By Matthew Wexler
It’s a wild ride at The Pershing Square Signature Center as The New Group’s critically acclaimed production of Jerry Springer – The Opera continues its extended run through April 1. Justin Keyes is part of the talented ensemble, playing multiple roles and tasked with some unconventional costumes. (You have to see it to appreciate the full throttle scale of the production.)
San Jose, CA
What was your audition experience like for Jerry Springer – The Opera?
In all honesty, it was painless. I had two rounds of auditions. It was all about the music and learning the songs well — the music isn’t easy. For Montel, it sounds like it wouldn’t be, but it’s really very tricky.
My first round was working with just the music team. They were great and extremely responsive. The casting directors let me know immediately after that I’d be going back to work with director John Rando for a final call back. I was offered a few directorial adjustments in the room and honestly wasn’t sure if I did what he wanted. In the room, I didn’t feel like I got the role, but I heard shortly after that that I did.
Did you have any apprehension about wearing a diaper onstage – and did that make for an awkward costume fitting?
Generally, I have so few apprehensions! No, that’s not true. I have many. As far as the diaper goes, it just seemed like a really good time and I knew it would be funny. Now when I actually put it on… that took a second to get used to. Being butt naked on a thrust stage with the audience on all sides is a wild experience. Ultimately, though, it’s a lesson in being really comfortable both with yourself and with your character. In the world gender equality, I really just equate it to how female actors are asked to strip down all the time and act in nearly nothing. I had become numb to what that must feel like for them.
Sarah Laux, our costume designer, is the best. Her first words to me: “You may not believe this, but this is not the first time I have put a diaper on an actor. It works better if you lay down and I put it on you like an actual baby. Please, just trust me.”
Are you a not-so-secret reality TV junkie? If so, what’s your guilty pleasure?
I used to watch Jerry Springer every day during summer vacation. My mom was at work. I have seen countless episodes of the show.
I am not so much of a reality TV junkie. I used to watch Real Housewives of New York City sometimes. I liked those women because it felt like we share geography. I love Bethenny and saw her in Tribeca once. I have met Luann and seen Ramona out and about. I saw Kelly B. at the San Gennaro Festival one summer. All of them were really cool.
I do enjoy celebrity chefs a lot. Especially here in New York. That is the only time I really geek out in public. My guilty pleasure is going out to dinner. I love going out to dinner and I love going to bars.
Jerry Springer – The Opera explores, among other topics, America’s obsession with fame and social status. Did your perspective change working on the show?
My perspective has stayed the same, working on the show, which I think is good. I think we, as Americans, have always been fascinated by fame and social status, but I feel that fame used to be something that came after you honed a certain skill or were recognized for doing something extraordinary or wild or horrible or whatever.
Now I feel like (and I cannot really say firsthand because I don’t use social media) being talented at using social media is a skill that makes people famous. It certainly is a social status symbol. I personally just don’t respond to it. I don’t use it. I have been off of Facebook since 2011 and, subsequently, I missed Twitter and Instagram. It’s too much noise and visual stimulation for me. I am an actor and I feel like my imagination is already in overdrive, as it is. And I am old-fashioned. You can’t really know someone unless you meet them. Aside from that, you are looking at a curated version of their life. It’s photos they took and stuff they said, which can be cool, I guess, it just doesn’t interest me.
If I wasn’t a performer, I would be:
A chef or a diagnostician for performers and athletes. Maybe if I joined social media, I could get some followers and do both.
Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
Oh, definitely half-hour.
After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
The Eataly rooftop!
If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
My workout “secret” is:
Find someone’s body you like and ask them what they do.
When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
A cute guy who doesn’t employ catchphrases.
People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
I am an actor with no social media presence.
When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
Ten years from now I’d like to be:
A hybrid version of Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
Jerry Springer – The Opera plays through April 1.