Five Burning Questions with Come From Away Star Caesar Samayoa
April 5th, 2017
by Josh Ferri
Caesar Samayoa stars as sexetary Kevin J, Muslim chef Ali, and others in the hit Broadway show Come From Away. The original, new musical tells the true story of airline passengers stranded in Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. He previously appeared in Broadway's Sister Act, Hot Feet & The Pee-wee Herman Show and off-Broadway in the Shakespeare in the Park musical Love's Labour's Lost.
BroadwayBox caught up with Caesar to talk about performing Come From Away for the people of Gander, how unique this cast's experience together has become, and how he remains so positive and joyful.
1. What was it like to perform this show in Gander?
Oh my gosh. It is amazing being in New York, but we all say Gander was one of those once in a lifetime experiences that is kind of hard to describe. We had already been developing this show for a good year/year and a half at that point, so we were all very much attached to it. Then all of the sudden, we are in the hockey rink we describe in the show performing it for 5,000 people from that community. All the people we talk about got entrance applause because they are part of that town. It was a rock concert all of the sudden. The moment we started singing ‘I am an islander’, the whole place erupted. They jumped up out of their seats and started screaming. That set the tone as to what was to come for the rest of the concert. It was like being a Newfoundland Beatle.
2. What was the most memorable interaction you had while in Gander?
It was one thing after another really. Meeting our real people completely overwhelmed me—tears streaming down people’s faces. It was so important for us to be there and basically get their permission that we are honoring their community and honoring their story in the right way. The reaction was so beautiful there that we felt like, ‘Ok, we can go on and share this story with the world.’
I have to tell you even going to the coffee shop; I just went up and ordered a coffee, and the gentleman at the counter (who was not portrayed in the show) said, ‘I saw the concert last night. You have no idea how proud we are to be portrayed this way.’ His family owns the coffee shop and they live upstairs. He calls his wife to come down from upstairs and his two daughters, who work in the bakery at the back of the shop, to come to the front. The daughters start crying and I immediately start crying once they start crying. It really puts stuff into perspective how these simple acts can have profound change around the world. It was one of my favorite, favorite interactions in Gander from someone in the community who had nothing to do with a character portrayed in the show. There I was ordering coffee, bawling, hugging this family. They gave me bags of cookies to bring back to everyone in the cast.
3. Speaking of the cast, you all performed this together in La Jolla, Seattle, D.C., Toronto, Gander, and now Broadway. Does it feel different for you than other shows you've done? Is there a bond there from being out of town together so often in this truly ensemble piece?
Absolutely. I have to give credit to our producers and the team of Chris Ashley and Kelly Devine. I have never heard of a show having four productions outside of town, and each step of the way has been a developmental process. This cast, we are like a family now. We really are. By the time we got to New York, we’ve worked so much together that it feels like a resident theatre company. The 12 of us are very different actors and very different from each other, and we know exactly how each other works. There is a complete trust. One of my favorite things about this show is knowing that each of us has our own moment to shine, and then we can sit back and be enthralled by another cast member killing it onstage—doing what you know is some of their best work. Being able to support someone like that and knowing they too have your back every night is really something unique; I’ve never experienced that before in a show. I gush about it because it is that special. It’s one of those once in a lifetime things.
4. Being that one of your Come from Away characters is a master chef, what's your signature dish? We’re coming to Caesar’s for dinner; what are you making?
I love to cook. It’s my go-to thing. If I weren’t in the arts, I’d be a chef somewhere. Throw me some steaks and I’m all about it. One of my favorite things to do is a Sunday gravy—an incredible meat sauce with fresh herbs and all different types of meats cuts. You let it simmer on the stove for hours and hours—almost a whole day—then you have a big communal meal at the end. What I love about cooking is sharing it with as many people as possible.
5. Your presence on social media (Twitter & Instagram) is so positive and joyful. What do you do to recharge and self-care?
My home is so important to me. I like to have a peaceful and calm atmosphere when I get home. I created this calm oasis in the city. Our energy is pulled in so many different directions—especially in a Broadway show. I need to come home and completely unwind. I also practice meditation twice a day every day for years and years and years now, and that has been my calming force. Believe it or not, cooking too. As soon as I start cooking, I go into this awesome Zen zone of food.
Don't miss Caesar Samayoa in "Come From Away" at Broadway's Schoenfeld Theatre.