Jérôme, who is currently rehearsing CRIME OF PASSION, agreed to answer a few questions exclusively for the website. He will perform CRIME OF PASSION at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from August 2nd through to August 27th, and then in London for two performances at the New End Theatre. After that he will be back in Paris for the premiere of ROAD MOVIE, a play that he adapted from English and that he will be presenting at the Sudden Theatre as of September 25th.
How did you become involved with the theatre?
I've always wanted to be an actor. That's what I told my father when I was nearing graduation, and he said to me: "OK, you want to do theatre, fine, but you get your bac first". Well, the bac is the final exam, the equivalent of the A-levels in England... So I got my bac first - it was a bac in biology, because I sort of liked biology - but I still wanted to be an actor. I told my father and he said: "Fine, then go to university to study theatre". So I went to la Faculté de Théatre de Censier-Daubanton. I think I went there twice, and that's it! But in the meantime, I was attending the Cours Florent, I did the "Classe Libre" which is a sort of exam, a competition. If you win the competition you get two years of acting class for free. So I did it. I was accepted there and that's when my father said "OK, you can be an actor".
Were you always a performer? Did you perform as a kid?
Yes, I did plays at school when I was a teenager, that's when I started. But even when I was a kid I loved to imagine things, I was always inventing stories on my bed, with the sheets, doing all the roles... I used to love to imitate the female presenters on TV when I was a kid. That used to scare my mother and father!
How did you start professionally?
Well, my first paid job as an actor was doing a very small role in a TV film called "Marcheloup" when I was 19. I hated it. The director was awful with me. He was terrible. I couldn't understand why he was so mean to me, he was really nasty. Maybe it was because of the way I was dealing with people, I don't know. Anyway, it was not a very good experience. After that I did a few roles in TV films as well, a few plays. It was very difficult at first. I did a record, Tendrement, which didn't sell...
Where can we buy it?
Well you can't. It's not in print anymore. You could find it if you went to Paris and you searched at the flea market, or you could go to one of those record stores that sell old records that nobody ever wanted and you might be able to find it there. But otherwise it's not sold anymore.
Did you want to become a singer then?
Yes. There was a time when I hesitated, when I was about 20, I hesitated between acting and singing...
How did you wind up doing musical theatre?
Well, it was quite a long journey because it was difficult for me to make a living as an actor, or a singer. I went to another drama school in Paris that was run by John Strasberg, who is Lee Strasberg's son. That's when I sort of felt... when I was working with him and the woman he was working with as well, who is named Sarah Eigerman... that's when I sort of felt like I was drawn to the English language. So I was struggling as an actor. I was an usher in a cinema, I was trying to make ends meet, it was difficult and then one day a friend of mine told me that she had seen this ad in the paper for an audition for Les Misérables in Paris. I said to her, "Musicals, what's that?" I thought they were sort of tacky, kitsch... She said, "You have to do it" and I said, "OK, well, fine". I had nothing to lose so I went to audition for it. They called me back and gave me the tape of the Les Mis original cast recording and they said, "Do you know it?" and I said, "No, what is it?". They looked at me as if I were mad: "You don't know Les Misérables? Hello?". I said, "No, I don't". Well, they gave me the tape and I listened to it and that's when I actually fell in love with musicals. I thought "My God, that's what I want to do". I was thinking at that time, when I was auditioning, "Well, I will accept whatever they offer, even if it's the ensemble, even if it's being an extra or whatever". But in the end they offered me the role of Marius. That was when I started to make a living as a performer, and it hasn't stopped since.
After that, when I knew that Les Misérables in Paris was not a big success and that they were closing, I really wanted to go to England to keep on doing the show, because I loved it so much. I worked very hard on the English language and on my accent and that's how they auditioned me for Les Misérables. They said it was fine, but that they wanted to audition me for the role of Chris in Miss Saigon, and that's how I ended up in Miss Saigon.
And then you did Napoleon. Being in the original cast of Napoleon, was it difficult to cope with the mixed reviews it received?
Very. It was very difficult. I was expecting a very big, huge success. I really thought that Napoleon, the role, was made for me at that time and I was really right for it. There were many flaws in the whole experience. The reviews said, mostly, that the book was not right. Some of them criticised me quite severely as well, but it was very mixed, a lot of the reviews were very positive for me. I went to Canada thinking that it could make me a big name, but it didn't and I went back to France empty-handed.
Was Martin Guerre the next thing you did?
Yes, the next "big" thing. And again, somehow, that was a disappointment. Boublil and Schönberg had done Les Mis and Miss Saigon and both were huge hits, and everybody was thinking the third one, Martin Guerre, was going to be a huge hit as well. It didn't happen at all. The show was really badly reviewed. And then after that I did Nine, and again it was a huge disappointment because it was a big flop in France. We were expecting it to be big and it didn't do well. I started to think "My God, is it me?" (laughs). But I kept at it because it's my life, so I just kept going. After Nine I decided to go for films and that's also when I decided to do Road Movie and Crime of Passion.
As regards films, why did you choose those roles?
I didn't really choose, they just came about. They were just offered to me. It's funny because people always seem to offer me bad guys.
Are they fun to do?
Bad guys are really fun to do. Because they are interesting, double-sided, different, complex... It's not one-sided, there are always different sides to play with and for an actor it's always more interesting. So obviously bad guys are appealing. But I didn't choose them, they chose me.
How did you come up with the idea of doing Crime of Passion?
I met the author Pierre Philippe when I was doing Nine. He told me he was interested in somehow working with me and we were wondering what we could do. We thought that maybe he could adapt some Sondheim play in French but it didn't lead anywhere. I don't remember when it came about but I knew Crime Passionnel (Crime of Passion) very well because when I was much younger I was a fan of Jean Guidoni and I had bought his recording of Crime Passionnel, the one that was done in 1981 or 1982. I really liked it so when I met Pierre Philippe we sort of talked about it and he said, "Why don't you do it in English?". I thought it was a good idea but I needed to find someone to translate it. I knew Alyssa Landry and I asked her if she wanted to do it. At first she was not sure, she had never done an adaptation and she wasn't sure of the piece because she thought it was completely insane, and mad and really distorted, but she grew into it. She started working on it and suddenly she went completely mad as well, she lost it as well! She told me that when she was actually working on it she had moments when she forgot about time, about herself, she couldn't remember what had happened, and she would wake up with a piece of paper and a lyric and she wouldn't remember when she had actually done it! She became completely obsessed with it! All that was three years ago. We did a demo tape of it, which we sent to England, but nothing happened. And in the meantime I did films and musicals and Jesus Christ Superstar and other things. Recently, I had just finished Whistle Down the Wind, and I was wondering what I was going to do. I knew I wanted to do Road Movie but it didn't seem to be happening somehow and I met with Alyssa and she said, "Why aren't you doing Crime of Passion?" I said, "Oh yes". The following day I phoned my agent in London and in about two weeks, everything was set: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival said yes, it was all going fine and I was doing Crime of Passion.
You are currently rehearsing for the Edinburgh premiere, is that right?
How are the rehearsals going so far?
They're going well. We are trying to assess how we can work. It's an interesting piece, it's a dark piece. The character is very dark, another bad guy, but that seems to be the type of persona that people like to see me in.
What is the show about?
It's a succession of twelve songs and a monologue, and it's about a man exploring the dark corners of his soul after a love affair has gone wrong. It's an exploration of the "after-love", how you feel about love. It's sort of a character who tries to understand what went wrong with him and the person he's loved. It's quite a dark piece. This man on the stage is fantasizing about killing the person he's loved, as you might do when you try to leave the person you've loved, somehow in your head you sort of try to kill him or her, you try to find reasons not to love that person anymore, and in a way it's a way of killing the person, but it's a way of killing yourself as well, and killing love. It's a very dark show, it's about very difficult feelings, like Judas, obviously.
How different is it to perform alone on a stage? Is it more tiring and stressful to be the sole performer?
It's very tiring, it's very stressful, but it's very rewarding and it's very wonderful because you are alone on-stage and, if you succeed and you get it right at the end, people are applauding you, and just you (laughs). So yes, it's very egotistic, it's very selfish, but I've never done it, so I'm very happy to do it.
Due to the type of your character, do you find it more difficult to prepare for this role than your previous roles?
Yes, very difficult, because it goes to very dark places. I find it very difficult.
In general, how do you prepare yourself right before you go on-stage? Do you go through any particular routine or ritual?
I pray, mostly. I run some of my lines and, trying to get into character, I visualise what the character sees. But as a ritual, I pray. I believe in God, and I like to pray.
Right after Crime of Passion, you will return to Paris to rehearse for Road Movie, another one-man show. Why two one-man shows one after the other?
Well, I've been carrying them for three years now. It's funny because I had these two projects after Nine, and every time I was just about to do them, just about to produce them, just about to find the producer to do them, just about to perform them, something else that I couldn't refuse came along, like Jesus Christ Superstar, like films, like other things. And I never had the chance to do them. So this year, I decided this is it, I've had enough of all this, I've got these two projects, I am going to perform them, I am going to bring all this to a completion.
How long did it take you to translate Road Movie into French?
It took exactly two months. While I was working on the translation, I was performing in Martin Guerre and I worked at night. I really loved working on it. I find this type of work very interesting and I am thinking about doing it again in the future.
You performed Road Movie once three years ago. Do you feel the show has changed much in the last three years?
Not really. If it's changed, it's changed because I have changed, I've evolved, I'm probably a better actor than three years ago, so hopefully the show is better than three years ago (laughs).
After performing in so many musicals, how does it feel like to finally be acting in a real play?
I have to say, wonderful!
You do prefer acting to singing then...
Well, that's a difficult question. I believe that I am a better actor than a singer. But, considering reviews I've had, or reactions from fans, funnily I'm right and I'm wrong. Some people actually don't like my voice or don't think I'm a very big singer, which somehow I sort of agree to. I don't have the purest and best voice technically, especially when I was doing Judas which is so high for my voice. On the other hand, I tend to act when I sing and maybe that's what people like about my voice. It's not just a nice sound, or the attempt to make a nice sound, to be technically wonderful and all that. This is not what drives me, I don't really care about producing a beautiful sound. Well, I do care about producing a nice sound but the first thing is to be connected to what I am singing about. That's why I think I'm more an actor than a singer. Now, when I get all these messages from fans saying that I have such musicality in my voice, I am quite amazed, I have to say. And it gives me a great joy to read that. It makes me really reconsider what I thought about myself and well it's nice, it makes me keep going, and I thank everybody who says it.
Back to Road Movie, what is the play about?
It's a love story between two men. It's about Joel who decides to travel through the United States from New York to join his lover, Scott, in San Francisco. So he decides to leave everything in New York and go to live with him. On the journey, he meets different people, women, who will teach him about facts of life. The good thing about Road Movie is that it's five characters played by one actor, two men and three women. It tells about things that are close to my heart, like fighting AIDS, like bereavement, like how you cope with surviving the people you love. It's a very nice play about that, and it's an interesting play that sort of criticizes the American culture in a very witty way.
Is it difficult to perform two character at the same time?
It's difficult but it's pleasurable. It's something I didn't know before I started working on it. It's a bit schizophrenic, it's really different from anything I've done before to go from one character to the other in a split second. It's very pleasurable because you feel in control and at the same time you have to be really humble, you really have to be the characters and efface yourself. For an actor it's fantastic because you just forget about who you are. Maybe that's what an actor wants, I don't know...
Will you be doing a tour of Road Movie in France?
If I can, I would love to do a tour in France. I would love to do three months in Paris. I hope I will. I want to, but it depends on the reactions of the public. If the play is a success, I will. If it's not, I will just do five or six weeks.
And in the UK?
No, I can't. I only have the rights for Road Movie in French, I don't have them in English. And on top of that, I don't think I would be right for it if I was to perform it in English. And it would have to be rewritten, the main character would have to be a Frenchman living in the States or in England. Because you know I still have an accent in English. I do! People recognise that I have an accent and that's fine. It makes me special, I like that.
Do you have definite plans to do any other musicals in the future?
Well, I 'm going to do a new show in France with three other performers besides me on-stage. It's a musical show, a succession of songs. They are original songs, written by Valentine Petit, Roland Petit's daughter, and Richard Galliano who is quite a famous accordionist and composer. We're going to do it at the Forum St Germain in January and February 2002.
Will there be recording of that?
There will be an album, probably. It's going to be recorded at the end of August or in September.
Will it be released before the premiere?
They don't know. I think they are waiting for the reactions. They want to record something for the press, for radios first, and if it goes well then we will record everything and it will be put on an album.
Will you return to London to perform in the West End soon?
I hope so, with something interesting. Well, if Crime of Passion does well I very much hope that it will go to the West End. It might very well. Otherwise, if it doesn't, I would love to do a big musical, but I am waiting for the right one to come along.
Do you have your eye on any other shows? There are a lot of revivals you could do. What musicals would you love to star in?
I would love to do Chess. I think it is a great show... I would love to do Man of La Mancha... But I don't really have a dream. I think roles come along your path. They happen in your life because you are, at that time, right for them. You have to let that happen, and let that go. I would love to play Shakespearian characters, Racine plays, a comedy, a vaudeville, a modern drama... interesting characters...
Any singers or actors you would like to work with in the future, musical or otherwise?
Oh yes, too many. All of them!
Do you have any plans to release a solo album one day?
I did a demo of Crime of Passion which is a bit of a solo album, a concept album. I was thinking that it would be a good idea to just publish it and sell it. So yes, I suppose it's a solo album, but it's a concept album, it sells the character, it's not really me. It's drama.
What about the recording of a selection of songs from your favourite musicals or your own material?
I don't have any plans yet. I would love do one, but I'm not writing at the moment so I don't have that material yet. I don't especially think that I am actually made for that, but you never know. I would love to do an album. It will probably happen in due time, but not yet.
What is your fondest memory working on the JCS video? Do you prefer to perform in a musical on the stage or on the screen?
On the screen, that's what I prefer. It's very rare, it never happens. It's actually a very big opportunity for me to be doing a musical on the screen. Because it so rarely happens. It's a blessing to be able to do that and when I knew that they wanted me to do it on screen I was in heaven. Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar is probably one of the roles I'm most proud of in my career. It was blessed that I was able to do it. And then, when I did it, it was a wonderful experience.
The fondest memory is the moment when we were shooting and everybody was working together and knew that we were all really working to try to achieve something special, and to be part of that was wonderful. It was fantastic when the light designer, director, everybody on the set, all the crew, all the actors were concentrating and trying to tell the story and to work on it, to act it. It was fantastic.
To work with Gale Edwards was incredible. I'm talking about my relationship with her, it was wonderful. It was like we hardly needed to talk about what had to be done. It was as though we had this sort of understanding of the piece and of the role and she just had to tell me little phrases and I would understand. That was the best. I had the best time. Although it was a very difficult time because I was crying all the way through! You had to go inside yourself and dig inside yourself and search for the dark places and the sadness and all this terrible state that Judas was in. But it was wonderful.
What about your relationship with the other actors?
I had never worked with Glenn Carter. I had a very good relationship with him. With Renee as well. I knew some of the people in the smaller roles, a few of them, but basically I didn't know anybody else there. But I had a very good time with them. We worked very closely, they rehearsed us so that we would form a family, so that was easy for us all.
After reading the reviews of JCS from the American press, you must have felt on top of the world?
Oh yes! Because nothing happened in England or hardly, absolutely nothing in France, and in the States it was reviewed all the place and they were good reviews. I was very well reviewed and I thought, "Yes, at last some people are recognising the work we've put into it!" I'm glad of that, it's good. It's a bit of a shame that it doesn't happen in my own country, but what can I say, so it goes...
Do you find the time to surf on the web? Do you often visit your website?
I don't find much time to surf on the web but I sometimes go and visit my website and I love it!
And the forum?
Oh, well! I find the forum very nice (laughs). I'm surprised and thrilled to know that so many people chat and talk about me... But you know it's a forum and it's good to know that through me people meet and get to know each other.
With Whistle Down the Wind, Jesus Christ Superstar, Crime of Passion, Road Movie, this is really your year...
It doesn't feel like it, strangely enough, but yes it is. This year, 2001, is the year when I am doing my own personal shows, that's different from all the other years, that's very special for me. I'm glad, I'm sort of moving on. I am going to do these shows. I hope I am going to do them for a while, if they're successful, and I'd be very happy. And if they're not, I can just be happy to have done them and then move on to other things. These two shows are very important to me, they make me grow, evolve, as an actor and a singer. They are very close to my heart. I really need to do them and let that happen.