May 26, 2007

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With John Lloyd Young–Part One

May 26th, 2007

John Lloyd Young

Earlier this month, I had an amazing time in NYC seeing Jersey Boys with my brother Craig (who was completely blown away by the show); doing the usual tourist things; and hanging out with friends who love the show as much as I do. The most marvelous experience of those five days? The opportunity to chat and catch up with the JB cast!

In our first interview, Peter Gregus filled us in on his fascinating journey of playing Bob Crewe from the early days in La Jolla to the hottest show on Broadway!

For the second in our series of JBB EXCLUSIVE interviews—we are presenting a three-part interview with Tony Award-winner John Lloyd Young! Prior to his Saturday evening performance on May 5, JLY spent an incredible amount of time talking about what’s been happening since his big Tony win; his ABC TV deal; reflections on his year and a half of playing Frankie Valli in his Broadway debut; his experiences at the stage door with fans; some amazing surprises he has experienced; and some things he has discovered about himself over the last year and a half.

In Part One of his interview, John Lloyd fills us in on what’s been happening in his post-Tony life and he reflects on his deal with ABC Television and what he’s learned about television and about himself.

JBB: It’s so great to see you, John Lloyd! Last time we chatted was right after the Tonys. What’s been happening and how’s everything been going?

JLY: It’s an interesting time, because it’s that period where you are an expert at what you are doing because you’ve been doing it so long. We won awards almost a year ago, Christian and me, as well as everyone for Best Musical. For me personally, I don’t know how Christian feels, but I’m still trying to figure out what it means to have won the Tony.

One thing that’s pretty obvious–now that there’s a new crop of shows being nominated–we’re kind of in that Miss America phase, where you’ve got that reigning crown, and it’s time to pass it on to someone else, even though the Tonys don’t work that way, The Tony Awards just interviewed Christian and me, and asked us the same sort of questions. I gave them the same answer—I’m still trying to figure out what it means to have won the Tony.

JBB: Since winning the Tony, have you had any career surprises that you weren’t expecting?

JLY: Right around the time of the Tonys, although it wasn’t announced until after the Tonys, I made a deal with ABC Television.

JBB: What all has happened during your ABC deal?

JLY: Actually, I knew that these deals don’t necessarily turn into a series—it just means that you’re optioned for a year. I didn’t know what would come of it. I looked at it as ‘TV College.’ No matter what happened, I would learn about how TV works, how scripts are chosen, and I might end up doing one.

At this point, it doesn’t look like I’ll be doing a new series, though the positive aspect is that I’m now educated and I know what the scripts are about, how to read them, and how to read for them. My option will end in a few months, and then I’ll be able to do whatever comes along, not just exclusive to ABC, which shut the door on some things, but that was okay since I was doing a role of a lifetime. And, it was a great gamble to take.

JBB: Your TV deal with ABC sounds like an incredible learning experience. Have you discovered what would be your dream TV role–would it be a drama, a comedy, a combination, or something else?

JLY: Well, that’s something I learned in TV College. I don’t really connect to half-hour sitcoms; I didn’t expect that I would. In fact, I said I didn’t even want to look at them, but they handed me a few that I liked so I said, ‘Okay, I’ll take a look at them.’

Ultimately, I don’t think half-hour comedy is my sort of thing. It’s also a dying breed on TV anyway. My favorite script was a cop drama, which was not surprising to me.

I feel like the most important thing I learned about TV is that it’s a risky medium for an actor, especially an actor like me who likes to do his homework and develop a character and really research, and then bring a multi-layered performance to fruition. With TV, you can’t do that kind of work because sometimes you don’t know what they’re writing for you the next week. So, you know, I could end up playing a New York City cop, and eight episodes later, I find out that I’m a secret transvestite that steals candy from children or something ridiculous or ludicrous that you never know as an actor that might happen to your character.

What scares me the most about television—is that if it’s a series–you don’t know necessarily what’s coming next, and I’m uncomfortable with that. There might be a way to get around that.

You know that actress, Lili Taylor? She was doing an interview for the Public Radio International program “Studio 360.” They asked her about her stint on “Six Feet Under” and she said something similar—that it was very disorienting not to know where her character was headed. So, I have a feeling that my natural inclinations in how I like to work are suited toward theatre, obviously, and probably film, where I know what the script is going to be and what we’re going to shoot. Series television scares me a little from an artistic point of view. But I still believe that you never say never, because that next great role could be a TV role. You just never know.

JBB: So, it seems that even the greatest of TV shows can go south?

JLY: Yes, and the actors are stuck contractually in the show. I have a friend who shall remain nameless. He’s a very great young actor, very young Brando-esque, about my age. He has a show coming out on a network and he is so mortified that it’s coming out. He hoped that they wouldn’t air it. He filmed the pilot with a great artistic team—wonderful director, great writers and show runners, producers—everything was perfect. And then, it got picked up for next season. He went away to shoot the rest of the episodes, and the day he arrived on the set, the original director wasn’t there; there were different writers and show runners. The series he was excited about doing was completely different – worse — and he is embarrassed by it.

As I look at this year, with all that TV activity, there were only a few scripts that I actually liked. With some of them, I sort of clenched my teeth, going in to read for them. I have learned a lot about what kinds of scripts I would like to do in the future. As a free agent going forward, now that I’m not under a holding deal any more, I can be selective. I think I have to be very careful.

The other great thing is the privilege of being selective because I have a job—a role that I love and a role that I’m great in, so I can wait until there’s a reason to do something new.

JBB: Are there any actors’ careers that you would like to emulate?

JLY: Daniel Day Lewis is one of my favorite actors on the face of the planet, and he’s only done about eight films. A film will exist forever, and a TV role will exist forever, as well, now that you can by them on DVD a season later.

I’m a young man, but I already think of my obituary on a daily basis, not because I’m morbid, but because I’m aware that everything you put out into the world is a record of you and your existence there. If I didn’t have to worry about money, or any of that sort of stuff, and who knows what those worries will be in the future, I would hope ideally that I could make choices similar to Daniel Day Lewis, who makes the movie when it’s the right role, and when he wants to make it. He doesn’t just do cheap things to pay the bills.

And, Jersey Boys is something that I was proud to stand behind in the beginning. I needed the job then, but I also knew it was a great one. And, here I am, still all this time later.

Thanks to John Lloyd Young for taking time for this wonderful interview. In Part Two, JLY will reflect on the last year and a half—including the thrills and the challenges of his Broadway debut, his days at Brown; and how he and his colleagues worked to overcome the jukebox musical stigma; and some other fascinating insights.


  1. Can’t wait for the next parts of this interview. I want to keep reading it.

    As I have talked with John and read many of his interviews, he had a very developed vocabulary. Any one else think this?

    I also like his sense of humor. It is different than any other person that I have met.

    Way to go, John. Congrats on all your success.

    Comment by A — May 26, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  2. Great interview so far! cant wait for part 2!

    Comment by Kathryn H. — May 26, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

  3. I thought that was a great interview. I also think that John has a very developed vocabulary. He is a nice person and will take time for his fans ,which is great!He’s wonderful! Thea

    Comment by THEA — May 26, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

  4. Really looking forward to Part II! Great interview… JLY is always engaging and interesting – and very open and candid. That’s what makes me such a big fan of his! He is going to have a very long, successful career and a strong fan base along for the ride.

    Comment by Tamara — May 26, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  5. I agree about John’s vocabulary. I am impressed by his overall extensive knowledge. I heard him speak Spanish recently to someone and he sounded very fluent to me. From the first time I saw him perform in JB, I was impressed with his obvious commitment to give his best performance and felt exactly the same at the many other performances I have attended.

    He is a caring, intelligent young man with a bright future ahead of him. He is grounded in reality and demonstrably understands the importance of his fans. He is thoughtful in his discussions and funny when he needs to be.

    My husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed our interactions with John at the stage door, through written communications and at other times.

    John will have a great future because he is in control of it through his extraordinary understanding of the many symbiotic relationships which are part of the formula for success.


    Comment by Irene Eizen — May 26, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  6. John, your candor is remarkable, and there’s so much to comment on. As a lay person, the only exposure I have to TV is watching it. But for an actor, TV would seem to be a double-edged sword, so to speak.

    I would think that no other medium would provide as much exposure as TV. Oprah always talks about “The Color Purple” producer seeing her (a then unknown) on a local Chicago talk show and declaring “That’s Sofia!” Witness the exposure TV gave to George Clooney, Pierce Brosnan, Bruce Willis, and Sally Field, all of whom have had successful film careers too.

    Your comments about the obituary and a record of everything one does are indeed thought-provoking. I was awed seeing Angela Lansbury as “Mame” on Broadway in summer of 1983, utterly amazed at her incredible on-stage energy and presence. I had long admired Lansbury from her film roles in “National Velvet,” “Gaslight,” and especially her incredible mother figure in “The Manchurian Candidate,” and seeing her on Broadway only confirmed to me her versatility as an actress. And even though she’s now on Broadway again in her 80′s, how will she be most remembered?–as Jessica Fletcher on the entertaining but somewhat lightweight (in my opinion) “Murder She Wrote”!

    Comment by Howard Tucker — May 26, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  7. And…Howard, your comments are so insightful and thought-provoking. You are correct about Angela Lansbury – I. for one, remember her best as Jessica Fletcher on “Murder She Wrote.”
    However, her successes as an actress have been numerous, as you stated. I guess, each one of us, in life is best remembered for a “lead role in a life endeavor,” – I, as a teacher, perhaps. But that does not dimenish the importance of our roles in many other life endeavors. I hope I would always be remembered as doing the best in everything I tried to do.

    With the many successes ahead in John’s future, while he will always be remembered for his spectacular portrayal of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, there are many roles which lie ahead for him, in life and in the performing arts, for which he will be known and remembered for his great work. IE

    Comment by Irene Eizen — May 26, 2007 @ 11:44 pm

  8. I too am looking forward to part two of John’s interview. For me, I realize that Jersey Boys is the first time ever in my life that I feel I have gotten to know a “star” actor. That is solely because JLY takes the time to sincerely connect with his fans in a way that is truly unique. He is a very special person and it is his performances in JB that keeps bringing me back time and time again. It is truly remarkable the loyal fan base this play has generated!

    Comment by Beverley Micciche — May 27, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  9. I agree with all of you. I love being part of not only JLY’s fan base, but of Jersey Boys’ fan base. It is such a good musical with remarkable and thoughtful actors.

    JLY does take an incredible amount of time to reply to his fans. I just sent a letter out on Friday, and I always get a response within a week. :)

    Comment by A — May 27, 2007 @ 9:47 am

  10. John, in re-reading your comments, I really need to comment on your Miss America analogy. Yes, your “reign” will end, and it’s clicheic, but it’s a title you and Christian will carry with you for the rest of your careers. Joe Pesci was introduced on the 2006 Tony’s as “Oscar winner Joe Pesci”, although he had won the Oscar many years before.

    Years later, for whatever reason, people will associate with and remember your win with pride, John. Continuing on the Miss America theme, whatever else Bess Myerson accomplished in entertainment and politics, my mother always touted her proudly as the first Jewish Miss America. They were about the same age, both Jewish, and when anyone said my mother looked like Myerson (which she did a bit), she was on Cloud Nine for weeks–and I was born six years after Myserson won her crown!!

    Comment by Howard Tucker — May 27, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  11. Funny how I’ve read the interview from Part 3 to Part 1, but extremely entertaining nontheless…..

    I truly hope that John’s career beyond the stage will be successful as his current run on Broadway will show. It will different watching JLY on the small screen when it happens, but also knowing that he has the talent to further his career is no surprise to all of us.

    Also, if the Tony’s were my awards show, I’d nominate Jersey Boys for everything all over again. It was weird not seeing any of them get nominated this year, but they could have had added a nomination for the National Tour as well. They started in 06 anyways and have sold out the Curran Theatre….. They’ll get their due in no time…..

    Thanks Susie & John for the fun, insightful and informative interview!!!!!

    Comment by Mike B. Magbaleta — May 29, 2007 @ 3:27 pm

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