ASSASSINS’ Gedde Watanabe kills him in East West and all the other places
East West Players resumed their LIVE performances with Stephen Sondheim‘s Assassins (already open). Artistic Director Producer of East West Players Snehal Desai directs the cast which includes Trance Thompson, Gedde Watanabe, Adam Kaokept, Joan AlmedillaMax Torrez, Christopher ChenGeorge Xavier, Astoncia Bhagat, Arvin Lee, Aric MartinKym Miller, Andrea SomeraJalen Lum, Michael Cavender and Maya Nahree McGowan. I had the chance to ask Gedde, that hard-working, hard-working actor, a few questions about his long relationship with East West and his various other acting gigs.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Gedde!
killers was originally supposed to work in March 2020 when everything was shut down. Had the cast and creative team of killers gathered during the pandemic to rehearse, sympathize, exchange cooking tips?
No not really, except for the former members of the Zoomé cast during the two years. Chris Chen, Joan Almedilla and me. We talked about everything under the sun.
When did you start in-person rehearsals for the killers?
Will all or most of the cast and creators from the 2020 production be back for this first in-person production of the 56th season of East West Players?
Yes! We have everyone except one person. The new cast member is wonderful! We have been very lucky in this department.
Did Snehal change his original direction?
Yes, I think tweaking is the right word. Especially now that the political landscape has changed over the past two years.
Who is the killers the actors and creatives with whom you have already worked?
I haven’t worked with any of the cast members. Although Chris and Joan, I’ve known them for a while.
You play the assassin Charles Guiteau. Was there a lot of material on him that you could research to prepare for this role?
Yes, there are a few books that you can get information on and an idea of who he was. One book I found was “Destiny Republic” by Candice Millard. From the accounts I read, I felt he would have been the type of person who would have been part of the January 6 Uprising.
If you had to submit Charles Guiteau on an online dating site, what qualities would you highlight?
I think he would have lied and made his profile as the perfect family man.
What character flaws would you definitely want to omit?
What cosmic forces brought you together for the first time with East West Players?
I guess I’m tired of Hollywood stuff and finding roles that make sense. And finally a sense of community among my fellow APIs and the artist people of color.
Since you have done several productions in East West (including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, La Cage aux Folles), do you still have to audition? Or does Snehal or the director just call you up and offer you a role?
I usually ask for an audition just because I need to find out for myself if I can do something that will resonate with the character they’re asking me to do.
You had one of your first acting gigs at the ripe old age of six when you were cast in Weber State University’s production of King & I where your mother made costumes. Have you ever considered pursuing another career besides performing?
My parents did. I do not have.
Your parents’ reaction when you announced you wanted to be an actor couldn’t have been as shocking to them as it was to most other traditional Asian parents, right?
Well, let’s just say I was alone from that day on.
You were born Gary Watanabe. What led you to change your professional name to Gedde?
My Japanese grandfather couldn’t say Gary… He kept saying Gedde. So be it…
I managed to get a scholarship for a summer semester at The American Conservatory Theater. When did you go there?
What is the one thing you learn from ACT that you try to stick to in all of your gigs?
There were so many places where I had learned. I can’t specify one thing, but I’m so thankful for the classes I’ve taken and the teachers over the years.
How would you describe your act on the streets of San Francisco?
What did you learn to do for dinner with the bok choy the vendors in Chinatown threw at you?
It made a great stir fry for dinner.
What do you remember from your very first performance on a Broadway stage with Pacific Overtures?
Standing backstage, nervous, waiting for my request, then tumbling onto the stage… My first line “Tell him what I see!” may have been shouted too loudly.
In the 90s, you studied acting at the Theater Theater in Hollywood. What changes have you seen in Los Angeles theater over the past thirty years?
More theaters seemed to have popped up. But now, during the pandemic, I don’t know how many of them survived…
You have an arduous career in voice overs (including The Simpsons, Scooby Doo, Mulan). How did you first break into this lucrative business?
I really don’t know how to answer this question other than luck!
What is there in the near future for Gedde Watanabe?
I’m at that age where I’ll be playing older characters and I hope to have the chance to play interesting characters. The landscape changes for actors of color… We’ll see.
Thanks again, Gedde! I can’t wait to see you kill him in Assassins.
For tickets to LIVE performances of Assassins until March 20, 2022; Login to www.eastwestplayers.org