Five Burning Questions with Mamma Mia!'s John Hemphill
January 28th, 2015
by Josh Ferri
John Hemphill has a two-thirds chance of being Sophie’s dad in the iconic musical Mamma Mia! You see Hemphill made his Broadway debut back in 2011 as Sam Carmichael, the businessman who broke Donna’s heart, and now he stars as another potential dad, Bill Austin, the lone wolf travel author. BroadwayBox caught up with the actor—whose additional credits include a David Fincher film and guest roles on all kinds of awesome TV dramas—to talk spandex, the Oscar-winning film that changed his life and his zoo-set wedding.
1. As a singer/songwriter, if you were going to write a song about your megamix costume, what would the title be?
I would say “Spandex and Boots, Look How I Scoots.” And then I’d go from there.
2. Do you remember the moment you knew you were going to pursue acting as a career?
I always had a bug, but I decided a little later in life. I went all the way through college as an international studies major/political economics and then I got out of school and it just came to me six months after I graduated. I’ve always been very influenced by film and Good Will Hunting, I’ve got to say, was very impactful. And even beyond the film, the story of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck creating that story and bringing it to life was very inspiring to me. It was a big moment where I thought I could work hard and create art as well. And I actually told my parents during the Oscars because I thought that was going to be the best time to do it. “Look at all these successful people, I can be one too.” And it did soften the blow a little bit. Then I moved to Los Angeles and trained down there.
3. If you had to cast your Raisin in the Sun director Phylicia Rashad as one of the three Mamma Mia! ladies, who is she: Donna, Tanya or Rosie?
Oh, she is for sure a Tanya. She is a queen; she presides. She just has presence coming out of her pores. She’s just marvelous and definitely Tanya.
4. You got married a few months ago. Congrats! Did you play any ABBA at the wedding? What was it like?
You know what? We had our dear friend Michael Hicks play the accordion at our wedding and just before we came down the aisle, he played “Take A Chance.” We had it at a zoo on the deck across from Lemur Island. My wife Jenn—who is in the show with me, she covers all three of the Dynamos—is from Waco, Texas and we had it at the Waco Texas Zoo, which is this beautiful open-air zoo. We fed giraffes after; it was really fun.
Wait, did you guys meet doing the show?
We did. We were friends for a long time. We met on the tour and when we were back in New York at the same time we started dating, and then a week after we started dating, she got the show. So we’ve been in the show together for quite sometime and it’s been really special and really neat.
5. Do you ever have the inkling to play Harry Headbanger and just complete the trifecta?
[Laughs] I would love it. It would be so much fun. I’ve had a blast playing Bill and being able to have a different perspective; I think it would be really fun to play the third. Our Harry right now (Paul DeBoy) is doing a job I couldn’t do, so he’s got it nailed down…but maybe someday I’ll get the chance.
Get yourself over to the Broadhurst Theatre to see John Hemphill in the international smash 'Mamma Mia!'