THOR ALUMNI JAKE CANNAVALE IN LARRY DAVID’S BROADWAY PLAY “FISH IN THE DARK” – read the interview directed at current THOR students
Congratulations to Jake Cannavale, one of the original THOR students, who is making his Broadway debut in Larry David’s first play “Fish In The Dark”, which opens on March 5th at the Cort Theatre! Before this, Jake was best known for his role as Charlie Cruz on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie opposite Edie Falco, as well as being an out of control Heavy Metal frontman for various bands and projects. We sat down with Jake, while the play was in previews, to ask him a few questions about his experience so far, and to offer advice to our current THOR students, enjoy…
1) Can you tell the THOR students how you have prepared for this role, learning your lines, becoming your character, and making sure you are confident with your part in the whole production?
Like performances of any kind, comfortability is key. The easiest way to being comfortable with a part is to filter in as much of yourself as you can. It’s important to remember that the character you are playing doesn’t just appear into existence when he shows up in the script for the first time, and he continues to exist after he has left the play. Based off of what I know about the character (his lines, his interactions/reactions with other characters) I am able to create a back story and a future for my character. I can tell what kind of music he likes, where he likes to go for his meals, even what he looks for in a friend or a girlfriend. The more you can flesh out your character the easier it is to be confident in your performance. Similar to performing songs in THOR, how good you are on stage reflects how well you know the song you’re playing! As for lines, relentless rehearsals will make it pretty much impossible to NOT know your lines! The hard part is not memorization, but expression. It’s very similar to being a frontman at THOR, the lyrics are easy to learn, but what the hell I’m going to do with them has infinite possibilities!
2) Being that the shows haven’t started yet, how are you mentally preparing for 8 performances per week over an extended period of time? In this, what advice can you give THOR students who are preparing for their upcoming show?
8 performances a week from now until mid-July is not a small task. It requires making a huge adjustment to my daily schedule. In order to add such a large new element into my daily life, I find it helps to immerse that element into what you already consider comfortable. For example, I have my battle vest hanging in my dressing room AT ALL TIMES! And I’ve taped up a lot of cut outs from comics and metal magazines on the walls. I find that making my dressing room feel more like home definitely helps make the play feel more natural. To THOR students I would recommend the same thing (not by taping stuff on walls, but if it helps, go ahead!) in the sense that it’s important to find a way to take your given task (learning your songs) and integrate it into your daily life. I remember when I was having trouble learning THOR songs, I would be listening to the song and think “Okay, so that riff plays this amount of times and then I have this many measures before the vocals come in. Got it!” I found that it was so much easier when I started just enjoying the song! Instead of learning while I listened, I would play the song and think “Oh yeah! This is badass! I’d definitely mosh to this!” Once I started enjoying the song as a fan, I found it so much easier (and more fun!) to listen to the song as a musician.
3) How does performing in a Broadway play compare to performing on a rock stage, and/or to performing for a television camera?
Polar opposites! As a metal frontman, I have to be as extroverted as possible. I have to literally yell at and jump into the crowd, make sure there isn’t a moment of hesitation or stillness. As an actor on stage at a theater, I have to pretend that the audience doesn’t exist!!!! As much of a difference as that is, the similarities are definitely present. For example, the one thing that drives both a good actor on the stage and a good musician on the stage is passion. An observant audience member can tell when you don’t want to be there. You can fake it as much you want, but if you don’t have the passion for the craft that you’re presenting to the audience, they will notice it, and you will look like an amateur. Learning your lines or learning your song is not the same as doing your job. Learning your lines or learning your song is what is expected. That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s the easy part. It’s how you choose to express those lines or lyrics or riffs or whatever that displays your passion. Just learning the parts makes you the same as everyone else. **** everyone else! You don’t want to be everyone else!
4) What have the challenges been for you personally in dealing with this level of a production? Has the anticipation of a Larry David play factored in to any of these personal challenges?
I think the biggest challenge was getting out of my own head and trusting my fellow actors. I’m sure you’ve all imagined a song going a certain way and then the reality is completely different. You’ve got to get used to that. Worry about your own and your co-artists will do the same. Trust me, the reality is (usually) better than the dream! In terms of anticipation, obviously I was losing my **** a little bit when I first thought of working alongside Larry David, but as any living legend in any industry will tell you, all they want is you at your best. You wouldn’t have gotten the part or gotten the gig if you weren’t liked for doing what you’ve been doing! I treat Larry like any other actor; with respect, appreciation, and attention. That’s the best way to deal with any artist, no matter their work history.
5) What has been one of the most important things you have learned from working with Larry David or any of the other actors in the play?
Definitely to not play yourself down. You’re only as important or useless as you feel. When we first started rehearsal for the play I was quiet for most of it. Just sit down, shut up, and let Larry David be Larry David and he’ll pull all the strings. **** THAT! I’m playing my part, and he’s playing his part. Just because I’m a rookie doesn’t mean I don’t know my craft! I learned how important it is to speak up when you have an opinion that you think could benefit the play. Same thing goes with a song, if you feel you can contribute to the performance as a whole, you’re doing it a disservice by staying silent! Another important lesson, and this applies to any job in the world, be it an actor in a play, a musician in a band, or even a waiter at a diner! No one hires you just because you’re good. Being good at your job is the bare minimum. If you’re not proactive, if you’re not pleasant to work with, if you’re disrespectful, you can kiss your gig goodbye.
7) Are you still rockin’? Do you currently have a band that you play in?
Indeed I do! I’m currently in a two-piece band (he plays guitar and programs drums, I scream like a madman and weird samples and sound effects), although we don’t play shows do to the fact that we live in different states, but he sends me instrumentals via email, I record my part, and send it back to him. When I’m done with this play in July I’m hoping to take some time off to go to see him and maybe play some shows or at least have our first rehearsal! We’re called Piss, and trust me, it’s fucking brutal!
8) What are your favorite current bands that you listen to?
Oh man, that’s a good question… Well, as Tomato will vouch for me, I can assure you that I am incapable of going 24 hours without listening to Clutch (I actually tweeted at Neil, the lead singer, inviting him to the play…still waiting to hear back…). I’ve also been listening to a lot of Strapping Young Lad, Gojira, Nails, Body Count, Full of Hell, Code Orange…also been getting back into Helmet and Kyuss, who wrote some of the greatest riffs in heavy metal. Period.
9) In closing, what advice can you give the THOR students to help prepare them for their future creative endeavors? What can they be doing now to help them connect to their creative path?
As cliché as it may sound, personality really is key. Never be afraid to be yourself. Never hinder or downplay your own intelligence or creativity, no matter who is in the room. For me, I find being an artist is about exposure. Not exposure as in “I have really amazing headshots and my own website”, but exposure as in openness to who you are. Lay everything on the table for your audiences and your co-artists. Doing anything less is disrespectful to yourself, your co-artists, and the community you want to be a part of. Absorb everything you can from everyone around you, don’t be afraid to add new tricks to your arsenal, and do it shamelessly! And above all else, make sure your passion is leading you everywhere you go.