Two-Time Tony Nominee Robin De Jesus Recalls The Night at the Theatre That Changed His Life
June 12th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Two-time Tony nominee Robin De Jesus is going back, back to school again in Paper Mill Playhouse’s acclaimed production of Grease. De Jesus co-stars as T-Bird Doody in the iconic musical.
De Jesus first caught our attention back in 2003 with that fro giving drag moments in the movie-musical Camp.
Then he became a big bonafide Broadway star thanks to his featured role as Sonny in the Tony-winning musical In the Heights #TonyNomination #DrunkChitaRivera.
Soon De Jesus scored a second Tony-nominated in the Tony-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles. See the pattern there producers? Robin = Tony.
So BroadwayBox caught up with the super charming and hilarious Grease star to chat about the game changer (expecting to hear about Camp or Lin-Manuel or something). But for De Jesus, the game changing moment in his career happened 10 years ago after slamming down the iron at Caroline, Or Change.
The game changer for me was when I saw Caroline, or Change. I was sort of in the dumps; I was waiting tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and I wasn't happy with my career [this is post-Camp]. I wasn’t sure if I should go to school or not and I was fairly broke, and one Monday night I was walking through Times Square looking for something to do and I went and got a ticket to Caroline, or Change.
It was one of the rare times I didn't know anything about the show—usually I was online learning about it. I went into the theatre and sat down and I watched the show, and it felt like a pulse I was moving to. And little by little, the show got to me. By the end of act one, I was a bawling mess. Then, I became fully obsessed with the show, looking up information on the creative team and producers, everything. And one of the things that came up was one of the producers said she didn't think the show was going to be success on Broadway but she thought the piece was so important and relevant that it needed to be produced, because people needed to see it on a bigger scale.
And in that moment I thought, ‘Oh. That’s the kind of work I want to do—shit that matters and is important. Stuff that is bigger than us in many ways.’ At that time, I felt like I was a servant to whoever was going to give me a job, and that moment I realized I have the right to say no; I don't have to do everything and anything. It was a really empowering moment, and I began to make smarter decisions. Everything was vague before, but now I knew what I wanted. I dropped my agents that I wasn't happy with; I got a new agent that kicked ass and has gotten me everything since. And it’s all because that show just made me feel that you can do this career and do it nobly.”