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  • Natalie Wisdom

Darius Wright, Broadway Performer.

[Interview Date: July 13, 2021]

A Bronx Tale, Pretty Woman, Matilda National Tour, City Center Encores and more.

Where were you on March 12, 2020, and what was the week leading up to it like for you?

I was in Paris, France. And it was a pretty normal week for being in Paris. I was going to the gym, going to meet friends for coffee and dinner... Walking around. They had closed clubs and bigger events, but social life was still pretty normal. Things were going on in Italy with the virus, but it still seemed like it was over there. My mom had just left the week prior, and then the next moment, the borders were closing. I was like, “What I’m not going to do is pay $3000 for a plane ticket and then be in an airport with this thing (the virus), and where nobody really knows what’s happening.” So, I stayed in Paris; went to a friend’s place. My friend insisted and was like, “You’re a foreigner, (so) it would be good to have someone local with you.” I stayed there until April 1st, and I was supposed to come back to start rehearsals for a show.

What had brought you to Paris?

Ever since I first went to Paris back in 2018, I wanted to stay in Paris for at least a month. I had just finished Mack and Mabel at City Center, and I had a month between that show and my upcoming show. So, I thought: Let me take this time- go live, take this break. So, I turned down a few opportunities and went to see what it was like more-so living there and to get my French more to the level I wanted it to be. I was looking at and still looking at moving over there. I was in rehearsals to sing a concert in Paris that month, but that ended up getting cancelled due to Covid. Making connections, singing, and seeing how things work over there.

Did you anticipate that Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?

As we went further into the pandemic, I realized, “Yeah, this is going to be a minute...” I was hoping for January 1st. But then, when they were like, “Nothing until next August or September, I was like, “What do we do until then?” What do we do about health insurance and apartments? I was grateful I had decided to leave and not re-sign my lease. I can’t imagine being in the city, re-signing a lease, and then this news coming out. My heart broke for my entire community.

What were your initial, personal concerns when quarantine first began and the pause was announced?

I was not concerned at all, at first. We were supposed to start rehearsals right when things were supposed to open up after that initial one-month pause so I thought, “Ok, this isn’t gonna affect me.” And then, when they said they were pushing rehearsals back a little bit, I thought that’s not bad either. I thought, “I can get back to New York first, take some me-time.” Overseas, we were really locked in. You go to the grocery store, and you come home. We had limits on how far you could be from your apartment. And masks hadn’t yet become a serious thing.

When I got back to New York City on April 1st, no one was in the streets. Everyone was wearing masks. It was so weird. But then, as things with our industry pushed back to September, I was still like, “Ok, that’s fine.” But then, when they got pushed back even further, I was worried about unemployment. Because the last big show I did in New York closed in August 2019, and I knew that, come August 2020, I should be out of weeks. Even with the extension, I thought, “I can’t put all my faith in that.” So, I thought the best thing to do would be to eliminate what was bringing stress into my life and leave, so that I can live off savings for a little bit longer, if necessary, than if I stayed in New York. And doing that at a beach house in California is not a bad place to do it either!

Later, a concern became health insurance, when I saw how far this was going to go. Anybody who is an artist can’t work for a year. And the numbers they were sending us weren’t pretty. Fortunately, I was able to find something that worked for me. As soon as I left New York, unemployment had stopped working for me and that continued for the majority of the pandemic. Thankfully I had saved a lot, so I knew that I could be self-reliant at the end of the day and I had faith that everything would be okay. And then, after many months, I received a phone call out of the blue and I got back-paid from September, which was wonderful. But that was, like, a couple weeks ago! It’s been wild.

So, my main concerns were unemployment and the cost of living, and then later, health insurance, just in case anything happened. That was basically it. I’ve been lucky. I got to spend most of this pandemic on the beach in California and Paris and not paying rent. And (I) got to look at beautiful architecture and drink wine! I have little complaints on that end.

What have you been doing to stay sane? What has helped you the most?

I have been playing a lot of The Sims (the game). I will be honest! It kept me busy, and it kept me creative. I love architecture, so I would go in and build these lavish houses and apartments. I would be like, “What’s my dream apartment in New York City?” I love doing that. It takes a lot of time to do it.

Reading here and there. And a lot of podcasts. Podcasts have become a part of my life. A lot of subjects. I would have it on, in lieu of TV shows. Although, I did watch The Tiger King. I watched that in Paris. Which was weird! I watched all of the Marvel movies in order. I was like, “Let me catch up and see what’s happening in that world.” I was going to do Star Wars but never got to it. But mostly The Sims kept me sane, for the majority. And also, Facetime. It’s such a way to catch up with friends. I am grateful for the technology that we do have.

Have there been any big decisions or life changes you have made as a result of the pandemic?

I think, currently, it has helped me make a lot of personal decisions. To be more decisive. And it’s actually been helpful to see who’s in my life and who’s not. And where I should give my love to. Who’s in my close circle? Who’s not? Who am I comfortable being around in a pandemic? I’m more aware and a lower tolerance. I think that has been a big thing. And just, moving forward, maintaining the energy of who is in my key, close circle. And not to give too much of my energy where it is not reciprocated, as well. Being more decisive and stronger about that in my boundaries, and doing that in a loving way.

What has been the hardest thing about this time for you?

I would say not actually being with my friends. I love Facetime and how we can connect with people, even though we’re not together. But at this point, I am so looking forward to being back in New York! I am not an LA person. It was cute to look at. But I love a walking city. I am so looking forward to putting my feet in the ground (in New York). I have spent the last two years thinking about how I am going to be able to move to Paris. I’m bilingual now, and going over there for three months made me realize this transition will be easier, if I invest in New York more. And invest in on-camera stuff. And if I invest as much as I did in Paris; then, the result will be as much as I was able to get out of Paris, thus far, which was way more than I originally planned going in.

What positives have come out of this time for you?

I got to go to Paris for three months! That’s a positive! I was able to go through the proper channels of the government. I had to go to the French consulate in LA and give them all my information. And a few days later were like, “You can enter on this day.” So, that was definitely a plus.

I was twiddling my thumbs in LA. I was like, “I’m not getting called in for any auditions right now. How can I feel productive? Like I’m moving towards something?” Then, the next moment I read an article pertaining to travel to Paris from the US, I barely made the requirements necessary, but technically it seemed feasible so I just sent over my information. Then I was back in Paris! And oddly, making new friends! I don’t know how I made new close friends in Paris during a pandemic, but the story is actually pretty cool and unique. I shot a music video over there, and it was a great experience. And now, coming back, getting vaccinated, seeing family and friends as I make my way back to New York City, and seeing the investment I’ve made in my on-camera classes starting to work-everything feels right. So, I want to keep digging my heels into that.

What do you miss the most about live theatre?

Currently, I miss doing it! I miss backstage stuff. I’m ok without the audience. Like, they’re fine… the audience is great, but I don’t always do it for them. I love the family side of it. To be backstage in Toronto, or any theater we were in, is phenomenal. To be backstage. And the shenanigans! That’s what makes me so happy, and I can’t wait to get back into that.

What’s your favorite theatre memory?

My favorite theatre memory would have to be hearing my line on the cast recording of Pretty Woman, the Musical!

What was your line?

I could not tell you. I don’t remember what my line was in that show! I just remember hearing it and being like, “Oh my god. My voice is there!” And then, being like, “Ooh, you could have done better.” I needed to hear it back, and be like, “Oh, I need to be a voice actor here.” I don’t go back and listen all the time, but I will never forget the first time hearing my line. I was like, “That’s me! Permanent in Music Theatre History!” Hearing that cast recording. Especially that line. I cried. I was like, “That’s it! I’m good. I’m good!”

What is the thing you’re most excited to do when live theatre is back?

Hug people. I mean, I do want to go see Wicked, for fun. But I am mostly just looking forward to those nights when the community gets together. I’m looking forward to the after-show shenanigans. Seeing people back in their element, having a drink after the show… Meeting people in other shows. I’m looking forward to the community. There’s nothing like it.

What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?

I would say keep working hard. And also, look at your options. I think I would say that to anybody in this world, at this point, because things shifted so greatly. But it also gave me an opportunity to look around and be like, “Ok. What else am I interested in?”

If my computer would’ve let me, I would have become a Sim YouTuber! I subscribe to a lot of them now, and that would have been a fun hobby. Or it could’ve led to a career in YouTube! Watching friends have the opportunity to choreograph or shoot their music videos- it’s been so great to see artists’ creativity during this time. Because we are really creative, and we have the time to think outside our own boxes. And we don’t always have the time and the energy to do something else. I hope that inspires them to continue in those areas. I want to see more from my friends. I mean, I started 3D modeling, and it was super fun! I had never looked at that. I was like, “This is cool!”

Keep an open mind as you move forward in life. Do the things that are going to move your heart, because that’s what’s going to make you valuable and make you unique. Being uniquely you and being a happy person- it really makes you somebody that people want to work with.

Lightning Round:

Favorite Broadway Musical: Thoroughly Modern Millie is what got me into Musical Theatre. Singing in the Rain is the reason I do theatre now. A Chorus Line-dream show I would love to do it one day. Wicked-first show I ever saw on Broadway. But then, I also have to give a shout-out to Matilda. It is my favorite show I’ve ever done, bar-none. That helped me become the performer I am today.

Favorite role you’ve played: Don Lockwood in Singing in the Rain! Dream role: I don’t think he’s been created yet!

Favorite movie musical: You know, In the Heights was pretty darn good. I’d have to give it a few more watches before I put it on my favorites list. I’m still looking at Rent. Its definitely up there - it was so informative for me. But I also love a classic, so I have to bring it back to Singin in the Rain. Chicago is also up there somewhere.

Movie that you think should be a musical: Hercules! I know it’s already happening, but I’m gonna need it to be done full-out, no marking! I think those muses will win that Matilda Tony that’s like, “Okay, all of you win!” I’d also be down if they turned Bring it On: The Musical into a movie musical.

Tap or Jazz: Tap!

Jazz or Ballet; Jazz

Rodgers and Hammerstein or Irving Berlin: I’ll give it to R &H!

Andrew Lloyd Webber or Sondheim: Sondheim

Favorite NYC hangout: My apartment. Home!

Favorite Paris Restaurant: Cloud Café!

Dressing room staple: Snacks!

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