July 27, 2006

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Christian Hoff!

July 27th, 2006

Christian Hoff

Jersey Boys Blog had the privilege of interviewing Tony Award-winner Christian Hoff before the Friday evening July 7, 2006 performance. Christian discussed his recent Tony victory; his life as an actor for the last 30 years; what it’s like to play Tommy DeVito; and how he’ll always be a Jersey Boy.

JBB: Congratulations on your Tony Award! When you actually won the Tony and they called your name, was it surreal? What were the first things that went through your mind when you heard your name?

CH: Thank you! Well, time sort of stood still. My thoughts were basically, ‘Oh, My Gosh, is this really happening?’ The roar of the crowd was deafening, but full of silence as well. It’s one of those moments where you kind of get a bit of tunnel vision. I was overwhelmed with winning. It was all sort of just a blur of triumph, relief, surprise, and gratification.

JBB: What does winning the Tony mean to you?

CH: I felt as if 30 years as an actor had aligned with 30 years of potential. What I mean by ‘being an actor’ is the sacrifice, the rejection, the discipline, the training, the ups and downs, and the unknown factor—all of those things that go along the way. Number one, is it worth it? Whenever I’m on stage, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s worth it. On stage, every performance I deliver is my best. If my best is potentially a Tony Award-winning performance, then, I felt like it was an award for every time I’ve stepped on stage.

My Dad told me time and again never to do anything ‘half-assed.’ I was always true to that, whether I was on stage, or with my commitment to my family. When you’re committed to things wholeheartedly, they are always worthwhile.

JBB: What does the Tony Award mean for your career?

CH: Right now, my career is on a rocket booster. My success has always been sort of my own secret, and I’ve kind of liked that. There’s never been Christian Hoff from a TV show, or no name card on my desk. I’ve sort of been incognito, and I’ve used it as a strength. Now, that the cat’s out of the bag, and my career is more high profile and I need to re-gear my thoughts. I’m now recognized on the street, and encouraged by strangers on a personal and emotional level–something I’ve never had the privilege of experiencing before.

So, it’s a public life—it’s what people in a public career—politics, entertainment, or sports–hope for. I read where the average person has to sell themselves on average seven times in their careers. As actors, we’re constantly redefining ourselves since unemployment is always around the bend. What would be one in every five to ten years for the average person, we do possibly, 20 times a year. It’s an unusual amount of self-promotion and an unusual amount of rejection. So, it creates a thick skin, but also a boldness that you don’t find in everyday life.

This success has been very gratifying. Some justification and some vindication for the naysayers who think you should do something that’s more traditional. I’m doing what I love to do, and this is right!

Thankfully, as an actor, you’re playing people at various stages. It’s not like an athlete’s career, where you have to strike while the iron is hot. There is sort of a future in it that’s very, very unique as an actor; it’s an evolving career. You can jump start a career as an actor at 38, unlike an athlete who finally wins the Super Bowl, takes that ring home, retires, and gets the real estate license. I’m sort of just getting going!

JBB: You’ve been with Jersey Boys since the very beginning at La Jolla Playhouse. When you first read the script for this role, what did you think of the script and what kind of reaction did you think you would get from the audience?

CH: I’ll be honest with you—we had no script at first. We had an treatment, or an outline of the story. We had various monologues that were based on personal interviews, autobiographies, and secondhand information. We had a framework of a story, but detail was something that came later.

The first time we read the story—everyone was gathered around a table—the actors; the entire creative team; some investors; and the production staff. The minute we read it, we knew that it was taking shape–we knew something special was happening. It immediately started to come to life with the chemistry of the actors. Immediately, it jumped off the page and jumped out of us and filled the room. The response to it was magnetic. Everyone was surprised at how invested we were in the production, right from the get-go. That’s been true since the beginning. It just got better and better. This is rare, especially in a pre-Broadway production, like La Jolla. Usually there are a lot of kinks to work out. By the time we opened in La Jolla, we had a show that was dialed-in—this was going to be a quality production—something that is unique and worthwhile.

We didn’t know if we were going to have critical success on Broadway, once the sharks came down on 52nd Street. Our director, Des warned us not to listen to anybody—friends, family, critics. We worked for years preparing this show and we were told not to let any outside forces influence us if we wanted to maintain the integrity of the show. Our job, then, was to execute the show. We trusted it and felt it. And, low and behold, we were well-ready to open in previews. The buzz was already there–it was electric in our first preview! We previewed for another five weeks, and by the time we opened, we were like, ‘Bring it on!’ We were pretty much ‘frozen,’ as we say in the business. Or, as Ethel Merman used to say ‘bird’s eye“—like frozen spinach—if anyone tried to give her a note after the show opened, she’d say, ‘Birds eye!’, which is another way of saying, ‘Suck an egg; my show’s frozen.’ Jersey Boys was nearly perfect. The show continues to grow—it gets stronger and stronger.

JBB: What is it about the story and the music that makes the audience feel so connected to Jersey Boys?

CH: This show is a human story; it’s a genuine story. People identify with it because of its humanity. No matter what you do for a living or how old you are, you understand what it means to work hard for something; sometimes have it taken away; and to overcome struggles. These are basic themes that we all identify with.

The Four Seasons had to overcome both personal struggles, as well as struggles within the group. They were only as good as their next hit. That’s something that’s not true today, so there’s a bit of nostalgia about the hard work. What’s that John Houseman, Smith Barney commercial quote, ‘they earn it.’ That hard work, those values, and that work ethic are things that are not consistent with today’s pop culture, as it was back then.

These guys were outsiders to the music world. They didn’t have a European mystique like the Beatles that turned people’s heads, or and they weren’t West Coast surfers, like the Beach Boys. These guys were working guys; they were working for their success. If they were starting out today, they may have had it easier. People now want to know about the tension between the group members, or how much time they’ve spent in jail before they made it.

Like I said, these guys were only as good as their next hit. With Bob Gaudio’s forward thinking; Frankie Valli’s commitment to hard work; Nick Massi’s passion for arranging early on that got them going; and Tommy DeVito’s guts and commitment to making it, they just pulled themselves up by the bootstraps—doing what they needed to do to survive. These guys had the hunger to make it, which was so unique. They were real guys who made music as their means to success. There’s a lot of power and energy to that.

We recently recorded backup for Frankie Valli’s new album, with Charlie Calello, as producer and arranger. Charlie was one of the members of the Four Seasons around ’65. Charlie told us that these guys would go into a studio on a weekend; bang out an album in 24 hours. The guys would always be arguing; do a take with all these tempers flaring; and put all that tension and energy into the recording. It was pop music, but it had a real man’s man mentality, and a lot of heart and soul.

JBB: What adjectives would you use to describe Jersey Boys to people who have not seen the show and may not be familiar with the Four Seasons’ music?

CH: It’s got heart and guts.

JBB: What do you want the audience to come away with—emotionally or intellectually? Is there something to be learned here or is it just great entertainment?

CH: It’s entertainment at its finest. It’s personal what you take away from the story. We’re not here to achieve a goal or deliver an agenda—it’s a story about hard work, sacrifice, the price of success, and victory of success.

JBB: What’s your favorite scene in Jersey Boys?

CH: When I walk down, front and center and I immediately address the audience after that first number, and I immediately take the reigns on this. It’s like a joyride in a stolen Cadillac. I like getting behind the wheel, and showing people that we got it under control.

JBB: Give us your best line.

CH: You ask four guys; you get four different versions.

JBB: What’s the most challenging part of playing Tommy DeVito?

CH: The most challenging thing about playing Tommy DeVito is leaving the stage when I go to Vegas. I know that’s a character challenge, but maybe it’s a challenge for Christian Hoff, the actor, to leave the stage. It’s like somebody else driving your car; it’s difficult. There is sort of a letting go of control there. The control may have been slipping from my character early, but it’s escalated by this point, and it’s hard to let the story out of my grip.

JBB: You have had an amazing career in national & regional theatre, two Broadway hit shows, a Tony Award, as well as movie and television roles. You’ve done it all. What would you like to do next?

CH: Right now, I have a great team on both coasts, management company; Vincent Cirrincione and Associates, talent agencies; Stone-Manners and Atlas as well as publicist; SPL Public Relations. They are all united in supporting my choices and developing a career for a lifetime. We have film tests happening, a series in development, an option on a book in the works, as well as interest in two new Broadway shows. With these projects on the horizon, I am encouraged and excited but I will not forget where I come from and will always focus on the work at hand, a true Jersey Boy to the end.

Jersey Boys Blog would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to Christian Hoff for taking the time for such an amazing interview.


  1. What a sincere, genuine interview! And who would expect anything less from an actor of the caliber of Christian Hoff. I had the honor . . . and surprise . . . of meeting Christian, along with the other cast members of Jersey Boys and Bob Gaudio when I won tickets at the CD cast signing at Tower Records. This was November 17. . . before all the press attention and well deserved popularity of a Broadway hit. Then I met him again backstage after I saw the play in March . . . and was met warmly with the same enthusiasm and appreciation. This is what makes a Broadway star . . . someone who appreciates his fans, enjoys his work, lives for his family and thanks God for his talents and opportunities.

    Comment by LuluThompson — July 29, 2006 @ 10:59 pm

  2. What a fantastic interview! I saw Jersey Boys a couple of weeks ago. While I knew it had won the Tony, I did not read any reviews and came in with no pre-conceived notions about the musical. As soon as Christian came on stage, I was totally hooked into the story. I was absolutely enthralled with his performance. He has such charisma and charm onstage. I had seen him in his brief run on All My Children and I thought at the time, ‘boy I hope they keep this character”. Little did I know that he was already starring on Broadway! Great great play and a wonderful performance.

    Comment by Jamie Dillon — August 16, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

  3. What a great guy! I love the end there, he knows where he comes from and it seems like he sticks to that no matter what. That’s astoundingly important and always wonderful to find in a human being.

    Comment by Lauren — June 6, 2007 @ 1:18 pm


    Comment by KIM-MARIE SMITH — November 23, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Please leave a comment