Off Script: 'Jane the Virgin' Actor Jaime Camil Makes Broadway History in 'Chicago' (Q&A)
The Latin star tells THR how Rogelio de la Vega would evaluate his onstage performance: "He'd think it's shit."
Eleven years ago, Jaime Camil nearly made his Broadway debut in The Mambo Kings — that is, until producers pulled the plug on the splashy musical adaptation just weeks before previews were to begin.
"I love the stage — the fact that you only have one take to get it right, the interaction with the audience, and how every show is different even though you're doing the same thing," the Jane the Virgin actor, who has led musicals in Mexico City, including West Side Story, Hook and Aladdin, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "One of my dreams has always been to be in a Broadway musical."
Well, Camil is currently getting all that jazz by starring in Chicago through July 31 at the Ambassador Theatre. But come Monday night, the Latin star will make history: for the first time, two Mexican-born actors will lead a Broadway musical, as he plays Billy Flynn opposite Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart.
Camil, 42, goes Off Script with THR about crossing over to the Great White Way, adding a Spanish line to the script, and guessing how Rogelio de la Vega would evaluate his onstage performance: "He'd think it's shit."
What do you admire most about Chicago and Billy Flynn?
Chicago is amazing because there's no special effects or explosions. It's just a group of talented human beings doing amazing things. Billy Flynn is a character who manipulates these people like puppets. Everything happens because of him; it's not a matter of if he's going to win a case, it's a matter of when. I love that he's the mastermind behind everything that happens. He's a fun character to play.
In "All I Care About," you throw in a line in Spanish.
That was the stage manager's idea! When Eddie George was in this, he did his signature touchdown dance in "Razzle Dazzle." So when the girls are fondling me behind their feathers, I say in Spanish, "Oh please, stop it — you know I like it!" It works nicely for the Spanish-speaking fans who come to the show."
Jaime Camil in 'Chicago.' Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel
What have you given up for this role?
Family. When I was here for the twenty-something days of rehearsal, I was here by myself; it was the first time I've been away from my kids for so many days. I was in the Hotel Americano in Chelsea, but now I'm in a three-bedroom apartment with my family, and they're staying with me throughout my run. Now I'm complete; now I can function.
What's a new habit you've adopted?
Thanks to my dance captain, David Bushman, I have to go to Bibble & Sip two blocks away from the theater before the show and get my iced matcha jasmine latte and a chocolate chip cookie to get my energy up, especially when we have matinee and evening shows.
What time do you wake up on a show day?
My daughter, who is almost five, is going to summer school here in New York. The first two days, I woke up with my family to drop her off at school at 9 a.m., and my voice wasn't that strong during the shows. I told my wife I needed to sleep in a little longer, and that's been working. My wife, Heidi, is a sweetheart. I wake up at 9:30 and it makes a difference. Then I go to the gym and pick up my daughter from school.
When do you have dinner?
It's more like a Mexican lunch: in Mexico, we have breakfast at 10 a.m., lunch at 3 p.m. and dinner at 8:30 or 9 p.m.. I try to sit down in a restaurant no later than 3 for a good and substantial meal, and then I have a light salad after the show.
What do you do on your day off?
Things with my family. We've been going to the Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim, the Children's Museum, Bryant Park, Central Park. When you have kids, all your plans, everything that you do is for them to have fun.
Favorite backstage guest so far?
Emilio and Gloria Estefan are dear friends of mine, and they came to the show without telling me beforehand. That was a surprise. And Brock O'Hurn — that extremely good looking model who has the best man bun — we work out at the same gym in Los Angeles. He's a super cool dude, and everyone loved him backstage. You're welcome, guys!
Best stage door reaction so far?
One Mexican guy told me, "Have you noticed that at your stage door, it's 80 percent American and 20 percent Latinos?" Meaning, having both markets from my 20-year career in Mexico and also Jane the Virgin. It's been the best of both worlds.
What's something special in your dressing room?
Cards from my fellow cast members, managers and agents and my Jane the Virgin showrunner, plus a drawing from my daughter.
What's your toughest number?
"We Both Reached for the Gun" is the most fun. The one I wasn't too sure about was "Razzle Dazzle." I had trouble remembering the lyrics, so I just made myself learn it and performed it like a robot. But I've started to really enjoy the attitude and the storytelling of that one, because that's what Chicago really is about.
Jaime Camil in 'Chicago.' Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel
How would your Jane the Virgin character, Rogelio de la Vega, react to your performance of Billy Flynn?
Oh, he'd think it's shit. Yeah, I'm kind of doing a good job, but I would never do it like he would. I would never reach Rogelio's standards — ever — because he is the greatest actor in the world.
If you were to play Rogelio de la Vega playing Billy Flynn, what would do differently?
For starters, that flower and handkerchief and bow tie wouldn't be white, they'd all be lavender!