Call Redialed: NEW interview with Wilson Jermaine Heredia: "Pedro Pan" at NYMF 2018
It's so great to get the opportunity to catch up with Tony Award winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who's best known for playing "Angel" in the Broadway & film version of Rent. Wilson & I first met in 2009 when he was starring in James Valletti & Troy Diana's play Tales from the Tunnel as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.
A lot has happened for Wilson in these past nine years and he once again answered my call to fill me in on what's been going on! Wilson can currently be seen in the brand-new musical Pedro Pan, which is part of 2018 NYMF.
Pedro Pan is based on the real-life events of Operación Pedro Pan, a young boy sent to the U.S. to escape the growing dangers of post-revolutionary Cuba. To survive, Pedro must learn a new language and a new culture – while hoping to one day be reunited with his parents. With a score featuring the percussive rhythms of Havana to '60s New York soul, Pedro Pan examines what it means to be a displaced immigrant in America.
Pedro Pans plays NYMF from July 10-14 at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
1. It's so great to get this chance to catch-up with you. We last chatted in 2009 when you were starring in the Off-Broadway show Tales from the Tunnel. What would you say has been the biggest change to happen to you in these past nine years? Hey Adam! Wow, a lot has happened since Tales from the Tunnel. I was in La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway for a bit then I moved to San Francisco for a few years and played "Lancelot" in Camelot at the San Francisco Playhouse and then played "Pasco" in A Little Princess at the Berkeley Playhouse. It made me realize how much I love the language of musical theater.
2. Now, you are about to take part in the new musical Pedro Pan in 2018 NYMF. How did this project come your way? I was asked to join the project last year as a staged reading. Rebecca Aparicio’s story spoke to me and I fell in love with Stephen Elkins’s music immediately. I can’t remember being this excited about a project in a long time.
3. What made you want to be part of it? The reason I accepted the calling of an artist is because I wanted to do something that changes perspectives, inform and heal peoples lives for the better on a mass level. This show does that, and then some, especially in the polarized world we’re living in.
4. What do you relate to most about "Papi," "Pedro's" father? What is one characteristic of his you are glad you yourself don't possess? I relate to sacrificing anything for your family’s well being no matter what and there isn’t anything “Papi” has I don’t admire.
5. In this show, "Papi" and "Mami" send "Pedro" to the US in hopes for a better life. If you were a father yourself, what do you think you would do in a similar situation? Knowing myself, it would be very difficult to let my child out of my sight let alone send them to another country. I do know I would do anything to keep them out of harms way and if it means sending them away then I would...even if it breaks my heart.
6. While Pedro Pan takes place in 1962, how do you feel this show can help people today, given everything that man who is somehow running our country is doing to deport immigrants/prevent them from coming here? I feel this show will humanize the immigrant experience this country was founded on told through infectious song and disarming storytelling.
7. If you had kids, and were raising them in this day and age, how do you think you would respond to some of their questions about the state of the world in this day and age? I would try to explain the hate we are seeing comes from generations of pain, fear and feeling that our differences separate us. I would say the true measure of compassion is giving it even if you don’t think they deserve it.
8. There are so many similarities between Castro running Cuba in 1962 and that one "running" our country. What are some things you are doing to stay positive and not lose all hope during these dark times? I yell at the TV often and imagine myself throwing a shoe at it. But I can’t afford to do that so I just stopped watching political news. I’m not serious, of course, but I find the visual hilarious! I try to have more laughter in my life. I remember to enjoy the people I love, and dig my heels in (maybe pun intended) with projects like Pedro Pan to fight the good fight with what I do best.
9. Since our first interview was for Tales from the Tunnel, I feel we should pay homage to it, especially since last year we lost co-writer/director Troy Diana and this would be a nice way to honor him. First, what is one of your fondest memories about working with Troy? Second, What is one of your best subway stories in these last nine years? I still can’t believe he’s gone. What I remember best about Troy is that he was always in good spirits and full excitement for life. An overall aura of kindness comes to mind. It was hard to stay in a bad mood after he gave you a hug and smiled at you.
As far as subway stories, there is one that sticks out to me as a true New York moment. I was on the downtown 1 train and the next stop was 42nd St. I was standing in the left side of the car and there was a seated drunk man, harassing a woman sitting across from him in the right side of the car. Some people, vocally, came to her aid but he became even more belligerent and continued to harass her as if somehow he thought his advances were working. When he got up to touch her, everyone on that side of the train descended on him like army ants. He tried to escape at 42nd street when the doors opened but he made it worse for himself because even the people coming in were piling on top of him. The conductor announced the train was being held at the station and I thought to myself, "Boy, he’s really gonna be surprised when he wakes up” and “I’m glad this happened at my stop.”
10. I can’t do an interview with you and not talk about Rent. If you were being cast in the role of “Angel" today, would your portrayal be the same as it was or would you do something different? What do you think you would relate to "Angel" today that you did not relate to originally? My portrayal wouldn’t be very different except, I would really reconsider doing that that table jump 8 shows a week in 5 1/2 inch platform heels! Who am I kidding, I would still do it.
My understanding of "Angel" is no more different now than before. I was a club kid in the 80’s so I was already more than familiar with the LGBTQ community. They were my friends and I didn’t see them as any more different than anybody else; except they danced and dressed better than your average joe. I always approached the character as a human being that was diagnosed with a death sentence and chose to fill the rest of his life with generosity and love.
More on Wilson:
Theatre credits include: 1996 Tony Award, Obie, and Drama Desk Award for his role as "Angel" in Rent; La Cage Aux Folles; and Camelot. TV Credits include: Blind Spot, Banshee on Cinemax, and Medium. Film Credits include: Rent, Flawless, Red Butterfly and Rainbow Bridge Motel.