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Next Fall - Broadway

A witty and provocative look at faith, commitment and unconditional love.

Straight Talk About Faith, Love and Gossip with Next Fall's Patrick Heusinger

Straight Talk About Faith, Love and Gossip with Next Fall's Patrick Heusinger

Patrick Heusinger in 'Next Fall'

There was a good portion of the creative team that didn't know if I was gay or straight for a long while.

There are a few things Patrick Heusinger doesn't like to talk about. Religion is one. Politics is another. His personal life also tops the list (though not for the reasons you'd think). Which makes delving into his breakout role as devoutly Christian homosexual Luke in the notably religious, "unintentionally" political and deeply personal new drama Next Fall an interesting interview minefield. A Juilliard grad who played Sir Lancelot in the national tour of Spamalot and turned heads as aristocrat Lord Marcus Beaton on an amusing arc of Gossip Girl, Heusinger created the role of Luke in the play’s off-Broadway debut and has been moved to tears speaking with fans who identify with the issues raised in the play. (Luke’s fundamentalist faith clashes with the atheism of his older boyfriend, Adam, played by Patrick Breen.) Fortunately, in addition to being a rising star, Heusinger is also a very good sport, divulging a few personal details during a recent chat with, in addition to dishing on Next Fall's Broadway transfer, that Gossip Girl gig and what musical he wants to wail in.

This is the little show that could: a niche off-Broadway drama with no marquee names that transferred to raves on Broadway. Are you feeling validated?
Honestly, no one has read the reviews, or I don't. You can't respect a review as an artist. You can certainly respect the reviewer, but you can't let a review reflect in anything you do. You don't want to take anything to heart, because it is an opinion.

But it has to be helpful to receive positive reinforcement. Does the cast of Next Fall have the sense that the buzz is positive?
People don't tell us what the “buzz” is. What I can say is that almost every night, I meet at least one very young Christian gay man at the stage door who's been struck by this play. I mean it! Almost every night someone either writes me or is outside the theater saying, "This [play] is my story." I'm extremely proud of that. It's also why I'm dumbfounded when people comment that young, gay Christians like [Luke] don't exist, because I'm like, "Come read these beautiful messages I'm getting on Facebook from amazing people who are saying how representative the play is of their own life." That's the kind of buzz I hear.

That has to be encouraging.
It is. Another thing is my buddy [Glass Menagerie star] Patch Darragh called on opening night and left this very genuine message saying, "Every non-famous actor in the city is rooting for you guys, and hope this show blows up." That's the sort of thing that gets back to [the cast]. The show's also thrilling for me because I think the young gay community hasn't had a play in their generation's time—and by young I'm talking 15 years old and above—that touches on some of the issues they deal with. It's the first time this story is being told in a way that's accessible to so many different demographics. I got an amazing message on Facebook that a pastor at St. Bart's church used our play as a profoundly positive example in his sermon recently. That floored me—that our show was being used at a Christian church.

I spoke to a heterosexual woman who said before this play she'd never considered there might be prejudice within the gay community. The idea a minority could divide itself was totally new.
That is one of the new dialogues I think the play has started. [Playwright] Geoffrey Nauffts spoke openly about being afraid this play would be rejected by the gay community. It's been nice that most of the community has embraced it. But it's more interesting to me that people like my mother and father who are from Jacksonville, Florida, who've no understanding of [the gay community], find this play to be eye opening. This show never aimed to be a piece of political theater, but unintentionally I think it has become that to anyone who's never been exposed to this world before. At this moment in time, that's pretty cool.

Your character's very religious. Are you?
I don't talk about this! It's odd, you're the first person to ask me that directly—people usually hint around it. I was raised in the Catholic church. I went to Catholic school. I am a Christian. What I will say is that it's never my job to mix politics into what I do. My job is to story-tell. So I don't talk about it a lot. Like, when I auditioned for this role I came into the audition as the character, because I was afraid a twentysomething, frat-boyish type would have a hard time getting cast as this very beautiful, tender, delicate man. I thought, "Why don't I show them [immediately] what I think my first steps toward this character are and see if they respond to that?" I kept a lot of my personal life very secret.

In what way?
There was a good portion of the creative team that didn't know if I was gay or straight for a long while.

Did anyone ever ask you point blank?
No, these are the nicest people in the world! But apparently a few people were like, "What's the deal with him?" I think eventually people saw old pictures of me online with exes and figured it out. But I didn't want anyone to know anything about me. I was in this great position where none of these people knew me, and that allowed me a nice sandbox to play in because I could be anything I wanted. I know, it's also kind of creepy, nut-ball method acting.

Is guarding your personal life so closely always a career concern?
I don't mind talking about my sexuality so much, but I'm careful about politics, religion. I used to not talk about how I grew up.

I just liked everything to be a secret. It’s not because I was embarrassed. We grew up with no money, and I was always playing these kings or princes or aristocrats, which was ironic. I just wanted people to assume that whatever I was onstage was what I was. You're more believable if people don' t know much about you personally.

I'm just casually pointing out that you've been careful not to give clues to your sexuality in this interview.
Ha, I know. But I think I said it already out loud in this interview?

Okay, I never want to get political, and I know you're not working a [negative] angle, but I'm sort of disappointed that that is even of interest to anyone, you know?

I'm pressing because your intimacy onstage with Patrick Breen [as Luke's partner, Adam] is so believable. I want to ask, without saying something stupid, if it's harder to build a relationship like that if it's against your natural orientation.
All right! [Laughs.] I'm straight. And what I saw on the page between Adam and Luke was a very real relationship, so yes, chemistry was a goal. From the get-go, I wanted to be friends with [Patrick], but you can't force that sort of thing. I just did everything I could to make him feel safe onstage, to make things positive in the rehearsal room, to listen when he spoke and to do it all genuinely—there was nothing uncomfortable about that. I made him come to lunch with me early on so we could get comfortable with each other. Actually, I forced everyone to do lunch together as a group on the first day of rehearsal. We still, in fact, eat lunch every two-show day as a family, the entire cast. We all freakishly and creepily really do like one another. Which is rare.

I have to ask: Gossip Girl. What was working with that cast like?
I was there before the show got too frenzied. But the whole cast is very nice. Like, incredibly sweet. They all knew it was my first TV gig and were so good to me. I didn't even know how to find my light during filming, but they were patient and made the whole experience a really good time. And I can say when I run into any of them now—now that the show is what it is—they're still very sweet.

Are TV people just inherently more beautiful than the rest of us, or is it about good lighting and great wardrobes?
That particular show happens to be populated entirely by ridiculously good-looking people. They just are! Which is partially why they work on that show specifically. They're all also down-to-earth, incredibly nice people who are good actors. That guarantees a certain amount of success.

It seems like non-stop success for you too: TV, off-Broadway, tours, Broadway gigs. Did you ever want to do anything else?
Well, first, it's not been non-stop gigs! I had some pretty average survival jobs. For a really long time, I thought I was going to play baseball. And I was mean on those restaurant softball teams, let me tell you. A mean shortstop. I'm wondering if Next Fall will get involved in the Broadway show league this year, which is always fun. Though I've played in the past with people who take it crazy seriously. You're like, “Uh, guys? It's softball. Soft. Ball. We're not being paid, and we're the Broadway show league. Take it easy!”

You started out professionally in musicals. When Next Fall is done, will we get to see you sing?
Well, I've got a unique voice, which is weird for people casting me in musicals. Even Spamalot, it wasn't really singing—it was talking and jokes. But I've been workshopping with Tales of the City, the new musical adaptation composed by the Scissor Sisters. I've been singing in front of all these really talented people while it rehearses. and I'm so shy. It's weird in my head that I even have a musical theater resume.

What do you mean by unique voice?
It's the ulitmate compliment, but I've gotten comparisons to Jeff Buckley. NO ONE is as good as Buckley. But our styles are pretty similar.

So are you all over the rumored Jeff Buckley musical version of Romeo and Juliet?
Oh man, I want in. That would be rad! I keep reading stuff about it and going, "Hello, do people not know I've been developing a show about this guy’s life for years?" I'm all over it, anytime, for sure.

See Patrick Heusinger in Next Fall at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

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