2nd May 2023
Interview: Amy Bell
Photo Credit: JSquared
Jason Schmidt is one to watch where he's starred in his big TV role as Buddy in the Paramount+ 'Grease: The Rise of the Pink Ladies'.
We chat to Schmidt about playing the golden boy of Rydell High, getting the role and what made him fall in love with theatre.
How did you get into storytelling and what made you want to get into this professionally?
When I was nine I decided to audition for our local community theatre’s most recent show - The Hobbit the Musical. Written by the theater. Set to be three hours long. I auditioned not because of a fiery passion for the arts but because my eldest sister, who had just finished You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, raved about the friends she had made. Flashforward to my freshman year of high school. After spending a few years actively participating in the theater, I decided I was going to quit acting. Then, it was announced, the next show up was Les Miserable. An iconic musical and one of my mom’s favorites. She insisted I do it. Despite my rebellion I lost the battle on the simple unarguable platform “I am your mother and you love it.” I can’t thank my Mom enough. In the course of those three months I did a 180. “I want to be an actor now,” I told her. It was the community of future artists around me. I met a director who became my mentor, audition coach, and one of my best friends. I saw how impactful a story could be even if told by a group of high schoolers.
Who had the biggest influence in you growing up in the theatre world?
Either my teacher Matt Silar or the actor Jeremy Jordan. Matt was the director from Les Miserable that showed me how impactful the arts could be. We worked on a few other shows together during my high school career and he coached me for college programs. I’m so grateful for his guidance. He taught me the importance of simplicity and honesty. He taught me how to be mature when I failed and how to humbly accept the wins. Jeremy Jordan was who I found on YouTube during that same pivotal time. I first saw videos of him as the main character in Newsies on Broadway. Within a few months I had seen every video of him singing on the internet. The passion and confidence he sang with truly inspired me. He’s who I imagined I could be someday if only I work hard enough.
This is your biggest TV role to date. What made you want to audition for the role of ‘Buddy’?
It wasn’t until I had read the scenes that I was really sure I wanted to be cast as Buddy. Nowadays, you get so many auditions. It’s not really in your best interest to really dream of just one role. Once I got into the callback process and met the team I got really attached to the role. We see so many spin offs and prequels nowadays and frankly they are not all great. It’s hard to decipher whether they're trying to do something special with it or just file another project under some iconic title. The creative team convinced me that this was going to be something special. I was only proved right as we continued on filming. They are passionate about this universe and these characters. They made it with a whole lot of love.
The series is set in the 1950’s, if you could describe your feelings when you first put that letterman coat on, how would you describe it?
When I put the letterman coat on it set in on me that I was a part of the Grease franchise. John Travolta wore a letterman cardigan that I also tried on in that first fitting. Wearing the same design as him was otherworldly. I grew up watching that movie and singing those songs. I just felt blessed.
What we're the rehearsals and auditions like, and when you got the call, you got the role, who was the first person you told?
The audition process was a little grueling. We sent in tapes of scenes, songs, dances. It spanned a few months as we had callbacks and chemistry reads over zoom. When you're casting the fresh new faces I suppose you have to make sure they can handle themselves. I found out the day before Thanksgiving 2021. I was home from college so I took the call in my childhood home with my family waiting in the other room. They were even able to come in and say hi to the team.
Buddy’s journey in Season 1 sees him struggle with the pressures from his father, the impact he and his words have on the rest of the school, and finding his place outside of sports. How did you make this role your own?
The themes of choosing to learn from your mistakes to hopefully become a better person really resonates with me. As I imagine we all did, I made a lot of mistakes in high school. I hurt some people who were very important to me. Deciding to get up, dust myself off, hold my head high and try to be better was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
What has the feedback been since this has been released?
As far as I know it’s been received really well. People are falling in love with the characters and the production numbers just like I knew they would!
What is next for you?
Next up for me is working on more music! I’ve been writing for years now. I’ve released two EPs on all platforms, so now it’s time to create a full length album. It’ll be the culmination of all my first years of writing. I’ve got a whole bunch of songs tucked away that I can’t wait to show people!
You can catch Jason Schmidt in Grease: The Rise of the Pink Ladies on Paramount+ now.