As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with three-time Tony nominee Kevin Chamberlin, most recently seen on Broadway as the Wizard in the international hit musical Wicked. A three-time Tony nominee for his performances in Seussical, Dirty Blonde, and The Addams Family, Chamberlin's other Broadway credits include Disaster!, The Ritz, Chicago, Triumph of Love, and My Favorite Year. On screen the actor has appeared in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Die Hard with A Vengeance, Jessie, Modern Family, Road to Perdition, Taking Woodstock, Suspect Zero, State of Mind, It's All Relative, and Christmas with the Kranks.
Chamberlin can also be seen as publicist Sheldon Saperstein in the screen adaptation of the Tony-nominated musical The Prom, which arrives on Netflix December 11.
What is your typical day like now?
A typical day here in Los Angeles is supposed to start with waking up before the sun, tumbling out of bed and stumbling to the kitchen, pouring myself a cup of ambition and heading to my makeshift gym, built in the garage because of the pandemic and the closure of all of the gyms.
That all ended back in October when it got chilly. I’ve put on the COVID 19, the Trump 45, and if this lockdown continues, I’ll go for the Heinz 57. Kidding, of course.
Auditions have been few, but I will usually work on them, do some Cameos (an app where I send video messages to fans), shop for dinner, errands around the house. I’m teaching on Zoom often, which I really enjoy! My husband Michael and I have been making the best of the lockdown. Lots of puzzles and games. We were just given an Oculus for our birthdays from a friend—so we are learning how to play with that without wrecking the furniture!
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I just read Sapiens, an incredible book about the history of man from evolution to present. Podcasts: I listen to The Daily from NYTimes, History of English Podcast, Science Friday, Terry Gross’ Fresh Air, Pod Save America, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and This American Life. On Netflix, I am watching The Crown, The Repair Shop, and I just previewed the film of the Broadway musical The Prom that I’m starring in with Andrew Rannells, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose, Jo Ellen Pellman, Kerry Washington—and hundreds of other amazing actors.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
I want the folks in power to consider more BIPOC behind the scenes, from crew to house staff and box office, musicians, producers, all the way up to theatre owners.
I’m fully aware that this area of Broadway has traditionally been family jobs, passed down from generation to generation. Let’s try to break the pattern of nepotism, smash these glass ceilings, and open up these locked doors. We need to create internships for ethnically diverse groups of students—with IATSE and other union affiliates.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
An idle brain is the devil’s workshop. The busier I keep myself, the less despair and helplessness I feel. I’m constantly creating projects for myself, balancing out artistic pursuits (directing on Zoom, doing readings, teaching master classes, TikTok videos, etc.) with projects around the house and yard.
If I don’t, I feel like I felt in April—overwhelmed and feeling helpless and without a rudder.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing? Has that been helpful to you?
I have been directing—filming a sizzle reel for a new musical I will be directing at Pasadena Playhouse. I discovered TikTok and wrote a song for Ratatouille the Musical, as well as doing other silly videos that have since gone viral, thanks to my good friend and brilliant social media consultant, Sam Kite, who is a creative at Part IV Advertising Agency.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I’m filming numbers from and directing a developmental workshop for a new musical called Iceboy, book and lyrics by Jay Reiss (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Erin Quinn Purcell (Duet at Actors Playhouse), and music by Mark Hollmann (Urinetown) in conjunction with Pasadena Playhouse and their Playhouse Live program online. Our incredible cast for the Playhouse Live piece includes Megan Mullally, Laura Bell Bundy, Nick Offerman, and Adam DeVine. Also, I’m writing songs for a new musical I’m developing with my husband, Michael Gans, and his writing partner Richard Register, based on a wild French film from the 1980’s. That’s all I can say about that. I’m also teaching many master classes on Zoom, which I love.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
Last year, I lost a dear friend to epilepsy. He was a fellow actor, Cameron Boyce, who starred on a Disney Channel show with me called Jessie. He was also in The Descendants and Grown Ups with Adam Sandler. Cameron was incredibly talented and taken before his time, succumbing to an epileptic seizure in his sleep. He was only 20 years old. His foundation is TheCameronBoyceFoundation.org.
The foundation’s mission: "The Cameron Boyce Foundation (est. 2019) honors the legacy of Cameron Boyce by reducing gun violence and curing epilepsy through digital campaigns, programmatic partnerships and financial support. We believe that all young people should be empowered to change the world."