I’ve been a fan of Robin de Jesús since Camp, nearly 20 years ago.
But de Jesús is more than Camp, he’s built a stellar career with work in television, film and of course, theater where he’s a three-time Tony nominee, earning nods as Featured Actor in a Musical twice (2008’s In the Heights and 2010’s La Cage aux Folles) and Featured Actor in a Play for the 2019 revival of The Boys in the Band.
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, he always loved to sing and would join his family in the Parranda, the Puerto Rican version of caroling, during Christmas and go from house to house wherein that house’s family would then join and go to the next house until the group grew into most of the neighborhood. It gave him the outlet for his voice and also a creative outlet for his family (“they sort of identified as factory workers but at that time of year they were musicians”) and it pushed him through his school years to explore the possibility of making it a career.
After 2003’s Camp, his first feature film, de Jesús landed a career breakthrough, the part of Sonny in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, a relationship that would bear fruit once again with the theatrical feature version of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM!, bringing him full circle back to Miranda, who directs. His performance has earned him Hollywood Critics Association and Satellite nominations for Best Supporting Actor.
Throughout our 30m conversation, we talk about the electrifying response to the film’s world premiere at AFI FEST in November and the actor gets candid about his well being and mental health during the shooting of the film (“I wasn’t choosing the healthiest thoughts”) and how he broke through it to recognize love and blessings in his work and being present in his own life. We talk about his onscreen co-star Andrew Garfield, the depiction of the friendship between a straight man and a gay man on film and what that means on a larger scale.
We also take a look at the state of representation of queer and Latino actors and what representation means to him, the difference between who should play certain roles and who even gets a seat at the table from the ground floor of auditions and casting, what his dream role is and more.
tick, tick…BOOM! is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
This interview runs 33m with intro and music.
Photo: Macall Polay/Netflix