Five Burning Questions with Holler If Ya Hear Me Star Ben Thompson
Rising star Ben Thompson can do it all, from the hammer-wielding Miss Trunchbull to the guitar-strumming Griffy. (But then again anyone who paid close attention in Broadway’s American Idiot and off-Broadway’s Rent probably had that figured out already.) In the new Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, Thompson plays Griffy—the outsider on the block who keeps his head down and his thoughts on a souped-up ride that will take him to California. Below, BroadwayBox chats with Thompson about his guitar skill, the power of Tupac’s lyrics and memorable stage door encounters.
1. If you were going to have a Tupac lyric tattooed on your body, which one resonates enough with you for the honor?
The one Saul [Williams] says at the end of the show, “If you take the time to hear me, maybe you can learn to cheer me.” That’s our whole show wrapped up in one little line. And after that even more so, “It ain’t about black or white, cause we’re human. I hope we see the light before it's ruined.” That affects us on so many levels, so probably that—although it’s a lot to get tattooed across your chest. [Laughs.]
2. What’s the best thing you've heard at the stage door so far after Holler?
It’s people who have had no idea what to expect, or having all their expectations blown out of the water. Someone the other night said, “I didn't think I was going to like it at all and I came in closed off about it, but I ended up loving the show and the message behind it.” We change people’s mind with this show, and how often do we get to do that in theatre? It’s totally new. A friend came the other night and said, “I’ve never been told that story on Broadway before.”
3. I’ve seen you in such rockin’ new musicals (American Idiot, Carrie, Rent, Matilda), but what classic musical do you want to do sometime? And perform in with your wife, actress Kat Nejat?
That’s so hard! We have so many; I would love any opportunity to perform opposite her. We met doing Joseph, and we were completely platonic until after the show— just best friends. But we haven’t done a show since then. I’ll go with Tony and Maria in West Side Story. (She’s the only woman to ever play both Anita and Maria on Broadway.)
4. You’re a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma. What’s the most Midwest/country thing about you?
I love flat, open spaces, and I listen to a lot of country music. Or the accent…When I get tired people say, “Wow, you are from Oklahoma.”
5. If we go to the Ben Thompson solo show at 54 Below or Madison Square Garden and you come on for the encore with your guitar, what cover song are you playing for us?
My wife loves this James Morrison song “Better Man,” and any encore I would have to do for my wife. She’s my rock. She’s 100% why I’ve been able to achieve one Broadway show, let alone three.
See Ben Thompson’s guitar skills for yourself in ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’ at Broadway’s legendary Palace Theatre.