Chatback with Wesley Taylor

Wesley Taylor is an accomplished actor, singer and writer. His career achievements include a Theatre World Award and Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for his Broadway debut in the jukebox musical, Rock of Ages. He seamlessly transitioned into television most notably as Bobby in NBC’s hit musical-drama, Smash. Taylor is also an esteemed playwright, in which several of his full-length plays have received readings that are currently in development. I got to chat with the well-versed and introspective actor recently about what he considers the most surreal period in his life to be, reprising the role of Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver for one night only and posing the question “is God really gay?”

You originated the role of Lucas Beineke in The Addams Family starring opposite Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Carolee Carmello and Smash co-star, Krysta Rodriguez. Tell us more about that.

From the workshops to the out-of-town tryout in Chicago to our run on Broadway, it was a very eventful two years, professionally and personally. It was a critical flop and a commercial success. When directors were getting replaced and I was receiving new pages every day for months, one of my old teachers messaged me, “You’re getting your phD in showbiz!” Nathan [Lane], Krysta [Rodriguez], and Carolee [Carmello] are still very much a part of my life. The Addams Family not only has productions all over the world, but for the second year in a row- It’s THE most-produced high school musical in America. Fun fact.

Your Broadway debut in Rock of Ages earned you both a Theatre World Award and Outer Critics Circle Award nomination. Was this experience what you had imagined your “big break” being like?

Rock of Ages exceeded all my expectations. I almost took a national tour instead of the Off-Broadway run because I didn’t think it’d stay open. Cut to people love it. Cut to a Broadway transfer. Cut to a six. year. run. It was 9 months after drama school and I was on Broadway, so yeah- this was perhaps the most surreal period of my life. But in terms of what I had imagined, no way.

Theresa Rebeck’s Smash has become a fan-favorite of theatre nerds everywhere. What was it like working on the show?

A day on a soap and a handful of commercials was the extent of my television experience prior to Smash. I was overwhelmed and I loved every second of it. And then just like everything else, eventually- it became a job. And I wanted more. So I started a web series- began writing more.

Do you have any fond memories to share from the set?

Here’s a memory. When Bernadette [Peters] was on the show, I brought her a photo of us at the stage door when she was ‘Gypsy’ and I was a 16 year old closeted tyke. In the picture she’s kissing my cheek and I’ve got this blissed-out smile. I also had a perm that year in high school because I thought ‘Petruchio’ should have curly Elizabethan hair in our production of Taming of the Shrew. We had a good laugh. She said we had to recreate the shot and we did. I was fortunate to meet a ton of people I essentially idolize on that job.

As you mentioned earlier you began writing, which eventually lead to your own web series.  How did the idea come about? 

It Could Be Worse is a web series I created with Mitch Jarvis- we did Rock of Ages together (as well as countless sketch comedy and a youtube series, “Billy Green”). ICBW was born from feeling creatively stifled within our gigs. He was starring in a beer campaign while I twiddled my thumbs on “Smash” (it was the second season and my character suddenly had far less responsibility). It was our first real attempt at narrative-driven content. It was dark and not for everyone, so- when people responded to this weird little story, I kept writing it. We crowd-sourced a significant amount and shot a second season in LA. We took meetings, it was acquired by Participant Media, and we were on Hulu about 6 months later. Our contract on Hulu is up and the series can now be found on Vimeo or itcouldbeworse.tv

Additionally, you’ve also written several short plays. If you had to choose a favorite, which one would it be and why?

There’s this one piece I wrote about censorship in comedy. It’s a flirtatious yet tense debate between a middle-aged (White) comedian and two (African-American) millennials. Initially, I was worried about my white/hispanic male voice shaping this play. But I got over it. The play resonated with our audience and it was exhilarating. Also very proud of Cuckold, this short play that played at Manhattan Rep. It’s in iambic pentameter and very fun for the actor. It’s also digitally published and you can buy it online (WINK).

Recently, you played God in David Javerbaum’s An Act of God in Denver. Thus far, 3 gay men [you, Sean Hayes and Jim Parsons] have all taken turns playing The Almighty One. As a gay man myself I’d like to think this was done deliberately [laughs]. What are your thoughts?

There’s a large section of the play explaining how God really feels about homosexuality (like a 10 minute riff]. And I would usually find a Friend of Dorothy in the audience and tease that patron (and make call-backs throughout the course of the 90min monologue)… Let’s call a spade a spade, the audience feels safer laughing at gay jokes when the actor playing God is openly gay. But I’d love to see a woman do it too.

I couldn’t agree more! I think Whoopi Goldberg would be great. But which female performer would you cast as God?

JACKIE HOFFMAN!

Please tell us about your upcoming charity concert Tales of the City?

Very excited. The O’Neill Festival (home of the show’s first development) teamed up with the Trevor Project for a one-night-only concert-version of the show on Broadway. March 27th at The Music Box, our cast from the 2011 world premiere will reunite (with the addition of Justin Vivian Bond as ‘Anna Madrigal’). If you haven’t read Armistead Maupin’s books or seen the PBS mini series- Tales of the City is a love letter to San Francisco in the 70s. Yet it’s relevancy with the Trevor Project (and the trans community) is at an all time high I play Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver. I’m grateful I get another crack at him.

I know that you reside in LA now. Any plans on doing a musical or play out here?

Would love to do theater out here. It will always be my first love. But I just did a one-man-show in Denver for four months(!), so other than this “Tales…” reunion- taking a slight pause from theater. Also, I like making money.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a self-taught gymnast of sorts. I tumble and flip. LOVE heights. Love to climb. Basically, I’m a ninja.

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