April 30, 2012

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Russell Fischer!

April 30th, 2012

Russell Fischer
Russell Fischer during his JBB Exclusive Interview at the Novotel Hotel terrace overlooking Times Square.

During our recent visit to NYC, we had a blast catching up with JERSEY BOYS Broadway’s “Joe Pesci,” Russell Fischer! Russell chatted about his upcoming one-man show, “Uncharted,” how he has “grown up” as a member of the JB company, what he loves about about the “Joey” role after all these years, what he has learned about himself while playing “Frankie,” and more!

Jersey Boys Blog: Great to catch up with you, Russell! Besides playing “Joe Pesci” in Jersey Boys, what else has been going on with you?

Russell Fischer: I’m doing a show at the Triad on 72nd Street entitled “Uncharted.” It’s part of the Lee Summers’ JUST A PIANO Concert Series. It’s going to be on Monday, May 14 at 7PM and tickets are available through brownpapertickets.com.

JBB: Could you give Jersey Boys Blog readers a preview of your upcoming show?

RF: Basically, it revisits my performing experiences from three-years-old till 22, when I booked the show [Jersey Boys]. I’m drawing inspiration from musical theater and pop/rock. We’re going to run the gamut! It will be a fun, poignant evening with a lot of heart and some insight.

JBB: So, are you going to tell some really funny stories about you and your parents and the stuff that happened to you as a kid?

RF: All of them! (chuckles) They’ve been so supportive of me without being ‘stage parents.’ We’ve been on an incredible journey so far.

“Uncharted” is about not knowing what the future holds, taking it one day at a time and enjoying the ride while I still can.

JBB Tech Half: You’ve been here since 2008, right? But how did you get here? Was it always your dream to be on Broadway? What a tremendous opportunity that must have been for get this job right after finishing school!

RF: I had never been on Broadway until I turned 22 and I booked the show on my golden birthday—22 on the 22nd. It didn’t come without its struggles. I had missed the open call for Jersey Boys. At the time, I didn’t have representation because I had been away from the audition circuit for a while. I sent in a headshot, resume, and cover letter, knowing that I probably wouldn’t be seen.

The whole year leading up to that, I had been auditioning heavily in the city because I needed a summer job, so I had already booked a tour of a show that was paying $350 a week and I was so happy, because it was first actual job out of college. I had met with the cast, prepared the material, and jumped with both feet in.

During that process, I was also in callbacks for Jersey Boys. Once I was cast, I had to make that dreaded phone call to the other show and tell them, “I’m sorry, I just booked the Broadway company of Jersey Boys!” They said, “Well, that’s okay, we understand, of course, you’ll take that show, and we wish you all the best.” They had someone else lined up, just in case.

JBB Tech Half: I imagine that’s just part of the business.

RF: Sure, but I did send them a lovely Edible Arrangement! (laughs)

JBB Tech Half: We were thinking when you are playing Joe Pesci, we recognize that you have so much energy. Is that part of your personality?

RF: I think a little bit of that is deposited into my character, definitely. I’m so enthused about performing in the show. I’m sure if I wasn’t in it, I’d probably see it at least once a month! (laughs)

I love telling the story, so I bring that to the role. More importantly, it’s about the objective. If I can make the audience understand how much Joey really wants Bob and Frankie to collaborate, then I’ve done my job. It’s important to evoke that excitement, youthful zeal, and passion. Joey and those guys had all that. They recognized that in each other and were determined to leave the neighborhood in order to make a name for themselves so they could provide for themselves, their families, and bring pride to their hometown.

JBB: Have you met Joe Pesci yet?

RF: He’s been to see the show several times now. I almost always know when he’s in the audience and I see him, but he never visits backstage, which is a good thing, because I think if he had an issue with my portrayal, then he would come backstage and say, ‘Listen, I gotta talk to ya!’—so I take that as a compliment! (laughs)

I just hope I do it justice. He’s such a great actor and I admire his work. I think it’s such a terrific little gem that he’s part of the story.

JBB: What is it about the Joey role that you love so much?

RF: Specifically with Joey, it’s a small but mighty role, because there are so many great one-liners that move at such a sharp pace. My scene work with Tommy is pretty sweet. Andy [Karl] has brought an element of play to the show; he’s full of charisma and the contrast between us is great – we get a kick out of each other!

JBB: What about your smaller roles, like when you’re in the accounting office, or when you’re with Bob Crewe in the recording studio? You are so believable in those roles.

RF: Thanks! It’s a riot! We really do transform. I always try to establish where the character carries his weight, his breath, and how would each character respond to the given circumstances. I get to shift like a chameleon rather quickly.

It’s challenging in its own way, but it’s the kind of challenge that you want, study to take on, and it’s just so much fun! We have many costume changes and there’s a great deal of stage business that makes it exciting and it keeps the show fresh. The energy is palpable—how tight it is, how small the space is – We use every inch of the stage.

JBB Tech Half: When we did a backstage tour, one of the things that was most impressive to me was the wardrobe, then the backup wardrobe, and so many racks of clothing for so many different cast members.

RF: I wish sometimes they would have a scrim that revealed what’s happening backstage. It’s almost as if there’s an entirely different show!

Jersey Boys is a well-oiled machine. We run a tight ship, everyone has their own track, we move quickly and efficiently. We have it down to science.

JBB: You have so much passion for what you are doing, but considering you’ve been doing it for nearly four years, how do you keep your performance so fresh? Is it difficult sometimes, like when the audience isn’t as excited as they usually are?

RF: I think we all know to a certain degree what kind of show we’re in for. We try to get a feel for the house and gauge how they will respond to us, because there is this symbiotic relationship between the audience and the actor. It’s very important that we capitalize on that, as the audience is part of the story. They are the fifth season, if you will (chuckles).

JBB Tech Half: That’s a good way to put it. I’ve never thought of it as symbiotic, but it totally makes sense. A lot of times, we get asked how many times we’ve seen the show, and I’ve tried to explain that every single show we’ve seen has been different.

RF: Each actor may come in and bring subtle differences that help us step up our “A-game.” We’re encouraged then to adapt to that, while maintaining the style and integrity of the piece.

JBB: What have you discovered about yourself, either as an actor or a person during your time with Jersey Boys?

RF: I’m discovering what I want I out of my life and career. It’s comforting to feel like I have a certain amount of freedom within this family, because that’s what it is. I can find my own voice and I’m encouraged to grow, learn and continuously expand on my craft.

JBB: And you’re really given that opportunity, even with eight shows each week?

RF: Most of my days are free, so I have time to take an acting or dance class here and there and develop projects like the show I’m doing. It’s a really good time in my life and I’m truly grateful to have opportunities available. I match that with what I bring to the table.

JBB Tech Half: It’s like you’ve grown up here in New York!

RF: You do grow up in New York; you grow quickly. Even some of my fellow colleagues every now and then will turn to me and say, “Russell, you’ve grown up! You’ve grown before our eyes.”

It’s almost like the university of life. I’m in my fourth year, and it’s equivalent to four years of college, where your education is what you make of it. I’m trying to make the most of my experience here.

JBB Tech Half: It’s like the ‘graduate course.”

RF: Exactly! (Laughs)

JBB: We use too many Jersey Boys’ lines, don’t we? We frequently say, “BEDTIME!” and “Drink your wine, Nicky!”

RF: I love it! Hilarious! (Laughs)

I feel like I’m more grounded. I know what I want and I’m more focused now than I was before, but that has a lot to do with living in the city, too.

JBB: We know you’re one of the “Frankie” understudies. Have you gotten to go on lately in that role?

RF: I did do it recently. I had the opportunity to do three consecutive shows a few weekends ago and I learned a lot!

JBB: That would have been amazing to see you in the role! What did you learn about yourself during this last time playing Frankie?

RF: I learned about stamina, control, discovery, relationships to the other characters, digging deeper and exploring the arc of the person I’m portraying more – it’s truly an incredible role! I said to myself, ‘I could get used to this!’ (laughs) It’s incredibly gratifying to play that role on SO many different levels; it’s so multi-faceted. I don’t go on that often but when I do, I soak in as much of it as I can.


  1. Great interview, and so nice to see the Tech Half getting in on it as well!

    Comment by Pamela — April 30, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

  2. Really nice interview with Russell Fischer. He does a great job as Joey and would like to see him go on in the Frankie Valli role.

    Comment by Brett — April 30, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

  3. This was a fun interview with Russell Fischer. You can really tell how much he loves what he’s doing!

    Comment by kate — April 30, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  4. What a great interview, guys! I look so forward to seeing and hearing Russell in “Uncharted” in a few weeks.

    Pamela, I agree that it’s great to see the Tech Half with some great lines like the “graduate course”. Tech Half, I’m so happy you and the Blog Half finally decided to “do a full act with comedy and music”….now all you guys need are the “moves.”

    Best part of the article, though, Russell, is your ordering from Edible Arrangements and supporting our JB fantastic fan and friend, Lulu Thompson, who owns and runs one of the most successful EA franchises in the country. If you had thought otherwise, “you’re not from Jersey.”

    Great work, all.

    Comment by Howard — April 30, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

  5. Have known Russell for 10 years now. When I first met him I told him he would be on BROADWAY and he is. Seeing him in Jersey Boys (and he is a Jersey Boy) has been the highlight of my time here in the NY area. Great story, great production!

    Rusell is very talented and adds so much vitality to any role I have seen him portray. I can only wish him the best in life because he is an actor, singer, son, friend and most of all Russell is Russell. I think his future is very, very bright. GREAT INTERVIEW and loved reading it.

    Comment by Dorothy Hall — May 1, 2012 @ 6:45 am

  6. My wife and I have had the pleasure of seeing Russell perform a couple of times over his four years with the show. In fact, the last time we saw Jersey Boys on Broadway (I just realized it’s been over a year ago; it may be time for my annual check-up), Russell was in the lead role of Frankie and did a wonderful job! He is also fantastic as Joey.

    By the way, it was great seeing both you and Dale at Peter and the Starcatcher while on your New York visit, Susie. Hope we run into you again soon!!

    Comment by Len Gersten — May 1, 2012 @ 9:01 am

  7. Great interview. My, how time flies; I remember like yesterday when it was mentioned that Russell ‘signed’ on his 22nd birthday. He seemed to fit into the JB cast family quickly and slipped right in to greeting fans warmly at the door.

    This interview really got me thinking about the extent to which these actors change characters so often throughout the show. Not being a theater virtuoso, I wonder how common is this on Bway?

    On to the Interviewers Extraordinaire … ‘graduate course, bedtime, drink your wine, Nicky’ Thanks for all the chuckles!!

    I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Russell as Frankie yet, but you’ve certainly piqued my interest in “Uncharted” – especially the concept!

    May 14th – definitely not 9 months away; time to get my ticket!!

    Comment by Audrey — May 6, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

  8. Thank you to everyone for your kind words about the interview with Russell! He’s not only a multitalented performer, but was also so much fun to interview & a genuinely nice guy!

    And, yes, I guess the JBB Tech Half has been quiet up until now, hasn’t he?! Maybe it’s time that he started his own group?! :-) Or, we’ll keep performing together and work on our “moves,” Howard!

    Can’t wait to hear about Russell’s “Uncharted” show!!

    Comment by Susie — May 12, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

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