How an Abundance of Passion Brought ‘School of Rock’ Star Alex Brightman Success
“No one woke up a year ago and said, ‘We have to give Alex Brightman this job. We have to keep remembering that we chose to be here.” – Alex Brightman
Comedian Jack Black might have been the perfect fit for rock-and-roll substitute teacher Dewey Finn in the 2003 movie School of Rock, but Alex Brightman has earned rave reviews for playing the role in the Broadway adaptation. In a candid interview with the New York Times, Brightman spoke about his great passion for his work, how he feels about other actors who don’t share that passion, and why actors have to “really want to be here.”
The start of Brightman’s education as an actor did not go as planned. After gaining experience in community theater and improv training in his native California, he dropped out of the CAP21 musical-theater conservatory program, formerly at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. He recalls, “My last thought when I left was they’re not qualified to teach me.”
While that might come off as arrogant, Brightman thought he could learn more from acting on stage than from that acting school. After a hiccup in 2008 (he was an understudy for Broadway’s 2008 flop Glory Days, which infamously closed after its opening night), he found early success portraying the Munchkin Boq in Wicked — a role he claims showed him “the big difference between being good at your job and being passionate about your job.”
What he means is that he was struck by other Wicked castmembers that were not as passionate about their roles as he was. He says, “I started to go: ‘Oh my God, that person is just collecting a paycheck and is slowly withering to death. I never want to be that.’ I called a couple people, like, ‘Am I being crazy here?’ They’re like, ‘No, you just hold people to a very high standard.’” Because of that, he passed on extending his Wicked role when asked by the producers. He says that he responded, “in so many words, I’d rather kill myself — but I did it kindly and left.”
After a few other roles, including in Broadway’s Big Fish and Matilda, Brightman read for featured roles in School of Rock. However, producers, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, thought he was a perfect fit for the lead role. Nonetheless, when Brightman came to the audition for Dewey he gained confidence for what set him apart. He explains, At first I was like, ‘Oh, I look nothing like these guys,'” then he thought, “Oh, I look nothing like these guys. That can’t be a bad thing. At the very least, I’m going to break up the monotony.” As it turns out, he did more then break up the monotony — his uniqueness won him the role.
Brightman points out that the way he might come off to others is tied into his passion for his work. He explains, “No one woke up a year ago and said, ‘We have to give Alex Brightman this job. We have to keep remembering that we chose to be here. We have to really want to be here.”