Saturday, May 28, 2011
Quite A Year: Jonathan D. Lovitz
Above: Jonathan by Kevin Thomas Garcia.
About two years ago I was doing some research on an actor when I came across some shots of Jonathan D. Lovitz. There are times when I see someone when I know instantly there is something special, a quality, that makes them stand out. That was certainly the case with Jonathan. I am of course not alone in seeing that star quality. This past year has been a busy one for Jonathan, a year when all of his hard work has led to greater exposure and opportunities the talented actor richly deserves.
Below Jonathan generously shares with FH the crazy excitement of the last year, what led up to it and where he hopes it takes him!
-NickName: you were every given J-Love
-Pet you had as a kid: Never one as a kid, but I’m obsessed with my French Bulldog, Potato, that I have now!
-Sport: College football (GO GATORS!)
-Tv show: The West Wing (I watch the dvd’s on repeat all the time)
-Tv show you watch but are embarrassed to admit: Toddlers and Tiaras (it’s incredible!)
-Movie: The First Wives Club
-Actress: Bette Midler
-Actor: Stephen Fry
-Cartoon Character: Mickey Mouse (I still sleep with the same one I’ve had since I was 6)
-Halloween costume you wore as a kid: The Phantom of the Opera (I still have that mask in a box somewhere)
-Singer: Audra McDonald
-Food: Pizza (I’ve never met a slice I didn’t like)
-Restaurant: Churrascaria Plataforma (a never-ending meat parade)
-Drink: Absolut Wild Tea and Diet
-Modeling photo of you: My ‘Tom Ford’ shot (white shirt and jeans)
-Photographer: Thomas Synnamon
-Subject in School: History and English (still my favorite things to read about)
-Celebrity you think you most look like: Ricky Ullman (look it up, it’s scary)
-First Celebrity Crush: It’s a tie: Brian Austin Green and Lance Bass (slurp!)
-Moment in High School: Winning the Silver Knight Award (a huge deal in south FL—a big scholarship and lots of press)
Above: Jonathan by Thomas Synnamon.
FH: Do you remember at what point as a boy you knew you wanted to be a performer?
Ask me and I’ll tell you that it wasn’t until high school when I really got the bug. Ask my parents and they’ll probably say I was demanding all the attention in the room from beginning. I owe everything I am now to a love of theatre instilled in me by parents who took me to touring shows as early as I can remember, but most importantly it was a trip to NYC when I was ten that introduced me to “The Phantom of the Opera.” It may not be the most sophisticated show ever written, but it did something magical to me at a young age that has still never left me. In fact, every time I book a show I get myself a seat at the Majestic theatre and see the show, just to say “thanks.”
FH: Given the energy you exude as an adult it is easy to imagine you as a creative and precocious youngster. Did it ever get you into trouble?
Oh if you could only see my grin right now! Honestly, there are quite a few videos of my sisters’ talent shows that feature a precocious five-year-old Jonathan kicking them out of center stage to perform a song—or ten.
FH: Where does your positive vibe stem from?
Happiness and positivity is a choice. I much prefer a life lived in brilliant Technicolor than black and white.
FH: Do you remember the first time you were on stage, without another cast member with the attention focused just on you?
Oh yes, and I was so lucky it happened to me young and very early in my career. The connection between an audience and an actor is electric, palpable. I had one taste in my first show in high school and was hooked for life.
FH: When you decided to move your dreams of being a performer into reality by focusing on musical theatre at the University of Florida were your family supportive?
I’m the product of a very special public school theatre program in south Florida as well as the amazing StageDoor Manor, the training center for young actors made famous in the delicious 90’s musical film, “Camp”. It wasn’t easy being a die-hard theatre geek and die-hard nerd at the same time, but I managed to pull-off an insane academic workload and school productions on very little sleep. None of that would have mattered without my incredibly supportive family behind me from the start.
I trained at the University of Florida, graduating in 2006 with a summa cum laude degree in Musical Theatre. Every summer in college I would go off to summer stocks, sharpening my skills alongside other young actors and brilliant master actors who taught me the importance of craft and appreciating that success as actor means working, not stardom. A lesson I treasure to this day.
FH: When I studied theatre at University there were opportunities with showcases and productions to play a variety of roles. Curious what productions you were in during this time.
While at UF I got to be a part of some of the most special productions of my careers thus far and at the top of that list are playing Alan in Equus, Oberon in an international touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and at least a dozen characters in The Laramie Project. I recently made a list of all of the shows I’ve done and realized that I did nearly 20 shows in four years of college.
Above: Jonathan on stage in Tampa in ALTAR BOYZ
FH: After graduation you spent a few years touring the US in productions of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar. The road can be fun but also very gruelling, can you share any stories from the road.
I was one of those kids who thought I was going to graduate college and literally watch myself fall off a cliff since I didn’t think I had any work lined up. Then, the phone call came that mere weeks after graduating I would be joining the national tour of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” What an incredible adventure for a young guy just out of college: being paid to see 49 states and sing-and-dance in a show I’ve loved since I was a kid! While there are plenty of juice anecdotes the highlight of my years on the road would be seeing the diversity of gay life across the US and Canada. So many incredible guys living such amazing lives, all-the-while thinking they’re all alone in their little town. We are so spoiled living in big cities.
Years of touring with ‘Joseph’ and then ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, as well as several major regional theatres have brought me to NYC where I am now represented by an amazing agency and working on national television. It’s been quite the journey since I first memorized ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on my walkman in south Florida.
Above: Jonathan by cnq photography.
FH: How did you decided to make the move to New York.
I knew that to take the big leap in my career that I wanted, New York was the ONLY answer. I joined Actors’ Equity, the union of professional stage actors, from a summer theatre just before moving there and knew this would be MY TIME to shine!
FH: I am always curious to find out what the move to NYC was like. Scary, exciting?
I was so lucky to have gone to NYC so many times as a kid, and to have had weeks of living there on my own during tour rehearsals so it didn’t scare me nearly as badly as I thought it would. I got my first apartment, which I still live in today, in the heart of the theatre district so I feel like I am in the center of the universe all the time. It’s a constant inspiration!
Above: Jonathan by cnq photography.
FH: What was your first job in NYC?
I wish I had a glamorous answer like ‘days after moving to NYC I was shooting my first movie and rehearsing my first Broadway show’ but like so many others I began bartending. It was great work and let me keep my days free to focus on what really mattered: working as an actor. I didn’t do it for long, but I met some amazing people along the way.
FH: Broadway Bares is always a highlight of the year. You have been involved in many memorable performances including working with Vanessa Williams last year, what have been your favourite moments from the show?
It’s one thing to be surrounded by Broadway’s finest (and I mean FINEST) dancers doing what we love to do for our favorite cause, but when the celebrities come and donate their talents and fame to the event—it’s electric! I cannot believe that my very first time in Broadway Bares was in the highly coveted opening number and grinding up and down the fabulous (and ageless) legs of Vanessa Williams. My father has loved her for decades, so I definitely made him proud that night--- stripping down to a jockstrap and fuzzy dice: maybe didn’t make him so proud. I, however, couldn’t have been more elated to be a part of the first time Broadway Bares has ever raised $1 Million! What an honor!!
Above: Jonathan by the great David Arnot.
FH: Your currently on Logo’s Set Up squad. Many of us could have used the help of a wingman. Have you ever played that role in real life?
Oh yes! I feel like I’ve been playing this role my entire life. When Renee (our boss) was looking to expand her business and hire a team of wingmen to help her clients, I knew I’d be a perfect fit. I’m the perfect mix of friendly younger brother and tough-love drill sergeant. I know what it takes to get you to the top of your dating game and bring your inner sexy back.
FH:Dating is tough enough, let alone in NY, given you have travelled around the country, are there particular challenges with NY dating?
NYC is a bullshit-free zone and no one has time for games. Living conditions in the city are cramped and hectic, and no one is here just for fun—we live in NYC to make the most of our careers and then take those fabulous lines on our resume’ elsewhere. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of free time for finding love in the concrete jungle. However, for those brave souls that find the time to date in this city they do not want their time wasted. Everyone in NYC is moving at full-steam-ahead in their careers and social lives, so be prepared to keep up or you’d better try dating in a far less fast-paced city.
FH: What is the best advice you have given to someone in your role as wingman on the show?
Two words: BE YOURSELF! Don’t try to give the person you’re dating the man you think they think they want! A relationship built on honest connections, not pickup lines and tried-and-tested talking points, will be the one that lasts. We all want to fall in love with our best friend, so start from a place of friendship and respect and you’ll be waking up at their place in no time.
FH: Is there a celebrity, maybe who has struggled with relationships who you think could benefit from appearing on Set Up squad?
Give me a 12-pack of RedBull and I’ll consider Jennifer Aniston. If I’m smart I’ll treat her like an airline and charge her for all the extra baggage she’ll bring alone.
Above: Jonathan by Bobby Araujo Photography.
FH: If you were given the chance to join a prime time show currently on television what show would it be and who would you play?
I’m so rarely home at night these days so I am months behind on my TV viewing, but the little I have seen of GLEE really excites me. No matter how much tv and film I do, I will always be a theatre boy through-and-through. Seeing so many young people get excited about performing live because of that show is incredibly moving. I’d love to play an alumni of the school who comes back and starts some fun drama with Matt Morrison (yum!). I’m also a huge history nerd, so maybe a guest spot on the Borgias (which is my favorite late-night guilty pleasure show).
Above: Jonathan by Bobby Araujo Photography.
FH: Was there a particular moment, or a particular performance that had an impact on you as either a person or performance?
When I was on tour just after college, we did a lot of talk-backs and masterclasses with local high school in the cities we played. Seeing the bright, eager faces of those young performers who wanted to be on that stage so badly will always stay with me. When the road was rough and I was at my wit’s end with tour life, I remember that there is some young person in the audience seeing their very first Broadway musical and their life will never be the same again. The Phantom of the Opera cast did that for me when I was 10, and I am truly blessed to get to do that for others.
Also, now that Setup Squad is all over the airwaves and online, I receive so many incredible notes from fans saying how the show gives them hope and courage to come out and actually pursue relationships. I try to post as many of those to my Facebook and Twitter pages to let people know how much those messages mean to me and with the hope that others will read them and feel inspired to follow their heart.
Above: Jonathan by Jason T. Jaskot.
FH: In March you made national and international news for telling a judge you could not be an impartial juror given as a gay man your regarded as a second class citizen given you are not legally able to marry. Do you remember what went through your head after you uttered the words? I can only imagine the faces of those in the room.
That day started out like any other: coffee, gym, and Facebook. The last thing I expected to do that day was to become, as OUT Magazine has dubbed me, an “Accidental Advocate”. As a political junkie, I was so excited to serve my first time as a juror and be a part of the system at work. I thought this would be a fun , a chance to see “Law and Order” in action rather than on my couch with take-out food. I had no idea that within a week my life would change and I’d add ‘gay rights advocate’ to my list of career titles right along with actor, model, and singer. I’ve said from the first minute that this happened that we have our civic responsibilities and we should never look to get out of them, but it’s up to us to say how we feel when asked and we don’t have to do it quietly. Hopefully, I was able to get one person in the courtroom to think differently.
When you arrive at the courthouse, you have to sit through this Hallmark-meets-Department of Homeland Security video about how lucky you are to be a juror and how honored you should feel to be a free American in the best legal system in the world. I was so onboard with being a juror until I saw that. When I was summoned to the juror questioning room with 30 other strangers we were told the generalities of the case. After that we were asked who, based upon what we heard, would harbor reservations or lack impartiality. That’s when I made the statement that has changed my life. This was the ultimate example of going with your gut. I never set out to be an activist. Like I said on MSNBC, I’m just a young gay man who saw some inequality in the state and nation and said what was in my heart when I was asked for total candor by the judge. I sat for two full days of juror questioning, and when it was my turn, I simply answered, 'I can’t possibly be an impartial judge of a citizen when I am considered a second class one in the eyes of this justice system.’
Above: Jonathan by T.M. Hitchcock
FH: What was the best feedback you received?
The positive response has been overwhelming. I’ve received over 400 emails and calls from friends and complete strangers from every corner of the world thanking me for my stand. Some might say that a courtroom isn’t the ideal setting for making a fuss, but to them I say: There’s no such thing as a wrong place to speak out for equality. I don’t think I was aware of just how essential it is for each of us to speak up, and to do so now. What has really touched me are the notes from small-town America: gay men and women who live lives of quiet desperation believing that they are so completely alone where they live and that no one has their back until they hear or read storied like what I did. Also, hearing from people in other countries where gay rights are so far ahead of the US and how they can believe how such a superpower is in the dark ages when it comes to human rights has meant so much. I hope that the feedback I received is also being emailed to our leaders so they see how desperately the people want change.
FH: Given the reaction, did it give you any thoughts of entering politics?
Very much so! I’ve always dreamed of a political career, but now I am really enjoying my role as an advocate and speaker for the causes of equality, marriage rights, and creating safe zones for gay youth and college students.
Above: California Dreaming!
FH: You just got back from a whirlwind trip to California for the NewNextNowAwards. What was that like, the pics make it look like an amazing night!
The NewNowNext Awards were unreal! It was my first time to LA and being treated like a star was one heck of an introduction to Hollywood! To think that this time a year ago I was doing a little theatre and a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet, and now here I am doing red carpet interviews and toasting drinks with Adam Lambert, Tabitha Coffey, and James VanDerBeek—WOW! It’s such a neat idea for an award show—treating it like a giant cocktail party where all the celebs sit together on big leather sofas and sip cocktails while a fabulous show and concert happens in front of them. It was so intimate and yet so incredibly wild.
It didn’t feel real, and I kept asking Helen (from my show) and my date, TJ Kelly (from A-List NY) to pinch me. They kept saying, “You earned this. You deserve to be here.” I was tingling all night. When I saw the awards on TV the following week they kept showing me dancing in the aisles during the performances. The room was SO alive. I cannot wait for the next one!!!
Above: With Jonathan with Adam Labert and SetUp Squads Lauretta Nkwocha-Hannigan.
FH: Although I know you love NY did you catch any California Fever?
I did! I’m seriously considering become bi-coastal. I dream about pilot season and booking my first movie every night. It would be incredible to have the career of one of my heroes like Allison Janney or Ethan Hawke who make such incredible films and tv show and then come to New York to do some truly fabulous theatre whenever they feel the need for some inspiration.
Above: With Allison Janney at Broadway Bares 19.0
FH: What is next for Jonathan D Lovitz, besides Set Up squad, any stage or screen appearances on the horizon?
I feel like every day of this journey on tv and on stage is such a blessing and I never want to take a moment of it for granted. I hope and pray that there is a lot more performing on the horizon but I am also embracing my new-found role as advocate and spokesperson for the causes that mean the most to me. I want to be one of those actors who uses the gift of being the public eye to help as many people as possible. I hope this is only the beginning!
Thank you Jonathan!
If you need more of a Jonathan Fix check out the links below!
Jonathan D. Lovitz Official Site:
Jonathan on Facebook!
Jonathan on FH: