I first interviewed Jose Llana in 2010 when he was starring in the York Theatre's "Falling for Eve." Since that time, he has starred in Frank Wildhorn's "Wonderland" as "El Gato," the Cheshire Cat, and most recently appeared as "President Ferdinand Marcos" in David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim’s "Here Lies Love" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival prior to its World Premier at The Public Theater in Spring 2013.
Currently, Jose is starring in the NYMF production of "Prison Dancer: The Musical" from July 20-28 at The Theater at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). "Prison Dancer" tells the story of the lives of eight Filipino maximum-security prisoners are changed forever when a video of their dance-based rehabilitation program becomes a viral Internet sensation on YouTube. As the dark prison suddenly finds itself in the worldwide spotlight, these hardcore criminals are given a second chance to find love and happiness in the most challenging circumstances. A modern inspired-by-a-true-story about how fears can hold us captive – and dreams can set us free to dance! Click here for tickets!
For more on Jose be sure to visit http://www.josellana.com!
1. Last time we spoke you were starring in "Falling For Eve" at the York and then went on to star in Frank Wildhorn's "Wonderland," both of which I enjoyed! What did you enjoy most about starring in these two productions? The two productions could not be more different in terms of scope and the characters I played. "Falling For Eve" was a very intimate story, the Adam & Eve story, told in a small space at the York Theater. The music was very sweet and it was a joy to play the most innocent version of myself as "Adam." On the other hand "Wonderland" was a huge extravaganza both in music style and character. My Cheshire Cat, "El Gato," was a loud, silly, Latin goofball and I played him for every cheesy moment I could. And Frank Wildhorn's music was made for belting your heart out. Good thing we had the Marquis Theater to fill.
2. You are now going to star in "Prison Dancer" during NYMF. What attracted you to this show? Definitely Filipino pride. Very rarely in my career have I been offered a job written by Filipinos, about Filipinos, starring Filipinos. It's a hugs honor to share the stage with my fellow Filipino theater actors and Romeo and Carmen have written a pretty amazing piece.
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? First and foremost I want them to have a good time. I hope they connect with our story and our characters. I also hope they leave with the impression that there is a wealth of Filipino-American/Canadian talent out there.
4. What do you identify most with about your character "Christian Bagets"? It's hard for me not to think of my cousins in the Philippines when I think of Christian. I have dozens of them and a handful are not that different from Christian. I've been lucky enough to be close with them even though I grew up in the U.S. and I hope to play Christian with the same amount of respect and love I have for them.
5. What excites you most about being part of NYMF? New work. The future of our industry is dependent on how we nurture our young writers and composers and give them opportunities to showcase their talents. It's a thrill to be apart of that.
6. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? My favorite part of the process is in rehearsal when we haven't quite figured everything out. It's when you can actually feel like you're apart of the process in creating something original.
My favorite place to rehearse on my own is in the shower and in the safety of my bedroom. I've learned a lot of music and lines staring at my dresser.
7. I've had the honor to see you in "Flower Drum Song" and "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." What do you like about originating a role as you did in "Spelling Bee" and what do you like about reviving a role that was done previously to make it your own as you did in "Flower Drum Song"? Both have their thrills and set-backs. When you take on a role in a revival you're able to infuse new energy in a role and show that you know already works. You may not be able to play as much outside of the confines of the already written part but you play with a pretty large safety net. In an original piece you can play and have a lot of freedom in terms of exploring a part. But you never know if it's going to work or if the show itself will work. High risk, high reward.
8. What have you learned about from being a performer? I've learned over the years to trust my instincts more. To play more. And to not take everything so seriously. There will always be another show.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Treat people well." by Lou Diamond Phillips. He was my King in my first Broadway show, The King & I in 1996. He was always a gentlemen and very much my older brother in my first professional job at 19. Along with Donna Murphy he led that cast with heart and style - and he knew every single person's name backstage.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My niece and nephew.
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Professor Xavier. How's that for nerd alert?