Francis had the opportunity to chat with actor/singer/theater-wiz, Todd Buonopane. You may know Todd from his role as Jeffrey Weinerslav in 30 Rock or if you're into Broadway, from Cinderella or Chicago.
Interview by Francis Shervinski
Todd thanks again for taking the time to tune in with Punk Out. If you don’t mind, could you give us a little backstory of who you are, what it is that you do, and some of the projects you’ve been part of. How long have you been acting and singing?
You should know that I am answering these questions from my hotel room in Seoul, South Korea. I'm here playing Amos (Mr. Cellophane) in Chicago, the Musical. I'm having the best time here. The Koreans are wonderful people and they LOVE their musicals. Though how they eat all this spicy food is beyond me.
I am an actor/singer. I've been lucky enough to make a career doing what I love. I've been in 4 Broadway shows: Chicago, Cinderella, Grease and ...Spelling Bee. I've also been lucky enough to guest star on some tv shows, like Law & Order, Grey's Anatomy, and recurred as the transgender human resources mediator, Jeffrey Wienerslav, on 30 Rock.
I've been acting since I was 11 years old. That's when I discovered community theater and THEATER CAMP!!! I went to Stagedoor Manor in the Catskills [New York] for 7 summers. Stagedoor gave me a chance to dive head on into my new theatre obsession and it made it so much easier to accept who I was. Many of the directors and choreographers were gay. How many 11 year olds can say they had positive gay role models....in 1989???
If we were able to grab your iPod, what music/bands/singers would we see in the most recently played category? What draws you to these artists? Do you have a favorite musician?
I always get embarrassed about the iPod question. My iPod is full of musicals and lesbian music. So, if you put my iPhone on shuffle, you'd get something like, "If He Walked Into My Life" from MAME, "Least Complicated" by the Indigo Girls, "Hard Candy Christmas" from THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman Occasionally: I'll download a song that normal people listen to. But those are rare. Ain't I cool??
As you know, Punk Out is a nonprofit LGBTQ organization that works to connect musicians with fans. We like to focus on Identity, Inclusion, and Inspiration, otherwise known as the 3 I’s. If you care to share, how do you identify?
I identify as gay. I have been proudly out of the closet since I was 14 years old. I also currently identify as single if anyone is interested!
What does “Community” mean to you?
Community is about finding your herd. Finding people to be witnesses to your life and you a witness to there's. Theater is perfect for forming community. Each show I do brings a new "family" into my life. I'm lucky to have found other communities to belong to. I've formed great communities through my work with the Obama presidential campaigns, my work with the New York Civil Liberties Union, and just from being gay and in New York. I do wish the LGBTQs in NYC had a stronger sense of community. The further the movement goes, the less we seem to need each other. If you see me at a gay bar or on Fire Island, let's chat. We don't have to want to fuck each other to talk in a gay bar. But again, I am single, so if you're interested in fucking...
What inspired you to be an actor/musician? What is it now that inspires you?
Theater changed me. I was a smart, outgoing, sweet, but terribly unatheletic kid. Theater gave me a purpose. I wanted to see as much as I could. I wanted to do as many plays as I could. Whenever I'm doing 8 shows a week and I get tired, I imagine a 12 year old chubby, gay kid (like I was) sitting in the audience. The opportunity to inspire someone and change their life gives you the energy to get through anything. Also, musicals have always been at the forefront of inclusion. In 1927, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein taught us beautiful lessons about race relations and mixed-raced people in SHOW BOAT. Rodgers & Hammerstein often dealt with racial issues in shows like SOUTH PACIFIC and THE KING AND I. Gay characters were appearing as main characters in musicals (well before they were on tv and in the movies) in shows like LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and FALSETTOS. Even this year's Tony Award winner for Best Musical, FUN HOME is a beautiful story of a lesbian growing up with a closeted father. Everyone has a place in theater.
How do you feel about inclusiveness or lack of inclusiveness in the music/entertainment world when it comes to LGBTQ artists/musicians? Are there any pressing issues that you think should be addressed?
Luckily, we got every type of person in theater. No one cares who you love or who you sleep with. I do think that mainstream music and film and TV could use a good kick in the pants in terms of inclusiveness. I know it's scary, but we gotta COME OUT! There are far too many closeted people in Hollywood.
Lastly, are there any songs out there that you feel are a self-expression of yourself?
Song that are an expression of me???? That's tough. I really don't know, so let's just say Irene Cara singing "What A Feeling (theme from FLASHDANCE)" How I feel on a daily basis!
Todd Buonopane is an actor, singer, and theater performer. He's best known for his roles on Broadway and for being on 30 Rock. He is currently performing in Chicago in South Korea. For those who are interested, Todd is single.
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed on our Artist Corner are exclusively of the author or interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of Punk Out as an organization. If you're a musician or an industry insider and would like to participate in our Artist Corner, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.