As if Tony nominee Will Swenson weren’t busy enough leading the cast of new Broadway hit, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the actor recently signed on to direct the film adaptation of Carol Lynn Pearson's play, Facing East. Broadway.com caught up with the talented actor to find out more about the project.
“The message of the film is what excites me the most,” Swenson said of the movie, which follows a Mormon couple after the suicide of their gay son. Swenson himself grew up in a Mormon household, but has not practiced the faith in over a decade. “It’s the right movie to make right now. Tolerance and equality are the civil rights movement of our generation, and this is a movie that speaks to that.”
Swenson, who also co-directed the 2004 Mormon-themed comedy Sons of Provo, is excited to get back behind the camera. “There’s so much more control,” he said, comparing film to theater. “If you don’t get something right the first time you can always do another take.” He even jokes that, thanks to Sons of Provo, “Bizarrely, I’m this Mormon celebrity.”
So, can audiences expect to see any of Swenson's former Broadway co-stars in the film? “We’re sending [the screenplay] out to some amazing actors and hoping they’ll be interested," he said, declining to name names. "It’s a very theatrical piece, so it relies on the performance of the two [leads]. We need theater actors who can hold our interest.” Broadway.com can think of a certain four-time Tony winner who might able to help out: Swenson's girlfriend, Audra McDonald! “We’ve expanded one role to accommodate her talent,” he said with a laugh.
Facing East is the latest project for Swenson to further promote equality for the LGBT community. Earlier this year he and his Priscilla co-stars joined forces with the Trevor Project and the actor also participated in the 2009 National Equality March with his Hair castmates in Washington D.C. “I have to give a lot of the credit to [former Hair co-star] Gavin Creel,” Swenson said about his life as an activist. “He’s a guy who says he wants to do something, and then he goes and does it. I was so inspired by who he is as a person that Audra and I have become more active in trying to make a difference.”
While Swenson is eager to start the project, he doesn’t have plans to abandon his current Broadway job: “It’s a relatively small film, so I’d love to be able to pop out and film it for a month and pop back in [to Priscilla]. If that could work, that would be a dream.”
As Swenson readies to hop back into the Mormon world, Broadway.com couldn't help but ask if he's had a chance to catch Trey Parker and Matt Stone's critically adored new musical, The Book of Mormon. “It’s the regret of my life that I haven’t been able to be part of that project,” the actor exclaimed. “I want to see it so badly. I’ve heard it’s amazing.”