Our guest today: John Haggerty
John Haggerty is a Broadway Actor who has appeared once before on Feisworld Podcast in episode #7. While visiting John in Portland, Oregon, I decided to turn on the recording and chat with him about his new show, Kodachrome, as well as working as a Standardized Patient in New York City, helping medical students better interact and treat patients.
“This is good for the planet because it gives everyone the chance to have a trial run. We do (as actors) a week of trial runs before the grand opening. Everyone should get a chance to do that, especially people who are in charge of human lives. If I can be a part of that, that’s just a wonderful payoff.”
– John Haggerty
John Haggerty: All of us every human being as an artist as we have those questions in our minds about. What’s great what’s terrible. Doesn’t answer anything just asks you to ask the questions because it’s a never ending thing about all of us as human beings is finding some sort of connection with perhaps one special person and maybe with yourself in a way. We can all admire the Picasso’s of life that we from afar and admire that but if you have your own personal Picasso is kind of. Nice to. Be in that in the in the wake of that or to be alongside that as it were. You have to know how to do it correctly to understand what corners you can cut as a doctor. So I had to learn all that stuff and as a result I learned so much more about my body about my health. And I went and had my blood sugar checked again because I said I have all the symptoms. This patient this simulated patient this person’s back story that’s me that’s me that’s me that’s me. I think it’s a miracle that doctors can walk and meet a total stranger in 15 minutes say get very close to saying a headache means the difference in a brain tumor and you know he went out drinking last night. There’s a wide swath between that and his by very precise questioning can come with the reason why that’s happening. I think that’s an amazing art form that doctors can do that. The part that I can play as a person that can help future medical students become great doctors has been has been very satisfying to why this is good for the planet is that it gives everyone a chance to have a trial run. They were doing trial wise we have a week of trial runs before an official opening. Everyone should get a chance to do that especially people who are in charge of human lives. Now if I can be a part of that and I think that’s just a wonderful kind of psychic payoff
Fei Wu: This is your friend and your host Fei Wu. And I’m so thrilled that you choose to spend the next 45 minutes to an hour with us. As you know there are many more podcasts these days. So by choosing to stay with us and to spend the time with us it means a lot more than you think. Today on the show I will not disappoint you. I have John Haggerty appearing for the second time on Feiworld. In an earlier episode number 7 John Haggerty joined me as a longtime friend since 2003 and shared so many stories of himself as an actor on and off Broadway. As a reminder John has appeared on the Ms. King and I, living room Yoshimi Battles The Pink robot and most recently which is a new story we’re introducing to this episode is his appearance in Portland Oregon at the armory for Kodachrome. This was a place seen through a photographer’s eyes in a small town. It was very fascinating. I wish I could release this episode a little earlier but due to travel and other Feisworld obligations the show Kodachrome in Portland Oregon has already concluded as of March 2018. By the time we interviewed him the show was still in preview mode which was in early February. In addition to Kodachrome and acting in general this episode gave me the opportunity to explore something John has been doing lately with his acting skills which has fascinated me really for a long time. John lives in New York and when he isn’t rehearsing we’re acting for a new show. He helps medical students learn bedside manners and better interact with their patients. The stake is high because the students are graded on their interactions responses and overall performance. And for John he has to be an active listener at all times. In many ways he sees this as being more difficult remembering thousands of lines from a Broadway show. In one example John describes in details how he had to go off script and act out as an extremely difficult patient. He couldn’t believe the words that came out of his mouth. My associate producer Adam Langford also happens to be John’s best friend and college roommate joined us in this conversation. I think when we talk about this it all made a lot of sense. I can’t even imagine why aren’t so many other actors to pursue a role like this. Would benefit so many people. I can imagine for example how his skills as an actor could really benefit people in mock interviews or seminars on dealing with difficult conversations. If this sounds like a good idea and you’re thinking about exploring a project will John get in touch with me and will be more than happy to make an introduction. Last but not least we always have young people in mind meaning people who are perhaps pursuing a career path to become actors or actresses themselves. John knows intimately that this path is not easy. Therefore as someone who has been in the industry for more than 30 years John can offer you firsthand information on how to overcome fear and pain and perhaps some of the fundamental skills and things that you need to think about well pursuing a career like this. I thought that was so honest and valuable. So if you enjoy this episode I would encourage you to share it with one more person and hopefully it will light up their day and their imagination. Without further ado Please welcome John Haggerty to join us for the second time on face world podcast.
Fei Wu: So I’m here with John Haggerty who has appeared on an earlier episode of Face roll podcast much earlier episodes within the first ten and we are now. We just launched episode 138. So pretty unbelievable. I’m also with my partner Adam Ledford who also happens to be John Haggerty’s best friend college roommate and has really followed him everywhere since then. And you mentioned that you’re in the show which we happen to have just watched it about an hour ago. And it’s called Kodachrome. So could you could you tell us a bit about the show what your role is.
John Haggerty: Well this is a brand new play to the planet. They did this play as a as a reading. They developed this play a year or so ago here and they decided to put it into their official season so I have been blessed to be cast in this play. And I was talking to one of the box office sellers as someone asked him what does this play about and because no one’s seen the play it’s not something you say oh HAMMAT OK Danish prince goes to some problems and he gets killed at the end. We all know the plot. So no one’s seen the play and the the box office person said it in a way that I thought wow that’s pretty cool. And he told me that he’s telling people it’s like our town Thornton Wilder classic meets Love Actually the movie by Richard Curtis came out 10 15 years ago 15 years ago probably where these little vignettes of interrelated people talking about watching them go through their experience of trying to connect. And there’s a narrator character which is what our town aspect is of watching a small town. So that’s the similarity I thought that was pretty good bridge between the two and someone else in the cast said it’s a little bit a sprinkle of Amelie. The French movie of people trying to find each other. And so I thought that was pretty good so if people want to know what this play’s about. It’s our town. Amalie Love Actually and you guys just saw the play you can tell me from your experience as an audience I never expressed this one audience member. If that’s pretty close or not I admit I simony quite a long time ago.
I’ve heard of Love Actually so I can’t speak to that but I think the sense is right.
It’s about people who want things want each other want connection and love and seek it in their own way and keep seeking it in our own way and the ups and downs of that.
Yeah. Well there you go. And what do we all do in life as as people we that’s a constant theme in life. And Adam CIMB Coates who wrote the play decided to have a riff and do a piece of writing on that and it was interesting hearing the titters in the audience about some lines that the narrator speaks out loud as if to the audience and hearing them respond very viscerally with some sort of reaction. You know she she asked is is it is the point of love to be miserable or not. And that is that the point always is to learn. And I think that’s what the play doesn’t answer anything just asks you to ask the questions because it’s a never ending thing about all of us as human beings as finding some sort of connection with perhaps one special person and maybe with yourself in a way. I think some of the characters don’t actually find that connection because they’re unable to do with other people because they can’t find it within themselves. And I’m speaking I’m actually personally of one of the tracks that I play.
So speaking of which we all play multiple characters in the play except for the narrator and who is the photographer of the town as you if you happen to be in Portland’s and see this as the premise and all of the actors place a few different characters I play a perfume maker and a history professor and I also make an appearance in two quick scenes as a emergency medical technician. Saving a couple that are over thrown by throes of love. I don’t know who else to put it other than that but it’s been a year catching me at the end of a long long tech week and I’m so grateful for both of you to come out all the way from Boston to come out and see this play and support the theater and support me and I so appreciate and love you.
We’re bringing out to that so for me over these honestly decades it’s been the same and the same for me and the podcast as well to have an extraordinary opportunity to connect and kind of insert myself in that life without the talent or the effort to become an actor or an aerialist or a surgeon and to say about the play that we saw you talk about. No. The joy of living your daily life in the small moments and the joy of being an actor and being in the play the characters are somewhat strongly identify this person without giving anything away or spoils anything. Somebody is very shy somebody is very bold somebody is very persistent and other persons reticent and sometimes you watch a player movie and think oh I’m like that person or I’m like the idea I’m not this guy in this show. But what I felt about the show we saw tonight about Kodachrome was that we’re like we’re almost all those people in media in any given moment. Right. Right.
There are so many prisms of experience that I think the playwright was trying to touch upon that we’ve all had that little feeling of ecstasy see let’s say when you get you find young love and getting divorce which I’ve been through personally and separation and reconciliation and longing.
I think it’s so interesting to me part of why I notice with my podcast which is kind of feels in a way kind of selfish it’s like I get mad pretty quickly that I always like to ask my guests first about how they are as people because I don’t know many of them as well as I do. No you for the past you know 14 15 years. But I wonder I want it all to get to know you a little bit more as a person because in case and haven’t listened to where they don’t really know what it is like to be an actor and you are a very experienced one. So for example one thing I notice is that all the shows I’ve been to you’re always introducing me to people on the show. But as friends you know people you spend a lot of time with and really try to be real learn from and you’re not at all possessive about their relationship and you’re always promoting other people whereas in the acting world and all the academic world and and you know all the other worlds I notice that there somehow is something that we don’t talk about is that if I’m a project manager I don’t almost don’t people won’t introduce you to someone else in that position or you five minutes go you’re celebrating also. You know they went on to do theirs.
Went on to do that like I wonder you know why. Why do you feel that way.
Obviously one degree of separation makes you feel more intimately involved in other people’s struggles and what they go through and and and their and their victories. And I have great love and respect for you and for people that whom I’ve gotten a chance to cross paths with and I’m pulled in by their work and I we can all admire the the the Picasso’s of life that we from afar and admire that but if you have your own personal Picasso is kind of kind of nice to be in that in the in the wake of that or be alongside that as it were continued every every time. Every time you do an acting job I think I really literally think is the last time I look at these experiences as I get one more chance one more chance because you don’t know. None of us know. It might be a really might be the last one. And so let’s try to do it as as well as we can on that particular day.
So we know that the acting and the passions and the journeys are deep. Well we also didn’t want to talk about things that are happening outside of this particular engagement in this particular show. Other things you’re doing in your life that are related to the arts that are not related to the arts.
Well there are very very few people I know I mean personally of course we all know who the big stars are go from show to show or from TV show TV show for the most part. My circle is pretty rank and file actors in New York and none of us have 365 days a year of employment in our and professionally. So when I’m not doing this I work for a medical school and a lot of actors do this in New York anyway. But I fell into doing something called standardized being a standardized patient. So I help doctors students in medical schools aspiring doctors to help them become better with their bedside manner to help them figure out a diagnosis and the Kumbaya feel good feeling about this amazing kind of side job that I have is that whatever kind of slip ups they make or or things they did they didn’t ask a patient. That could cost them their life out in the field when they’re gone. I’m able to coach them because I’ve been coached about how to train them how I feel like in some ways I’m saving someone’s life down the line. And they are very very few jobs I’ve ever had that you can give someone satisfaction but to think that somehow what I did today helped this person they’re going to meet this person that I’ve been asked to portray because we get a case study. We have to portray a certain type person when they meet that type of person if they don’t have that training before medical school they may slip up. They may hear important piece of information in an interview with the patient that they were supposed to catch which told them about a major problem that they missed. So if they do that then I’m able to say when we have our post simulation and we do our feedback they say Hey you missed that part we should have asked me about that. And they go Oh thank you for telling me that.
I mean that is so great for me. It’s that extra beyond whatever they pay me feeling that you walk away psychically saying I did a I did some good for the planet today. That’s someone’s. Mom Brother sister brother
Was father was. What might have been saved later in life because
Hi there this has failed. And you’re listening to the fazer old podcast. Today on our show Meet John Haggerty. Broadway trained actor who uses is acting skills to teach medical students in New York City how to better interact with their patients.
I feel like there are also moments where that’s even less so than life or death is that those few hours that you may feel. I mean we have all encountered poor bedside manner so I got you re very aware we are as caretakers or as patients ourselves and comes down to really small ailments that really not at all a life threatening but you know I recently had a friend who was in an emergency room and out of the blue based on his conditions he was told that he could have either a stroke or something much more minor but because he didn’t have any symptoms at the time he was asked to wait in the emergency room for six hours every second of those six hours. He thought you know about having a stroke or a heart attack which you know the way that he was told as much as a matter of fact as in a could be a possibility that I think that reminds me that just one recent experience I and myself have experienced much more with my dad with my mom. And so what you’re doing really has excited me so much probably more so than you thought. You probably think we’re friends like you know this is something new and exciting for you. But we think that you are really a very perfect candidate for that job. So like I want to learn a bit more about as a patient. What do you work. What are you holding to kind of get into that zone where that condition OK now.
Well it was it changes from case to case for example.
There are. What is it almost 40 something points 40 something things for someone to get a full physical a full physical exam when I had to learn every single one.
How is properly done. I realize I’ve never. Probably no one on the planet really has had a full physical exam done correctly or at least the way the school teaches it and to the doctor out in the field to their due to their argument. There’s no time you wouldn’t do certain things on certain people because you know they’re not. That’s not a health risk thing. They can bypass certain things. Certainly my doctor does it. He Bibe I said you know I do this all the time and I know you’re going to miss my property. PAULSON You’re going to do that. He goes Yeah I know you do this and that’s fine.
But but you have to know you have to know how to do it correctly to understand what corners you can cut. As a doctor so I had to learn all that stuff and as a result I learned so much more about my body but my health. In fact I went and thought I may you know I went and had my blood sugar changed checked again because I said I have all the symptoms. This patient this simulated patient this person’s back story. That’s me. That’s me. That’s me. That’s me. So every case is kind of different and depends upon what they are training the students to learn that day. Are you are you looking for high blood pressure that day.
And then I have a like typically I will I will have a name a back story and I have to listen to very specific questions and I have to give an exact scripted response because the idea of standardized patient is that the medical students are getting the same answer every time.
So I have to listen very carefully you know my answer might be I feel I have a hard time going to sleep at night and if that’s the answer that they scripted in that the doctors who have written the case of scripted and I can’t say yeah you’re sleepy it they can’t be that it has to be a certain say to say the same wine every single time. And I have to remember that. So I have to Reno the script script dead cold like enacting exercise. But that same time my acting partner is changing the lines every time they walk into the room that medical student is giving me a different line I have to say now I can say this line to them. You
Sound like a computer almost like a binary. I mean not binary yes or no. But you almost have to function like a computer and calculate in your head all the time do it. Which option the ABC or or D or E. And then you have kind of thought of that way. All right. It’s kind of crazy because in the way that I feel like it’s almost like you’re taking the test because this is not a free range Creative Writing because they’re being graded and if one student gets a different answer because I screwed up the answer they can always look at the videotape is all the sessions of videotape.
They can say well this person missed that sometimes as much as I prepare much as all of us on the staff prepare. You’re only human and sometimes we make mistakes. And if a student challenges what we said you missed what or what why what I screwed I gave the wrong information I may have had that you know they said so tell me about your father’s family history.
And I said my my my father has diabetes or my father had a stroke at a certain age and I missed. I said the wrong thing that gives them totally different information. That’s a blood sugar thing or a heart heart problem. So depending upon the case they will start diagnosing me in a different way. And that’s just not fair to them and they have to be on point as much as I can.
Why is why is the consistency of your answers to be so important.
Because they’re being graded and they all the consistency of standardized is that everyone gets the same test.
So instead of a piece of paper I am the piece of paper the human actors the piece of paper that they’re being tested against. So I have to even though every human being every every interaction is a little different because you can’t help that’s energy. I have to still deal with the permutation and give the same verbal response and sometimes you know that you have to maintain if I’ve got a stomach ache they want my demeanor to be. I got to go sometimes because they want to say what you like. Can I do. Would you like me to dim the lights you want to. You want some water. That’s positive points for them as a bedside manner. That’s good stuff. They want that students to do that. They want to incentivize them to learn that. But a lot of them don’t know what to do with the patient patient. They’re just trying to get the. It’s got to be really hard. I think it’s a miracle that doctors can walk and meet a total stranger in 15 minutes they get very close to saying a headache means the difference in a brain tumor. And you know he went out drinking last night.
There’s a wide swath between that and this by very precise questioning can come with a reasonable reason why that’s happening. I think that’s an amazing art form that doctors can do so. And I know your family Adam is in the dock you know you’re all family doctors. You know I my respect for a great doctor is exponentially just blown out of proportion because it’s a very hard thing to do. Not just the medicine it’s the art form of interacting with another human being who is in distress and they’re looking for. Please help me and you have an assembly line of patience all day and you got to figure it out. And they’re depending upon you. It is a lot of responsibility. So the part that I can play as a person that can help future medical students become great doctors has been has been very satisfying. An ancillary kind of career to doing this. I say about half of us or two thirds of us on staff at this hospital at this medical school are our actors because that’s basically what we do. We memorize scripts. We try to maintain a character. So they they they do look to the acting pool in New York to fulfill this position.
If I were if they are listening they as in the ministry as traders who are from New York or elsewhere I would love for the actors to get a wild card to say you know what you you’re off script now you’re going to scream I want you to say you’re screaming this person or scream of the doctor or make it quiet. Shake it up. And I think because that’s the that’s the first that’s real life too. I find it really difficult to do that as a non actor actress to really just be like snap my finger you snap your finger and I be in there’s only millions it’s really difficult for normal people to do. You know I think the medical students hopefully not to be graded on ever.
But for them to have that experience and to respond to that ending it would be tremendously helpful.
To wit I was one of the hardest days I’ve ever had doing this is that I had to play a psychiatric case. And this was based upon a real person an event and it was the hardest because of what you were saying have free reign to do what you want.
Interpret this character. This is the back story. It’s based upon a true story. This very high powered executive was accused of perhaps molesting his 15 year old daughter and physically abusing his wife shoving her up against the things so she against the wall one morning. And he was apparently very high up in the ranks in his company and he was used to having things his way basically. So they said this is the guy he had he had a very alpha. No don’t listen to me I’m always in charge of the room and I’m smarter than everybody else. So they gave me a backstory. They took. They chose three got three men. They chose me and two other fellows. They briefed us before and they said You’re so human being being seen by a psychologist because a simulation is because your wife called you and you were picked up by the police because of what of shoving your wife up against the wall as she called the police. So you’re the first your official the doctor coming in as a state psychologist who wants to do an evaluation where we’re going into with you and you have to be toe tapping wearing a suit looking at your watch and saying I’m missing meetings I’ve got things to do.
I don’t believe in psychologists.
Go and whatever whatever you want to make whatever you can do to rattle the student we want you to do it. And I could not believe the stuff that came out of my mouth. And they had no idea. All they knew was that this man all they they are the students all they knew was that this man this is the situation there. No idea of my personality or anything they had to find out that I that I was a high ranking vice president at a company. And after the first encounter with a student who had gone to see who was had gone to a foreign medical school and I disparaged the country shoot she was a woman I disparaged your gender. I said everything that made her upset but she her job was to keep it calm. So they wanted just like you were asking me what can you do. But I remember that I had six of them all in succession all different people that I had to figure out how to make them upset and I knew nothing about them. I had a make it up and in some ways it was a satisfying improv actor thing that oh yeah I did that. But after the first day after the first encounter after she walked out I just remember leaning against the door thinking I’m not going to I’m going to be sick. I cannot believe I said this things that came out of my mouth. No human being I I just would never I wasn’t I wouldn’t even think these things but the actor your actor brain starts playing this character and I’m you know be this guy.
If you feel like apologizing to say I did. He’s out there I will say I’m sorry I’d make this Dessau make believe.
And they actually the medical staff after the day this normally doesn’t happen. But they brought the three of us and to debrief us because they knew we had to go through a little bit of getting it out of our system. Talk about it and Forche. I don’t think I could ever do that day to day because even though we all know a simulation we’re all playing a role that even the the the medical students are playing a role. It’s where I walked the line up to reality of trying to play these characters because that’s the idea of it. And I just I say I’m not this person. I just felt very very tired and almost sick inside. At the end of it. So people who play I don’t know play a character who has to be really evil person. Day after day it shows on Broadway or in a movie you know every actor that I could do what I could do. But I think I really do that I really do.
That stuff is so fascinating. I mean this as bad as it sounds. I believe that happened I forgot it was in the US or China but somebody was playing an evil very evil role and the guy was getting not just hate mails but life threatening messages from. I mean is this as crazy as it sounds. I mean that guy must have done a really good job. But what I would it’s interesting to me that I think about all the time is people like yourself John who is acting your whole life. I know you have other endeavors just like what you talked about. But you also happens to be you can be very dramatic in real life. But for the most part based on what I’ve seen you’re very mellow. Like I don’t know. Mellow is the right word. But why. Why do you think that is. Like what do you do to kind of offset that energy to be on stage all the time. I mean especially when you’re in King and I miss. I mean those are hard core heavy duty stuff doesn’t matter which role you play. Like what do you do on the side of gonna offset energy enough.
I used to be jogging. It is still jogging right now in my early 50s it becomes more jogging walking jogging walking stuff stuff like that. I think we all find some sort of release physically more you know time time alone. I think some people have a problem with that but I actually have I find a lot of solace just fine being by myself for maybe not days on end but ours. Yeah I don’t need to talk to people can’t I don’t. You’ll be surrounded by it. In fact that’s what I that’s what I did between our rehearsal today and the performance but when I was called I was I I went jogging I went across the bridge on the Willamette River and just spent all that. I just need because after I just needed the time to clear my head. So that’s my decompression to ask you be asked about if anything don’t get getting getting back to being standardized patient. I think in some ways in a very strange way it’s been a very interesting acting class because of where it has its place my listening skills as a person too I’m not actively trying to remember your responses to me and how we’re doing. But when I’m at work at that medical school I have to remember everything they say almost verbatim because sometimes I have to type it out on a computer checklist or tell them back so if I have a 10 minute 15 minute encounter with somebody I have to remember my response is plus someone else’s that requires a lot of intense listening and remembering I’m remembering trying to amend what I said and remembering their response. Most people do not do that in life you just have them one to one to back and forth back and forth
Hi there. This is faith. And you’re listening to the fazer old podcast. Today on our show Meet John Haggerty. Broadway trained actor who uses is acting skills to teach medical students in New York City how to better interact with their patients.
It’s even more difficult because like if you go to a job and you park in a similar parking space but not the same one and you’re there five days a week. You can’t remember where you park. So to do that once is tricky to do that with a series of people where those half a dozen or dozen conversations are similar because different med students. That’s got to be even harder.
It’s a worst thing is that when the same meds doing to two people looks similar come coming back to back and they say almost the same as about one or two is different I go oh oh what did they say. That’s when you conflate that. That’s the that’s difficult for me. That’s really hard. That always happens especially by the middle of the afternoon. Oh my God. That I get there that I get their names right I get their answers right.
But it’s something that you probably get better at.
I mean how long have you been a couple of years so it’s been getting better at it. Definitely. And to the credit of the school they they don’t they just don’t train you and we all go through some training and simulations before they unleash us to students. But they check up on us because they’re always watching us too. Not only today but they are watching our performances and coach. I remember the first time I got a video tape back from my boss’s boss and she said look at your answers look at your script. You know you. You didn’t. You screwed this one up. And I looked at it went oh my god I really am thinking that I was not too bad. And I realized they are. I said I’ve got to step up there. This is their grades. This is whether or not they’re going to get their get they get get their degree whether they can pass the bar or not. And I think about that investment I have to there is committed to going to school and working your asses off there and being doctors. And I just going for you know whatever six to eight hours a day and and do my thing in there. They’re up all day and all night for four years and that’s before they become residents.
And so you’re sort of like your role in the experiment like the control in the scientific experiment with where the other things are variables. So you know knowing you in real life putting aside all modesty of your own frankly speaking what sort of a you know if it can be answered What sort of a person should give this kind of a job a shot and also to mention it isn’t something I do 40 hours a week or somebody could do it. And as part of this and who shouldn’t do it just what kind of person you think probably wouldn’t make it and what kind of person like Asian investigators this could be a good thing for you.
Well there are not all actor types have done this.
I know that I was interest I had a I have a friend named Martin Martin solo. If you’re out there who first term me the idea he was doing for a while and he’s now he works. He’s always working. So he doesn’t do it as much anymore. But then I started applying to schools and trying to get an audition because they do audition people and they’re not slobs depends upon the demographics of what they’re looking for work what they need a very to the know they need the planet because of different diseases and different things that happen to people. So we’re very very different kind of a staff where I’m at and if you’re not if you don’t like to memorize that’s one thing or if you don’t feel like you’re yeah that it’s helpful if you if you’re not good with remembering words. That’s absolutely paramount.
That’s why the medical schools go after the acting pool because there’s kind of a discipline and a experience of doing that and also a little bit of a volition. I thought I said OK just a way to make money. But then when I got exposed to it really about what’s going on in the why is this why are standardized patients programs they’re there. They’re at the heart for for for helping helping medical students become full fledged doctors and making their their trips in school where should happen rather than out rather than out in the field. We don’t want to be that patient who has a doctor who has never encountered you. I want in my my most high way of why this is good for the planet is that it gives everyone a chance to have a trial run by were doing trial ones we have a week of trial runs before an official opening and and we are there’s some steaks being done in our show that the director is catching and we’re costly fiddling with it. Everyone should get a chance to do that especially people who are in charge of human lives. And if I can be a part of that then that’s that’s just a wonderful kind of psychic payoff you know to close on a tougher questions.
But it’s going to be a two part question. I wonder what are some of the things that Jain you think the the world at large or the theaters or the sort of the actor communities can do for these working actors you know whether people are entering into where people are working more on a part time or full time basis like what are there’s a reason why I ask that question because I think like well my mom possesses I think there’s a certain skill set that I witnessed you on these shows. Ms King and I and I know the art form is disappearing. And I know in a way some of the audience. It’s also getting smaller. But I think that it’s a very precious form of sort of a human artform that need to be preserved. So I wonder if there’s anything that we can actually do you know that there’s no limit by that.
There’s no right or wrong answers all of us. Every human being is an artist because we have those questions in our minds about what’s great what’s terrible but watching someone else interpret it either through painting or music or performance or whatever a computer program you know programming it’s all a is a way of you coming back yourself and recognizing everyone’s costs and asking the question.
So if we all sat in our own little bubbles and didn’t go to museums or concerts or theater or go to movies rent Netflix whatever if we didn’t have any access to that and any people doing that then we’d have to live perhaps in our own little islands and read digest stuff over and over and then it becomes incestuous in our brains about who we are what we’re what we’re supposed to be doing here and our and are of small time on the planet. And sometimes when you see something it just when you see someone else’s idea of something that even thinking about your brain cracks open where your heart cracks open and you go oh I get it how I can apply this to my life. And I never thought of it that way. You know let’s and I can add this to my life or subtract it. I was a fool for a thing that for so many years.
So in some ways when we see something that we were moved by or respond to it’s it’s like a someone has come up with a way of thinking about it in a very distilled form. Sometimes I think what is the true enjoyment of of acting or being in some sort of public performance of telling a story. One of the things I find so interesting so amazing about being in play is because we are expected to produce some sort of something for people to watch and to experience from zero in a very short amount of time. And that journey is one I it. I always find it really interesting. So that’s what keeps me going. Certainly it’s not the same as not being showered with flowers or signing autographs.
That’s never happened to me and it’s never really been interesting to me and certainly money. I mean I get paid a living wage and I’m happy to be in Portland. But if it was about that then I would be very disappointed. But it has to be a deeper psychic agrees about being a human being.
And I think it’s we’ve talked a lot like in this past hour or so and I think there is a new future that exists for people with your set of skills and love and commitment and love for the Arts is through companies like medical schools or law firms. These companies not only need you they also have the financial means to really provide people with the right opportunities. This is not again not charity that they need you in a way more than you need them. Right because the skills that you have is replaceable. That takes training and I think that message is so strong. And I think especially for people out there anybody pursuing any forms of art and putting something that they create out there to say I mean this you know and to my put my name on it I think it’s such and such an act of bravery in a sense and that we are so conditioned to do that to never do that. Yes you’re right. You’re absolutely right. Yeah. And you don’t put yourself out there. I always I remember precisely that moment where when I raised my hand I went I did really well in school particularly math. I was really good at math until I was about third or fourth grade. I stopped raising my hand because my teacher told me not to my teachers and even my classmates and said Don’t forget that your girl you’re a woman and your hormones will not know hormone. I didn’t know what that were meant. But she said biologically you’re going to lose that edge very soon. And the boys will exceed you.
I mean this is late 80s that’s crazy.
That is crazy but in one form or the other maybe not in those exact words because it’s not at all acceptable in today’s society and it did happen to kids growing in the 80s and they sort of you know I definitely remember putting down my hands on do that again so I’m so I love talking to people like you to really learn. I’m still in the process of learning all that you know I’m glad you said something like that.
It’s it’s always a reminder. The very every every show and certainly last night when we had our first show we were all I think the cast were all so happy to have that audience. This show was not well. No one’s never done that we had no idea about how the artists were going to react. We had no intercourse with that audience with how to how do we how these lines can land where what’s there hustling to come across. So there was a topspin of nervousness I would say with certainly with me I can’t speak on anybody else but I’m sure they had a little bit. And it’s the first five minutes I feels like when you walk out on stage I don’t say anything for five minutes and I’m frozen. But I feel like my blood is ice water and I’m doing nothing but my heart my heart rate is I’m just trying to breathe free. You got this. Just say a line. That’s all I have to do and what you’re talking about before about you not being told that you can’t do this you can’t do this. I keep forgetting that that the audience wants you to do this. People want you to do this podcast people want you to succeed. They want to. They want to see you fly it exalts them to see to see greatness happen because then we can attach vicariously we can Tasch our wings to that.
And I just brought our brains seem to fall into now nope nope nope I can’t. Don’t deserve this. I’m going to fuck it up. I shouldn’t be here. It’s all a big mistake. And turning now turning that switch off because I think I’m going to be a little bit magnanimous about that. I think human beings want other human beings to do well.
I think that’s such a positive message. It’s really precisely what I needed and what I heard from another colleague to launch the first episode as he literally said people in the restaurant. They’re all eating away at their sushi. He’s like they want you to succeed. I’m like No I was thinking No they don’t they don’t care. And I realize what he’s right. What if that’s even a maybe maybe I should push that button. It gives you a lot. I think we all need a little bit of a momentum. I think it means so much that I read stories about people even thinking about committing suicide and then hearing the positive word from another child walking back from school and being with to save their lives. And it’s I think it’s that is huge American.
Yeah well that sounds like that’s like a good coda to all of this. Yeah. Summed it all up.
I think he did. Thank you John. Guys thanks for coming out. There’s me again I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode and I hope you’re able to learn a few things. If you drew what you heard. It will be hugely helpful if you could subscribe to the face podcast. It literally takes seconds. If you’re on your mobile phone just search for Fays real podcast in the podcast app on iPhone or an Android app such as podcast addict and click subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically. Thanks so much for your support.
The above audio transcript of “Feisworld Podcast – John Haggerty.mp3” was transcribed by the best audio transcription service called Sonix. If you have to convert audio to text in 2019, then you should try Sonix. Transcribing audio files is painful. Sonix makes it fast, easy, and affordable. I love using Sonix to transcribe my audio files.
[08:00] What’s your latest show “Kodachrome” about? What is your role?
[12:00] (Adam) In some sense, compared to other shows where you relate to one particular character, in your new show it feels like we are a bit of every character. Do you feel the same way?
[14:00] Why do you think that in the arts world people are open to introduce you to more people, while in other worlds (academic, industry) people are more conservative and restrictive?
[16:00] What are other things that you are doing in your life outside of acting?
[20:00] When helping medical students, and as a patient, what are you told to get to play the character? What information do you have?
[24:00] When playing these patients, do you have the freedom to improvise?
[25:00] Why is the consistency of your answers so important?
[28:00] What was your hardest role as a patient?
[33:00] What are some of the other activities you do to balance some of the energy you have to put into the shows?
[37:00] How long have you been helping medical students?
[38:00] What kind of people should look into doing this type of work (as a standardized patient)? What would be your advice to them?
[41:00] What are some of the things that you think the actor communities can do for active/working actors, whether they are new young actors or people that are established on their careers.
[45:00] What is your opinion/experience with critics, feedback, and what we call ‘putting your stuff out there in the world’. People who see and evaluate your work. What’s the tradeoff between opinions-critics/things learned?
[15:00] I look at these (acting) experiences as the last time. I always think when I have a new opportunity that this is one more chance. Because you don’t know. You don’t really know. None of us know. It really might be the last one. So let’s try to do it as well as we can.
[22:00] Every case is different and it depends on what they are training the students to learn that day. Are you looking for high blood pressure? Typically I have a name, a backstory, and I have to give exact scripted responses.
[26:00] It is a very hard thing to be a doctor. It’s not just the medicine. It’s the art of interacting with another human being who is in distress, who’s looking at you for a ‘please help me’. You have to figure it out what’s going on and they are depending upon you. It’s a lot of responsibility. The part that I can play as a person that can help future medical students become great doctors have been very satisfying.
[40:00] This is good for the planet because it gives everyone the chance to have a trial run. We do (as actors) a week of trial runs before the grand opening. Everyone should get a chance to do that, especially people who are in charge of human lives. If I can be a part of that, that’s just a wonderful payoff.
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Transcript of Interview with John Haggerty.
Fei Wu [3:58] John, I think you have a very unique story to tell. And perhaps you don’t feel that special living in the middle of Manhattan, New York City, you know. But over here, even in Boston, not so far away, it’s really difficult for someone to imagine what it’s like to be an actor of any kind. So I want the audience to live in your brain for about an hour to understand where you’re coming from.
Tell us a little bit about you.
John [5:11] I’ve lived in New York on and off since 1989. And boy, it’s been a different world since then, every time I meet people who lived back then and still live to this day, we’ll talk about the vast changes in New York. It definitely seems like a different place. I actually have a friend crashing with me – again, another New York thing to do. And I’m very glad to do let friends stay at my place because people helped me so much over the years. And he’s actually one of my best friends from my college days, who used to be an actor himself. He had a great career. And he was kind of my idol in college. He was the star actor in school, went on to a fantastic drama school and had a great, great career working in the theater. And then he decided, I guess he was 40 when he said “I’m done”. Now he’s a writer. And now he says to me: “if you ever gonna get out of the art job, the last thing you want to do is go from actor to writer, it’s not going to be any easier.”
So anyway, I’ve lived here for most of my adult life. And prior to that, I guess I traveled a lot as a kid. Since my dad worked for the government and we got shuttled around like military families. So we went from base to base to base. I had three or four different elementary schools.
And in some ways, I bounced around when I got to New York. You know, you get an acting gig and you travel from here to there. And I was in one national tour. So we’re definitely moving all the time, and I seem to have replicated that in my adult life what I did in my childhood – living in a suitcase. I’ve gotten used to traveling. And weirdly enough, the last 10 some odd years here, in the city, have been the longest time I’ve stayed in one place, more or less with gigs here and there. But I’ve been basically in the city and I’m getting a little antsy. Suppose one of the great things about not having a traditional nine to five is that when you get a job that might take you someplace, you got to go there, and you get to see and experience different parts of the country and sometimes outside the country even. And that’s certainly been a plus.
In fact, I spent the weekend with one of my best friends from my days of doing Les Miserables. He’s interviewing actors for a film project that he’s been working on, and so he confronts this question that you’re asking. It’s something, I think, anybody in New York, who is at my career level, thinks – we are part of a community, but the outside world, let’s say, the people who just go to see a show, they’re going to see star names. And they’re part of the community, obviously, but what you don’t hear about is this vast underbelly of journeyman actors and stagehands. And one of my best friends is a lady named Carmel from my Les Miserables, she’s one of the top designers on Broadway.
There are so many great people I’ve met working in the theater, who are not necessarily actors, but I have met so many wonderful behind-the-scenes people, directors, and producers, and one of my best pals from that time that you actually came out to see me in La Jolla was the Director of Finance. So you just never know, it’s a kind of a wonderful, wacky adventure.
Fei Wu [10:22] Yes, this is exactly what I was hoping to cover, John, – that community you’re living in, that lifestyle you have. And I’m not saying it’s a lifestyle that everybody will be comfortable with or even something that you are 100% always comfortable with. But I think it’s so fascinating to talk to different people and see where their lives will take them.
Before we go off talking about the community and all the wonderful people that you met – I feel like, in your intro, you haven’t given yourself enough credits for the things you’ve done, particularly the shows you’ve been in. Again, I feel like you started your career way before we met, about 10-12 years ago. And if I may just throw a few names that I’m aware of, and the shows I’ve been to: “King and I”, “Miss Saigon”. And more recently, you know, Batboy.
Tell us more about your most recent major shows.
John [11:52] Well, I think you’re just about it. You’ve covered my career.
So when I moved to New York, I was thinking that I would just be a classical actor. That was my kind of dream – to do Shakespeare.
Fei Wu [12:12] Oh, really? What year was that?
John [12:14] 1989. And I spent the first few years doing just Shakespeare in a lot of church basements. So that was cutting my teeth at that, learning a lot. But I realized one day, looking through the New York Times and looking at the show listings and seeing that 8 out of 10 shows have music in them, I realized that my chances of working and making a living on the stage in New York would be increased gigantically if I really learned how to sing well enough to be on Broadway. So I really started applying myself with singing lessons.
And out of all the shows that I remember thinking about and wanting to be in, it was really at the heyday of Les Mis, in 86 or 87. Gosh, I remember. I just got out of college, and Colm Wilkinson, the original star, was singing “bring him home” for Johnny Carson. I never heard a man sing like that. So that’s when I got really interested in the show. And that was definitely a target for me. I was really fortunate to get the show, which became a dream come true. I guess it had been open for about 10 years.
So it was still the hottest show. Everyone wanted to be in that show. But I think for those of us who had done the original production of it, it was an exhausting thing to get through. But I think that the show has this thing of bequeathing upon anyone who’s gone through it for a while, a special kind of fellowship and camaraderie. Even if I’ve never worked with that actor in the show, I certainly wouldn’t have heard of their name. And we have this “Oh, do you know so and so? Oh, yeah, I remember, we just missed each other”. And that’s what that show is, especially with the longevity, it’s still going now, it just got reinstated on Broadway. And this is a whole new generation now that is going through what my pals and I did almost 15 years ago. And it’s a great gift. It was a great gift to be in that show, to do it and to work with everybody, and, eventually, I got a chance to do it with the guys on The Tonight Show with Colm Wilkinson. He came back to the show, and I will never forget that day he showed up on stage. And he went through it with us. It was such a magical time to do it with him because it just felt as if you were performing with a living legend.
Fei Wu [16:02] I can definitely imagine!
John [16:05] There was just such a perfect confluence, everything was ready for his voice and his comportment. I got to do it with him in a city that I would love to go back to and visit (I was in Toronto).
That was a wonderful time. Yeah, certainly a highlight of my acting career, to be able to do that with him.
Fei Wu [17:07] I will highlight that information in the show notes as well – the names and moments, any tools and resources that you bring up throughout this conversation. I will actually have a web page, as you can see, to highlight that, so the audience can really read more about these people.
What the audition process is like? What is it like to work with an agent and how to really land the gig?
John [18:42] Well, there’re a few ways. You can have an agent who tells you about the audition, and you go in and get it. And there’s also word of mouth – people know you, call you and offer it to you, which is ideally what everybody wants to get because that means you become well-known and trusted.
I don’t know a lot of friends who just got offered a role. Almost all of us have to audition, even if it’s a courtesy audition.
I have a favorite line – “suddenly everything has changed”. And that’s really so profound for the human race. Certainly, because that’s how it goes, right? The moment I’ll wake up tomorrow, I won’t have any idea of what’s in store for me. And the reason I’m bringing this up is that for the next show I’m going to be working on, I went in and auditioned, and I didn’t get a callback. Usually, if they like you, you’ll have a second interview. That means they whittled it down.
The first time I went in to audition for this show was last week. Usually, you can tell if it’s going well, if they’re digging you, and everything seemed to be great, but I didn’t hear from them later on that day. And I said: “well, you just never know. I guess I didn’t get it”. And I know they had callback days, still I didn’t hear from them. And then yesterday, last night, I get the phone call from producer: “we love for you to play the part”.
Fei Wu [21:19] Congratulations, John.
John [21:21] So yeah, suddenly, everything has changed. This morning, I spoke to him. Tomorrow I have to go into rehearsal at one o’clock. Ah, I’ve got music coming to me all of a sudden, I’ve got to learn this part and learn this music today. We have one week to put the show up for an invited audience, for the industry, meaning that they’re trying to find seed money and develop the show a little bit more. Now, what was so exciting to me is that it’s an adaptation of Treasure Island. And the music is being written by my childhood hero. His name is Graham Russell. Most people probably have never heard of him, but for those who are old enough – he is the part of the rock group Air Supply.
Fei Wu [22:21] No way! Wow, this is amazing, John.
John 22:27 Yeah! So I’m going in. We’re gonna start tomorrow, and I can’t wait to see who else they cast.
So that’s going to be my week. And next week, I have no idea what will happen in my life when this is over.
How do you prepare for these long shows like “King and I” which go on for hours? What do you do to remember all the lines and the script?
John [23:52] It kind of depends.
Interestingly enough, what is actually fairly easy to memorize is Shakespeare.
Fei Wu [24:10] Oh, man, I would never imagine! That’s counterintuitive.
John [24:13] Isn’t that kind of crazy? It’s nice. It’s only because he was a magician, a genius. There are all these cues as to how to lead yourself into how to play the part because Shakespeare kind of almost wrote the direction into the lines. And I’ve been able to memorize long speeches faster with Shakespeare than with any playwright I’ve ever worked on. The difficulty really depends on the rhythm.
If I have trouble, I’ll often get a yellow pad out and write the lines out. If I’m in the scene, I’ll write the other characters’ lines out and then write my lines out, maybe in bigger letters or highlighted. So I’ll do anything to sort of trick my brain into getting it into my bones, literally, getting into my fingers.
There’re different neural pathways to learning the lines: oftentimes, I’ll record the lines, and when I go jogging, I will listen to them. So I’m constantly, unfortunately, pounded by the sound of my own voice saying the lines over and over.
Fei Wu [26:11] This is so fascinating, John! I think you, sometimes people like yourself, you take this process for granted, you know, this is a system you figure out for yourself. And I think that is phenomenal.
To pause for a second – when I teach Mandarin to little kids in my Taekwondo school, some of them are as young as six or seven years old, I mean, they barely know how to write so many words, then they certainly don’t understand how to really follow the Chinese symbols or anything of that nature. But I noticed that little kids will figure out a system somehow for them to remember what I teach them. And the younger they are, somehow, the quicker they learn. You know, learning Asian characters can be very complicated. And one of the things the teachers will tell you is “stop speaking and start writing them down”. Just that, even for little kids, how you move your wrist, all different directions while trying to learn Chinese calligraphy writing gets that embedded in your brain somehow. So it’s really fascinating.
John [27:43] Yeah, it is. And as we get older, our brains change. So I find myself doing different things. The old days I would just put my hand over the paper, look at it, say it out loud, put it in, and then take it off and try to memorize what the line was. I still do that, that’s actually still one of the best ways to do it. I don’t know, why that works. But that oftentimes is still not enough.
Actually, what I’ve noticed – now people expect you to be able to be off-book much faster than when I started out. So the demand for you as an actor is to learn your lines very quickly. It has sped up, probably, because of the internet and the access to your lines. In the old days, if you got an audition, you had to go downtown, go to the agent’s office or go to the casting director, pick up the script. Now they say what you have to know by tomorrow morning, and they expect that we are all connected, that you’ll get your PDF and read it and memorize it. Though, interestingly enough, by the union guidelines they’re not allowed to tell you to memorize it. Because then it would be a performance and then they would have to pay you. So if you’re auditioning, you hold the script in your hand, and you kind of pretend. It’s always nice to have it there, in case you forget a line. You always have the script in your hand when your audition. But you’re expected to not really need that piece of paper. Yeah, this really wasn’t like that when I started out, I wasn’t too worried about it. But it’s just become more and more of the norm.
What is it like to repeat a show for weeks or months at a time? If you forget the script, what’s going to happen? What do you do in set to compensate that?
John [31:22] First of all, I think, if you’re a long-performing actor and you’re going to forget a line or something’s going to happen – it has happened to everybody. And for myself, fortunately, as a knock on wood, nothing like that is in recent memory. And it still happens to people who have been doing it for a long time. Part of that is the excitement of being on edge.
One of the reasons why I think I was able to do Les Miserables for five years was that at some point I said: “I want to learn all the other parts in the show”. It kept my brain very elastic and let me experience the show through every actor’s point of view – their character, their costume changes, and what they had to do. It gave me a much more profound sense of an appreciation for what everyone else was doing. But it also not even quadrupled, but more than that, my need to memorize. That’s was really part of the juice of having fun and feeling challenged.
You mentioned “King and I” – that was certainly one of the biggest parts I’ve ever done. And in that show, he only has two songs, but his part is mostly these long book scenes. And that did take a while to memorize because it was such an honor to be able to do it, it’s one of the great parts in American musical theatre. And it was a matter of pride, to be able to make sure I landed every line perfectly.
Fei Wu [34:34] In Les Mis you play different parts, and that’s unbelievable. “King and I” is also a phenomenal performance by you.
On average, how long do you have to perform a “typical” show? How many days a week? Also, how do you keep motivating yourself?
John [35:33] Yeah, well, there are certain shows that I’m more stoked to do than others.
Let’s say, most people who would go to the theater, if they ever go to the theater and they want to go, they will probably try to go to a Broadway show. But a Broadway show will typically rehearse for maybe two months before opening night, before the press comes. And then that says they have as much practice time as you get because the producers are paying for it. And they’re building a show from the ground up, which is certainly not easy to do. Depending upon the contract, usually, it’s much shorter than that. And usually you’re not building a show from the ground up. Almost everything I’ve ever done has been a show that’s been done at least once previously – when I joined Les Mills, it had been open for about 10 years. So it was a well-oiled machine with adjustments here and there. For those who’ve never been – the Broadway is 8 shows a week, so we’re going to theatre every day, except one day off, usually, depending upon the schedule. And if you are an understudy, you go into understudy once a week, during the afternoon. If you have something called a put-in rehearsal, if they put a new person into the show, they will call the cast to come in and run the show during the day.
So when you’re working on Broadway, you are at the theater all the time, unless you are one of the lead roles. I was almost at every understudy and put-in rehearsal. And they pay the swings a little bit more for their time and for knowing everything about the show, so I opted to do that. And, you know, if I’m in the show, I want to be in it.
Now, when I worked around the country, the contracts are different. Sometimes you don’t have understudy rehearsal, or it’s not planned as much. The shows have shorter lengths, let’s say, six weeks to two months, maybe sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually last because they’re doing seasons, where they’re filling five shows during the spring, summer season or something. So there’s usually an end date to your contract and you see the end coming. Those shows will rehearse something like 6-10 times, and they will put a show up in about two weeks. It’s a lot of pre-planning so that when you’re actually in the room, everyone is off like a rocket and we’re figuring out how are you going to do blocking, integrate the sets and costumes. It does feel like getting shot out of cannon, but then you get into a groove and start enjoying yourself. I mean, ultimately, the word is “play”, right? So we’re in a play, and it feels like you’re playing it, feels like you’re getting paid to have a good time. And I think most actors will agree that it is part of the appeal. And it certainly is. I don’t feel like what I do is as hard as trying to get the landing craft on Mars, or we’re trying to reconcile two different points of view in Congress. So I think what I do is relatively easy if you will. It’s hard in its own ways, but, I guess, we all have our own feelings about what we do in our life. There are certainly some shows that are much harder to learn and do than others. And it’s a case by case basis. For instance, I don’t know what I have in store for me this coming week. I know, I have one of the lead roles in the show. But I don’t know how big they’ve written the part, I don’t know if there’s going to be a lot to do.
Fei Wu [40:27] So those are a surprise, right?
What is your advice for people who are starting out? What’s your take on those challenges – rejections, randomness, and all the excitement?
John [41:41] Gigantic, profound question.
Well, one of the ways you give advice to someone is “don’t do what I do”. I’ve got a thin skin, I will admit that. So having as much of a “brush it off” attitude as you can will carry you through some very long, dark times. And I can say that once I’ve let disappointments saturate for a little bit too long, they got into my psyche. And that’s been one of the most difficult parts of pursuing acting because your opportunities to actually act are so infinitesimal. You know, the fact that I actually even auditioned for this show I’m working on right now, it’s almost like a lottery. And I just think you gotta love yourself doing it. And if you don’t anymore, then it’s time to take a break.
Fei Wu [43:40] Yeah. That is such great advice for anything along the line of the entertainment business, but I have to admit that it is really good advice for people everywhere. For example, people who decided to change their job and who are going on interviews, but are being rejected. And most employers don’t really respond with anything, and you’re left just feeling kind of hopeless. Luckily for me that I haven’t had to experience too much of that in my career. But here I am, honestly, putting myself out there on a podcast. And to be honest, I’ve been so hard on myself. And I wish I remember to call you to kind of balance that off. Even hearing my voice on the audio, I was really struggling, and it took me quite a while. I never thought that it will happen to me.
The crazy part is that when that emotion takes over, you go down into this downward spiral, even though it sounds so silly. People ask me how I feel, and I feel very vulnerable. I feel naked, you know.
So anyway, back to you.
I feel like it could be very dark and very difficult for people in acting to put yourself out there, you know?
John [46:00] Well, yeah, you’re basically living what many people in the performing arts go through all the time. I felt the same way when I tried to make a website and had thoughts like “God, now people going to know more about me and see me when they want to”. And yeah, I have some control over the content, but at the same time, this really the best I can do. And I suppose we always have to constantly remind ourselves that we are all wonderful human beings in their own way and we are trying our best.
Fei Wu [46:52] I think my second episode’s guest, Josh Green, really speaks to that: oftentimes we want to live in an ideal world, but at the same time, we’ve all been just given the tools that we have. And then, you know, out of 1000 people, you’ve been chosen for the show tomorrow. And I just want to say how many things in this world have an acceptance rate of 0.1%? You know, I don’t mean to nerd out on math here, but you also have attended Brown University, and I believe when you entered school, around that years, there was 5-6% acceptance rate. And acting significantly reduces anybody’s chances of getting anything.
John [47:47] Yeah, it is something I think about every time I get a role – there are literally hundreds of people who have a similar type and who could easily fill. We’re all replaceable, all of us. At this moment, it’s gonna be me or it’s gonna be someone else. If it’s going to be yours for the time – accept and graciously embrace it, do the best you can with what you got. that’s what I am trying to remind myself all the time because every gig feels like it might be the last one.
In general, if something happened, the more we can laugh about it afterward – the better. That’s good therapy.
Fei Wu [48:44] Yeah, absolutely.
I know that we talked about keeping you on for an hour, and I had no idea that you actually need to spend some serious time preparing for your show tomorrow. So if it’s still in the audition stage, I suspect that it’s inconvenient to reveal more details, right?
Can you tell us more about the show you’re currently working on?
John [49:08] Yeah, I don’t really know much about it, other than that it’s an adaptation of Treasure Island. That’s about all I know so far, I’ve not seen the full script. And I know that Graham Russell from air supply is attached to it. And that’s about it up to now.
I just have my rehearsal time blocked out. So I’ll find out more tomorrow, maybe we should do this podcast tomorrow.
Fei Wu [49:45] Yeah, certainly we can.
John [49:47] There’s a moment in Les Mis, which is one of my favorites only because of the sentiment involved.
Right before that Jean Valjean’s Bring Him Home, all the students are gathering around and getting ready to go to bed. And they’re all kind of sharing a drink together and contemplating their life. There was the song, and whenever someone had to leave the show, it was their last performance, so everyone made sure that this person went over with a cup and toast on a stage. It was a great tradition, I thought, of acknowledging the friendship.
So the song starts off:
“Drink with me to days gone by.
Sing with me the songs we knew.
Here’s to pretty girls who went to our heads.
Here’s to the witty girls who went to our beds.
Here’s to them and here’s to you.”
Fei Wu [51:14] Thank you so much for sharing the moment with me.
You know, sometimes I feel like if I go to work one day and somebody will be listening to my podcast in a conference room, I will immediately storm out of that. I would be so embarrassed. But to invite you to share your stories, the super exciting ones, and also the challenges – I know, it’s really difficult to talk about them. But I think people will want to listen to that. I think when we share stories, people find them resonating and they can relate to it.
Very recently, there was a person in financial services, extremely successful, dare to write a book called “How I lost a million dollars”. It was a top-seller, as you can imagine, and it really resonated with a lot of people in finance or elsewhere. So I think you shared a very balanced, really interesting story of being an actor and the struggles you’ve had. In my podcast’s blog, I’m going to include a lot of these big names and the shows that you’ve been in. I think it’s incredible. And just so you know, as many friends of yours, we cannot be more proud.
John [52:49] My god, you’re making me cry, stop!
Fei Wu [52:52] And it’s so important, the encouragement, I know everybody needs that. But truthfully, you’re the reason for many of us to want to drive 6,7,8 hours to see these performances, to be there with you and to kind of share that very special moment. And it’s absolutely incredible. You know, you just create that moment, and you not only create that moment, but you also create an experience for the rest of us. I’ve been to many Broadway shows beyond the ones I’ve gone to for you, but it’s really not the same. It’s not nearly the same. Also the family part of it that, like, before the show we get to meet all the actors and actresses, sit down for a drink with them. And you took us to the backstage! Yoshimi was particularly interesting with the setup and the sort of the technical considerations involved.
John [53:59] You and Wayne Coyne are big friends now! [laughs]
Fei Wu [54:03] I might have to post that picture.
The funny thing is, I actually came back from your show the week after and I was having Dim Sum with a bunch of my co-workers. And there was a co-worker of mine who started talking about Wayne Coyne out of nowhere, so I just go: “Oh, here he is on my iPhone”, and pull up a picture. He’s like: “What was going on here?” He was so confused. And it was like no alcohol influence. It was amazing.
Yeah, thank you for creating these moments, you know. It keeps coming up on Facebook and many other social media channels because they do a “look back” photos of the things that you’ve been in. I just see these moments with you and think that I would not otherwise have this opportunity to experience all of this firsthand if it wasn’t for you. And I hope that continues. Also, I really hope this podcast does something very positive for you as well.
John [55:14] I definitely feel energized. Yeah, you made me realize that maybe it is worthwhile.
Fei Wu [55:27] Yeah, it is, absolutely.
You know, I get a little nerdy when it comes to this, but the people you’ve mentioned, and the fact that you’ve had a relationship with all these amazing directors, actors, actresses, you’ve learned from all of them! I don’t think that can be overlooked, you know. So I really want to transform this conversation and your ability in learning and telling a story to really influence people beyond just the immediate circle of yours. So thank you so much for your time! I’m really excited as you can tell.
John [56:08] Oh, my God, I miss you so much
Fei Wu [56:12] I miss you too, John!
John [56:20] I think I should end with a song from Air Supply.
I’m lying alone with my head on the phone
Thinking of you till it hurts
I know you hurt too but what else can we do
Tormented and torn apart
I think I’ll stop. Because a friend of mine has said to me once: “John, please don’t ever, ever sing that for an audition because no grown man sits there and thinks of a woman with his head on the phone”. [laughs]
Fei Wu [57:18] Yeah, because you won’t be taken seriously ever again [laughs]. But you know what I think about those cheesy moments. I realized whether in acting or in real life, things you’ve been told to never do are the ones who really set you apart.
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