Playbill kicked off its panels at this year’s New York Comic Con with The Big Broadway Nerd Panel October 6. Bringing Broadway favorites together to discuss the nerdy influences which fill their lives on and off the stage, the panel starred Fergie Auguste Phillipe (Hamilton), Justin Matthew Sargent (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), Jenna Leigh Green (Wicked), and Mason Alexander Park (Hedwig and the Angry Inch).
Check out six of highlights from the panel below to learn about the Phillipe’s love for everything Jim Henson, Sargent’s Spider-Man callback, Green’s thoughts on Elphaba, and Park’s long history with The Sandman.
Fergie Phillipe Thinks Holes Should Be a Broadway Musical
Panelists had a few minutes to develop a pitch for a Broadway show they would like to see take the stage. Phillipe won the crowd with his pitch for a stage musical adaptation of Holes.
“I guess this is cheating, this is a legit pitch I have that I'm working on,” he started off. He then delivered his idea of how to bring the fan favorite to theatre. “Dream casting would be Andrew Barth Feldman or Reeve Carney for Stanley Yelnats, and Stephanie J. Block is the warden. We open, single spotlight center stage, Stanley Yelnats is sitting there about to receive his sentencing for stealing a pair of shoes. In the background, we hear a drumbeat. There’s a long monologue coming from the judge talking about ‘you know, we ought to do all kinds of things to you, boy, for stealing these shoes. You should go to jail. But I'll give you an option.’ And as soon as he says, that we hear [singing in the background] ‘Dig it, oh, oh, dig it.’ [And then the judge continues,] ‘Oh, I could send you to jail, or,’ [singing returns] ‘Dig it, oh, oh, yeah.’ [the judge concludes] ‘Or I can send you to Camp Greenlake.’ Complete stage opens up, he's already at Camp Greenlake getting ready to be shown to his bunk.”
As the audience cheered and his fellow panelists pretended to leave the stage in defeat, Phillipe joked, “The investor meeting will be next door for anybody who wants to invest now, thank you!”
Justin Matthew Sargent Had to Fly for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Callback
“My callback for the role was that they just threw me in the harness and were like, ‘Good luck, buddy.’ And the whole goal was, ‘Don't look dumb while you're doing this, otherwise, you're not getting this job,” Sargent shared. “But, it was very, very, very cool. Until the one time when my clip didn’t go in one side, and I got picked up and spun on my side for a good 40 seconds. They were like, ‘We're gonna hold the stage for a little bit to reset there.’ Other than that, it was really cool, and getting to sing that music…[Bono and the Edge’s] music is so iconic, so deliberately them, and so theatrical, that there's really only one way to do it. You have to kind of do it like they would do it, so that was a really fun challenge to find what that sound was going to be like and tie it all into this world that everybody already knows. You're trying to put this new sound, this new edge, on something that is so familiar to everybody, so that was a lot of fun to get to work on.”
Jenna Leigh Green Sees Wicked’s Elphaba and TV’s Teen Witch Sabrina as Ordinary Girls
“Obviously, Elphaba has some magical powers, and so did Sabrina. But, at the core of them, they're both these real girls who are not necessarily popular, who are not necessarily the coolest, they don't fit in everywhere. I felt that a lot growing up, I didn't quite know exactly where I fit in…I think that Sabrina and Elphaba are both very relatable humans that people can look at and be like, ‘Oh, I felt that. Oh, I see that,’” said Green. “Sabrina and Elphaba have these great qualities that any young person can just look at them and see themselves in them. So, I think that both those shows just really related to adolescents in general.”
Playing The Sandman’s Desire is Particularly Special to Mason Alexander Park
“There is something very special about the world that Neil Gaiman built in 1987, and then 1989, I started coming into the comics, and it's very cool to be able to be a part of something that has been a part of people's lives for a very long time,” Park shared. “I think the way that this show came to life, and was realized, is very unique and singular. And I really like playing that character a lot.”
Fergie Phillipe is a Big Jim Henson Fan
“All of his work is multigenerational, whether that's the texture of the fur and the colors of all of his characters that immediately draws children, or then as we get older, there is obviously a nostalgia factor. But, what has really struck me is that I think sometimes people think in a passing thought about Sesame Street or Muppets, and it's like, ‘oh, that was like a nice childhood thing’—but, there's actually so much more nuance and minutiae to everything that they do.”
“There was such careful consideration when they were making The Muppet Show in London…these were creators who truly cared about crafting, in the way that was not just about an image or an ideal or an idea. It was really about ‘What are we doing here? What can we do with all of this information? And how can we best serve the best show possible?’” Phillipe further explained, “It came from a place of ‘How do I make this the best product that it can be, using this unbelievable talent and skill that I have both within me and around my team?’ And that quality is something that I feel like I'm chasing in my artistic life.”
A Tweet Got Mason Alexander Park the Role of The Sandman’s Desire
As the panel wrapped up its Q&A, Phillipe asked Park how they were cast as Desire in Netflix’s The Sandman. “The 30-second version is that I was filming, or about to start filming, Cowboy Bebop in New Zealand and Neil Gaiman tweeted that they started filming Sandman, day one. And I remembered that I wanted to be in it. It was four in the morning, and I was feeling a little ballsy, I guess is the term. So, I sent him a tweet and asked if Desire had been cast yet and if they would be in the first season, and he got back to me—which was amazing. I just had my agents set up an audition and we did it.”
Read the full-length version of the story here. As Phillipe told the audience, the lesson to learn here is that, “When you want something, ask for it.”