playing Tateh in Ragtime. He is a chameleon, my husband, and it’s incredibly sexy. It’s something that I love about him the most. His characters are always so different, including their facial hair, and he is committed as an actor.
EA: Facial hair is the greatest accessory that any man can have. I really appreciated Jessica’s confidence. She was extremely confident when I met her and still is. Her confidence enhanced her humor and enhanced her grace. She has a nobility about her that I’ve really never experienced with any other woman before, and the fact that she enjoyed giving me the time of day was a definite benefit to my life.
He is! You got married on 11/11/11. What was your wedding like, besides lucky!
EA: We got married in Mexico.
JR: So many of the people coming to our wedding, and who were in our wedding, were in shows on Broadway. I knew they’d have to use a week vacation in order to go, so I thought, “Let’s do it somewhere fun.” We rented out a little boutique hotel near Cabo from Thursday to Sunday for just our people. Everywhere we looked there were people that we knew and that we loved. It was a magical weekend.
With all of those theatre people in attendance, were there any performances?
EA: It’s hard to tell where the life ends and the performance starts.
JR: Eric’s mother performed. She sang for her toast. Our first dance was a little involved, but it wasn’t choreographed. I walked down the aisle to “Time After Time.” He actually proposed to me when we were finishing our breakfast at Sanfords, the diner around the corner [from our old apartment in Astoria], with a paper straw ring and “Time After Time” was playing on the radio. I laughed because there were dirty dishes on the table and a paper ring.
EA: It’s like that line in A Little Night Music: “What sort of man would give you a wooden ring?”
JR: I think it was moreso that I wasn’t prepared. I was like, “No, no, no. This isn’t happening right now. There’s dirty breakfast dishes.”
That sounds romantic though!
JR: I totally think it was romantic, but I was just shocked.
EA: Which was adorable. It was adorable.
Jessica, I know you mentioned that you like Eric’s chameleonic talent. What’s been your favorite roles that you’ve seen each other in?
JR: Shlomo [in Soul Doctor] is definitely my favorite. When people talk about Shlomo they talk about the twinkle in his eye. My husband’s got that same twinkle. His performance was very honest and heartfelt. He worked so hard in all the incarnations of the show, particularly the Broadway production. I hate that more people didn’t see him in the role, because he was outstanding and it wasn’t the easiest process for him or for the company. I think that he was a role model, and he set the example. Whether he’s the star, or whether he’s in the ensemble, Eric comes to work with a positive attitude. It’s difficult when you’re working so hard on something that is not having the response that you would hope it would have, but he would still go into work every single day with a smile on his face and be positive and literally jump up and down on the stage sweating buckets.
EA: One of my first major experiences seeing Jessica was when she went on for Laura Benanti in Gypsy, playing Louise opposite Patti LuPone’s Rose. Seeing Patti LuPone sing, “I have a dream,” to my then girlfriend was definitely something that I’ll never forget. I was so proud. I felt more like her mother than her boyfriend, because I was so nervous and proud and in awe of the way that she carried that.
Now for Eric’s next act he gets to be a creep in Waitress.
EA: A creep!? Maybe I’m a little gruff, but Cal has a heart in there somewhere. He’s just too busy to show it.
JR: He’s got quite the mustache going on, and his hair has grown in. My bald scruffy guy is now replaced by one with hair going in all directions
EA: Like Avery Schreiber. That one goes out to all the people who are my age and older.
How have you been able to balance being parents and being in the Broadway scene?
EA: Very carefully.
JR: Boy, life sure is different then when you used to roll into your matinee and be like, “Oh good morning it’s so early at 1:30 in the afternoon. Now when I go to a matinee I’ve already been up for seven hours: I’ve gone to a music class, done laundry, made two meals. Our career is definitely not conducive to having a child, but at the same time I get to hang out with her all day before my show. I can be there, directly influencing her and seeing her grow, and she’s surrounded by artists and awesome people, who are open-minded and creative. Also there’s a give and take. When she was first born I obviously wasn’t working, and Eric was doing The Last Ship. Then The Last Ship closed the same week that I went back to Jersey Boys, so I was with her the first five months and then Eric was home with her for the next five months. How many dad’s get to do that in this country? It was hard last summer when he did Waitress at A.R.T. I was essentially alone for 14 weeks. I had people come stay, but then that means there’s another person living in our one-bedroom apartment.
Yeah that sounds tough. Are you guys able to find time for each other right now?
EA: Sunday and Monday nights are where it’s at.
JR: [Right now] he’s in rehearsal [during the day] on Monday. We’re excited for Waitress to start previews, so that we can at least have Mondays off together.
EA: And then we’ll also have dates between shows on Saturdays.
JR: We’ll meet up for dinner. We’re looking forward to that.
EA: We’ll be like that cute Broadway couple.