PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Hands on a Hardbody Star Jay Armstrong Johnson

By Matthew Blank
March 19, 2013

Jay Armstrong Johnson, who plays Greg Wilhote in the new musical Hands on a Hardbody, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.



Johnson has appeared on Broadway in Catch Me If You Can (Frank Jr. Standby) and Hair (original revival cast, Claude u/s).

Other theatre credits include Wild Animals You Should Know (MCC), Working (Prospect), A Chorus Line (Mark), Pirates! (Frederick), Pool Boy (Nick), Hairspray (Link), West Side Story (Baby John) and 35mm: A Musical Exhibition.





Full given name: Jay Armstrong Johnson
Where you were born/where you were raised: Fort Worth, Texas
Zodiac Sign: Virgo through and through
What your parents did/do for a living: Mom was a middle school nurse and now works for the city of Fort Worth. Dad owns his own BBQ catering business in Dallas. www.fastfreddiesbbq.com
Siblings: I have a sister who is one year older and studying psychology.
Current audition song/monologue: A bluesy version of "The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson arranged by my friend Caleb Hoyer. I have never been asked to do a monologue in an audition, but if I had to it would be from Romeo and Juliet.
Special skills: I can pop my tongue really really loud. Only to be matched by Matt Doyle.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Remembering people's names who I've just met. It's a problem. A serious problem.
First Broadway show you ever saw: It was either 42nd Street or Thoroughly Modern Millie.
If you could go back in time and catch any Broadway show, what would it be? The original company of Hair
Current or recent shows you recommended to friends: Musical: Once
Play: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Favorite showtune(s) of all time: "The Quartet"- West Side Story
"How Glory Goes"- Floyd Collins
"Without Love"- Hairspray
"Sunday"- Sunday in the Park with George
Some favorite modern musicals: The Last Goodbye, Floyd Collins, anything by Ryan Scott Oliver
Some favorite classic musicals: West Side Story, Singin' in the Rain, Company, South Pacific
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: James Dean, John Wayne, River Phoenix, Marilyn Monroe
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead: Gavin Degraw, Frank Sinatra, Norbert Leo Butz, Gavin Creel, Marc Broussard
The one performance — attended — that you will never forget: August: Osage County
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Bowling for Soup
MAC or PC? MAC
Most played song on your iPod: "Belief" by Gavin Degraw
Most-visited websites: The New York Times
Yoga to the People
Steps on Broadway
New York Unemployment... hahah
Last book you read: "Catching Fire"
Must-see TV show(s): "Girls"
"Friday Night Lights"
"Bob's Burgers"
"Mad Men"
"Breaking Bad"

There are just so many good ones.

Last good movie you saw: "Argo"
Some films you consider classics: "Harry and the Hendersons"
"E.T."
"Hocus Pocus"

Shut up, they're totally classics!

Performer you would drop everything to go see: Norbert Leo Butz
Pop culture guilty pleasure: "Call Me Maybe"
Three favorite cities: Portland, San Francisco, Chicago
Favorite sport/team/player: All Texas teams: Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dillon Panthers, Dallas Mavericks... etc. Football would be my favorite, though its a tough call between that and baseball. My favorite player? It's a tie between Saracen, Riggins and Smash.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Embarrassingly enough, I think it was Reba McEntire.
What are some of your most memorable roles as a kid or teenager and how old were you? Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream- 12
Peter Pan- 13
Jesus in Godspell- 14
Baby John in West Side Story- 14
Gideon in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers- 16
Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain- 17
First stage kiss: I think it was with Katie Caruso in 7 Brides for 7 Brothers.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When I stepped out on to the stage for the first day of tech for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Lights, haze, music... magic.
How you got your Equity card: I was cast as Mark in a regional touring production of A Chorus Line at Casa Mañana.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Either miso soup, salad, Manhattan roll and a spicy crunchy tuna roll at Kodama or two veggie spring rolls and a large pho at Saigon 48.
Favorite liquid refreshment: COCONUT WATER!
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: 25 minutes of yoga, push-ups at the 5-minute call and a moment with the boys in my dressing room at places.
Most challenging role you have ever played: Matthew in Wild Animals You Should Know at MCC.
Craziest audition story: Auditioning with three other people who were up for the other roles in the piece and essentially having to make out with total strangers. It was awesome.
What has been the biggest challenge about this project? Standing
What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect? Being part of a piece that celebrates and honors my people. Texas forever!
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: I forgot my ENTIRE monologue in A Chorus Line on the first national tour. Just stood there trembling and speechless for about 30 seconds, which felt like 3 hours.
Worst costume ever: My dancing fork costume in Beauty and the Beast at Casa Mañana. The fork part kept breaking and became a weapon of culinary destruction whenever I would do a turn. Thanks for reminding me.
Worst job you ever had: It wasn't terrible, but one of my best friends, Mary Michael Patterson, and I worked at a grocery store as cashiers.
If you could trade roles with anyone in the cast for a week, who would it be? Jacob Ming Trent, who plays Ronald. What a sweet track! Great song, lots of down time and an intense scene to wrap it all up.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Bobby in Crazy for You
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: Cassie in A Chorus Line
Something about you that surprises people: I think it surprises people that I'm a dancer, but maybe not. I just haven't done a big dance show in the city.
Something you are incredibly proud of: My work ethic
Something you're embarrassed to admit: I feel like I single handedly keep Starbucks and Kiehl's open. Just ask my accountant.
Career you would want if not a performer: I'd want to be a director, choreographer, producer, etc... you'll never find me doing anything not tied to the arts.
Three things you can't live without: Yoga, bacon, and my friends
"I'll never understand why…" … funding for the arts is the first thing to get cut. Music is math. Theatre is English. Tech is science. Dance is physical education. The arts are everything.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: If you have the love matched with the drive, the sky's the limit. Never stop working. People in most jobs work at least 8 hours a day, why shouldn't artists? Whether it's reading a book, going to a museum, taking a class, or having a full day of auditions, study hard, work hard, and then work some more.