The Outsiders' Brody Grant and Sky Lakota-Lynch Are This Generation's Ponyboy and Johnny | Playbill

Special Features The Outsiders' Brody Grant and Sky Lakota-Lynch Are This Generation's Ponyboy and Johnny

The duo is bringing fresh perspective to the boyhood bond at the center of S.E. Hinton's story, now a new Broadway musical.

Brody Grant and Sky Lakota-Lynch

There is something foundational about the formative stories of youth. Shared narratives, ranging from schoolyard nursery rhymes to dominant pop culture programs, shape the way generations communicate, offering artistic middle ground from which shared understanding can be planted.

The Outsiders, written by S. E. Hinton in 1967, is a formative text for much of America’s youth: a commonly selected piece of required reading for students in the public education system, the work continues to sell more than half a million copies every year, worming its way into the hearts and minds of countless readers.

Adapted into a beloved Francis Ford Coppola film in 1983, the deeply rooted story has now come to Broadway, officially opening at the Jacobs Theatre April 11. For two of the musical’s stars, Brody Grant and Sky Lakota-Lynch, it feels like destiny to bring the story to the stage.

“I have dyslexia, and The Outsiders was the first time I completed a book as a kid,” Lakota-Lynch shares, laughing to himself. “I guess you could say she tricked us. My teacher showed the movie first, and then gave me the book to learn more: I just had to know more about these characters!”

Grant nods his head in furious agreement. “It was the first book that I ever finished that was a proper novel.” While the story was not a part of his assigned school reading, his mother gave it to him at 14. “She was a huge fan of the novel, and the movie was her everything growing up.”

Brody Grant Heather Gershonowitz

The story of Ponyboy Curtis (played by Grant), Johnny Cade (played by Lakota-Lynch), and the rest of the Greaser gang immediately embedded itself within the heart of both actors. As Grant puts it, “it was the first book that I read and felt a kinship and attachment to. I understood what that household was like. When I cracked that book open for the first time, it was one of those moments where the universe said, ‘You're gonna remember this.’ It was a spiritual thing.”

Centering on the 14-year-old Ponyboy, The Outsiders explores the conflict between the working-class Greasers and their rival wealthy gang, the Socs. When Ponyboy and his best friend Johnny find themselves cornered, they are forced to run away, growing up in the blink of an eye as the pressure to survive threatens to crush their spirit.

“I actually played Sodapop first,” Grant shares, referring to Ponyboy’s happy-go-lucky older brother. “I played him for the full six-week workshop, which was a lot of fun. But by the end, it was clear that I resonated a lot more with Ponyboy. I've always been kind of in the middle: I've never been the most athletic. I've never been the most academic. Growing up artistic in a small Georgia town, I was on the outside of what I was supposed to be.” Grant takes a moment, carefully considering his next words. “I find solace with other people who can’t fit into the thing that is expected of them.”

Sky Lakota-Lynch Heather Gershonowitz

While Ponyboy is the protagonist of the first-person novel, Johnny has become a figure of fascinated analysis since first being committed to pen and ink. Shy on the surface, his fierce loyalty to Ponyboy and their found family of Greasers is arresting, as is his relentless optimism in the face of near-constant abuse. Possessing a glimmering heart and a strong sense of right and wrong, it is the tenderhearted Johnny that quotes perhaps the most famous line in the original novel and its subsequent film: “Stay Gold,” inspired by Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay (which is now a moving song in the Broadway show).

“Johnny is The Outsiders’ outsider,” Lakota-Lynch explains, before laying out the foundation of the character he has been developing for the better part of six years. Inspired by a classmate of Hinton’s, Johnny’s home life and racial identity have been debated by students and scholars alike across the decades. A slight boy with sad eyes and a nervous streak, his abusive home life drives him to instead find a loving community with the Greasers. Described in the book as visually distinctive from the rest of the group due to his tanned skin, jet black hair, and large dark eyes, adaptations of the novel have previously sidestepped the question of Johnny’s race.

The musical is pulling no such punches. Johnny is now one of the painfully few intentionally Indigenous leading Broadway roles. A Haliwa-Saponi Native American, Lakota-Lynch has put great care into representing Johnny as an individual who exists onstage without his ancestry subsuming the whole of his identity.

Video: See Joshua Boone Perform 'Little Brother' From The Outsiders

“I specifically relate to Johnny as a mixed person,” Lakota-Lynch shares, leaning forward as Grant turns to place a hand on the back of his chair. “Being half Black and half Native American truly makes you the outsider. You're not Native American to the Native Americans. You're not Black to the Blacks. So where does Johnny belong?” He shakes his head, momentarily taking on Johnny’s dejected posture before Grant kicks the side of his chair, summoning a quick smile and straightened spine from Lakota-Lynch. “I'm honored that I get to play someone as heroic as Johnny, and that I don't have to necessarily lean on my race. I just get to be my race, and everything that comes with it, without falling into some stereotype.”

Brody Grant and Sky Lakota-Lynch Heather Gershonowitz

The camaraderie between Lakota-Lynch and Grant is heartening to observe. The pair move together like polarized magnets, finishing each other's trains of thought with the natural hallmark of true intellectual synchronicity. When either turns introspective, the other is almost immediately within reach to present a comforting hand, smile, or shove to the shoulder.

“It's one of those relationships where you can kind of read the other person's mind,” Grant confesses, laughing as Lakota-Lynch buries his blushing face in his hands. “Sometimes, you don't need language. We just kind of feel each other's soul in essence.”

That essential friendship, which is depicted within The Outsiders as bordering on a soul connection, is the fertile soil from which Grant and Lakota-Lynch’s Ponyboy and Johnny have sprung.

“This story is beloved by people who have been reading it since 1967, but there are still so many new opportunities in the show to really see these characters that we've known for so long,” Grant shares, his hand firmly planted on Lakota-Lynch’s shoulder. “When I last saw [Hinton], she told me that when people say she changed their life, she responds with, ‘It’s the message, not the messenger.’ She feels like the story was always there, and that she was just chosen to tell it. And I think that we were chosen in our own way, to bring the story to new life in this show. It was always meant to be the two of us.”

Today’s Most Popular News:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting with your ad blocker.
Thank you!