This week, we are thrilled to share an exclusive interview with Kevin Samual Yee. Mr. Yee is currently in the ensemble and understudying Boq in the 2nd National Tour of “Wicked”, which he has been with since its opening in March 2009. Prior to that, he was in the ensemble and understudied Boq in the Chicago sit-down production of the show, which he stayed with until it’s closing in January 2009. Check out the interview below!
When did you first know that you wanted to be an actor?
ALWAYS! Seriously! Which is strange because I don’t come from a performing family. My mother randomly put me in dancing and singing lessons when I was really young and I just became hooked.
What was your first professional acting job, and how did you land it?
It was actually when I was six. A touring production of The King And I came through town and I was hired to play one of the King’s children. My aunt heard about the audition on the radio and told my mom to bring me. It was the easiest audition ever… I think I literally just had to bow to the creative team and the job was mine. Through that show I got my first agent and became one of those dreaded child actors. But it was always fun and I’m glad that I got such an early start.
How did you come to audition for “Wicked” and what was the audition process like?
I had just closed the Toronto cast of Mamma Mia where I had been a part of the cast for three years. I loved Wicked and knew I wanted to be a part of it when I first saw it. There was an audition in New York so I flew out and actually did really well! I was very close to getting the job but they decided to go with someone else that time. I was disappointed, but ended up being cast in the Original Broadway company of Mary Poppins instead! When the chance to audition for Wicked came again two years later I jumped at the chance… and I got it! That’s the short version of the story. I’d say that it took about three years, and about 8 audition and callbacks to finally get the role!
How long and how difficult was the initial rehearsal process for the show?
My initial rehearsal process in Chicago lasted about a week and a half. It was the shortest rehearsal process I’d ever been through! I came in thinking it would be difficult but I worked pretty hard day and night for those few days and ended up being ready as ever my first night.
What was your first show like? How were you feeling throughout the show – nervous, excited, scared?
My first show was nerve racking as you can imagine. No matter how many shows you perform in the first one will always scare you a little! There are things you don’t get in rehearsals, like light and smoke. I almost fell off the stage because I couldn’t see where I was going! But it was a good feeling because I was finally doing Wicked!
How was the initial process for rehearsing Boq? How was your first show as Boq?
Boq was much easier to rehearse then my ensemble track. I do much harder and physically demanding things in the ensemble then when I go on for Boq. I’m also on stage much more in the ensemble then as Boq. But I do love the role so it was a great first show and a great feeling of accomplishment.
What was the rehearsal process like when transitioning from Chicago to the second national tour?
When Chicago closed we were given two days to pack up and get to New York and were thrown straight into a three-week rehearsal process. We started from scratch and relearned everything in painstaking detail, which was at times completely educational, and at times totally monotonous. But the entire original creative team came in so it was liberating as an artist to hear direction directly from their mouths (which is rare for long running shows). Then we were sent off to Fort Myers to Tech and open the show. So I’d say I was glad I had the opportunity to work with everyone but it was definitely strange to relearn a show I had already been doing for nine months.
What is it like to open an all new production of a popular show? Is there a lot of pressure put on you?
Well, the thing about Wicked is that it is probably the most successful show right now, so wherever we go people love it. And on our tour it is especially true because mostly we are going to smaller cities who aren’t use to having something this big and amazing roll into town. They are also seeing a first rate cast so even if no one in town has heard of the show before, they definitely know by the end of the run.
What is your favorite song or scene to perform in the ensemble, and why? What about Boq?
In both cases it’s the opening number. It’s pretty deep. We’ve been “terrorized” for so long by this “witch” and now the time of terror is over… so it’s a pretty deep experience to go through every night. Plus I think it tells the story so well. It’s very smartly done!
Do you have any onstage bloopers or mishaps you’ve been involved in or witnessed you’d like to share?
I always get asked this question and I have to say that not much has happened to me (knock on wood). We did have a monkey that fell in the pit recently….
Are there any dream roles you’d like to play one day?
I’d like to continue doing good work in good shows.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
Well, to make it in this business I think it takes talent, hard work, and perseverance. Learn as many skills that you can and work hard at it because you never know when you’ll be called upon to use those skills. Be voracious with your appetite for all art. Educate yourself in your craft. Go to art galleries and ponder beautiful things. Love your art. I also think it’s important to be self-sufficient and self motivated. This is a hard business and it’s easy to become negative towards it. But at the end of the day it’s what you put into it that makes the difference.