Sean MacLaughlin is traveling the country and living a dream as Argentinean President Juan Perón in EVITA. His credits include Raoul in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on Broadway and US and Canadian Tours. The Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Celebration: Merrily We Roll Along and South Pacific: Live from Carnegie Hall on PBS. Prior to arriving at the Ordway in Saint Paul for EVITA’s August 12 – 17 engagement, Sean took the time to answer a few questions for me.
For more information on EVITA or for tickets, visit the Ordway’s website here.
How did you first become interested in theatre?
I was about four years old, watching soap operas while my mom was doing laundry. There were people kissing in a scene and I pointed to the TV and said I wanted to do that. The following week, my mother got me into children’s theatre classes.
Every performer has that moment where it just “clicks” and they know performing is what they want to do for a living. What was that moment for you?
I have always known that I wanted to perform. It was the point after college where I was questioning if it was feasible to do it for a living. I moved to DC before NY and learned from and watched amazing performers who were balancing life and acting. It was the perfect time to be there. The Kennedy Center was just getting the Sondheim Celebration together, the Wooly Mammoth, Signature Theatre, Arena and many others were looking into building new theatres. It was the beginning of a theatrical renaissance. It was about the work and the love we all had putting that work together. It gave me the impetus to “follow my dreams” as one would say.
What is tour life like? What do you like about life on the road? What do you dislike?
Tour life is pretty fun. Being an actor and being able to perform for a living is a great honor. When you add traveling and seeing the United States to the equation, then it is a dream. I love experiencing local life and being able to actually live in an area to understand the tone. I wish more Americans could have that opportunity. I especially love trying all of the Food Network featured restaurants. The only thing I can say I dislike is not having more time to enjoy each city.
You play Juan Peron, Eva’s husband and the President of Argentina. How did you approach playing a role based on a historic figure? Did you take a different approach than you normally would when taking on a character?
I had never portrayed a real person on stage before. I did have to take a different approach to the character. I added a bit more research to my normal routine. I did not want to make a mockery of who Peron was. Whether his intentions were good or bad, I had to find the truths that he spoke mixed with personal stories circulating in books and on the internet. The hardest part that I found while researching Peron was that much of what is in circulation has one side –and usually those sides conflict with other data. It’s like researching one story using Fox News and then going to MSNBC to add to that research. I found many clips online of Peron talking politics, so I was able to see the man in action. Unfortunately, besides video, much of what is left over 70 years later is biased. It was hard to find the middle ground. So that is how I decided to play Peron… embracing both sides to create the middle ground.
Do you feel any pressure with playing a character that is based on a real person? Especially a historical figure?
I can’t say that I have felt any pressure playing a character based on a real person. If anything, it has made me work harder every night to keep the role as fresh as possible to not make him a caricature of who he was. I can definitely say that the stakes are higher performing this role. I have to put a lot more focus into prepping before I go out on stage to try and flesh out his life. As emotionally draining acting out his life can be, I am loving it.
What do you hope the audience takes away from this show?
I hope this show gives the audience insight into not only the era and the history of Evita, but the flair of Argentina that our creative team did such a brilliant job to create. There has been a lot of love and hard work that has gone into making this production as authentic as possible, and it shows. The re-orchestrations, the direction, the choreography and the design have created a world for the audience to experience through Eva’s eyes. I think this production will not only pique the interest of finding out more about the Peron’s and Argentina’s history, but will appeal to our own lives and ideals by invoking questions about the integrity of the choices we make.