“I just knew in my gut there was a fire, there was something that was telling me I needed to go out there and get what was mine” – Jeremy Pope on Becoming an Actor
While hundreds of performers have been nominated for a Tony Award since the award debuted in 1947, only a half-dozen performers have been nominated for two performances in the same year: Amanda Plummer (1982), Dana Ivey (1984), Kate Burton (2002), Jan Maxwell (2010), Mark Rylance (2012), and now Jeremy Pope, who was nominated this year for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in Choir Boy and for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for his current role in Ain’t Too Proud, becoming the first male actor to be nominated for performances in a play and a musical in the same year. In other words, Pope has joined an exclusive club — and, even more amazingly, they represent his first two Broadway roles, meaning he’s 2-for-2 in terms of Tony nominations for his Broadway roles.
Speaking with CBS News about his rare accomplishment, Pope reveals his stage origins and explains what it was like performing in one Broadway show while rehearsing for another.
Pope’s journey to Broadway stardom came during his high school years and with the support of his father. He recalls, “I had to choose between running track or doing the school musical, and I thought I’d just audition for it, and I ended up getting a lead part in Cats, And my dad made my costume! It was an orange fluorescent leotard, and he spray-painted it and gave it, you know, some pizazz. Thank you, dad!”
Of course, just because his father was supportive initially didn’t mean it wasn’t a shock when he told his family he was going to pursue acting in New York and not go to college. He remembers, “It was very quiet. I was very nervous. I remember I was in my room, I’m like, ‘Okay, what’s the plan? They’re gonna ask, How are you gonna pay for it? Where are you gonna live? But I was ready for all those questions, and I had some of the answers. Most of the answers were a question mark.”
Like other actors who find success despite nearly impossible odds, Pope was driven by his instincts and his ambition to succeed. He explains, “But I just knew in my gut there was a fire, there was something that was telling me I needed to go out there and get what was mine… I was confident in that I knew I would work my butt off to make something happen. At the time, there weren’t a lot of Broadway shows that I saw myself represented in. I was like, I could be Simba in Lion King, but I knew I’d get here and just work, work, work, work, and figure it out.”
And though Pope has yet to play Simba on Broadway, he did find success with his very first roles. Nonetheless, there was some overlap between his run in Choir Boy (which concluded on February 24) and the previews of Ain’t Too Proud (which began on February 28). Of that period, Pope recalls, “It was a very difficult time because I was doing double duty, meaning I was in rehearsals from the morning, 10:00 to about 6:00 during the day for Temptations, and then at night I’d run over to the theater to do Choir Boy. I didn’t want there ever to be the excuse of, ‘Oh, Jeremy’s doing two shows, so he’s not able to fully commit.’ I didn’t want that. I wanted it to seem like I was present in both places.”