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Interview: Nick Jonas

The youngest Jonas brother talks about his Broadway roots, his upcoming role in How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) and the rocky road to stardom. 

  • Dan Hallman

  • Dan Hallman

  • Dan Hallman

Dan Hallman

With an extensive background on Broadway as well as in recording and touring, Nick Jonas knows the ins and outs of show biz at 19 better than most adults 20 years his senior. After releasing four studio albums with his older brothers Joe and Kevin, Nick has since focused on helping other young musicians break into the industry, most notably the 14-year-old Quaker Chewy Superstar Search contest winner, Gabrielle Giguere. We sat down with the youngest Jonas brother to chat about what he's learned from spending his childhood in show business, the insider knowledge he'll share with Giguere and his upcoming role as J. Piermont Finch in How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying). 

What initially drew you to this contest?
I've always been a fan of Quaker Chewy Bars. I met with the company and we talked about what we could do together. We teamed up and the idea for this talent search contest came up. I was thrilled and wanted to get involved. We got thousands and thousands of submissions and narrowed it down to about 30, then to the top five, and then America voted for the winner. Gabrielle's our winner! It's been really incredible so far to work with her, and I'm excited to see where her next chapter leads. 

You can surely relate to the contest's tagline, the "road to stardom." Tell me about your own road to success.
I did four Broadway shows (A Christmas Carol, Les Misrables, Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music) from the time I was eight to eleven years old. From there I transitioned into recording. I got signed to Columbia Records. Then I wrote a song with my brothers for that project which was originally a solo deal. We wrote this song, and the label said they'd like to sign all three of us. So we started touring and recording. Things didn't go so well at Columbia, and we got dropped. We had a bit of a rough moment there, but then we were signed to Hollywood [Records], and that's when we really started our journey. It's been an incredible ride.

What advice do you have for other aspiring musicians?
In this entertainment world, I think the idea is that you're always learning. I'm enjoying that ride, but I feel like I've now learned enough to get to a point where I'm ready to share that with somebody else who's just starting out. I believe Gabrielle's going to figure that out too in her own way and have an incredible journey too. But it's exciting to share what I know already and hopefully give her some insight as to what she should expect. 

What do you feel you've learned over the past few years, as far as being in the music industry and all that goes with it?
I've learned that you need to be really kind and gracious to people on your way up. Do your best to treat everybody with respect and care, because then they'll be there for you. They'll be your friends when you reach that point where maybe things are a little bit tough. I've been blessed to have some really great moments and some long-lasting friends throughout all of it. I think that's because we've tried to be the best we could be to people on the way up. We've never taken ourselves too seriously. 

Tell me a little more about your performances on Broadway. What's it like switching gears between performing as a musician and as an actor?
I think it all goes back to the training that I had at a young age. I started in theater, so that's kind of a part of me. I'm able to bring that back up again, like I did last year in Hairspray, and now in How to Succeed. Ten years later, I'm still very passionate about Broadway. I'm so glad to have had theater training because it's really played in to who I am as a man—who I've become. It's kind of the steps I want to take in my career as well. I'll always look back on those early moments of loving what I was doing but also realizing that it was a job and that I had to give the best performance I could. 

What initially attracted you to the role of J. Piermont Finch?
It's such a classic role. So many amazing actors have played the role over the years. I first watched the movie from the sixties, and loved it. I just thought it was genius. Robert Morse is incredible. Then I saw the show in New York with Daniel Radcliffe just before I made the decision to become part of the production. I thought he was amazing, especially for someone who had never sung or danced before. I've had some exciting ideas as to how I would play the role, and I'm looking forward to [using them] to find my Finch on my return to Broadway.

What were some of your ideas for the role?
I think the ideas I had were to first settle into it. I want to get comfortable with the material, comfortable enough with my lines and with the songs and dancing to where by the time I start, I will have tried a million different things and seen what feels best. I think a lot of what you do in acting, and for the most part singing and dancing and everything is trial and error. It's all about just seeing what works, and if it does, to use it and if not, to throw it away. That's kind of the way I approach things and I'm excited to have that experience and have a good time.

What are some of your favorite songs in the show?
"I Believe in You," which is one of Finch's big songs, and "Brotherhood of Man" is a big showstopper. It's just a brilliant number. Probably one of the favorite Broadway musical numbers I've ever seen. 

What are some of your favorite Broadway shows that are playing now?
Wicked and Jersey Boys are fantastic. And I really liked Memphis as well. I haven't seen War Horse yet, but I hope to see that as well very soon. It's supposed to be amazing. It was on while I was over in London, but I had a show every night, so I couldn't see it. But from what I hear, it's incredible. 

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