Catch Him If You Can: Aaron Tveit on "Graceland," Coming Back to Broadway and Tveiter Tots

Playbill.com catches up with Broadway leading man Aaron Tveit. The star of "Graceland," Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can chats about upcoming concert engagements, returning to the stage and Taylor Swift's role in his concert repertoire.

Aaron Tveit
Aaron Tveit

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Aaron Tveit may not have plans to sing while starring in the TV show "Graceland," but Broadway fans need not fear: The versatile actor admits he has a tendency to burst into song while on set — but off camera.

"I just sang for the first time the other day — when I hadn't really sang other than in my shower or at my house or on set — to the chagrin of my castmates," said Tveit, who has starred on Broadway in the musicals Hairspray, Wicked, Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can. "It's a bit of a stress relief, because while I'm dealing with burning dead bodies and shooting people, I can sing a little bit to relieve some of the tension."

While the role of Mike Warren, the rookie FBI agent sent to live undercover in Southern California, does not require singing, the actor has no intention of letting his vocal talents rest for too long. Tveit will next be seen performing with California's Pasadena Pops Sept. 6 in the concert "New York! New York!" alongside Patti Austin and Liz Callaway, with Michael Feinstein conducting.

"I just jumped at it," Tveit said of the opportunity. "This is just something I've really wanted to get into – the concert stuff, being able to travel the country… just to perform with these incredible orchestras. I'm really, really excited. I'm singing some great stuff. It's a really cool show based on 'New York, New York.' It's going to be a real thrill." "New York, New York!" does not mark Tveit's first venture into concert venues. Tickets to "The Radio in My Head: Live at 54 Below," which he performed in May 2013, sold out in less than five minutes, prompting the leading man to schedule several more engagements at the nightclub located below Studio 54. Tveit confessed the concert's success was a complete surprise to him, saying, "It was kind of my first venture, my first concert I'd done for myself. I didn't know what to expect. I really, honest to God, hoped that people would come and see it. And the fact that it was met with that response and the audiences were so incredible, I couldn't have dreamed for a better first concert experience in that way." When asked how he could top that experience in any future engagements, he said, laughing, "I don't know!"

Tveit in a promotional photo for "Graceland"
Tveit in a promotional photo for "Graceland" (Photo by USA Network)

"I have no idea," he continued. "I'm back here, and and I'm back with a music director and putting together a couple more nights like that, hopefully [at] some different places. I'm kind of bringing that into my preparation process. I probably shouldn't worry about it because that was one of those moments that I can't duplicate. I'll just throw it out the window and not worry about topping it — because I don't know if I can."

One of the surprise numbers in Tveit's concert lineup was a spirited performance of Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," which the pop music-loving actor said he thought might be a terrible idea. "Talk about a moment," he said of the audience's reaction to the song. "It turned out to be one of the most fun moments of the night. I definitely will be returning to a vein similar to that. I like to think I'm a kind of ridiculous, fun person, so I was trying to show that a little bit in my production."

When asked if he would bring his vocal talents to "Graceland" — perhaps with the FBI agents embarking on a karaoke night — Tveit said he preferred to keep the TV show and his stage work separate because he didn't think singing would fit into the "gritty, realistic drama."

"That was a conscious choice I had made beforehand to keep that separate," he said. "Realistically, my character is good at many things and bad at many things. I do not think this guy's a singer. I think it would be a sore thumb, it would be out of place, if I were to sing in the show. Even though it would be a fun idea, I think it would pull the story out in a way that wouldn't necessarily work."

Despite having guest-starred on the TV shows "Ugly Betty," "Gossip Girl," "Law and Order" and "The Good Wife," "Graceland" marks Tveit's first long-term leading role on a TV show. His years of theatre training, he said, prepared him well for the discipline of the demanding schedule. "Theatre really prepares you for everything," he said. "After eight or nine years of being onstage nonstop, the discipline factor and how hard it is to do eight shows a week and keep yourself together and only have one day off and do the same thing every night and keeping it fresh, like this is the first time you've ever done it... It's just so tremendously difficult.

Tveit with Jennifer Damiano in <i>Next to Normal</i>
Tveit with Jennifer Damiano in Next to Normal (Photo by Joan Marcus)

"There's a different set of challenges [with television]," he continued. "You switch to something where you meet a character and start to learn a character, and then every week you get to go on a different journey and live out all these different things and are constantly changing. You have to kind of learn to start your whole process really fast and get used to it on a weekly basis. I have to say, nothing's as hard as theatre is, which just gives me such an appreciation for being onstage. But I love [being in front of a camera], and I think that a whole other thing — doing 13 episodes in a row — is another kind of endurance task. I felt like I was so prepared for that by all this time I'd spent in the theatre. It's always interesting to me how one constantly forms one another."

While he has been busy with "Graceland," as well as starring in the independent films "Stereotypically You," "Big Sky" and "Undrafted," for the past few years, Tveit said he hopes to return to the stage "sooner rather than later." After going to see several shows while in New York, including one of Neil Patrick Harris' last performances in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Long Shrift, directed by his "Howl" co-star James Franco, he said he was constantly fighting the urge to jump onstage and join in the performance.

"The short answer is I don't know. The long answer is I can't wait for it to happen again, and I'm excited by the prospect of not knowing what it's going to be. It's such an amazing thing," he said of the possibility of returning to the stage. "I went to see a rehearsal of one of my best friends and my old roommate in Kinky Boots the other day, and you see these people and such a warm, welcoming community that's home. I really cannot wait to be back on stage. I don't know when, and hopefully whenever it is, people will remember me and accept me back."

After starring in two brand-new musicals, Tveit, who said he's a fan of the classic musical catalog of Carousel, West Side Story and South Pacific, among others, said he would like to perform in a revival. He also is "dying to do a play," listing David Mamet and Martin McDonagh as two of his favorite playwrights.

"New musicals are really hard, to be completely honest," he said. "Everyone's taking a big chance and it's a lot of hard work — which is also so exciting to get to be a part of something. But doing a revival, you're working on a [known] property. You have to figure out a new way to do it or a fun way to do it. Those musicals are revived and are classics for a reason." Tveit, whose star has risen to the point where his hometown named a street after him (a decision he called "mind-blowing"), added he is "so flattered" that his fans, who identify themselves as "Tveiter Tots," hope to see him return to the stage, saying, "I think that's the greatest thing ever, because who doesn't like tater tots?" He was surprised to learn of the fans who called themselves "Darth Tveiter," adding, "That's a good play on my impossible last name. I might have to be Darth Tveiter for Halloween."

(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)